Over the past year, the kitchen has had more activity (and flour) than ever before. In my last article, I discussed how Instagram made many of us try out trendy concoctions such as whipped coffee, sourdough bread, and hot chocolate bombs. However, we have also added the preparation of homemade meals to our culinary repertoire. Admittedly, we may have had some help—or maybe a lot of help—in the form of meal kits.  

Meal kits are a box containing premeasured ingredients and step-by-step recipe instructions that are used to make a homemade meal. Their convenience is that they require no shopping for ingredients and no measuring. Most meal kits are subscription-based, so you can get them mailed to your home at regular intervals. They are different from meal delivery because the former allows you to cook everything, while the latter is a delivery of prepared food.  

The meal kits that we know today originally started in Sweden in 2007. The phenomenon spread through northern Europe over the next few years, and this culinary concept hit us here in the United States around 2012. According to Jan Conway’s piece for the online statistics portal Statista, the sale of meal kits is steadily growing. In 2018, one of the leading German meal kit companies made over €1.18 billion. In 2017, meal kit revenue was approximately $2.5 billion in the United States, and this number is expected to grow by 2024 to over $7.6 billion. Imagine: buying uncooked food to cook yourself. Now you’re wondering why you didn’t think of it first. I’m still wondering why I didn’t invent the Post-it® note. It’s just premeasured paper with glue!

The global pandemic and the on-again, off-again lockdowns had us quarantining with carbs. As our sourdough starters rose, so did our awareness of healthy eating. Meal kits became increasingly popular in the past year due to several reasons. Grocery shopping had an added risk, so online food shopping was on the rise. So much time at home was great; however, constantly having to cook could be overwhelming. Meal kits minimized our stress while still providing a home-cooked meal with the nutrition information and math already calculated.

Aside from the doom and gloom of a virus-ridden planet and staying away from crowded stores, why else would you buy meal kits?  

  • They offer a healthier alternative to fast food, and you can customize the amount of sodium and fat used in the cooking process.  
  • They are portioned according to the correct serving size. No leftovers mean you don’t have unwanted leftovers and food waste. This is good for the environment as well as your waistline.  
  • They save time. If you’ve shopped for, prepped, and cooked meals, you know how much time it takes. Meal kits are delivered to your doorstep with most of the prep work done. This gives you time for other priorities in your life.  
  • The recipes are created by actual trained chefs and use quality ingredients.  
  • They give you an opportunity to try different cuisines.  
  • They’re fun. Meal kits are an activity where you can eat the end result! 

There are different types of meal kits based upon your needs, and meal kit companies can customize your plan based on certain dietary preferences. There are kits for carb-conscious, vegetarian, low-calorie, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, diabetic, heart-healthy, and family-friendly (for families with young children) appetites. There are halal meal kits available online as well. The customizable nature of meal kits, without the need to use your gray matter, is also a big draw. We want something fast, easy, healthy, and non-cerebral. Meal kits take the mystery out of nutritional analysis because all of the information is listed for you.

Where can you find these meal kits? At your fingertips, of course! Online shopping rose sharply within the past year. Meal kits are readily available online, and you can subscribe to various plans with various frequencies. However, if you cannot wait for a delivery or just want to try out one meal kit, you can also find them at large grocery store chains.

Who is the ideal consumer of meal kits? According to Amanda Schoenbauer in a blog for Numerator, a market intelligence research company, 63.7% of the meal kit market is made up of millennials and Gen Xers. Schoenbauer says, “These shoppers also tend to have high incomes—59.2% make over $80k per year—and high levels of education—57.3% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Nearly two-thirds (65.3%) of this group work full-time or are self-employed, and about 12.2% have young children under the age of five.” The author also notes that meal kits are purchased by people who dine out frequently. This makes sense because they are accustomed to convenience, so when these people want something “home-cooked,” it has to be easy.

Meal kits may seem popular, but are there people who may not want to use them? These kits may not be for you if: 

  • You have multiple allergies.  
  • You are a person who likes to fluctuate the number of ingredients and wants to be creative. 
  • You have finicky eaters at home. Meal kits are for families who do not mind unique and different recipes. Even if you liked one item, you might not have it again for a while. The companies rotate recipes and sometimes discontinue something you may like. Also, they generally lock you in for a series, so if you and your family don’t like the meals, you will be paying for the meal kit along with your fluorescent orange macaroni and cheese boxes for a while.

If you are curious about these kits but fear the commitment that goes with them, then just pick one up from a grocery store near you. Read the ingredients, do your research, and enjoy your creation. Happy eating!  

Husna T. Ghani has an MBA, an MSEd, and degrees in biology and chemistry. She has taught microbiology, as well as several laboratory sciences, and is currently a strategy consultant in the spheres of healthcare and communications. When she isn’t doing her day job, she focuses on dessert-making and saving the world, one pastry at a time.