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Three Simple Suggestions for a Budget-Friendly Halloween

two skeleton near white concrete building with string lights at daytime

Think back to when you were a kid. What was your favorite thing about Halloween? Was it the costumes? The candy? The spooky decorations around your neighborhood? All the above? Now, think about your little ones. Which Halloween traditions excite them most? There’s a pretty good chance they love the same things you did.

That timeless trio of candy, decorations, and costumes account for more than 80% of Halloween spending. How much do people actually spend on Halloween? According to a National Retail Foundation survey, Americans spent an estimated $9.1 billion in 2017, and the number is expected to top $9 billion again in 2018.

From shopping for the newest costume to overspending on premium candy for trick-or-treaters, it’s easy to get caught up in the fright-filled fun and spend more than you intended. So, how do you give your little ones a Halloween filled with fantastic childhood memories without blowing up your budget in the process? We’ve got a few ideas.

Three Tips for Saving Money This Halloween

By following these tips, you can save money on candy, decorations, and costumes and help your kids enjoy a Halloween that’s a little less trick and a lot more treat:

Candy

Based on the survey mentioned above, a whopping 95% of Americans plan to buy candy this Halloween. If you’re looking for easy ways to save, steer clear of the brand name selections and buy in bulk. If you’re trying to be that house, the one all the kids talk about because you’re the ones that give out the “good stuff,” be sure to scan local sales and be patient. Stores will often discount candy on Halloween morning. A little last-minute shopping can give you the chance to get more for your money.

Decorations

Hosting a Halloween party for your friends? Instead of rushing out to a specialty store and buying elaborate displays and mass-produced trinkets, add a personal touch by letting your kids design decorations of their own. You may not win any neighborhood decorating contests, but your children will love showing off their handiwork to all their guests! Need some suggestions to get your family’s creative juices flowing? The home decorating experts at HGTV can help you scare up a great idea!

Costumes

When it comes to finding great deals on Halloween costumes for your children, thrift stores are your friend. If you shop early enough, many second-hand stores will have a selection of costumes that were only worn once or twice before the previous owners outgrew them. If you’re getting down to crunch time and you don’t have your kiddo’s costume figured out, Pinterest is a great place to find creative DIY ideas. And if your costume design project doesn’t turn out as perfectly as you hoped, don’t worry—nobody will notice because trick-or-treating happens in the dark!

Now, before you get carried away with crazy ideas about how to spend all the money you saved this Halloween, remember, Halloween savings can help ease the financial stress of Christmas shopping. That’s right, Christmas shopping. Once Halloween is over, there are only 54 shopping days until Christmas. Now, THAT is scary!

Financial Fitness Helps More Than Just Your Money

Woman in work out gear stretching her right shoulder.

When you hear the word “fitness,” what comes to mind? Gym memberships? Weights and treadmills? Lean, muscular athletes? Credit unions? If that last option seems out of place, it’s probably because your brain automatically equates fitness with optimum physical health. When you consider the global health and wellness industry generated more than $3.4 trillion last year, it’s easy to understand the tendency to think that way.

According to dictionary definitions, fitness refers to the ability to accomplish a specific task or purpose. With this perspective, it’s clear that physical fitness and financial fitness have some commonalities after all. Both types of fitness provide a wide range of personal benefits. Accomplishing goals in either area requires consistent effort, experienced guidance and efficient tools.

Consistent Effort — Fad diets and miracle cures will never lead to lasting physical fitness. Taking definitive steps toward an established goal is the key. This principle applies to finances as well. From budgeting to saving to investing, following healthy financial habits on a consistent basis leads to long-term success.

Experienced Guidance — Have you ever gone to a gym for the first time and wondered how to set your goals or structure a quality workout plan? If so, you know how valuable an experienced coach or trainer can be. That’s where Great Meadow FCU comes in. With our team of experts, it’s easy to find a financial coach who can help you set goals and create a plan to accomplish them. And the best part? We don’t charge for it like the gym does.

Effective Tools — When you’re working toward a physical goal, the right equipment can make all the difference. If you’re trying to increase your flexibility, a basic yoga mat should be enough. If you’re trying to improve your bench press, you’ll need a barbell and bench.

Depending on your financial situation, your needs might range from budgeting help and savings accounts to business solutions and investments options. GMFCU offers the perfect blend of products and services to help you accomplish your goals.

