For the last six months I’ve been trying different meal kits, both in order to avoid getting take out and because I just like reviewing things. Having tried most of the meal kits out there (all of them with promos which brought down the price significantly), I think I’m finally done.
Meal kits fall into 4 price categories, which I’ll call budget (~$40 for 3 2-serving meal kits), mid-range (~$60 for the same), premium (~$70) and super-premium (~$80). In order to compare apples to apples, my reviews are organized by price category and they are listed in my order of preference. Please click on the title of each Meal Kit to see a more comprehensive review.
In all of these months, I haven’t really had any major problems with any of my deliveries – I’ve had no missing ingredients, for example. Once a box didn’t come (which was fine, as I didn’t want it and had forgotten to cancel in time) and another time, the box didn’t come until after 11 PM, but that’s about it. Skipping has been a breeze, as has been cancelling.
Budget Meal Kits
There are two of these meal kit services, both products of mid-range meal kit companies. They offer simpler meals, with fewer ingredients that require the use of more of your staples. The menus tend to be very classic American.
Every Plate is HelloFresh’ budget offering. They currently only have 6 offerings, including a “premium” one that costs $6 more per kit, but they’re moving to 8 offerings in mid-March. That’s good, because I often can’t find 3 dishes I want to eat/make in their weekly menu.
I mostly liked what I got – the premium kit was particularly tasty. I really didn’t feel I was compromising too much by getting these kits.
$39 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $20 off your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).
Dinnerly is Martha & Marley Spoon’s budget offering. They offer 8 choices a week, 3 of which are vegetarian. The meals are less refined than those by Every Plate and I enjoyed them less. In all, I wasn’t a fan.
$39 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promos.
Mid-Range Meal Kits
There are several companies in this category. They tend to have more sophisticated offerings, they may include ingredients that are not as easy to come by (or that you’d have to buy far more than you’d want to) – but they still require that you use some of your staples. Some of these companies offer discounts for larger purchases. Here they are, in my order of preference.
HelloFresh is the service I’ve tried the most, simply because they’ve sent me the most “come back” offers. They offer a variety of plans, and include one weekly “gourmet” recipe, featuring steak or expensive ingredients, for $12 more per kit.
Most of the recipes have surprised me as to how tasty they are – whoever is responsible for creating them does a pretty good job. That said, I don’t always find enough meals I want to cook in a given week, and lately it seems they’re downgrading their ingredients. Still, it’s a company I like to go back to (with a coupon).
$61 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $40 off your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).
Blue Apron is actually very similar to HelloFresh, but it offers far fewer discounts. It does seem to have better quality ingredients than HelloFresh, however. The food I had was also tastier than I anticipated, and I would likely re-subscribe if I got another promo – but so far no luck.
$60 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promos.
Home Chef’s offerings are a more middle American than the other two, and I’ve had gret difficulty finding kits that I really want to make. But the kits I did make were very good. While Home Chef has occasional premium meal kits, they also regularly have steak without a premium price (unlike other companies in this price point).
$60 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $30 off your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).
Marley Spoon was the meal kit company that least impressed me at this price-point. Granted, I only got two kits because their promo wasn’t that great, but neither of them was particularly noteworthy. They do have a large menu of choices, including 6 vegetarian ones. In all, I didn’t find a compelling reason to choose it over the other kits.
$61.50 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promo.
Premium Meal Kits
It’s probably not surprising that as we go up in price, the meal kits get better. They either include more exotic and/or organic ingredients. Some companies offer even more adventurous/sophisticated kits – and some actually send you all the ingredients you need save for oil, salt & pepper. Here they are, in my order of preference.
I love Plated. It’s one of my favorite meal kits and, if I could afford it, it’s the one I would stay subscribed to. The offerings are pretty sophisticated, and they often include ingredients that I wouldn’t want to buy myself. More importantly, they include all the ingredients I need – including butter! I have greatly enjoyed almost every meal I’ve had from them.
Plated is also available at select Safeway supermarkets. The kits there usually vary in price depending on the ingredients, but they’re generally cheaper than with the subscription. They have a much lower selection, however.
$72 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promo.
