For over a year, I eyed meal delivery kits with interest. The concept seemed pretty perfect. With the click of the mouse, ingredients for chef-created meals would arrive on our doorstep every week. Cooking has never been my gift, and I enjoy grocery shopping about as much as I like watching televised golf. In other words: not at all. DIY Meal Kits seemed like a no-brainer, but I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how to put them together. I needed to field test the idea first.
Last March, I pulled the trigger and subscribed to one of the few services that provide vegetarian meal options. Signing up for a food delivery subscription was a huge leap for me because I am a recycler, pre-cycler, no K-cup buyer, paper-free kitchen hippy. The idea that I would pay to have a cardboard box of individually wrapped food items brought directly to my door each week felt like the ultimate guilty pleasure. And you know what? I loved it. I did. Guilty pleasure, indeed.
- The recipes were tasty and easy to follow.
- We enjoyed the variety of the meals.
- The ingredients arrived fresh, or they credited my account when they were not. (This happened twice.)
- We managed to keep the waste to a minimum. (See the end of this post for tips.)
- I stopped having to think about what we were going to eat, three nights per week. Heaven!
So, even though I loved our meal subscription service, my plan all along was to use it as “training wheels” vs. a long-term solution. The expense was not sustainable for our budget, but I had a few skills for which I needed help. They were as follows:
- An understanding of meal prep
- knife skills and cooking techniques
- The workflow/timing of making meals
- Getting into a routine of preparing what I planned for the week instead of wimping out and ordering pizza.
The experiment was a great success. After five months, I canceled our subscription, and we switched to DIY Meal Kits full time. This post explains our method.
DIY Meal Kit Recipes & Shopping
Step 1: Choose two or three easy recipes per week.
- Recipes with no more than 6-8 ingredients work well.
- The Recipes should be fast and easy to prepare. I have about two or three evenings per week that I have time to cook a quick full meal. Some folks have more; Others less. Make it work for you.
Step 2: Prepare your shopping list.
- Make a grocery list with your preferred method, electronic or pen and paper. I make my shopping list in google docs. Rather than create a master list separated by department, I divide my shopping list by meal kit, and I Include the title of the recipe to reference later when I am assembling the kits. Then, I highlight everything to buy in the produce department. If you are crazy organized, you could give each department a different color. For me, highlighting the fruits and veggies is enough.
- Why highlight at all? I shop for produce first, and it often makes up the bulk of my shopping cart contents. The highlighted items stand out and become the master list of produce, so I do not forget to buy something.
- Tip: Make a note of everything you already have on hand. No need to buy perishable goods before you need them.
- Here is a picture of my list with the ingredients for one meal kit recipe:
After I finish the recipe portion of the shopping list, I print it and write anything else I need on the list by hand, as I remember it before shopping day. It is a haphazard system that works for me. You are welcome to adapt the system to suit your needs.
Step 3: Shop
Step 4: Assemble Your DIY Meal Kits
DIY Meal Kits Assembly
(This post contains affiliate links.)
- Group everything by the recipe using the shopping list as your guide.
- Measure individual ingredients into containers or plastic bags (sparingly!), and put everything into one bin for each meal.
It is possible that your bin will not accommodate all of the ingredients. That’s ok. The container should hold the bulk of your ingredients, and you should be able to tuck the extra items on top of your stacked bins.
Tip: Store the dry ingredients for all three meals together in a container in a cabinet or pantry.
- Place your DIY Meal Kits in the refrigerator.
Once again, if you are super organized, you are welcome to label your bins. I find that it is not necessary. I can easily see the contents of each clear bin.
On the nights that I cook, I grab a recipe, the corresponding bin out of the fridge, and the dry ingredients in the pantry. Then, it is business as usual. In 30-40 minutes, we are eating a real dinner. It feels like magic.
We utilize a few supplies that make our DIY Meal Kits easier and more environmentally-friendly to assemble.
I looked around for a stackable storage option that was large enough to wrangle the ingredients for a recipe all in one place. I bought three of these Sistema KLIP IT Bakery Boxes, which are pictured above. However, it looks like Sistema has changed the product slightly, and the new one looks even better. It is slightly bigger, and it costs less than what I paid for each of mine.
This even larger box might be a good option too, but make sure to measure your refrigerator space before you commit.
For each recipe, I measure out the ingredients into smaller containers when applicable. I use and love both of these glass containers in the 1-cup size.
Both styles fit right into a Sistema Bakery Box, but the snapware lids last longer.
On occasion, I use small snack-size ziplock baggies, but I try to avoid it as much as possible. The goal is to create easy meals with even less waste than the subscription service.
And speaking of waste, I promised you tips for how we dealt with the packaging during our meal subscription service experiment.
Tips for Reducing Meal Kit Waste
First, I want to mention that contents of the box arrived much as we would buy in a grocery store. Very few items were individually repackaged or branded by the service. So, unless you do all of your shopping at a co-op, farmer’s market, or bulk grocery, there will be minimal extra food packaging with a subscription service. At least, that was our experience with a vegetarian meal plan.
- Jars & Bottles – Sauce and vinegar arrived in small bottles which I gave to M. to use in her doll apartment. I also saved the jars for touch-up paint. They were just the right size.
- The box insulation – Each box was protected with either insulated bubble shield or a paper insulation product. I saved most of it to line planter boxes like these. The silver bubble shield would make an awesome robot costume for Halloween. My kids were all over that idea.
- Ice Packs – Each box came with two large ice packs. Naturally, since they contain sodium polyacrylate, I did not want to dump them in the trash. Instead, I saved the ice packs in my chest freezer. That plan was going nowhere, so I listed them for free with delivery on the Facebook Marketplace. I had five people lined up to take them off my hands. Most were churches who wanted them for mobile meals service. Another person was throwing a big party, and she needed ice packs for everything that would be on the buffet. In other words, I had no problem passing them on to someone else. Never underestimate the power of FREE + delivery.
- The box – We used the cardboard for various purposes. Otherwise, we set the box out with recycling each week.
If you enjoyed this post, please share it or pin it for later. Speaking of saving posts for later, did you know that BHH is active on Pinterest? Feel free to take a look at our boards and pins. We always enjoy new ideas, and we would love to follow you on Pinterest too.
If you have any suggestions or experience with meal delivery subscriptions or DIY meal kits, please leave a comment below. Your comments and feedback are always welcome.
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