On the surface, physical fitness and financial fitness may seem like separate subjects. But science has shown that being balanced and healthy in one area affects the other areas of your life. Thanks to this overlap effect, there are benefits to your physical well-being when you are financially healthy. Start enjoying the benefits.

Uber Looks to Change the Travel Game. Again.

man driving vehicle with GPS system turned on

Visiting new places is fun. Feeling like a tourist is not.

With the upcoming release of the Uber Local service, Uber is doing all it can to help you feel at home no matter where you travel. The popular ridesharing service has been solving transportation challenges across the world since 2009, and now they’re stepping up their game to help travelers feel more like locals when they’re away from home.

Real-time data enables personalized service.

When you consider the fact that Uber boasts more than 40 million monthly riders, you quickly realize the company compiles massive amounts of travel-related data. Pick-up points. Drop-off locations. Commute times. Time of day. Average mileage. The list goes on. But rather than being content to let all that information sit in a server and gather figurative dust, Uber Technologies Inc has decided to leverage the data and help riders find current hot spots and popular points of interest.

In a recent interview, Alex Otrezov, Uber’s Head of Search and Experimentation, explained the goal of Uber Local by stating, “We use real-time data of our trips, obviously in an aggregate way, to show the hot spots to show where most Ubers are dropping people off. Whether points of interests or restaurants, whatever it may be, we want to make sure that we share that data with our users.”

Make your Spring Break even better with Uber.

With Spring Break just around the corner, you might be one of the millions making plans to get away for a few days. Whether you’re heading to the big city or the beach, there’s a good chance an innovative product like Uber’s personalized operating system would make it easier to find local points of interest that used to require knowing someone who lived in the area.

Once Uber Local officially hits the market, you won’t need to “know a guy” to find trendy NYC restaurants or track down the hottest events in Daytona Beach. All you’ll need is Uber. By utilizing mountains of transportation data and the latest A.I. technology, the world’s most popular ridesharing service will deliver a user-friendly service that tracks shifting trends, provides up-to-the-minute recommendations, and lets you travel like a local. 

Teach Your Kids to Make a Stand—a Lemonade Stand.

Lemonade sign and lemons

Long before Beyoncé transformed it into a cultural touchpoint, lemonade was the commodity of choice for childhood business ventures. Perhaps you had a lemonade stand of your own, or maybe you just knew someone who did. Either way, the memories of ice-cold refreshment probably ride on a warm wave of nostalgia. If your enterprise was especially successful, you might even hear a faint “cha-ching” as you reminisce. 

Fast forward a decade or two, and now you find yourself juggling the demands of family, friends and career. Thanks to the latest technology, it’s easy to let your kids spend their weekends drifting along on a digital stream of Snapchat streaks and Fortnite marathons. You have a perfect opportunity to shake up your child’s routine with a little old school entrepreneurship. It’s time to bring back the lemonade stand. 

Let your kids in on the fun.

When you were young, running a lemonade stand didn’t feel like a job – it felt like freedom. So, don’t worry that encouraging your children to work will somehow rob them of their weekend fun. The venture can be fun, and the lessons they learn from operating a small business can last a lifetime. What lessons? Glad you asked! 

Goal setting

Believe it or not, this one comes pretty naturally to kids. If you ask them what they want to do with the money they earn, they’ll probably have at least one goal already in mind. It may be a video game, a bike or new clothes, but whatever it is, their motivation won’t be hard to find. When they finally save up enough to buy what they want, the sense of accomplishment will be something you can build on for the rest of their life. 

Entrepreneurship

Operating a lemonade stand is an excellent way to help your children learn that it costs money to create something. After all, lemons and sugar aren’t free. Understanding economic concepts like cost of goods and profit margins will give your kids a valuable perspective with real-world applications. As they plan their drink prices, let them decide what to charge. Positive or negative, the lessons they learn from experience will help them with future planning. 

Responsibility

Like many things in life, lemonade stands are super fun at the beginning! But after a few hours sitting in the sun, there’s a pretty good chance your little entrepreneur will want to close up shop. While it may be frustrating (for you and them), this scenario provides an excellent opportunity to teach them that you can’t just walk away when you get bored. And let’s be honest, we can all use this reminder from time to time, can’t we?

