I have heard more and more people making comparisons of Hello Fresh vs 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
How Ready to Cook Meals 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 Mail order Meals
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.
Top Ready To Cook Meal Companies – Hello Fresh vs Blue Apron vs Plated vs Home Chef
These are the big four 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 and 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.
Hello Fresh may be the best box for vegetarians because they charge less for the veggie box than the 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 $69 and includes three meals (six servings). The larger box for four is $129 and also includes three meals. By using the link here you get $25 off any purchase so the smallest box actually gets you the best deal. The price will be slightly less for the vegetarian box, but you should be ashamed for not eating steak whenever you can.
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 family size box it cuts it down to $8.74 per serving. They now their meal delivery service to the entire contiguous United States.
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.
Right now they give you two servings free on your first order.
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 $12 per serving so they are not the cheapest or the most expensive on the list. They deliver to almost the entire country so that makes them the most widespread as well.
They are currently giving you two free servings on your first order which puts them right there with Hello Fresh for the best dollar off amount.
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. The servings are just under Blue Apron at $9.95 per serving. This is a good choice but I hope they get their shipping fixed soon.
Currently, Home Chef is offering $30 off on the first order. This translates into three free servings. A pretty good deal if you are starting out with your first
Other Notable Pre-Made Meals Companies
While the four companies above are the most well known, there are others popping up that are carving up a niche for themselves. These are the ones that seem to have some staying power in the market.
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.
When you use the link from this site you get $10 off your first order.
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.
Formerly Forage, Din.co focuses on gourmet food and is only currently available in California and Nevada. The meals are $15 per serving so you receive two meals a week for $60 or you can opt for more if you like.
The meals are also super fast to prepare at only 20 minutes of prep time or less. They do a little of the preparation for you to make sure you don’t get caught up spending a ton of time cooking.
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. If you have had any experience with these meals positive or negative let me know in the comments or hit me up on twitter @SavingFreak.