When Whole Harvest rolled out its new menu it came up against some heat. The price point seemed too high for what was in the box.
If you’re like me, you may be asking yourself, "Is the cost of the Whole Harvest meal plan worth it? Why not just do it myself? It can’t be that hard right?"
I fancy myself a do-it-yourselfer. I will take a first crack at pretty much anything if it saves me money whether it’s smart or not (pro tip: do not ever, ever, try to repair a garage door yourself. Those things are crazy dangerous).
So, I decided to do a cost comparison between Whole Harvest pre-prepared meals vs. making the same meals myself. Here's what I found.
The Whole Harvest meals arrive ready to heat and eat.
No other prep is required and other than a microwave or oven, no other items are needed for a person to prepare these meals for eating.
Everything is clearly labeled letting me know what the meal was, what the ingredients are, and the cooking instructions for each item whether using a microwave or oven.
I used the microwave for each item and the cook times varied from between 2 to 3 minutes. That was all I had to do to get these items ready to eat.
In addition, the menu items were sourced, prepared, and cooked by a professional team under the supervision of a skilled whole food dietary chef.
Additionally, the portions are measured exactly ensuring the nutritional information is accurate and healthy.
Whole Harvest offers a custom meal box where you can select 8-12 meals per box. My plan was to mimic Whole Harvest's custom box of 8 meals. The average cost for 8 meals is $105 per week (around $100 with subscription). The custom box comes with 8 meals. That is lunch and dinner for 4 days.
Armed with a list of the ingredients and my wife for moral support I purchased the items and got to work.
Menu items I attempted to replicate:
→Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna
→Hawaiian Style Chili
→Gluten-Free Lentil Loaf
→Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers
→Indian Lentil Soup
→Jackfruit Lentil Soup
→Meatless Shepherd's Pie
→Southwest Veggie Burger
Can’t I Just Do This Myself?
I shopped primarily at Whole Foods Market for these items because Whole Harvest uses primarily organic ingredients and this seemed like a good place to start.
Shopping for these items at Whole Foods was my first time ever stepping foot in a Whole Foods Market. That should tell you something about how I’ve been eating in the past.
The total cost at Whole Foods Market for 8 meals for two people for the ingredients was $169.91. I had to go to a second grocery store for a couple of the ingredients that Whole Foods didn’t have in stock. The total at the 2nd grocery store was $6.43.
The total for food items was $176.34 Not too bad since I was shopping for 2 people for 8 meals. That is about $11 per meal on average. Not bad at all.
Overall shopping time was about 90 minutes including driving from home to the two different stores and back home.
Now we get to prep and cooking.
If you are looking at one of the Whole Harvest plans and wondering if it would just be cheaper and easier to do it on your own, you have to ask yourself, “How valuable is my time?”
The prep and cooking is where the real work comes in. It is by far cheaper to buy the food on your own but is it easier?
Not even close.
For the 8 meals I chose to attempt to replicate, the prep time averaged to be about an hour per meal. Some of the items took less time to prep, like the Indian Lentil Soup, and some items took me to the point of nearly throwing it all away in frustration like the Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna. That was just the prep time.
If you’ve ever made lasagna at home, you know it’s a labor intensive process. This lasagna was very much a labor intensive process. For the professional culinary team, the prep time is about 1 hour. For the very non-professional culinary rookie, it took me about 90 minutes. The cook time was accurate for the at-home cook as it’s just put it in the oven and wait for the timer to beep.
The total for me for prep and cook time was closer to 1 hour rather than the 45 minutes it would take the culinary team.
The time for this menu item was closer to 1 hour in total for me with the prep time taking a bit longer.
The prep for this menu item was the easiest of all the prep. Even as an unskilled cook, the prep time was pretty accurate. With the cook time included, the meal took roughly 1 hour.
This was my favorite of the items I made as far as taste went. I have never had jackfruit in my life and had only ever seen it on Chopped on The Food Network.
I had no idea what to expect.
The prep time was closer to 1 hour, and cooking time was accurate. It was good, but would I spend 2 hours of my night cooking it again? Not sure if that would work with our schedules.
This looks like a pretty simple item. It’s not. This was worse for me than the lasagna.
All through the prep you might be asking yourself, why you are taking ingredients that are themselves edible and turning them into a patty to eat as a burger when you could have just eaten the ingredients and saved a ton of time? That’s what I was asking myself about making this item.
Going through this prep and cooking process really highlighted one of the reasons so many people like myself have been eating so unhealthy for years.
It is not easy to do things the right way. It’s far easier to just pick something up or buy something from the store that can just be microwaved or heated in the oven. Eating healthy is a challenge.
Remember also, this was prep and cook time for just 6 meals. Attempting to eat this way for all meals would be a significant time challenge. The cost to purchase the items is far less doing it on your own but the cost in time is significant.Again, how much is your time worth to you?
Cost of DYI (time and money):
Total cost: $176.34
- Prep time: 5 hours and 40 minutes
- Cook time: 6 hours and 5 minutes
- Shopping time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Total time: 13 hours and 15 minutes
Cost of a Whole Harvest subscription (time and money):
Total (average) cost for 8 meals: $100
- Prep time: 0 hours and 0 minutes
Cook time: about 20 minutes (using microwave)
What I learned so you don’t have to:
- It's cheaper to use a whole food plant-based meal delivery service
- The time to prepare and cook the menu items is significant.
- Not having much in the way of kitchen skills made this very frustrating and something I wanted to quit.
- Attempting this on my own would not be something I think I could sustain long-term.
- The skilled culinary crew at Whole Harvest are constantly changing and updating their menu to keep it interesting, I don’t have the bandwidth to do the same for myself.
- The time and energy it took to make these items makes the consequences of eating poorly not seem so bad.
As I said before, the key question you have to ask yourself is, “How valuable is my time?”
Why do this at all?
I am new to plant-based eating. Like many of you, the choice was not all mine. My doctor informed me that while I’m free to continue eating as I was, if I don’t change my eating habits my family will have to deal with the consequences sooner rather than later.
I am 49 years old. A veteran and a former athlete who in the past has been fit and healthy.
Years of bad eating choices changed all of that. You can eat poorly here and there, but you can’t do it all the time without it catching up to you in a big way. It has caught up to me and I need to make a change.
For some, the prep and cooking process may be cathartic and helpful to get them closer to their food as they learn the process of eating healthier for themselves.
For many, it’s a chore that has been added to your long list of things you need to do every week and like many chores, you can do it yourself or pay someone to do it for you.
Whole Harvest is here for those who need to eat healthy and are more than happy to be guided by experts on the path to a healthier life. If you are anything like me, Whole Harvest is right for you.