I tried two of its meal kits, which the Lakeland grocer is offering in Tampa’s Shoppes of Citrus Park and Orlando’s Dr. Phillips area. From the Tampa store, I grabbed a kit for caramelized onion meatballs, which serves two people for $11.99, and one that made a vegetable pizza and spinach bacon salad, which was $14.99 for a three-serving meal.
The Publix meal kits come in three levels of preparation. The simplest, like the meatball kit, are just heat-and-eat and mind-numbingly easy to make. The second tier of kits can require four steps of preparation; the most complicated require up to six steps. Publix put the pizza kit in its mid-tier level of complexity, but it was also incredibly easy.
Here’s what you should know about me as a millennial consumer and food shopper: I am an intermediate home cook, albeit not a creative one — I need a recipe. I cook for my husband and myself; we are urban professionals who want to eat well but too often default to takeout and delivery due to a lack of time and planning. I try to plan three dinners a week, and we depend on leftovers, work events and UberEATS to fill in the gaps.
I have tried two other meal kits: Blue Apron, from which I received two free deliveries from a friend’s referral codes, as well as the kits that The Fresh Marketsells in store. I did not like the Blue Apron delivery; it felt like a ticking time bomb, waiting for me to get around to it. It also felt unnecessarily complicated and wasteful. I am not particularly eco-conscious, but the careful wrapping of tiny, portioned ingredients like one egg and a small amount of spices didn’t sit well with me.
I am a fan of Fresh Market’s meal kits because they feel less intrusive than Blue Apron — I decide exactly when to pick it up, and the meals tend to be simpler than Blue Apron’s recipes.
Publix’s meal kits are incredibly simple to make, and there’s a much larger variety than the Fresh Market kits (Fresh Market offers one recipe per week). The Publix kits are waiting for customers in paper bags with handles and one barcode to be scanned at checkout. I saw them almost as soon as I walked into the store in Tampa, and it was my first visit to this store.
At Fresh Market, all the items are kept near each other and customers pack them up themselves (there’s often a choice between items, like chicken or steak for a fajita kit). The cashier must scan each individual item; once all the items are scanned, it shows a price of $20 or $25 depending on the week’s recipe. These kits are meant for four people; Publix offers kits that can serve two to four.
Like Blue Apron, Publix’s packaging feels a bit wasteful. Within the paper bags, some ingredients are grouped together in plastic produce bags. Some of the kits use clamshell packages or other plastic containers.
Beyond being easy, the Publix kits also make tasty meals. They were not the best meals I have ever made, nor were they Instagram-worthy — although Publix wants them to be, encouraging shoppers to share their creations with #apronsmealkits. As of midday Monday, there were no public Instagram posts featuring that hashtag.
However, they make a good-tasting meal and are much cheaper than ordering takeout. If you have 35 to 40 minutes to wait for delivery, then you have time to make one of these meal kits. If these were sold at a Publix near me, they would be a solid grab ‘n’ go option on a busy weeknight.
Most include a vegetable — both ones I tried included bagged salads — and while they are not low calorie (each of the kits I bought was pegged at 870 calories per meal, although that includes things like a very generous portion of garlic bread in the meatball kit), they are healthier than my go-to delivery choices.
For me, the value of the meal kit is that it takes the thinking and planning out of grocery shopping. The most daunting part of cooking is often deciding what to make and gathering the necessary ingredients. With these kits, Publix does that part for you.