Putting together three healthy meals a day for yourself is hard enough, let alone powering through cooking for an entire household. While there's definitely ways to maximize your meal-prep efforts (here are ten tools that will help) and recipes that can be doled out all week long, sometimes you simply just can't accomplish the tall order of feeding your family three times a day. And school-made lunches are far from perfect: the USDA delayed some efforts to make them healthier, and rolled back other promising initiatives.
And the industry hasn't failed to notice: in the last year alone, there has been two major businesses that have launched to introduce customizable ready-to-eat meals for parents looking for a solution.
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The idea is similar to traditional meal-kit delivery programs like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh (or healthy food-based Sun Basket), which has seen success thanks to hundreds of people who are looking to enjoy healthy meals even if they might not have time to shop, prep, and cook three times a day, seven days a week.
But unlike those services, what sets these newer businesses apart is the fact that they are marketed exclusively for children—and make healthy lunches that are age-appropriate.
There's a handful of services out there that will send you fresh, ready-to-eat meals in cold-packed shipments if you can't find the time to put them together yourself. But each subscription service tackles lunchtime differently, from ingredients used to cost and delivery frequency—so we're breaking down a few of these services right here:
New Year. New Food. Healthy eating starts here, with the Cooking Light Diet.
Cost: As low as $6.50
Delivery Frequency: Weekly
Nate Cooper decided that a better solution was a meal delivery service that parents could turn to for a week's supply of wholesome, ready-to-eat lunches—so he co founded Wise Apple to provide just that.
Ramping up the business from a local operation to what it is now, Copper told Food Navigator that many customers had kids who were picky eaters, pushing Wise Apple to form a business model where parents could completely customize their meals. So the brand decided to build individually sealed lunch trays that keep food fresh for up to five days after you've received the meal on your doorstep.
In what really feels like a modern approach to healthy "Lunchables" styled meals, Wise Apple has weekly rotating menus that you and your child can choose from—like a veggie nuggets box, which includes banana chips and pudding, snap peas with a dipping sauce, and fruit salad. The entire meal clocks in at a mere 326 calories. And if for some reason you don't like any of the available pre-set pairings, you can create your own box from scratch using all of the week's meals.
The more meals you order, the better price you'll receive—a set of five meals for the week will cost you $6.99 each, but if you're interested in using the service for more than one child, you can get 12 meals for $6.50 a piece.
If your child has any sort of intolerance or allergy, you'll be happy to hear that Wise Apple lists all nutritional information and its ingredients list on each meal—and there's no nuts used, ever.
Currently, Wise Apple is only operating in a handful of Midwestern states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and portions of Iowa, Kentucky, and Missouri. The brand plans to expand their services in the near future, and you can sign up for an email alert at getwiseapple.com to let you know when the service expands to your area.
Cost: as low as $6.99
Delivery Frequency: Weekly
Despite only having launched in 2016, Yumble has more reach than Wise Apple—it once operated in 27 states east of the Mississippi river. In 2019, however, the service will be offered in all fifty states, thanks to a considerable investment from Bethenny Frankel.
Joanna Parker, Yumble's founder and mother to three, appeared on CNBC's Shark Tank to pitch a national expansion to a panel of investors. Frankel, who is the CEO of the Skinnygirl label and a former reality television personality, now owns 6 percent of the company: she will also serve as a spokesperson, according to NJ.com.
Yumble offers weekly rotating menus that you can select meals from, and each meal is ready-to-eat (some do require a bit of heating) when it reaches your door.
Unlike Wise Apple, however, Yumble offers more of a breadth of meals that extend past a typical lunch: some of the recipes featured on the service could be served for breakfast or dinner, as well. We're talking meals like Yumble's cheesy egg omelette or their sweet-and-sour meatballs with a side of orzo and peas.
While Yumble doesn't package their meals in a nut-free facility, they do offer a slew of meals that are allergy-friendly and also list all nutritional information for you to take a peek at. Parker, who helped co-found Yumble out of a struggle to provide healthy meals for her family, redesigned classic comfort meals to be lighter options that kids will be excited to eat.
Yumble's pricing is a tad more expensive than most competitors: if you're looking for just six lunches a week, that'll cost you $7.99 a piece, with free delivery. But the pricing gets better if you up the ante, as 24 meals are priced at $6.99 each or $167 total.
Cost: averaging in the $10-$11 dollar range per meal, based on age.
Delivery frequency: Weekly
Nurture Life is one of the original players in the meal-kit delivery service for children, and their offerings are the most diverse: you can select meals based on your child's age, and there's options for babies, toddlers, young children, and even preteens. Portions increase across the categories, but so does pricing, and Nurture Life's plans are considerably more expensive than competitors.
That being said, the company ships out fresh meals to nearly every state in the nation, focusing on portion control to keep nutrition labels clean as possible. The rotating menus are heavily seasonal and also focus on classic favorites, like mac and cheese with cauliflower or a quinoa and chili bowl.
Unlike other services, most of Nurture Life's meals need to be reheated before being served. But the breadth of meals provided are astounding, and many customers choose to mix and match different recommended menus across different age groups. For a week's worth of meals for babies, plans start at just $35—but a 5-meal plan for your 8 year old child will cost $52 for the week.
Cost: $7.50 on average
Delivery frequency: Daily
Scrumpt is a hyper-local example of just how popular these services have become—Tech Crunch reports that the service debuted at their Disrupt San Francisco event in 2015 as a meal-kit delivery option for parents who wanted same day service.
Parents in the San Francisco area have been able to purchase healthy, ready-to-eat lunches to be delivered to their children directly at school. Each lunch costs $7.50 on average, and while you're not committed to purchasing a full week's worth of them, you'd only be spending about $37 total if you did. Each season brings 15 different options to choose from, with a full entree, two servings of fruits and vegetables, a salty morsel, and dessert included.
Scrumpt is in the process of expanding into the rest of California and plans to branch out nationwide. It's a huge challenge to expand their business to the entire state let alone the country, but Scrumpt is the long-awaited solution for busy parents who don't want their children eating questionable school lunches.