Creativity

Challenge your child to think about how to separate themselves from their competition. (Of course, this may be hypothetical competition since modern-day lemonade stands are few and far between.) Depending on their age, your little one may focus on colorful sign design at first. This focus is understandable, since making the sign is half the fun. But beyond that, feel free to offer creative suggestions. Could they provide a sugar-free alternative? Maybe offer an iced coffee alternative to appeal to more customers? How about spreading the word with a social media post? Should they accept payment through Venmo or PayPal? Like a child’s imagination, the options are limitless. So is the fun! 

At this point, you may feel like opening up a lemonade stand whether your kids are interested or not! Channel that excitement and energy into helping them see the fun-filled potential of the idea, and don’t be afraid to get in there and help them when they need it. The time spent together will be even more valuable than the money earned and the lessons learned.

5 Staycation Ideas to Save Your Summer

woman lying down

Let’s face it; summer looks a lot different than it did when you were a kid. You used to spend the entire school year counting down the days until the carefree fun of summer vacation. But now that you’re a responsible adult with a grown-up job, summer just means your daily work commute is hotter than usual 

OK, maybe the situation isn’t quite that bleak. But if you’re not careful, summer will come and go before you get a chance to enjoy it. Even if you can’t take a week off for vacation this year, it only takes a little creativity and last-minute planning to map out a staycation worth remembering. If you need a little spark of relaxation inspiration, these five suggestions may be just what you’re looking for: 

Book a night at a fancy hotel in town. Yes, luxury has a price tag, but hey—it’s just for one night. Sometimes it’s worth the extra money to pamper yourself. And since you’re staying close to home, think about all the money you’re saving on gas and travel expenses! Want to make the most of your five-star staycation? Check in as early as possible and take advantage of every complementary service the hotel offers. 

Take a tasting tour of your city. It’s easy to settle into a routine of dining at your favorite restaurants, so why not break out of that rut and spend an entire day expanding your palette? The beauty of this culinary adventure lies in its flexibility. You can plan your itinerary or play it loose and go wherever your taste buds take you. Start with an early breakfast and end with a late-night snack. And if you want to include mimosas, aperitifs, and after-dinner drinks in your tour—that’s why they created Uber, right? 

Spend all day in bed. How many times have you started the morning by cursing your alarm clock and wishing you could stay under the covers all day long? Here’s your chance to make those lazy dreams a reality. Stack your favorite books and magazines on the nightstand, queue up your Netflix watchlist, and keep your favorite takeout restaurants on speed dial. You’re about to take your day off to the next level. 

Rent a convertible and take the scenic route. Sometimes you want to answer the call of the open road, but it’s hard to make travel exciting in the same car you drive to work every day. So, add a little fun to your staycation plans by renting a sports car (preferably a convertible) and cruising around for the day. If you have a specific destination in mind, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s even better. The magic is in the journey. Not sure where to find scenic routes near you? Download the Round app for expert recommendations. 

Unplug and get off the grid. We saved this one for last because, depending on who you are, this suggestion can be exhilarating or terrifying. Since we’re talking about shutting off your mobile phone and unplugging from social media, we understand you may need to start slowly. Use a resource like AllTrails.com to find the nearest hiking or walking trails, leave your phone at home (or at least in the car), and spend the day exploring the great outdoors. The fresh air, exercise, and lack of email will do wonders for your body and your mind. 

Whether you pick one of these ideas, find a way to do them all, or come up with a fresh staycation of your own, the most important part is permitting yourself to have fun. Even if they’re only for 24 hours at a time, vacations (or staycations) offer benefits that can make every area of your life more enjoyable.

 

5 Ways to Throw a 4th of July Blast on a Budget

fireworks

5 Ways to Throw a 4th of July Blast on a Budget

Like the rockets responsible for the legendary red glare, 4th of July business is booming!

According to a National Retail Federation report, Americans spent more than $7 billion on Independence Day celebrations last year. That figure is pretty steep—especially when you consider that Americans only spent $151 million (approximately $2.4 billion when adjusted for current inflation) on the Revolutionary War itself.

