Meal Kit vs Meal Planning

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Several months ago, my family signed up for our very first meal kit service. The one we decided to go with was Dinnerly.

It’s been a great service for us, but it was only taking care of about half of our dinners per week. We weren’t keen on using another meal kit service for the remaining days, so last month we signed up for a Meal Planning service. The one we went with was Platejoy.

If you haven’t used a Meal Kit or Meal Planning service before, here’s a quick description of each.

Meal Kit

This is a subscription service, delivered weekly, that includes most of the ingredients needed for a set number of meals per week.  This typically includes items like meats and produce, but you’ll need to provide certain other ingredients, like butter, salt, and olive oil.

Chicken and Pepperoncini Relish from Dinnerly

The package arrives boxed, with ice packs and separators.  So, if it gets delivered at noon, but you don’t get home from work until 6:00, the food will typically be just fine sitting in the box on your porch.

The company provides the recipes and cooking instructions, and you prepare and cook the ingredients.

Meal Planning

Breakfast sandwich from Platejoy recipe

This is also a subscription service, but in this case all you are provided is an ingredient list and cooking instructions.  You must source all of the food yourself.

Every week, the service provides you with a set list of meals based on the settings you provide when you sign up. You choose options like how many meals, breakfast, lunch or dinner, and other choices.

Now that we’ve used them both for a while, I thought I’d give you the pros and con of each.

Meal Kit vs Meal Planning

Meal Selection

With Meal Kit services like Dinnerly, you usually get a couple options to choose from for your meals for the upcoming week.  It’s not a huge selection though.  For example, Dinnerly lets you choose three of six available options.

Platejoy is much more flexible in this area.  If you don’t like the recipe they provide, you can switch it out for another.  It’s that easy.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Platejoy also lets you customize your service to be tailored to certain diets.  For example, you can choose options such as Paleo, Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Batch Cooking, Food Allergies, and more.

Platejoy does stop there.  They also give you options of selecting how many meals you want, and what mix of breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and even whether you want leftovers or not.

The amount of configurations you can get with Platejoy is endless.  With a Meal Kit Service, you’re usually choosing between two or three meals per week, and only dinners.

Winner- Meal Planning

Ease of use

Crispy Beef Tostadas

If you haven’t tried a Meal Kit service yet, let me paint a picture for you.  You don’t have to find a recipe, and you don’t have to go to the grocery to get the ingredients. That’s all done for you.

All you do is prep and cook, and you’re done.  This is nice for those who like to cook but don’t have the time for all the other stuff.

Meal Planning doesn’t remove the grocery shopping or cooking from the process. So, unless you have your own cook, or you order carryout, a Meal Kit is as close as you’re going to get to having to do none of the work.

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Cost

If you are a good shopper, and use the regular grocery over say a Whole Foods, and avoid things like packaged foods, you can really stretch your dollar while feeding your family. Meal Planning allows you to continue to do this.

Recipe for a breakfast item on the Platejoy app

The recipes we get from Platejoy are fairly straight forward, and use normal ingredients.  For example, our grocery list for the past week included things like ground chicken, eggs, a loaf of whole grain bread, avocados, and a red onion.  That wasn’t the complete list, but you get the idea.  These are all items you’d probably be buying anyways. Nothing exotic here.

My husband is keeping track of our grocery spending and food usage, and he estimates that we are getting our meals at a cost of about $2-$3 per serving with the Platejoy recipes. And the service itself isn’t very costly, we paid $69 for an entire year’s worth of recipes (for the meals we selected).

In contrast, Meal Kit services typically run in the $5-$10 per serving range.  If you hate going to the grocery, that extra couple dollars could be worth it to you to have all of your necessary items delivered right to your door.

But if you’re trying to control your spending on food, a Meal Planning service gives you great dishes for a lower cost.

Winner- Meal Planning

Quality of Dishes

Pork Shumai Meatballs from Dinnerly

One reason someone might choose to go with a Meal Kit service is to get a higher quality meal.  But, a Meal Planning service can give you recipes that are just as good.

With both services, you’re also the cook.  So the real quality of the dish is going to be controlled by how well you do in a kitchen.  In both cases, you can take a great recipe and turn it into something inedible if you’re not good with cooking.

The bottom line is that the main difference between these two services is that the Meal Kit includes the food.

Winner- Tie

Incorporating a balanced diet

Before we tried Dinnerly or Platejoy, one of the biggest gaps in our family meals was having a balanced diet.  We always had the meats covered, rotating through chicken, pork, beef, and seafood, but things went downhill from there.

Cucumber and tomato salad from a Platejoy recipe

Our biggest challenge was how much vegetables we ate, and the variety.  We did a lot of corn, baked beans from time to time, and maybe the occasional salad, but that was about it.

One of the first things we noticed when we started with Dinnerly was the amount and selection of vegetables the meals included.  Green beans, tomatoes, spinach, the list goes on and on.  They really do a great job of getting you a wide variety of vegetables, and grains.

Platejoy is similar in this regard. We’re finding the meals also include a good balance of ingredients, with vegetables like spinach, and whole grain breads.  The recipes are giving us that push to eat a wider variety of healthy foods, something we probably wouldn’t do so well without.

Winner- You

So, there you have it, whether you go with a Meal Kit Service or a Meal Planning Service, you’re going to benefit.  Both are great if you like to cook, and both give you a great variety of dishes to eat.

When you add it all up, a Meal Kit Service is going to save you time at the grocery, and a Meal Planning Service is going to help you save money on food. Both provide a great value for Moms, you just need to choose which makes more sense for you.

Or, do what we did, and use both.

If you’d like to sign up for Dinnerly

Or to sign up for Platejoy

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