City dwellers have always enjoyed the perks of delivery, an unspoken quid pro quo of eschewing the conveniences of Suburbia. While the novelty of 3 AM egg rolls at your door may have faded with age, a new generation of meal delivery services is aiming to take its place. The concept is simple, but genius: Deliver all of the nutrition and satisfaction of a home-cooked meal in a format that’s as easy as ordering take-out.
In recent years, a slew of new companies has started offering meal kit delivery, each promising freedom from the tyranny of meal planning and grocery shopping. A typical kit includes one recipe and everything you need to make it, down to that single tablespoon of vinegar (everything arrives pre-measured) or pinch of saffron. In addition to convenience, these services claim to be a waist-watchers best friend, thanks to fresh ingredients and strictly controlled portion size.
For the busy gourmet or the bloated Seamless addict, it sounds like it could be a dream come true. But how do these services stack up? And is it really worth saying “sayonara” to your grocery store forever? Before you make your decision, check out this review of five major players in the meal kit delivery game.
A pioneer in the field, Blue Apron has quickly grown a following of loyal customers around the country. It offers two meal plans, one for couples (or friends or roommates) and one for families, designed to feed four to six people. After choosing your menu type — either “meat and fish” or “vegetarian” — Blue Apron selects recipes for you, which you have the option to change. If you’re new to the whole “cooking” thing, don’t sweat it. Blue Apron’s recipes are virtually foolproof, thanks to easy step-by-step instructions and accompanying photos. Bite for bite, Blue Apron runs average to slightly less expensive than its competitors. The two-person plan costs $9.99 per serving with a minimum commitment of six meals or $60 per week; the family plan is $8.99 per serving with a minimum of two meals or $71.92 per week.
If you’re chefing to impress, Plated could be the service for you. Though pricier than other options — $12 per person for regular meals — Plated offers diners the ease of delivery combined with the flare of a special occasion. With menu choices like “Indonesian Beef Rendang” and “Roasted White Sweet Potatoes with Chinese Broccoli and Flowering Chives”, Plated is a sure-fire escape from the weeknight recipe rut.
With the meal kit delivery market reaching saturation, Hello Fresh sets itself apart by promising the very freshest ingredients possible. A recent informal survey of friends (who had used the service — and who also happen to be restaurant chefs) confirmed it lives up to the hype. All ingredients were top quality (they exclusively use premium brand Murray’s chicken, for example) and arrived looking and smelling just-off-the-farm. Hello Fresh has another distinguishing factor, for better or worse: the absence of calorie restrictions. While most delivered kit meals fall between 500 and 600 calories per plate, Hello Fresh averages around 900 calories, though the recipes are created by an in-house dietician and not lacking in nutrients. Hello Chef costs roughly the same as most of its competitors, around $10 per meal, but vegetarians take note: while omnivores can enjoy a range of meal choices, meat-free offerings are limited.
No time to cook, even if it’s kit-style? No problem. A service called Green Blender invites you to sip your nutrients instead. Created by a fitness blogger fed up with “glorified milkshakes” parading around as health food, Green Blender offers a rotating lineup of smoothie recipes with pre-portioned, seasonal produce and “superfoods”, like chia and flaxseeds. Each delivery includes five pouches to make five different smoothies. With flavors like Tropical Mojito and Sacha Inchi Orange Creamsicle, Green Blender offers a taste of the exotic delivered to your door. At $10 per serving, Green Blender costs about the same as other meal delivery services. Unlike those competitors, however, Green Blender does expect you to own a knife and a cutting board for basic prep like chopping.
More of a newcomer to the DIY dinner scene, Home Chef is gaining popularity with high-end foodies. That’s because the recipes, 10 different options per week, come from restaurant chefs. The instructions are definitely geared toward the home cook, however. This service also boasts the advantage of allowing diners to prioritize low carb or low-calorie menu choices, and to register any allergies or dietary restrictions, like gluten. Starting at $7.99 per serving, Home Chef is priced in line with the competition, but, sorry, California friends; it’s currently only available in 30 states across the East Coast and Midwest.