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Meal prep delivery services are a great solution to the cooking conundrum many of us regularly find ourselves in. Taking the time to pick out a recipe and go to the grocery store are often the last thing on our mind after a long day. And it’s just so easy to pick up the phone and order takeout! Not only can this get quite expensive, but the food isn’t usually as healthy as something made at home. After all, restaurants care a lot less about our health than we do — they just want their food to taste good!
Meal delivery services are ideal for new parents, busy professionals, and people just beginning to test their chops in the kitchen. Since they seem to be getting more and more popular, we wanted to find out which services are worth the money.
Here’s what you can expect from any meal delivery service. A box containing ingredients and instructions for several chef-designed meals will arrive on your doorstep, on the day of your choosing. It will be packed so that the food should stay fresh for up to 24 hours after delivery.
You’ll also need to have a kitchen stocked with reasonable items such as salt, pepper, and cooking oil. You will also need to have kitchen basics such as measuring cups, spoons, mixing bowls, and pots and pans.
When it comes to options, you can purchase plans that will feed two or four people per night, although Home Chef allows you to feed up to six people per meal, and Plated offers a three person option. And, unless you have a very small appetite, there won’t be leftovers.
Finally, should you decide you’d like to skip a week or cancel the meal delivery service, all the following allow you to do so online without any hassle.
Blue Apron has been around longer than any other meal prep delivery service. In fact, I actually first tried it out several years ago, when I was living by myself and cooking seemed incredibly intimidating. What a difference a few years makes! Now Blue Apron regularly teams up with chefs (such as Chrissy Teigen) and companies (such as AirBNB) to bring you original, delicious meals.
Blue Apron Meal Service
– Two-Person Plan: Two meals a week will cost $47.95 (including shipping), and three meals a week will cost $59.94 (including shipping).
– Four-Person “Family” Plan: Two meals a week will cost $71.92, three meals will cost $95.88, and four meals a week will cost $119.84.
The three recipes we received from Blue Apron were Shanghai Kung Pao chicken (600 calories), Baked Wild Alaskan Salmon (570 calories), and Seared Steak with Roasted Potatoes (680 calories). The Shanghai Kung Pao chicken was quite the hit in the office. We liked that the dish provided a unique “eat at home” night. Other meals also included unique ingredients. For example, the Baked Wild Alaskan used couscous, which is not a common pantry staple. It was clear that Blue Apron tries to make meal prep as easy on the consumer as possible. This was the only meal prep service that provided us with pre-sliced meat! They do recommend you cook everything within a few days of receiving the box. Although we followed their instructions, some produce looked a little wilted, but it didn’t impact the quality or taste of the meal.
Packaging and Shipping
Blue Apron uses a lot of packaging, but this is pretty common with all meal delivery services. All the items that arrive in your meal box are individually packaged in plastic, and each box includes a “grab bag” for each recipe. These bags contain nutritional information, as well as some small odds and ends (sauce, capers, spices, and so forth). All the items in the box are clearly labeled.
Hello Fresh is another one of the most popular meal delivery service options right now. It’s great for busy people who don’t want to deal with grocery store lines, but who would like to make relatively simple home-cooked meals. The meal service announced in June, 2018 they are introducing a retail product line that will be available at nearly 600 “Giant Food” and “Stop & Shop” locations in the United States.
What we like about Hello Fresh is that it helps new chefs to feel comfortable in the kitchen. Most of the recipes we received could be re-created with standard pantry staples — which is a huge plus if you are looking for future cooking inspiration!
Hello Fresh Meal Service
– Veggie Plan: You must order three recipes per week, whether you are feeding two ($59.94) or four ($119.88) people per week.
– Classic Plan: If you are feeding two people, you can order two recipes ($39.96 per week), three recipes ($59.94), or four recipes ($79.92) per week. If you are feeding four people, you must order three recipes ($119.88) per week.
– Family Plan: This plan is designed to feed four people. You can either order two recipes ($69.92) or three recipes ($104.88) per week.
Hello Fresh offers both vegetarian and omnivore meal plans. They also let consumers know when meals contain gluten, shellfish, eggs, and nuts, so people with allergies can stay away from those meals. We received Chicken Cheddar Fajitas (710 calories), Figgy Balsamic Pork (520 calories), and Chipotle Spiced Steak (620 calories). The Chicken Cheddar Fajitas received rave reviews from everyone who tried them —and it seemed to be easy enough that beginner chefs would be able to recreate it with items sitting in their pantry. It took us between 30 and 40 minutes to make all of these meals, including meal prep.
Seasoning the steak
One of the things we really liked about Hello Fresh was the number of recipes consumers can choose from when deciding what they want to make for the next week. They have 15 options each week — significantly more than most other meal delivery services. However, they do not have an all-organic option.
Packaging and Shipping
The ingredients for each meal came in handy plastic grab bags. These hold everything for the dish except for the meat, which is understandably placed in its own separate plastic bag for sanitary reasons. We really liked that you could grab one bag and have everything you need to make a chef-approved meal.
Plated promises farm sourced seasonal produce, responsibly sourced meats, and sustainable seafood. Clearly they are targeting people who like to have a small eco-footprint.
Trying Out Plated’s Meal Service
Plated Meal Plan Costs
– Two Person Plan: Two meals cost $47.80 per week, three meals cost $71.70, and four meals cost $95.60 per week.
