Considering adding a meal-kit delivery service to your pandemic routine? Here’s what to look for

BOSTON — One of the big business success stories of the pandemic is the growing popularity of meal kits. They’re a way for novice chefs to expand their menus without the burden of planning shopping lists or going to the store.

The services are not all created equal however so it’s important to take a good look at what you’re buying.

Samantha Kanter of Dinner at Mary’s had been catering cannabis-related events before the pandemic, but now she’s delivering meal kits around greater Boston. “The meal kits are essentially bringing the restaurant dining experience into your home.”

Meal kits have allowed her to stay in business during the pandemic. Each of her kits also comes with an optional gift of THC-infused olive oil that the buyer can add to their kit.

Kanter says business is booming despite the fact they never planned to do this type of distribution. She adds that it fits the times because “people want to stay home more, they want to be in their homes, but they want to have interesting meal experiences.”

In general, meal kits are shipped to a home with all the ingredients, and detailed instructions, to make a complete dinner.

A meal kit from Dinner at Mary's.

The pandemic has led to a surge of companies offering different options that even a non-chef can make at home.

Kelsey Mangano, a professor of nutrition at UMass Lowell, has been looking into meal kits. She says one plus is people are now trying new and different foods. “We know that increasing variety in our diet has been shown to decrease chronic disease over time, to increase longevity, so it’s really important to eat a variety of foods even within each food group.”

What to consider when choosing a meal kit

Mangano suggests selecting a kit that includes whole foods over processed items, and has ingredients that are high in fiber.

Try to avoid high levels of sodium or saturated fat. Mangano said some of the kits have individual dinners that have an entire day’s worth of saturated fat in a single meal.

At a time when people are home more, meal kits can also make cooking a family affair. “We know if kids get involved with cooking, they’re more likely to try new foods and have a healthier diet in the long run,” added Mangano.

That can start with something as simple as a pizza. Tuscan Kitchen is offering kits to make pizza and cannoli.

Chef David Crinieri, culinary director for Tuscan Brands, thinks the popularity of meal kits will live long after the pandemic is just a bad memory. “It’s a proven revenue source. It’s a proven activity that people want to do at home. I think it’s here to stay. It’s probably going to grow drastically.”

A lot of choices of kits are now being offered including those that are vegan and gluten-free.

Prices really vary a great deal, so you need to do some research.

Everyone we spoke with said it’s important to factor in the time you’d be shopping and researching recipes, and to consider the piece of mind of not having to go to a potentially crowded store.

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