What’s for dinner? Meal kits make answering the question easier

What’s for dinner? Meal kits make answering the question easier
Blue Apron via CNN

Meal kits are changing the face of food in America.

According to Packaged Facts, a market research publisher, there are now more than 100 meal kit delivery services available in one form or another. The trend, which started with Blue Apron in 2012, offers a service of sending a big box filled with food, recipes and nutritional information right to your front door.

Unity Point Health dietician Michelle Swader has looked into the meal kit craze and said she likes what she sees.

“There’s a wide variety of menu options, calorie options, things like protein content. The good news is all of the companies that I’ve looked at have been very open about the ingredient list, the calories and all the nutrition information,” Swader said.

But there are minuses. A picky eater might not like the recipes. There’s little food waste but a ton of packaging waste. Prep time can be as long at 50 minutes, and the meals can be more expensive than buying similar ingredients in the grocery store.

Swader suggests consumers do their homework. The internet is full of sites that rate the meal kit services.

Madisonian Christy McKenzie is working to cash in on the trend. She has years of experience as a cook at recipe curator. She’s taken that knowledge and opened Pasture and Plenty on University Avenue in Madison.

“We’re really focused on making sure the money people spend on their food stays here and supports local workers and supports local farmers,” McKenzie said.

Her meal kits are more like a community supported agriculture subscription, also called a CSA. Clients sign up on a monthly basis, and they decide on the menu. There is a meal you make, a meal you heat and a meal you freeze.

The Food Marketing Institute says 17 percent of Americans purchase some kind of prepared meals.

The annual growth is expected to be between 25 and 30 percent. It’s those kinds of numbers Mckenzie hopes are a recipe for success for her new business.