I hate cooking. OK, I’ll rephrase: I don’t hate the idea of cooking. But who has the time to cook a gourmet meal after a full day of work and class? My answer to a quick meal is usually a cheese quesadilla.
There are a lot of reasons why I don’t like to cook. I don’t have time to go to the grocery store, and I just don’t really know how to cook fancy things.
Meal kits, or fresh-food subscription boxes, are an answer to my problem. Done right, they could be the answer for a lot of people who can’t (or won’t) cook.
These boxes include recipe cards and all the fresh ingredients you need to cook a meal, taking away the stress of grocery shopping and preparation. This can come as a huge relief. If you asked me to find ingredients for pan-crusted walleye and a side of potatoes, I would have to drive to the store and find the ingredients — and then I’d have to go home and cook it into an edible meal.
Yet although these kits are innovative and exciting, in order for the masses to adopt them, a few changes need to occur.
First, they need to become less expensive. Two popular meal kit brands are Plated and Blue Apron. At Plated, buying three two-person meals costs $72 per week. Blue Apron has a similar structure that costs $59.94.
But what if these boxes expanded to incorporate student lifestyles and budgets? I would pay for three one-person meals for $45 per week. Regrettably, $45 is a conservative estimate for how much money I spend eating out every week anyway.
Second, grocery stores should also consider offering their own version of meal kits. These could potentially be much cheaper because their makers would need to do only minimal sourcing to find the ingredients — they’re all in the store. Grocery store meal kits could also eliminate delivery charges, because you could go pick them up yourself.
Chains like Giant-Carlisle have already started offering these kits. It would make sense for retailers like Target to follow suit. Target was in the news last year for looking to update its grocery chain, but meal kits could revitalize its grocery model and generate extra profits.
Finally, meal services could also refine their model by offering discounts to users who book several meals in advance. This would be especially helpful to students who budget their grocery money each month.
Services like Plated and Blue Apron already have a leg up on AmazonFresh — arguably their biggest competitor against fresh food deliveries. Unlike Amazon, they focus only on food and not other items (such as toothbrushes and toilet paper), giving them the creative leeway to design yummy, healthy meals for their users.
I believe food subscription services are the next big wave. While they’re still in their infancy, as these companies try to expand across the United States, they could show a lot of promise if they lowered their prices to appeal to less-affluent families and students who like to cook but don’t have time to shop.
While I’m no top chef, I hope to see you in the kitchen soon for more than just a quesadilla.
Martha Pietruszewski welcomes comments at mpietru[email protected]