Wondering if meal kits are really worth it? One writer shares how using meal kit delivery services has made her a better cook—sometimes in surprising ways—and how they could help do the same for you.
Meal kit subscription services reel in potential customers by promising them boxes that will equip them with everything they need to whip up delicious meals on a weekly basis. That may be true, but my experience with meal kits—I’ve tested out several over the last few years and use HelloFresh regularly today—has benefited me in the kitchen beyond the boxes they send.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that using meal kits can improve your cooking skills more generally. Here’s how:
It Takes the Pressure Off Grocery Shopping and Meal Planning So You Can Focus on Cooking
One of my favorite things about using meal kits is that it’s totally transformed the way I feel walking into the supermarket for my weekly shopping trip. Before I made meal kits a part of my routine, I often found myself getting a little panicky in the grocery store as I wracked my brain, trying to remember the brilliant ideas I was sure I’d had for delicious, healthy dinner recipes. When those brilliant ideas didn’t immediately surface, it wasn’t unusual for me to resort to grabbing a few boxes of pasta and a packet of chicken to use in one of my tried and true (read: boring) dinner recipes.
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I can admit that this type of panic is probably more indicative of my shortcomings as a meal planner than anything else, but still—using meal kits has more or less eliminated it. Knowing that I have all of the ingredients I need for a handful of dinners over the course of the week removes that pressure from grocery shopping. Now, I just pick up the staples I like to have in the kitchen for breakfast, lunch, and snacks (and, yes, the occasional box of pasta to fill in the gaps) and head home! I can focus on cooking dinner instead of stressing about buying the ingredients for it. That, in itself, has made me a better cook.
It Will Give You New Recipes to Add to Your Rotation
I’m far from a professional chef, but I like to think that I bring a small number of high-quality recipes to the table (pun intended) that are consistently delicious. No matter how delicious something is, though, sometimes you need a little variety. And after a few years of making primarily those recipes with only the occasional experiment, even I was bored of myself. I’m sure my husband was also craving a break in the usual rotation.
Meal kits offered the break in the monotony that we both needed! We’ve been using them for a few years now, and at this point, have collected a bunch of recipes that we especially love. We’ve reordered them several times through the meal kit services, but I’ve also learned the recipes well enough to be able to recreate them on my own during a week when we’re not ordering a box. Meal kits have introduced important variety to our dinner routine.
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You’ll Have the Chance to Sample Ingredients You Wouldn’t Buy Otherwise
Just as meal kits have introduced variety into the recipes I use, they’ve widened my horizons in terms of specific ingredients. One of the biggest selling points of these services is that they provide perfect portions of everything you need to make each given recipe. This includes spices and seasonings—and often the kinds of spices and seasonings that seem a little too expensive to buy in larger quantities at the store.
That price tag—and the fact that it always felt kind of silly to me to buy something expensive if I would only use it for one recipe every few months—kept me from trying so many delicious ingredients that could have improved my cooking skills years ago. Thanks to meal kits, I’ve had the chance to try many of these ingredients in smaller quantities so that I can feel more confident buying them in larger quantities for use in my own recipes down the road. Who knew I liked harissa and za’atar and basil oil so much?
Meal Kits May Introduce You to Different Cooking Techniques
And then there are the new techniques I’ve learned! Before I started using meal kits, I was pretty conservative about trying new methods in the kitchen. I mostly stuck to what I knew. Mixing it up with meal kits has forced me out of my cooking comfort zone to try new ways of preparing meat, more effective ways of preparing grains, and more.
It Can Give You a Better Sense of Portion Size and Quantity
When I was cooking only for myself, I had a pretty good handle on how much food to buy, how much food to cook, and how much food to freeze or otherwise put away for later. When my now husband and I moved in together in 2015, all bets were off. He has a huge appetite and is essentially a bottomless pit for food, so we had a hard time figuring out what quantities to buy and prepare for the two of us. Eventually, I started rounding up. We always had enough food, but sometimes it was too much…and I found myself wasting more food than I wanted to.
After that, I tried tweaking portion sizes myself and could never quite get it right. When we started buying meal kits designed especially for two people, I started to get a better sense of how much food two people will really eat in a single seating. With meal kits, we rarely have leftovers, but we’re nearly always full. Now, even if I’m not actually using a kit, I have a better eye for how much to buy and prepare.
Using Meal Kits Can Help You Hone Your Personal Cooking Instincts
For a long time, I didn’t deviate at all from any given recipe. I would follow it to the letter, even if I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy a particular seasoning or if I thought a slightly varied version might work better in my house. What can I say—I’m a rule follower.
Since meal kits have become part of my life, I find myself cooking from a recipe several times a week, which has loosened me up! I now have a better instinct for which elements of a recipe need to be followed to a tee and which elements have some room to bend. This instinct has translated to all kinds of cooking. I’ve become much more confident when it comes to leaving certain ingredients out, adjusting quantities, or adding elements that weren’t suggested originally.
It Helps Make Cooking Fun and Exciting!
I’ve found that I’m a better cook when I’m actually able to enjoy myself in the kitchen. Since meal kits have taken a lot of the pressure out of the equation, I think it’s a lot more fun…and that shows in the quality of the food I make.
Related Reading on CNET: The Best Meal Kit Delivery Services to Try in 2020
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