Meal planning services are becoming more and more popular! Learn about our own experience with one popular service in this honest PrepDish review. Why did we use it? How did it go? What do we do now? We’ll cover it all in this post!
Jump ahead to find exactly what you’re looking for:
Why we were drawn to PrepDish
What are Prep Dish meals like?
What’s the prep day like?
How much does PrepDish really cost? (See my actual budget!)
The weekly meal planning template we use now
Our PrepDish experience
Last August right before school started, we started using a meal prep service called PrepDish to help us stay focused on our nutrition goals during the height of the back-to-school stress.
We used it through mid-November before we realized we needed to make a change. We want to share those experiences with you in our completely honest Prepdish review to help you make an informed decision for your family!
Prepdish Review – a meal planning service
We didn’t use a meal kit delivery service. Instead, we used a program called PrepDish that was created by nutritionist Allison Schaaf. That means these are nutritionist planned meals!
This meal plan subscription service has different prices & offerings:
- Monthly plan – $26/month
- Yearly plan – $155 ($12.91/mo)
- Premium plan – $185 ($15.42)
I will say that if we paid for the program, we would have paid for the premium plan as it allows you access to years of past meal plans from their library!
How Prepdish works
Essentially, you choose a weekly meal plan based on your health goals (paleo, gluten-free, keto, or a more typical diet). On a designated day (we used Sundays), you prep the ingredients you will need for those dinners so that you can cook/assemble them quickly the day.
For example, we would mince garlic and ginger on Sunday for a stirfry on Tuesday. We would chop broccoli to prepare for roasting on Wednesday.
Since the weeknights are when my “why can’t I have nachos every night?” hits, I really wanted a service that made eating healthy more likely.
Why were we drawn to PrepDish as a meal plan service?
I chose PrepDish over all other programs because I wanted something that spelled out my shopping list for the whole week and allowed me to do some prepping on the weekend. I didn’t want to cook a brand new dish from scratch every single night because I knew I wouldn’t sustain it.
Some of their plans also include breakfasts, lunches, and healthy snacks, and we liked the idea of the fridge being full of good-for-you foods!
We also did not want to choose a meal kit service because we have not liked any shipped produce boxes in the past and are trying to go zero waste.
Read: The Beginner’s Guide to Setting Up a Real Food Zero Waste Kitchen
We used Prepdish’s keto plans for 4 months
We used PrepDish’s keto plans pretty exclusively for our dinners from the end of August until mid-November 2021. We did sample the paleo plans towards the end, too.
Since we like to eat home-cooked meals, we wanted something that fit our current meal prep schedule of prepping breakfasts and work lunches on Sundays.
I kept telling my husband that even though I could plan and track other things in the kitchen well (like our pantry!), for some reason, I could not wrap my head around meal prepping.
I could figure out breakfast and lunch. Dinner threw me in a bind. I would overestimate how many nights we would want our 30-minute Instant Pot Chili or I would assume I’d come up with a dinner plan after work (I didn’t). There was something about adding dinners to the other prep that I couldn’t wrap my head around!
I researched a wide variety of meal prep services and boxed kits to see what could help me develop this mental skill. That’s the perspective I had – I need support and guidance to develop this way of thinking.
Our First Week of PrepDish
We followed the printout and loved the grocery list! We bought all of the ingredients, prepped our breakfasts and lunches like normal and then followed the dinner meal prep to a tee, and chopped all the ingredients and stored them in our Pyrex containers. The fridge looked beautiful with so many fresh ingredients ready to eat!
Each night, we followed the plan to prepare the dishes. I liked most of them and we tried foods we weren’t sure if we’d like (I don’t and still don’t like skewers).
The best part was that we were eating healthy, home-cooked meals EVERY NIGHT even after exhausting days that broke me down in tears.
I was so excited to find a meal plan solution! We were finally eating great dinners and my husband and I looked forward to trying the new recipes each night.
We noticed we spent a bit more on groceries this week since we were trying different proteins and needed some extra ingredients, but it wasn’t too bad and it seemed like a worthy payoff.
What are the Prep Dish meals like?
Most of the PrepDish meals are pretty straightforward, especially for the keto plans. You have your protein and 1-2 vegetable sides. Since keto is so low carb, most of the vegetables were repeated often like asparagus, zucchini, bell peppers, and mushrooms. We understood that keto does not offer a wide array of vegetables to choose from, so we didn’t mind changing this part up to accommodate our unique situation.
Since we are not keto, I can’t stand bell peppers, and we try to eat produce in season, we were often substituting vegetables. This looked like snap peas instead of asparagus and zucchini and cauliflower for pretty much everything. This was fine at the end of summer when my zucchini was still covering my counter, but it became more challenging when the garden slowed down.
