Over the last 3 years of writing at Food Box Mate, I’ve cooked literally hundreds of meal kit recipes and spent thousands of dollars on different subscription services. If you’re a HelloFresh fan, or a devout Dinnerly lover, this list of the best hacks, tips & tricks will revolutionise your meal kit experience.
Every single one of these tips is based on my years of practical experience, and will definitely save you time and hassle. I’m not a chef, nor am I particularly smart in the kitchen, so I know this is the best advice for absolutely anyone trying meal kits.
There are even a few tips that could save you thousands of dollars. Let’s dive in.
- Tip 1: Buy a larger meal kit pack and reheat!
- Tip 2: Personalise recipes to match your own tastes.
- Tip 3: Get inspired by the recipes.
- Tip 4: Save money by being a meal kit switcher.
- Tip 5: Make your ingredients last longer.
- Tip 6: Never get caught out by an unwanted box.
- Tip 7: Plan ahead to beat the 'staple ingredient' trap.
- Tip 8: Learn to bulk with staple ingredients
- Tip 9: Use your consumer powers and rights
- Tip 10: Keep it simple
- Tip 11: Use your family
- Tip 12: Use Vegetable Crisper Containers
- Tip 13: Consider your weekly meal plans
Tip 1: Buy a larger meal kit pack and reheat!
Most meal kits can be bought in boxes for either 2 or 4 people, with the larger boxes often offering a cheaper cost per serving. If you’re cooking for 1,2 or 3 people this gives you a huge opportunity to buy larger boxes to save you money.
I cook meal kits for just myself, so I’ve become accustomed to making 2 servings at the same time. I then reserve half the cooked meal for the next evening which means I only need to cook every other night! Perfect for saving both time and money. If you’re a couple this also works by ordering a 4-person box and cooking it all up at the same time.
Want some tips & tricks for reheating meal kit dinners? I have a guide on my page where I recommend best meal kit for singles. These are the general types of meals that are perfect for reheating:
- Great for Reheating – Stews, Soups, Curries, Beef, Pork, Lamb
- Can be Reheated (flavour/texture impacted) – Chicken, Fish, Potato, Pasta, Veggies
- Not to be Reheated – Salad, Herbs, Bread
Tip 2: Personalise recipes to match your own tastes.
Just because meal kits come with detailed recipes, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t customise the flavours to suit your tastes!
Having a good stock of your favourite dried herbs/spices can take a good meal and make it perfect. I’m an absolute sucker for any meal that has smoked paprika in it, so I’ll always try and sneak some in when I can.
It’s worth thinking about meals and how you can customise them to suit your tastes. This could include:
- Adding extra veggies.
- Marinading the meat.
- Cooking ingredients slightly shorter/longer.
One of my favourite tricks is to roast the vegetables for a few minutes longer than the recipe says. This makes sure they’re nice and crispy with a slightly charred flavour. Yum! So, think about your tastes (and your families’ tastes) and customise your meals to make them perfect.
Tip 3: Get inspired by the recipes.
It’s incredibly convenient to receive a single box with all the ingredients you need for an entire week, however this convenience comes at a price and meal kits are often more expensive that supermarket shopping. Our recent study showed HelloFresh to be 30% more expensive than buying all the individual ingredients yourself.
However, it’s possible to get access to all their fantastic recipes without actually having an active subscription. Simply register an account (or log in to your existing account) and head to the ‘cookbook’ for all the ingredients/cooking instructions you need.
This is perfect for mid-week meal inspiration and you’ll never get stuck with the same boring meals again.
Tip 4: Save money by being a meal kit switcher.
You can get great discounts when you sign up as a new customer to meal kit services, but then you’ll find yourself paying full price week in / week out. Sticking with one service forever is missing out on possible value!
If you’ve received a delivery from a service, it’s worth pausing/cancelling your subscription and waiting for them to send you an incentive to start again. While you’re waiting for that incentive, you can still get meal kits from a different service.
I call this the Meal Kit Method and it could save you over $1,500 per year on food costs!
If you rotate between all the meal kit services, you’ll find yourself getting a discount on most of your deliveries.
Of course, this isn’t much use if you really prefer one of the services. It’s not worth saving a bit of money to use services that aren’t right for you!
Tip 5: Make your ingredients last longer.
Sometimes you’ll want to cook a meal 4, 5 or even 6 days after your box has arrived. At this point, some of your ‘fresh’ ingredients can be looking a bit worse for wear.
There are a couple of tricks you can master to make sure your ingredients are completely fresh when you need them:
- Eat your meals in the right order – start with salads, chicken and seafood dishes before moving on to others.
- Keep your veggies in the right place – root vegetables in the cupboard, everything else in the fridge.
- Protect your herbs – taking tender herbs out of the plastic packaging and wrapping them in a wet kitchen towel will keep them fresh for much longer.
For more details on how to look after your meal kit ingredients, I have a full guide on the best way of keeping ingredients fresh.
Eat seafood, chicken, then beef so that it’s less likely to go to wasteLisa Y, uses Dinnerly, HelloFresh & EveryPlate.
Tip 6: Never get caught out by an unwanted box.
It’s the nightmare scenario when it comes to meal kits – you’re going away for a week and the day before you leave, a full box of ingredients turns up outside your door! The only thing you can do is give away the box to a friend or neighbour.