With our country’s birthday quickly approaching, you may be wondering whether it’s possible to show your star-spangled spirit without overspending on the festivities. We’re happy to report it’s entirely possible, especially if you follow these five tips:

  1. Use DIY or dollar store decorations. Thanks to your Pinterest page and local dollar store, it’s easier than ever to stretch your decoration dollars. Before you spend your hard-earned money on red, white, and blue decorations from big box stores or trendy boutiques, see if you can give the holiday a personal touch with some simple DIY projects. If you don’t have enough time to get crafty, swing by the dollar store and load up your patriotic cart for less.
  2. Host a BBQ potluck. There’s nothing like celebrating the 4th with family, friends, and food. But just because you’re the one hosting the party doesn’t mean you should foot the entire food bill. If you’re going to grill out, consider providing the main course (burgers, hot dogs, chicken, etc.) and asking your guests to bring their favorite fixings and sides. While everyone gets to show off their individual tastes, you get to hang on to more of your hard-earned cash.
  3. BYOB. If your gathering is going to include adult beverages, there are a few great reasons to adopt a BYOB policy. First, when everyone brings their own beverage, they’re sure to have something they enjoy. Second, unlike kid-friendly sodas and juice boxes, grown-up drinks can be pricey. Just like buying a round at the bar, providing beer or wine for all your cookout guests can put a serious dent in your budget.
  4. Do not BYOF. Not familiar with this abbreviation? BYOF stands for “Buy Your Own Fireworks.” And if you’ve ever experienced the sticker shock that happens in a fireworks store, you know exactly why purchasing your own explosives can be dangerous to your wallet (not to mention your health). Check your local news outlets and social media accounts for information on community fireworks shows instead.
  5. Plan for next year. One of the best things about 4th of July festivities is that the theme is always the same. That means you can score some incredible deals on Independence Day trinkets and decorations by shopping on July 5th and beyond. Since most stores don’t want to hold holiday inventory for an entire year, they often offer drastic discounts that will let you pick up next year’s decorations for pennies on the dollar.

However you choose to commemorate our nation’s birthday, a little creativity and advanced planning can help you celebrate in style—and within your budget.

How Can You Steer Clear of Financial Fraud?

Card lock

How Can You Steer Clear of Financial Fraud? 

With the rising popularity of online banking, mobile apps, and digital payment services like PayPal and Zelle, financial transactions are easier than ever. Bills can be paid online. Recurring payments can be automated. Funds can be transferred with just a click. The convenience of cashless commerce is welcome, but the reduction in physical exchanges can lull us to sleep when it comes to protecting ourselves against potential fraud. 

Financial fraud is nothing new. In fact, we probably hear the warnings so often that we hardly notice them anymore—and that can be a problem. In a Washington Post article detailing the vulnerability of credit card users, Kate Silver noted “Last year, analytics firm FICO found there was a 10 percent increase in the United States in payment cards that were compromised at ATMs and merchant card readers—following a 70 percent rise in 2016.” Statistics like these point to the fact that while security measures are improving, enterprising criminals are stepping up their games as well. 

Keep a close eye on your cards.

Much has been written about security advances within the financial industry, and rightfully so. EMV chip technology and digital wallet services like Apple Pay and Android Pay are dramatic improvements that go a long way towards foiling information theft. But with all of the focus on innovation, old-school credit and debit card activity still leaves many of us at risk. Card skimmers, hardly more than an urban myth in 2002, have evolved from clunky contraptions to barely perceptible devices that scan and record sensitive card data. If we’re not careful, mundane tasks like buying gas or getting money from an ATM can put our financial information at risk.

Safety can be simple.

The good news, according to Silver, is that commonsense precautions can significantly increase financial protection. Shielding the keypad when entering a PIN, making ATM withdrawals on weekdays (when the machines are inspected on a daily basis) instead of weekends (when they’re not), and only using gas pumps with security cameras and security tape are just a few practical steps we can take to protect our financial data. While all of these steps reduce the chances of theft happening in the first place, credit unions are making impressive strides towards safeguarding their members if their information is compromised. 

Credit unions are stepping up account security.

With convenient tools like online banking and mobile apps, credit unions make it easy for members to monitor their account activity—an essential step for early detection of fraudulent activity. Many institutions are also lessening the risks associated with physical card transactions by offering a two-pronged approach to security. Since most debit cards and check cards are issued in partnership with VISA or MasterCard, the first protective measure consists of security enhancements like chip technology and a Zero Liability policy for fraudulent transactions. 

Avoiding financial fraud doesn’t have to be difficult. Implementing personal precautions and teaming up with a trustworthy credit union, like Great Meadow, are simple, yet effective ways to ensure maximum protection. Even if it requires us to take additional steps and exercise a little more caution than we’re used to, preventing fraud is always easier than recovering from it.