Read: Why You Need a Well-Stocked Pantry
Our Honest Prepdish Review – Challenges
Issue #1: We were substituting the protein or vegetable on several dishes per week
So, we would look over the weekly plan. We’d see Prep Dish recipes like lemon-baked trout with roasted brussel sprouts.
Since we typically buy meat in bulk (from a local farmer or Wild Pastures) and we don’t really eat seafood, we would substitute something like chicken thighs for the trout.
My husband doesn’t like brussel sprouts, so we’d roast broccoli. The dishes turned out flavorful and filling! I like anything with lemon on it, so we especially opted for lemony dishes.
But eventually, we noticed that we were substituting both the protein AND vegetables for most of the recipes.
PrepDish really mixes up the proteins in a given week so you may have salmon one night, pork loin the next, a beef stir fry later in the week, and then chicken.
This meant that we were buying multiple different types of proteins for each week. It was really fun at first and we loved some of the steak recipes especially!
Issue #2: Our grocery budget started to increase
Now, this is beyond how much the actual subscription to Prepdish costs. Those are expenses you can save up or budget for.
The challenge was that our grocery budget started to bloat.
I’d justify it by how much better we were eating and how much we enjoyed the recipes, but eventually, the upward trajectory of our grocery budget became concerning.
We use You Need a Budget to track our monthly spending and when I reviewed our budget report for the year, I was shocked! Remember we started using this service in late August. We stopped mid-November (but also had a bulk meat order and Thanksgiving).
Our monthly grocery bill went up at least $200 per month and that was with us adjusting proteins to what we had on hand as much as possible.
I won’t say that PrepDish is the only reason our budget increased, but it was the only structured change we made in our shopping and cooking habits.
I think if we were in the habit of dining out multiple times per week, PrepDish would have saved us money, but we were already eating at home following frugal food principles.
Issue #3: I felt overwhelmed at the amount of meal prep I was doing on Sundays
It’s surprising that the one trait that really drew me to PrepDish – preparing ingredients in advance – is part of what made it unsustainable for me.
It would take me an entire Sunday morning and sometimes early afternoon to bake an egg casserole for breakfast, a large batch of something for 10 lunches during the week (my husband and I), and then to peel and chop and mince and marinate a week of dinners.
I would try to do as much as I could by myself and then when I became exhausted, I’d pass off the rest of the prep list to my husband. He’d finish it off as I’d sit drained on the couch.
It got to the point that I was dreading the meal prep because it felt overwhelming. So, I started segmenting it out and did the breakfasts and lunches on Saturday and prepped dinners on Sunday.
Then that meant that I was spending both of my weekend days batch cooking, but it wasn’t as hard as doing it all at once.
Eventually, I found myself ignoring the prep list.
I would decide any vegetables could be peeled that night as long as the meat was thawed. I’d only prep anything that had to be marinated in advance.
This was a helpful shift but eventually…I wasn’t really doing PrepDish.
I was using the grocery list and I did take ideas from the meal list, but I was not prepping in advance at all and I was substituting out the vegetables and proteins or replacing a meal I didn’t like from before with something else.
The simple, easy, print-it-and-do-it system was a new and complicated beast of its own.
(I will add that the paleo meal prep was even more complex than the keto meal prep and the super-fast plan (prep for the week in about an hour!) does not match our eating style.)
Why We Stopped Using PrepDish
In November, I remember working through my budget and just didn’t understand how our grocery budget had grown so out of control.
We have big financial goals we are working towards – spending $900 or more per month on groceries just does not work for us. We are two people. No kids. We don’t mind spending more on high-quality, healthy foods, but $900 is just too much. We are more comfortable with around $450.
I decided to just pause for a minute. What if I tried to do it myself? I could just list out breakfast, lunch, and dinner ingredients for a convenient grocery list and give it a shot.
So we tried it for one week and we were finally able to use up some of the ground beef and other cuts we have in our freezer.
We noticed we were able to really shop from our pantry again, making simple meals that were filling and flavorful while still achieving our goals.
Read: 5 Easy Last Minute Dinners You Can Make From Your Pantry
Our Custom Weekly Meal Prep Plan
I tried going back to PrepDish after that and it just didn’t stick again. We’d fallen out of the actual PrepDish routine so much that it wasn’t really sustainable. Instead, we’ve come up with our own frugal meal plan.
We now have breakfast on auto mode (egg bake with breakfast sausage, mushrooms, and sweet potato).
Lunches tend to be either some sort of roasted/sauced meat with vegetables (and some rice for my husband) or a burrito bowl type of situation.
For dinners especially in the winter, we like large pots of comforting soups that I can heat up and eat right after work instead of scrounging for snacks in the pantry.
Making one big pot of soup can be dinner on Sunday and leftovers 1-2 nights per week. You won’t even need to cook!
I use a very simple document to help me plan a week’s worth of meals in one glance. It takes just a few minutes to fill out! No stress, recipe hunting, or protein or vegetable swapping. I can use what is in my freezer and pantry more often.