Sun Basket distinguishes itself by providing a large variety of meals catering to special diets – from paleo to vegan. Most importantly, they don’t ask you to subscribe to a specific plan, but you can chose from any meal they provide. This is cool for families like mine that have members with very different food preferences. Sun Basket also sends more organic produce than other companies – and they’re probably the most environmentally friendly meal kit service.
Still, I wasn’t awed by their kits and I haven’t felt a compelling reason to re-subscribe.
$72 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $40 off your first box.
Purple Carrot is an all-vegan meal kit company. Having a vegan child at home, I gave it a try. Unfortunately, she didn’t like any of the three meal kits I got for her – and would not even eat the leftovers.
$72 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promo.
Super Premium Meal Kits
In addition to the kits listed below, there are two other meal kits services which fall in this category. As neither offers good promo codes – and their offerings don’t seem particularly enticing – I’ve decided I’m not going to try either. Do comment if you do. Peach Dish – a Georgia based company – specializes in local ingredients and offers both international and classic Southern food. One Potato specializes in family-friendly fare.
Gobble sends out meal kits that can be put together and cooked in 15 minutes. They manage this by sending pre-sliced vegetables, prepared sauces and some pre-cooked sides (like rice, lentils and sweet potatoes). Still, most kits require you to do enough that you do feel like cooking. Their meals are generally pretty good – one, specifically, was great – and I love how quickly they are to put on the table. This is a kit I’d definitely stay subscribed to if I could afford it.
$79 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for 1 free meal kit in your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).
Green Chef distinguishes itself by offering a variety of plans catering to special diets – everything from keto, to gluten-free to vegan. Unfortunately, they only offer five choices per plan, and you cannot mix and match between plans (though they do have an omnivore plan, still with only five choices). Once upon a time, Green Chef was fully organic, but since being bought by HelloFresh, they now send out non-organic meats.
The dishes I tried were pretty good, though they seemed overpriced for what they were.
$67 to $85 for 3 kits with 2 servings each, depending on plan (omnivore is $79). Use this referral link for 2 free meal kits in your first box
(I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).
Ready Made Meals
In addition to meal kits, a number of companies have entered the market offering ready-to-heat, microwavable meals. Basically, an upscale version of your parent’s TV dinners. I’m not sure I’ll try enough of these to merit their own category, but I’ll list the one I’ve tried so far (I will also be getting Thistle next week – use promo code https://www.thistle.co/referral/MARGARI98F for $30 off your first order).
Freshly offers fresh, refrigerated, microwable meals that you can heat up in just 2-4 minutes. Quality wise, they are way above any frozen meal I’ve tried. Indeed, taste wise they are as good as most meal kits. They do suffer a little texture-wise.
The biggest issue is that their menu doesn’t change much from week to week, so if you’re craving variety, you won’t find it here. They also don’t offer vegan meals. Still, it’s a good choice for when you have a busy week and you can’t make time to cook.
$60 for 6 meals (1 serving each). Use this referral link to get $20 off your first and second week (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).
Non-Subscription Meal Kits
In addition to the meal kits above, there are a couple of companies that sell meal kits that don’t require a subscription. I have not yet tried these ones, but I might in the future. Good Eggs, a Bay Area company, delivers 3 and 4 serving meal kits from an extensive set menu and Amazon.com sells kits through their Prime Fresh service (which costs $16/month).
I put out trying Dinnerly to the last, because I’ve read so many bad reviews of it that I wasn’t eager to try it. Still, I wanted to be thorough and Dinnerly was cheap enough (specially with the promo I found) to be worth a try. Alas, it ended up being my second-to-last least favorite service (to borrow a phrase from Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi’s). It’s only because Purple Carrot was a complete fail, that Dinnerly is not at the bottom of my list.
That said, there wasn’t anything intrinsically wrong with Dinnerly. Two of the three dishes I made were average to good and the last one was still edible. But the recipes where boring, too fatty and they included things I could easily make on my own if I liked that kind of food. I don’t think I’d try Dinnerly again, even with a promo code (something I can’t say about any other meal kit company save for Purple Carrot).
Dinnerly is the budget option of Martha & Marley Spoon – a mid-price meal kit company. I wasn’t a big fan of that service either.