Online Savings: These Aren’t Your Mother’s Coupons

Congratulations free shipping laptop image

When they opened their virtual doors in 1994, Amazon.com was merely an upstart online bookstore. Since then, the company’s growth has been nothing short of legendary. After launching its wildly popular Amazon Prime membership program in 2005, the company has cemented its reputation as a leader in the e-commerce marketplace. But for a company that generated almost $178 billion in revenue in 2017, it seems strange to consider that despite their eye-popping income, much of their success hinges on helping people save money, not just spend it. 

All the coupons. None of the clipping. 

While Amazon Prime allows members to enjoy exclusive offers and free two-day shipping, one of the company’s lesser-known features, Amazon Coupons, combines the benefits of old-school coupon clipping with the 24/7 convenience of online shopping. Now, before you smirk at those memories of your mom or dad dutifully leafing through the Sunday paper in an attempt to save a quarter on toothpaste or 50 cents on laundry detergent, it’s important to remember that today’s coupons are a big deal. How big?  According to a recent NCH study, consumers redeemed more than 2.06 billion coupons for more than $3.1 billion (that’s billion, with a “B”) in savings. 

While web-based purchases used to be primarily for hard-to-find specialty items, companies like Amazon make it easier than ever to buy everyday products online as well. Sure, you can find incredible savings on big-ticket items like electronics and home furnishings, but since you only purchase these items once every few years, the savings average out over time. Smaller discounts are available on grocery and cleaning supplies, but since you use these more often, the savings can really add up. Whether it’s a huge discount on a big-ticket item or steady savings on everyday items, keeping more of your hard-earned money is a good thing. Savings big is exciting. Saving small is smart.

Saving money is big business. 

With more than 44% of all U.S. e-commerce sales in 2017, Amazon has certainly positioned itself as the leader of the online retailer pack. But they’re not the only game in town. There is a staggering array of online coupons and discount codes available. A quick Google search will reveal page after page of potential saving options. In fact, the savings are so plentiful that companies like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com created their entire business models around compiling online promo codes and coupons in one easy-to-find location. With so many deals available, it’s always a good idea to search services like Amazon Coupons or Coupons.com before you shop online or head to the store. 

Save big. Save small. Save often. 

The Sunday newspaper may be a thing of the past and coupons may look different than they used to, but saving money remains an essential habit for building a strong financial foundation. And with the mind-boggling multitude of deals and promotions available through services like Amazon Coupons, RetailMeNot, Coupon.com, and others, it’s never been easier to save money on big purchases, small purchases, and every purchase in between.

 

 

 

 

Home Buying

Can You Really Buy the House You Want in a Tight Market? 

If you haven’t purchased a home in the last few years, you may be surprised to find that buying a house isn’t as easy as it used to be. Gone are the days of cautiously comparing your top 5 choices and engaging in a prolonged volley of offers and counter-offers. Demand is high, and supply is low. According to a recent Kiplinger report, existing-home sales were down 3.2% in January 2018. The national inventory of listed homes was down 9.5% overall, continuing a downward trend that spans almost 3 years. While these statistics may sound discouraging at first, a tight housing market can actually be a good thing if you’re a prospective homebuyer who knows how to play the game. 

Fortune favors the bold.

Whether you’re shopping for your first home or relocating to a new area, it’s important to know exactly what you want in a house. Bedrooms, bathrooms, lot size, neighborhoods, schools—these are the details that drive the search process. But once you find a house, you need to be ready to move. When asked about how quickly an interested buyer should be ready to make an offer, Justin Boyd, a realtor with Keller Williams responded, “In this market, buyers have to be prepared to make an offer immediately!” 

When it comes to making a winning offer, speed isn’t the only factor. The strength of your offer plays an important role as well. Drawing on his experience, Boyd shared a few additional tips that will help you submit a strong offer that stands out from the rest. If you’re serious about finding your next home, the following pointers could help you land your new home sooner rather than later: 

Pre-approval is key.

In a tight housing market, it’s not uncommon for a seller to receive multiple offers. Since anyone can make an offer and then look for financing, you can dramatically improve your chances of acceptance by being pre-approved by a mortgage lender. Highlighting the importance of being prepared, Boyd points out, “It is important to start with preapproval before looking so that when you walk into the house, you are ready to complete the offer and submit immediately.” When you’re pre-approved for financing, you give the seller confidence that your offer is solid.