The printable version is available for free (including my Pantry Staples List) for all email subscribers!
Get your pantry staples list now!
Cooking from scratch is a gift you can give yourself and your family! It’s way easier than you think and my free pantry staples list & meal planner will help you get started right away.
Send your free downloads directly to your inbox!
You don’t really need a meal planning service…
You just need to learn how to meal plan.
PrepDish is great for someone who wants someone else to tell them what to do:
- What to buy
- How to cook it
- When to cut and peel everything
Ultimately, what I learned was that I didn’t need that.
The problem was relly that I was trying to blend my life, budget, and eating preferences with someone else’s structure.
There will always be tension there unless you’re willing to just go with their system.
Personally, I’m a do-it-myself kind of person.
I want my meal plan to by hyperlocal to my own garden, community, and pantry. I want it to flex with the seasons and only feature foods and recipes we love.
I want it to be zero waste, ensuring I’m making the most of every penny.
This is why I created Make Over Your Meal Plan, a workbook to guide you through the challenging task of learning how to meal plan step-by-step.
When you actually learn how to meal plan once and for all, extra recipes, meal planning services, and more become unnecessary.
But, meal planning is hard.
It’s a lot of complex details to juggle and can feel absolutely impossible without some support.
As a teacher, I’m trained in simplifying complex tasks and breaking them into bite-sized pieces. I teacher-ed meal planning to make it something you can do just by answering a few questions.
Stop trying to tweak someone else’s plan
Real meal planning fits your lifestyle, eating preferences, and budget. Let me help teach you how to meal plan once-and-for-all in this easy, painless workbook!
More Meal Planning Resources:
So you’re saying PrepDish isn’t worth it?
Absolutely not! We actually loved PrepDish and recommended it literally to countless family members, friends, patients, parents, etc.
I heartily recommended the super fast plans to both my mom and sister because I knew that could be a powerful tool! We loved the simplicity of the planning, the different eating styles offered, and how it aligned to our food goals.
We also love that it was created by a nutritionist and that they emailed new menus each week.
The pricing tiers became a bit expensive, but we felt like the cost of the membership was worth it for all that was received.
I’ll be totally honest – we used a 2-week Prepdish free trial and printed out a few plans that we used over and over again.
Maybe we didn’t give it enough time or we could have broken up the meal prep across more days (prep for Tuesday or Monday or my husband could prep more on Wednesday when he is off), etc.
Read: How to Stock a Sustainable Baker’s Pantry for Beginners
PrepDish helped us in so many ways
PrepDish saved me during the intense turmoil and stress I experienced at the beginning of the school year. I ate WAY better than I would have and we found a lot of joy in prepping and eating the dinners together.
PrepDish also helped me wrap my head around weekly meal planning in a way I couldn’t before and that was the biggest victory! I get it now and I can use those mental skills to make it my own.
I wholeheartedly recommend PrepDish to people looking to change their eating habits and get into a meal prepping routine.
It was really nice to use at the beginning of the school year as a way to ensure I eat better, even if it costs more.
There are some recipes we definitely want to make again like the minestrone, steak with creamed cauliflower (SO FREAKING GOOD), and maple mustard roasted pork loin.
However, at this time, the plan is not right for us or our budget. There is always a compromise, right? You can eat healthy food and let someone else do the planning for less stress, but it will cost more.
Since we’ve learned how to meal plan, we don’t really need an outside program or service anymore.
We can simply shop from our well-stocked pantry and follow a simple, zero-waste meal planning routine.
If you’re ready to learn how to really meal plan, grab Make Over Your Meal Plan and get started today!
My Ideal Meal Planning Service
If there was a PrepDish option to truly personalize the menus for food preferences or for a budget plan, we would have been way more interested.
I’d love to opt-out of seafood and bell pepper recipes for life, and see more recipes that repeat proteins twice in a week (we know we saw one week like that!). We’d love to see more ground beef and fewer steaks.
The service really offers so much including special holiday cookbooks, specialty meal plans to reset your eating or accommodate AIP, or alkaline diets, etc.
There is even a great Facebook community of fans and the company consistently looks for feedback on recipes and how to improve!
I really wish it worked better for us. It was a great way to learn more about meal planning and develop confidence in our abilities to meal plan ourselves!
Want to hear from more folks?
Here are some more Prepdish reviews!
Scratch to Basics agrees that the prep day routine is game-changing! I love that she recommends breaking up the prep throughout the week in case the one day model is too much.
Girl Seeks Joy also raves about some of the Prepdish components (& delicious foods), but agrees that the prep day routine can be a big task.
In the review by Working Mom’s Balance, they agree that the cost, lack of customization, and time to prep can be tricky.
Have you tried PrepDish or another meal planning service? How did it go? Let us know in the comments!