Alternatively, you might be making the most of hack #5 and forget to cancel your subscription. Two boxes land at your door on the same day. Disaster!
When you subscribe to a meal kit, the best thing you can do is set a weekly reminder on your calendar on the last you can edit your order. This day is slightly different for each service and delivery area, so it’s definitely worth checking your subscription to make sure you get the right day.
A general rule of thumb is to check your order 8 days before it’s due to arrive.
HelloFresh, Marley Spoon and Dinnerly all have mobile apps that mean you can check your orders ‘on the go’ – no excuse for missing another cut-off date.
Tip 7: Plan ahead to beat the ‘staple ingredient’ trap.
All meal kit services recommend certain ‘staple ingredients’ within recipes that you’ll need to provide yourself. Generally, this includes items like herbs, spices and sauces where most people are likely to have these stocked in their kitchen.
However, it’s still very easy to be caught out by this and find yourself missing an ingredient when you’re mid-way through cooking. I’ve managed this a few times and ended up getting creative with substitutes. Sadly, the dish never quite tastes like it should.
That means it’s always worth double checking the recipes that are arriving to make sure you have all the ingredients you need. The best time to do this is after following hack #6, allowing you to pick up any staple ingredients next time you’re near a supermarket.
Tip 8: Learn to bulk with staple ingredients
One of the most common hacks that Food Box Mate readers love, is to create more portions simply by adding a few simple extra ingredients. This hack can stretch your two-person meals to feed four people, almost halving your total cost per meal!
Getting this right can take a bit of trial and error, however, there are a few ingredients you should keep around just for this purpose:
- Beans – Everything from canneloni beans to kidney beans make great meal extenders.
- Lentils – Perfect to use with mince or tomato-based meals.
- Mushrooms – A superb cheap way to extend any meal.
- Vegetables – Our registered Nutritionist, Clare Keating, recommends adding extra vegetables for a balanced diet when using meal kits anyway! Even better, use them straight out of the freezer and they’re just as good as fresh.
- Rice / Pasta – These are an incredibly cheap way of bulking out meals that already contain one of these carbohydrate sources.
- Potatoes – Mashed, fried, boiled. These are a great addition to extend any meal.
I get the two person but things like Sheppard’s pie I add a can of beans to make a 4 person and freeze two portionsRobbie E, uses Dinnerly, HelloFresh and Marley Spoon.
This hack is also super helpful if you have unannounced guests drop in at the last minute, as your meal can suddenly serve those extra people.
Tip 9: Use your consumer powers and rights
Anyone who has used meal kits for any length of time will have experienced the frustrating moment where an ingredient just doesn’t meet your standards. Wilted leafy greens, squidgy vegetables, and missing meats are all irritating parts of getting meal kits delivered every week.
Whilst this has only happened a few times for me, it’s a massive inconvenience when it does. You have paid for a service, so go and get your deserved credit.
With every meal kit service, they are generally found to be very responsive on channels like Live Chat to providing credit off your next order when it’s deserved. It’s money they owe you for failing to provide the agreed service, so go and complain!
Feedback if any items less than quality you expect with premium meal kit. MS are easy to contact and quick to compensate, and have actually put in place ideas I have forwarded to them in the past – wow!Patsy, uses Marly Spoon
Tip 10: Keep it simple
One of the most fun moments with meal kits is choosing which recipes to get with your next delivery. It’s easy to get excited and choose the most exotic recipes with the higher cooking times.
Then, reality hits.
You get home from work late, or you’re rushing around with the kids and nobody wants to cook a complex meal on those nights.
Be kind to yourself and make sure each delivery has one or two of the simpler recipes that you can throw together in 20 – 30 minutes and avoid falling back to a frozen pizza. Something like this Bacon, Zucchini & Tomato Fusilli that takes just 20 minutes from start to finish.
Tip 11: Use your family
We’ve heard lots of stories from parents who have found meal kits to be the perfect introduction to cooking for their kids. With incredibly simple menu cards, it’s hard not to agree.
Choose your recipes carefully and your teenagers can take the lead on cooking. Not only does it give you a break, but it also helps them learn important cooking skills that will help them when they finally have to fend for themselves.
Tip 12: Use Vegetable Crisper Containers
One of the biggest pain points with meal kits occurs when the vegetables just won’t stay fresh for the entire week. Help solve that by sorting your meals into individual containers that double up as crispers.
Two birds in one stone.
You’ll keep your vegetables fresher for longer, and all of your ingredients for that meal will be stored cleanly in the same container.
Tip 13: Consider your weekly meal plans
You can experience all different kinds of cuisine through meal kits. One night you might get a Thai curry, followed by an Italian pasta, then an American burger. All based on your weekly menu choices.
Planning out your meals carefully makes sure you won’t repeat certain cuisines or ingredients too soon.
Are you expecting to visit a restaurant next week? Have friends over? Need ingredients to last until the end of the week?
Thinking about your week ahead makes sure you can get maximum enjoyment out of your meal kits.
Making sure that you align the food with what your other food plans are for the week. i.e I know I’m going out for Thai so won’t order Thai meals.Diana, uses HelloFresh
If you’re looking to start trying meal kits or you just want to try a different service, the best place to start is with our detailed reviews of the top meal kit providers in Australia. Simply click one of the buttons below: