We’ve all heard about meal kits – the services that deliver ingredients to cook fresh meals at home each week. The concept has been around in Australia since 2013.
When time is at such a premium, having all your ingredients (and a recipe) ready to go in the fridge is an excellent concept. It feels good to imagine a life where there are no more last-minute dashes to the supermarket or ordering an expensive takeaway just because an after-school activity ended late.
Take a look at reviews for meal kits though; the picture is not quite as rosy. They can be expensive, have difficult delivery times or have ingredients that go out of date slightly too quickly. Though, I believe that with some planning, it’s possible to have all the benefits of meal kits without the drawbacks.
I’ve been using meal kits for years, so here are my top 6 tips for making meal kits work for you.
Further reading: Meal delivery services in Australia (with discounts).
Stay simple, save money
Meal kits in Australia position themselves in 2 different ways. You have full-service kits like HelloFresh and Marley Spoon (with meals that can be quite complex and varied) but also the more basic meal kits like Dinnerly and EveryPlate.
The two primary advantages of using a more basic meal kit are significant cost savings (up to 30% cheaper) and more straightforward, quicker recipes. You can generally get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. This makes them perfect for life as a single mum.
Make delivery a breeze
Meal kits come in large, insulated delivery boxes to last between 4 – 8 hours (depending on the temperature) without spoiling the cold ingredients. This makes it possible to get a box delivered while you’re at work and pick it up when you get home. However, if there isn’t a safe place to leave your delivery, see if any of these solutions will work for you:
- Speak to your delivery driver and help him find a safe place.
- Leave the box with a neighbour.
- Get the box delivered to work (if you drive to work).
Since you generally get the same delivery driver every week, it’s always worth making friends to ensure your box is always delivered safely and securely.
Buy bigger meal kits
Even when the recipes are quick and simple, cooking every night of the week can be a real chore. With most meal kits offering box sizes for 2 or 4 people, you can ‘size up’ to the 4-person box and get multiple nights from the same cook. Nothing beats the convenience of grabbing yesterday’s dinner from the fridge and throwing it in the microwave for a few minutes.
Microwaving can be a bit of a dark art, which takes some experimentation. My general rule is not to microwave fresh, raw or seafood ingredients. Everything else should be cooked until it’s piping hot. If you’ve made a sauce/stew, these generally heat better over the stove for 10 – 15 minutes.
Love your ingredients
It’s always exciting when you open your box to find all the fresh ingredients waiting to be cooked. When unpacking your box, just 5 minutes of effort can ensure that those ingredients remain perfectly fresh until you’re ready to cook them.
Ensure you get all your dairy, meat and veggies straight into the fridge, while your root veggies (potato, garlic, onion) can go into a dry cupboard. Any herbs you receive will last longer if wrapped in a kitchen towel and placed in the fridge (except basil, which likes room temperature!).
An advanced tip is to take any leafy greens like bok choy, lettuce, Spinach or kale and remove them from their packaging. They’ll last longer if you rinse them, dry them with a paper towel and place them in a sealed container.
Personalise those meals
There are no bonus points for following the recipes exactly to the letter, especially if you’re raising a picky eater. The beauty of meal kit dinners is that you can add/remove as many ingredients as you want to fit your tastes. Here are some quick ideas you might want to consider:
- Add extra veggies for a health boost.
- Marinade any meat overnight for a more intense flavour.
- When roasting carrots/potatoes, give them an extra 5-10 minutes for some extra crisp.
- Consider adding extra seasoning or chilli if you enjoy the heat.
Get the kids involved with cooking
Because meal kits contain complete ingredients and come with instructions that are easy to follow, you can conveniently include your kids in the process.
With ingredients already proportioned and provided, take this as an opportunity to teach your kids about flavours and health benefits of each food component. When you are adding your own tweaks to the recipes (adding extra spices, marinating longer, including more veggies) to make meal kits work for your family, ask your kids to help out so they can appreciate food preparation better and learn simple cooking techniques.
Getting your kids involved in cooking and preparing your meal kits is a great opportunity for family bonding. This activity will not only equip your kids with the valuable life skill of cooking but also boost their self-esteem and rouse their desire to be more helpful around the house. Hopefully anyway!
Switch and save
Every meal kit service offers discounts for new customers, making the first box exceptionally good value. If you haven’t tried all the meal kits in Australia, it’s well worth trying them for at least one box. If you don’t want to try more than one box, cancel immediately or you’ll likely receive a second box.
Once you have an account, they start fighting each other to ‘win’ back your service, which can save you around $25 weekly. While it takes a bit of extra admin work to ensure you’ve cancelled the boxes you don’t need, the savings are worthwhile!
Final words: Ways to make meal kits work for your family
Meal kits are a great way to ensure that your family is well-fed and nourished, while spending the least time and effort in the kitchen.
With a few clever hacks, like switching and sizing up, you can lower the costs of meal kits, eradicating the worry that this option could be too pricey for your family budget.
To ensure freshness and quality of your meal kit ingredients, don't forget that timing and storage is important. Coordinate with your chosen supplier and inform them when and where to deliver your meal kits so you can easily store the food for better shelf life and freshness.
Meal kits are only boring if you don't find the fun in them. Make meal kits work for your family by adding your personal touch. Whether your family likes spicy food, or you are big fans of greens, feel free to add in good stuff and flavours that your family will enjoy. Include your kids in the daily meal kit preparation and make a fun and educational opportunity out of it.
Take advantage of the convenience of meal kits and find enjoyment in preparing them. Make meal kits work for your family by incorporating these well-planned meals in your family budget and schedule. Good nutrition and fun memories in the kitchen are in store for your family with every easy-to-use box delivered!