I have heard more and more people making comparisons of Hello Fresh, Blue apron, Plated, Home Chef or some other ready to cook meal company.
It seems like there is a new company that pops up every week that will ship you all the ingredients and recipes to make a healthy delicious meal quickly at home. My experiences have been very good with these companies so let’s look at how these pre-made meal companies work and why they might be good idea for your family
Top Meal Kit Delivery Services
These are the big three of the market. There are a few others that are trying to break into this group, but when you start your comparison it will usually go between Blue Apron vs Hello Fresh vs Plated vs Home Chef. Not only are these companies leading the market they are spending money on advertising and incentive offers to get new customers all the time.
Chances are if you have heard of one of these companies Blue Apron is the one that came up. They have a great marketing campaign and are competitively priced at $9.99 per serving. If you get the largest family size box it cuts it down to $8.74 per serving.
While all the companies allow you to cut off and start back to their meal subscription service, Blue Apron makes it the easiest to cut their service on and off. Get all the details in my Blue Apron review.
Current Promotion – $30 off your first order when you sign up with Blue Apron>>
Hello Fresh may be the most affordable meals for vegetarians because they charge the same amount for the veggie box that they do for normal boxes (no, vegetarians boxes are not normal). They cover the entire country for shipping and their pricing is based off the size of the box.
The small box for two is $9.99 per serving, while the largest family box is $8.74 per serving. The vegetarian box is $9.99 per serving no matter what size box you get, but you should be ashamed for not eating steak whenever you can. Learn more in my Home Chef review.
Current Promotion – Get $20 off each of your first three orders when you sign up with HelloFresh>>
We had some problems with Home Chef and the shipping to our home, but the customer service was great in getting it all resolve and once the box came, without the ice pack melting, the meals were great.
Home Chef offers all their meals at $9.95 per serving, but they are unique in that they also offer a lunch kit at $7.99 per serving.
Current Promotion – $30 off first order when you sign up for Home Chef>>
I first heard about Plated when we saw them on Shark Tank. This is actually how we got into trying out these companies. I was very impressed with the meals and they give you the most flexibility of all the companies.
The meals run about $11.95 per serving for the two serving meal boxes and $9.95 per serving for the three and four serving meal boxes.
Current Promotion – $25 off each of your first two orders when you sign up for Plated>>
Best Meal Delivery Services by Category
Martha & Marley Spoon – Best New Recipes
With the big wave of meal delivery services, there was no way that Martha Stewart was going to sit on the sideline. To compete with the big boys in the space, she launched Martha & Marley Spoon.
The big differentiator for Marley Spoon is that they come out with 10 new recipes each week. That is 25% more than any of the other services are offering. Also, they average $9 per serving which is on the lower side of cost per serving in the industry.
Current Promotion – $10 off your first three orders when you sign up with Martha & Marley Spoon >>
Dinnerly – Most Affordable
Dinnerly is the most affordable mail order meal kit coming in at only $5 per serving. I would call them the Aldi of the meal kit delivery services. The meals aren’t as fancy, but the food quality is on par with any of the services that are not focused on organic.
If you are looking for a month in month out service for a low cost this is the place to start.
Freshly – Fastest Prep Time
Freshly diverges from the other delivery services in that they actually pre-cook the food for you. Their goal is for you to be able to prepare your meal in three minutes or less.
There is no program that can boast that quick of a prep time from box to table.
Current Promotion – 30% off your first purchast when you sign up with Freshly>>
Butcher Box – Just Meat and it’s Amazing
OK so this one isn’t a meal kit per se, but a box full of only meat might be the best thing to ever come in the mail (especially if it includes bacon).
Butcher Box is one of the newest services carving themselves out as the top provider of organic and grass fed meats. They currently offer boxes with beef, pork, and chicken.
All at the highest quality. Their prices are competitive with stores like Trader Joe’s and for those that cannot get to a local store to find organic meat they are making it much easier to eat higher quality food. Read more in my Butcher Box review.
Current Promotion – Two free NY strip steaks and bacon when you sign up with Butcher Box >>
Chef’d – Best for Foodies
If you are a foodie then this is the kit for you. They do themed meals and there are a ton of them. Some of the ones I thought were most interesting include:
- Chef of the month
- New York Times cooking
- 500 calories or less
- Budget-friendly meals
For all the selection there is also a wide variety of pricing. I saw meals as cheap as $7 per serving and some as high as $29.25 per serving. So there is something for just about any budget and Instagram post food fanatic.
Green Chef – Best for Restrictive Diets
Green Chef has a wide variety of meal options geared toward those with restrictive diets. These meal options include:
The meals start at $11.99 per serving or $77.93 per box.
Current Promotion – $40 off your first order when you sign up for Green Chef>>
Read more in my review of Green Chef
Sun Basket – Best for Organic
Sun Basket focuses their meals around organic meals. This includes all organic seasonings, fruits, vegetables, and meats. This also includes all meat coming from free range and grass fed animals.