Dinnerly has a 2 person plan and a 4 person “family” plan. You can order 3 to 5 kits per week. Regardless of what plan you chose or how many kits you order, the per person price is $5 (so a 2-person kit is $10 and a 4-person kit is $20). There is a $9 shipping fee (again, regardless of how much you order), so the actual per person cost for the typical 3-kits-for-2 subscription is $6.50.
Dinnerly offers 8 different meal kits per week, including 3 vegetarian ones. Only occasionally one of those kits is vegan.
The food seems to be all American fare, the sort of food I stereotypically would imagine appears in a midwestern homes. Not that I haven’t cooked these same dishes myself – it’s just stuff I’m not necessarily eager to make or eat. And if I was to make them, I wouldn’t need or want a kit. I’m sure there is a market for this food, it’s just not me.
On the plus side, the recipes were very simple to make and, because they have so few ingredients, very quick to prep. Two of them were also pretty tasty.
While I’ve read complaints that people did not receive all their ingredients, I got all of mine – and everything was fresh. Indeed, the burger buns were fine a week after I got my kit. Dinnerly makes their meal affordable by limiting the number of ingredients, and requiring that you provide ingredients that other kits include – vinegar, for example. Dinnerly also doesn’t provide beef except as ground beef, and then its portions are 4-oz per person, while most other meal kits give 5-oz of meat per person.
Dinnerly sends its kits in the standard cardboard box. Refrigerated ingredients are at the bottom of the box, between freezer packs, while the rest of the ingredients are dumped on top.
They are not separated by recipe, but there were few enough of them that it was easy enough to pick up the needed ingredients as I needed them.
Unfortunately, Dinnerly uses a very large box (Plated, for example, has moved to a small box, which presumably takes less energy and most definitely less cardboard). On the plus side, the liner seems to be the same that Marley Spoon uses which is recyclable (at least in theory). Even better, the two freezer packs are made of non-toxic water soluble material that can be poured down the sink.
These are the 3 meals I made:
7/10 – Tasty burger and nice potato fries.
7/10 – Tasty enough for my vegan daughter
3/10 – A total and complete waste of calories. Big fail
I was able to get my first Dinnerly box for $19 (regularly $39), which made it a good deal. Still, it’s not one I’d repeat.
Some time ago, I got a great burger in a HelloFresh kit so I’ve been more prone to order burger kits than I might otherwise had. Or I was, until I discovered that what makes a burger great is really the percentage of fat in the meat. Trying to be healthy, I had in the past used low-fat ground beef to make burgers. After the HelloFresh experience, I got some 27% fat ground beef from Harris Ranch, and the difference is amazing. So if I want to make a great burger now, I can just buy the beef rather than rely on a meal kit.
This week, just like last, I actually used the ground beef that came in this kit to make conventional burgers early in the week, when I didn’t feel like making the sweet potatoes. Then, on Sunday, I prepared this kit for lunch, using my own beef, and grilling the burgers outside. All in all, I couldn’t distinguish between the flavor/juiciness of the two different ground beefs, though grilling the burgers did give them an additional “grilled” flavor (probably due to my not cleaning the grill as well as I should have).
I was pleasantly surprised at how good these burgers were. The “dijonaise” which is just a mixture of mayo, Dijon mustard, chopped garlic and chopped cornichon pickles, was very tasty. I didn’t even miss the cheese. That said, 4 oz of ground beef for a burger is not very much – most meal kits give you 5 oz of meat per person, even when you add half a sweet potato.
Even though I enjoyed this kit, I don’t see much point in getting it versus buying the ingredients myself. Still, as I paid only $6.30 for the kit, with a welcome promo, I’m not really complaining.
I decided to get this kit after really enjoying the last Hello Fresh burgers I got. They were definitely better than the ones I made myself. It occurred to me after I order this kit, however, that my burgers may not be as good because I usually use low fat ground beef. I tried making them with 27% fat ground beef and it was a completely different story – they were delicious!
And this is a good thing because I ended up using my own ground beef to make this recipe – I had used the one from the kit earlier in the week to make plain burgers, and yes, the meat was great. Really, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two.
These burgers were also very tasty – though the tex-mex spice sort of overwhelmed the meat. I particularly liked the tomato-cilantro salsa. It gave the right counter of freshness to the spiciness of the “crema,” but it was hard to keep on the burger, it just kept sliding off!
