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Meal kit delivery services are a convenient way to make healthy, delicious meals at home, but they can be pricey. Read on for smart hacks that can save you money on your meal kit deliveries.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic put us all into lockdown, meal kit services were on the rise. They’ve doubled in popularity with Canadians since 2014 and are expected to continue to gain market share into 2021. There’s a lot to like about the concept: You get to choose your meals from chef-approved recipes and the instructions and ingredients are delivered fresh to your door. Meal kits offer a great balance between convenience and healthy choices, and they’re a particularly attractive option during the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic.

If you’re thinking about signing up for a meal kit service you should know that they don’t come cheap. A box of three meat and veggie meals for two people runs around $89, including delivery, with Hello Fresh. All-Canadian service GoodFood and crowd-pleaser Chef’s Plate both beat that price: You get the same for about $70, which still ain’t small change.

Luckily, there are hacks—loads of them—to get you discounted or free meal kits. If you’re looking for ways to get fresh food in your belly without emptying out your wallet, you’ve come to the right place.

Take advantage of introductory offers

The meal kit service market is crowded, which is great news for consumers. A simple Google search will turn up deep discounts on your first food box with all three major services all year-’round. Sometimes, on special occasions like Boxing Day or Black Friday, services offer even bigger bonuses. You might get your first week of meal kits at 50% off — or even free!

Also, bear in mind that there’s no reason why you can’t take advantage of the introductory offers from all available services—just make sure you’ve got a schedule set up in your calendar app. You’ll need to cancel your deliveries before a certain day or risk receiving (and paying for) food boxes you didn’t plan on.

Use a credit card that rewards food delivery services

Whether cash back or points, credit card rewards are one the easiest and most effective ways to earn a little extra on your everyday spending. When you use a meal kit service’s introductory offer you’ll have to sign up for an account, which includes providing your credit card information. Choose your credit card wisely and use one that rewards food delivery service purchases. That way, you can earn back a percentage of what you spend and put it towards a range of things: travel, hotel stays, gift cards, or even your credit card statement.

Be strategic with your orders

Once you decide on the best deal, order strategically. For example, say you’ve got a 50% discount. This might be a great time to order a bigger box with more meals to feed more people. Or, you can choose meals that will freeze well, like stew or curry, and keep them for a future nosh. This advice goes double if you happen to get a free box: Max out the offer and fill your fridge. If you decide to continue with the service you can always scale back your delivery to match your budget and needs.

Also, choose your recipes with the price of the ingredients in mind. The ingredients for a veggie pasta dish won’t cost much at the supermarket so probably aren’t the best use of your meal kits, since your order costs the same no matter which meals you select. Look for premium ingredients like meat, seafood, and cheese to get the most for your money.

Give feedback

A saturated market means that meal kit companies are always looking for an edge—and are often willing to reward you for your feedback. Note that this is an informal hack. You’re not going to see a note on any site saying that you’ll get account credits for feedback, but this does happen. Even better news, it’s not limited to one type of feedback. Account credits might be awarded after some food items arrive in a not-so-fresh condition or if you reach out to offer a suggestion about the ordering interface. And, if your order is delayed due to weather, you might automatically be offered a credit.

Refer your friends

Each of the top three meal kit services operates in slightly different ways but they have some things in common, such as that they all give account credits when you refer your friends. They want new customers, remember? When you receive your first box, check the paperwork for coupons. Alternately, look on the website for codes you can share.  When your family or friends order their free or discounted box, you’ll get an account credit that you can use for more meals.

Keep them guessing

Once you sign up, there’s a weekly schedule you need to understand. Let’s say you receive your kits on Tuesdays. If you want to pause or cancel for the next week, you’ll need to log in to make the change before Wednesday. With Hello Fresh and GoodFood, you can skip (and unskip) weeks ahead with the simple click of a button. With Chef’s Plate, you deactivate (and reactivate) your account. If you want more deals and coupons, put your deliveries on hold. When it’s unclear whether you’ll continue with the service, the company is more likely to send you incentives to keep your business.

Add your meal kit service’s email to your contacts

With the many emails you receive, chances are you probably filter the emails from many of the services you use. They’re usually just junk, right? With meal kit services they contact you to remind you about upcoming deliveries (which is useful for those of us who forgot to update our calendars) and to hook you back in with deals and offers. Don’t let those valuable emails go to spam! When you whitelist your meal kit emails you can be sure you’ll never go hungry for deals.

The Last Word

Meal kit services are convenient, fun, and a great way to swap the takeout for healthy, homemade meals. Use these hacks to reduce your food bill and make the most of your meal kit delivery spending. Paired with our top tips for saving money on groceries, you can really cut down on your food spending each month.

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