– Three Person Plan: Two meals cost $59.70 per week, three meals cost $89.55, and four meals cost $119.40 per week.
– Four Person Plan: Two meals cost $79.60 per week, three meals cost $119.40, and four meals cost $159.20 per week.
Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps
How Does The Food Stack Up?
Plated really went above and beyond when it came to having inventive recipes. They sent us Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps (710 calories), Mediterranean chicken with Tzatziki(740 calories), and Cuban Beef Bowls with Mojo sauce (890 calories). We were very impressed with the condition of the produce in this box. Everything looked as though it had been picked in the last few days. The meat also smelled fresh. Our team also liked that the recipes were so inventive. Even recipes with more common ingredients included a unique twist that made it seem special. This makes cooking dinner a little more fun, for regular home cooks like me.
How Shipping Works
Plated put all the smaller items in a handy paper grab bag, clearly labeled with the recipe. They labeled every single produce item as well. However, our team did not like that every each of those items was wrapped in plastic (even hardy produce)! For example, items such as zucchini and corn on the cob were both wrapped in plastic. This was also the only meal delivery service that packed their box with insulating foam. Plated did include suggestions for how the foam could be reused, so it didn’t immediately end up in a landfill. For a company that seems to focus on consumers who want to have a small eco-footprint, the packaging seemed disjointing.
Home Chef was just acquired by Kroger, so while they are still offering their meal prep service, the meals will also soon be available at your local Kroger store. The recipes all designate how difficult a meal will be to create. So novice chefs can steer away from meals that require “expert level” preparation. This plan is a great option for people who want simple, but tasty meals for their family.
Home Chef Meal Service
Home Chef is the only service that offers meals that can feed up to six people. This is great for working parents with a large family.
– Home Chef prices their meals at $9.95 a serving. So it won’t matter whether you plan to feed two, four, or six people with each meal. They also offer lunch, for $7.99 a serving.
– Delivery is free for orders over $45. However, shipping will cost $10 for any orders under $45.
All three of the meals Home Chef sent us were winners. We received ingredients to prepare Baja Fish Tacos (757 calories), Hot honey salmon (528 calories), and Korean pork medallions(496 calories). They don’t offer as many recipes to choose from as some other meal services, but we appreciated the option to pick “low carb” and “calorie conscious” recipes. Home Chef labels their meals as “easy,” “intermediate,” and “expert.” Our recipes were a combination of the three skill levels. We noticed however, that not all the produce was in great condition when we received the box. For example, the zucchini looked bruised, and the fish smelled a little. One thing that Home Chef did exceedingly well, was make it easy for even novice cooks to make the meals. Some meal delivery services assume you have a kitchen stocked with items such as butter and oil — Home Chef doesn’t make this assumption, and provides everything from canola oil to butter, to red pepper flakes.
Packaging and Shipping
Home Chef also provided three plastic grab bags with the ingredients necessary for each of their recipes. The plastic wrapping came in handy because some of the canola oil spilled and would have gotten all over the rest of the items in the box! They also send you a three ring binder, so you can compile all your recipes into a Home Chef cookbook.
Green Chef is clearly targeting people who are on a specialty diet, and prefer to eat responsibly farmed meats. This is the only meal delivery service that promises 100% organic produce. On top of this, they are the only meal plan that creates recipes designed specifically for people on ketogenic, paleo, or vegan diets.
Green Chef is one of the most expensive meal plans we reviewed. If you choose a specialty diet plan (such as gluten-free, or ketogenic), the meals will be even more expensive. While this meal prep service is more accommodating to diet preference than any of the others, it also is the most restrictive when it comes to the plan options. If you are on the two-person meal plan, you will receive three meals per week.
Chimichurri Mushroom Burger
The pricing breakdown is as follows:
– Vegetarian: $10.49 per meal, or $62.94 per week.
– Omnivore, Vegan: $11.99 per meal or $71.94 per week.
– Carnivore, Gluten- Free: $13.49 per meal or $80.94 per week.
– Paleo, Ketogenic: $14.99 per meal or $89.94 per week.
Green Chef also offers a family meal plan. You will receive two dinners a week, that can feed a family of four. However, there are only two diet options here:
– Omnivore: $11.99 per person per meal or $95.92 per week
– Carnivore: $12.99 per person per meal or $103.92 per week
Green Chef is the only meal delivery service we received where the customer does not have a say in the meals they receive for the next week. We ordered the Paleo meal plan, and received a Fajita Burger with Chimichurri (610 calories), Jerk Chicken (650 calories), and Salmon and Orange Skewers (480 calories). All the produce arrived in excellent condition, and looked as though they had been freshly picked. The meats all smelled fresh as well. Green Chef also prides themselves on their pre-made sauces, that come with each meal. It was very convenient to be able to rip open a package and pour a delicious, professionally made marinade or sauce onto your dish. One note — several of the recipes required an oven, which could be a problem if you only have a kitchenette. Other than that though, the recipes were easy to make, and had intuitive step by step directions.
Packaging and Shipping
It seems like Green Chef is cognizant of not overusing plastic in their meal box, which we appreciated. They used plastic bags to hold ingredients, and there was minimal plastic used to protect produce. All the plastic bags included in the meal box included recycling instructions.