Breaking news: a first-of-its-kind scientific study shows that meal kits are better for the environment than the grocery store. A lot better. Meals prepared from store-bought groceries are responsible for 33% more greenhouse gas emissions than an equivalent dish from a meal kit, according to a PhD lead study published in Resources, Conservation and Recycling journal.1
The meal-kit industry has boomed in recent years, offering customers the ability to cook home-made meals without the hassle of buying groceries, budgeting, recipe planning, or prep work. Take one of Australia's most popular meal kits, HelloFresh, for example. For as little as $7.99* per meal, HelloFresh ships a weekly box to customers' doors that has everything they need for dinner: detailed recipe cards with cooking instructions, and fresh produce and ingredients that have been pre-portioned. Customers can choose between 15 + worldly dishes every week, which can go from box to table in 30 minutes or less. Even more amazingly, there is something for everyone: HelloFresh offers a vegetarian plan with creative meat-free dishes like Golden Zucchini, Carrot & Cheddar Fritters and low-calorie meal options for health-conscious consumers. There is also a family plan specifically created for busy households with fussy little eaters. All in all, it's no wonder millions of people are trusting HelloFresh at dinnertime.
Some call out meal kits for using more packaging than grocery stores. However, meal kits have a far smaller environmental impact, thanks to their pre-portioned ingredients and shorter supply chain, they therefore reduce food waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Despite rising meal kit popularity, the phenomenon has been understudied until now. The recent studies make it clear: meal kits are much better for the environment than meals prepared using groceries. Why? Because HelloFresh sends customers exactly what they need to cook fresh meals, no more and no less, they eliminate groceries that go unused in the refrigerator and have to be thrown away. And, meal kits' streamlined supply chain model (think getting from the farm to you with fewer middlemen), eliminates a LOT of carbon emissions caused by the grocery store's complicated, cross-national transport system. Plus, most people may not realise that grocery stores themselves are responsible for a huge amount of food waste, throwing away tons of food each year.
It turns out, food waste is a way bigger problem than you might think. "We waste somewhere between 30% to 40% of the food that we produce, which is just a mind-boggling number," the study's lead author Brent Heard, a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan's School for Environment and Sustainability, told Time.2 All in all, the environmental impact of the production of all that wasted food has a much larger carbon footprint than the relatively small amounts of extra plastic or cardboard meal kits use to keep food fresh.
What's the takeaway? If you've been interested in a meal kit, but doubts kept you from pulling the trigger, consider this: by getting a HelloFresh subscription, you're not just putting home-cooked meals on the table with minimal effort, you're helping doing something good for the environment.