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Paying for meal plans

Everyday cooking used to be a problem for me but isn’t anymore!

Last year, I wasn’t thrilled with any of my options for day-to-day meals:

  • getting unhealthy, expensive takeout
  • looking up new recipes, spending a lot of time cooking them, and inevitably wasting the unused ingredient leftovers
  • repeatedly cooking the same fast sustenance meals and feeling bored

A food youtuber I’ve followed for years posted this video in August about how much she loved meal planning: picking recipes for a week that used all the same components, and then spending an hour on Sundays preparing all the laborious parts so weeknight cooking would just be easy, delicious assembly. That sounded great, but problem was, I didn’t know how to actually do any of that - figuring out which recipes would efficiently reuse ingredients or what steps were smart/possible to do ahead of time.

When the new year rolled around, I decided a goal for the year was to like our food prep options more, but I still didn’t have a plan for making this happen. Luckily, on January 3rd, the same Youtuber posted another video announcing that she was launching her meal plan service: There’s a free trial week, and then 3 months of meal plans costs $54, or a full year is $180. I think this was the fastest I’ve put my credit card down for anything!

Every week, Rainbow Plant Life (the service) sends out a PDF with 3 recipes for the week, a grocery list, and instructions for what to prep in advance. I go through the kitchen figuring out what we already have before Saturday’s grocery shop (we spend about $40 for 12 meals). On Sundays, we do our prep homework: pre-chopping the veg, making the sauces that are used across dishes, etc. It’s a pleasant way to spend Sunday evenings and feels great doing a favor for future us. Sunday is meant to take 1-1.5 hours of prep. We’ve so far been taking 2+ hours but think we’ll get faster with practice.

Some of the meals we've made

These meal plans feel really well-suited for our lifestyle:

  • Having 3 recipes for dinner (and enough leftovers for 3 lunches) is the right amount given that we often have evening plans.
  • Every meal has been at least pretty good, with many being delicious. They’re definitely all much tastier than what we would’ve cobbled together. I like the balance they strike among the tradeoffs of taste, variety, time investment, healthiness, and ingredient costs.
  • We enjoy the global flavors (eg so far we’ve had weeks inspired by Italian, Mexican, Indian, and Chinese foods).
  • Making each dinner is so pleasant, just grabbing your pre-prepped ingredients and assembling. It feels like a meal kit service but way cheaper and way less waste.
  • When friends come over for dinner, it’s not a production deciding what to feed them - we can just serve what was already on the plan.
  • The meal plan is vegan, which we’re not, but it’s been fine. Sometimes it’ll ask for vegan mayo or yogurt, but we’ll just use the dairy equivalents that we already have.
  • A bonus perk is that we sometimes have extra ingredients and can use it to make our sustenance meals nicer (eg we dumped some extra shredded cabbage and carrots into a pantry noodle stir fry today).

I read a lovely quote somewhere that homes are happiest when the kitchens are regularly turning out meals. I can’t find it but so far it’s certainly felt true.

The price point of ~$4 per week feels fair. Rainbow Plant Life makes the argument that if it stops you from getting 1 extra takeout meal a month, it’s paid for itself. I also think it stops me from panic-buying 1 random ingredient a week that I don’t end up using. You’re paying for the comprehensive knowledge of recipes and the methodical, logical directions (the founder used to be a lawyer and it shows!). My household wouldn’t be good at doing this planning ourselves at basically any price point.

Customers can choose to join a Facebook group of others doing the meal plan. It’s fun seeing the posts and learning what ingredients are easy or hard to get in other parts of the world. I’m cheering on the business - so far there are over 1000 members which means the meal plans are set to make over $200k this year.

One last thought on products: I previously followed sooo much food stuff. I bought cookbooks and then never cooked from them. I watched so many recipe creators on Youtube, Instagram, etc. I saved recipes from sites and newsletters: in my recipe tracker app I currently have 1187 recipes saved, of which I’ve cooked <10%. I kept trying to shove more recipes at my problem without recognizing that I actually needed help with the metaskill of planning. Rainbow Plant Life has also tried different revenue sources in the past, like selling a print cookbook and $5ish ebooks on specific topics like mastering cooking beans. I hadn’t been tempted by any of those, but now they’ve done a great job solving a huge problem for me. Our household thanks them every time we eat, and it’s been great watching their business succeed as a result.

Let me know if you end up doing the trial week or beyond, and happy cooking!