The cost per meal is $11.99 per serving for the two person plan and $9.99 per serving for the family plan.
Current Promotion – $40 off your first order when you sign up for Sun Basket>>
Veestro – Vegetarian and No Prep Work
Veestro is like the completely vegetarian version of Freshly. The meals are precooked and ready to reheat.
Everything on their menu is plant based. If that is your meal nirvana then Veestro is going to be right up your alley, but excuse my while I scroll up and stare at the meat from Butcher Box for a little longer.
Current Promotion – 12 meals for $8.25 per meal when you sign up for Veestro>>
Peach Dish – Best for Southern Food
What set of food would be complete without a little southern flavor? If you have a hankering for a little southern food then Peach Dish will be your company of choice. Their chefs put together cuisine that has some southern flare.
This does not mean all their meals are fried but I would not be disappointed if they were. What they are is meals with different southern styles applied to them.
I have seen several meals that have cornbread involved, which makes my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and southern upbringing give each other a hug and sing Kumbaya.
The meals are a minimum of four servings at $12.50 per serving. For those in Rio Linda that is $50 per order.
Current Promotion – $25 off your first order when you sign up for PeachDish>>
Purple Carrot – Best for Vegans
Purple Carrot is this far down the list because they have only Vegan food. When I contacted them they asked if I wanted to place an order, and I quickly pointed out that I don’t eat the food that my food eats. If you are a Vegan and have not yet repented of your sin, the cost is $11.33 per serving.
Right now they have $20 off your first order, but you will feel much better with a nice juicy steak.
How Meal Kits Work
The concept is really simple, you pick a few meals that are available for the week (usually you have to pick a minimum of four servings) pay on a per serving basis and then they ship you a box full of all the ingredients.
The boxes are insulated and have super cooled gel packs in them that keep your items refrigerated throughout the entire trip to your house.
Also inside the box are recipe cards for each meal that you purchased. These cards usually have both instructions and pictures to help out those of us who are more cooking challenged.
When you get the box you just get started on your meals. Each fresh ingredient is measured out for you and other than prepping some of the fruits/vegetables it usually takes less than 30 minutes of prep time. That is, unless I am responsible for doing the prep work, which takes much longer than Amy doing it.
The meals themselves are pretty comprehensive and have always been very healthy. We usually have enough to feed all the people in our family who have teeth
Advantages of Meal Kit Services
There are three big advantages to getting the meals in the mail kits. First you don’t have to think about what you are going to make the family for dinner. When we have tried these services out we usually get three meals.
This means my wife doesn’t have to think about dinner for me and the kids for three different nights that week. During the school year, when she is working, that is a nice break from the normal grind.
Second, the meals tend to be very healthy. I have all four of the most popular services and all of the food was good quality, the meals were really balanced and, because we paid a little more than I would usually pay for a home cooked meal I feel obligated to eat most of the stuff in the box (or at least try it).
Being a picky eater this is a great way for my wife to make sure I eat a little healthier and try new stuff. For the record, I try everything my wife makes for dinner whether I think I will like it or not.
Finally, they really do make these meals quick to prepare. With everything in it’s own pre-measured packages you don’t have to spend an hour in prep-time, and since you use almost everything that is in the meal kit, there is not a ton of putting away of leftover ingredients.
How these Meals Can Save You Money
We actually purchased our first kit using a Groupon deal, but many of the companies are now offering discounts for first time purchases. This cuts the cost of trying out the services, but the real savings is in the ingredients.
The initial price shock for a frugal shopper may be too steep, but we found the diverse ingredients cost us a lot less than trying to make these kind of meals on our own. If my wife wanted to cook one of these meals she would have to go buy three new kids of spices that we don’t use very often and probably a few other things that we never use.
So it really allows us to save money on the overall cost out of pocket but not so much on a per meal basis.
These meals are a chance for us to try out recipes that we would probably never make the investment in ingredients to try. As a picky eater there haven’t been any meals so far that would make me slap my grandmother to get another serving, but there have been some really good recipes that we might try again in the future or look for a similar recipe with slightly less expensive ingredients.
Either way, we were able to expand the food choices for me and the kids, and my wife gets to enjoy a meal that is much more to her liking.
Amy keeps the recipe cards and with any luck we can match a few up that use the same herbs and spices. If we can get enough that most of our family will eat then we can start investing in those ingredients we would have never bought without these service.
Basically we use these meals to try stuff that buying entire containers of the ingredients would be too expensive to make that leap otherwise. The good news is there are several companies out there competing for your business and it looks like it will only get more crowded for the near future.
Overall Impression of Meal Kits
I have truly enjoyed getting these meals in the mail and even more so when I get them at a good discount. They have been a good addition to our normal grocery shopping and cooking. And for a family with three small children and one picky husband they have been a good way for my wife to get the rest of us out of our food comfort zone without killing our grocery budget on seldom used ingredients.
If you are going to give this a try I suggest you start with the smaller boxes to see how you like it and move up from there.