Find out what the seller wants.

Every buyer has a list of what they’re looking for in a house, but few consider the fact that the seller has a list of their own. Some sellers are in a hurry, which makes a quick closing date important. Others have had previous contracts fall apart, so they’re in favor of shorter contingency periods. This is an area where it pays to have an experienced buyer’s agent on your side, one who can communicate with the seller’s agent to find out what really matters. Surprisingly, it’s not always money! Over the years, Boyd has seen the benefit of uncovering the one thing that’s most important to the seller. “Finding out what that one thing is could be the difference between getting the home or not. I have had sellers accept an offer for less money because it met more of their goals.” 

Go big to go home.

Everyone loves a bargain, but this may not be the time to hold out for one. While it may seem counterintuitive, Boyd suggests being prepared to offer full asking price—or more—on your first offer. “Sometimes you can make a great first impression and skip the multiple offers game with a great first offer! You don’t want to spend time fighting for a home you love only to find out that you didn’t win because the other offer beat you by $500.” Additionally, he suggests submitting an offer with as few add-ons as possible. Removing conditions like seller-paid home warranties and seller paying for buyer closing costs can be a game changer.

It’s time to get started.

If you’re already house hunting, you owe it to yourself to follow the advice listed above as quickly as possible. If you’re planning a home search in the future, preparing ahead of time is a great way to make the process as stress-free as possible. Either way, getting pre-approved is the first step, and Great Meadow FCU is the perfect place to start. A basic conversation about your housing goals and financial situation will help our loan specialists determine how much you can afford to pay for a house. Once those details are in place, they can help secure a pre-approval and position you to make the strongest offer possible when you find the home you want.

Click here to take the first step toward your new home.

 

Meal Delivery Services

Are Meal Delivery Services Really Worth the Money? 

With almost $5 billion in sales in 2017 alone, it’s safe to say meal delivery services are catching on. If you haven’t sampled the savory selections from companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or Home Chef already, you’ve probably seen more than a few of their sponsored ads pop up in your social media feeds. You may even know someone who uses the services for themselves. While these chef-designed, pre-packaged meals can be a phenomenal way to try new recipes, are they a solid choice for stretching your grocery budget? 

According to a recent Morning Consult poll, 59% of survey respondents listed high costs as their main concerns. But with projections suggesting the meal-delivery industry could become a multi-billion dollar market by 2022, it seems like plenty of consumers are still willing to jump on the meal delivery bandwagon. The widespread appeal appears to be based on a variety of factors other than monetary savings.

Costs can be measured in more than money.

Meal delivery services enjoy the highest popularity among millennials and individuals earning more than $100,000 a year, particularly those living in cities. These results point to the fact that busy people appear to value time savings and food quality as much as, if not more than, financial savings. 

Time Cost

There’s no denying that it takes time to plan your meals, create a grocery list, and actually shop for the food. By creating recipes and sending all the ingredients right to your door, companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh can save you the time you’d normally spend on planning and shopping. The busier you are, the more valuable this service becomes.

Quality of Ingredient

If saving money on your groceries is your main goal, it’s easy to reduce costs by buying low-quality food. Unfortunately, this strategy usually leaves you with an abundance of processed foods that lack nutrition and flavor. The most popular meal prep services rely on culinary chefs to design meals that combine high-quality ingredients to create a meal that’s healthy and delicious.

Financial Expense

With the most popular 2-person meal plans starting at $60 per week for 3 meal kits, the cost averages $10 per meal. While you can certainly spend less shopping for yourself, these options are considerably less expensive than the average meal at a restaurant. So, if your busy schedule leaves you dining out on a regular basis, meal delivery services may provide financial savings after all. 

What kind of savings do these services actually deliver?

There’s no denying the growing demand for meal delivery services like Purple Carrot, Green Chef, and Blue Apron. The fact that retail giants like Amazon and Walmart are scrambling to be part of the meal kit market only serves to confirm the rising popularity.   

As you try to decide whether one of these services is the right solution for you, the value depends on your expectations. If you’re looking to spend less than you would by planning your own meals and shopping for yourself, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you view these services as a time-saving bridge between home-cooked meals and going out to eat at restaurants, the value is much easier to see.