I also ended up using my potatoes – having made the ones from the kit previously – and the addition of the tex-mex spice worked very well on these.
All in all, it was a very satisfying lunch, but really, one you don’t need a kit to make it. Still, I paid a tad over $11 for this kit with a “welcome back promo”, so I’m not complaining. I would if I’d paid the $20 standard price.
I made this kit for my vegan daughter tonight and she was relatively pleased with it. She thought it was tasty enough, though she was sort of dumbfounded by the tostadas – she didn’t get them at all. Still, she found them tasty and 3 tostadas were more than enough.
That said, I did make some modifications to the kit. First, I omitted the cheese, to make the tostadas vegan. Second, my daughter doesn’t like peppers (I hadn’t paid attention to what actually came with the kit), so I substituted them with chopped tomato. Of course, making substitutions sort of defeats the purpose of the kit.
Making the dish was relatively simple, but it required using the oven to saute the zucchini and toast the tortillas/tostadas. As summer comes, I want to avoid using the oven.
I paid $6.30 for this kit ($3.15 per serving), using a promo. It’s probably how much it would cost me to buy the ingredients myself. The kit did require me to use my own vinegar.
What a complete waste of calories! Seriously, if you are going to eat all that pasta and all that cheese, make it worth it! Alas, despite the presence of two cheeses, this dish is very, very mild. You can barely taste the cheese – it would seem mascarpone cheese completely dilutes the flavor of Parmesan.
And as if 1,000 calories and over 50 grams of fat for a pretty “blah” dish wasn’t bad enough, I was hungry again a few hours after eating this!
On the plus side, this was easy to make. And the broccoli was fresh and tasty. But there was just no point to this meal.
I paid a tad over $6 for this kit, or $3 per serving with a promo.
This kit for Cheesy Smothered Mushroom Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Carrots provided another good-but-not-great meal from Hello Fresh. My husband enjoyed it, but wasn’t wowed. I see no great reason why to make it again, and none of the components were good enough that they merit sharing the recipe.
The ingredients were fine, but even though Hello Fresh has increased their prices (by $1), they don’t match the quality of those sent by Blue Apron. I got chicken stock instead of demi glace and sour cream instead of creme fraiche.
All in all, this meal was what I paid for, $11 for the kit ($5.65 pp), with a “welcome back” promo I got in the mail. I still have a couple of codes for free boxes of HelloFresh if someone wants them.
I made this kit of Hoisin-Glazed Meatballs with Green Beans tonight for my husband and I, as my non-vegan daughter wasn’t even willing to try it. As you can see, I didn’t make the rice. I had spent the day making a rice dish for my vegan daughter, so I figured if we wanted rice, we could have some of that.
The meatballs were pretty good, they were sweet but not overwhelmingly so. I enjoyed them. The green beans were pedestrian. The whole meal was quick to put together – though it did necessitate using the oven, something which I’m trying to avoid now that the spring heat has hit us.
The one failure is that the lime that Hello Fresh sent was, seemingly, pretty old because it had no juice whatsoever. Let me repeat that, no juice at all. It was as dry as Death Valley.
I paid a tad over $11 for this kit ($5.65 pp), with a “welcome back” promo I got in the mail. For that price, I was happy.
Martha & Marley Spoon is one of four mid-priced meal kit companies out there (the others are Hello Fresh, Blue Apron and Home Chef) and so far, the one I’ve been least impressed with. “Martha” refers to Martha Stewart, with whom Marley Spoon struck a partnership in 2016. Supposedly she has some influence on their offerings.
I only got two meal kits, but both were somewhat disappointing. Still, two is a small sample and I may try more if I get any “come back” discounts on the mail.
Martha & Marley Spoon offers plans for 2 or 4 people, and you can choose among 2, 3 or 4 meal kits a week. Kits cost between $8.20 and $12 per serving, depending on how much you order. The typical 3-meal kits with 2-servings each plan costs $61.50 a week, or $21/kit – $10.50/serving. Shipping is free in all plans.
Marley Spoon offers 20 recipes a week, including 6 vegetarian ones. Vegans, however, are out of luck but there are at least 3 gluten-free options every week. The food seems to be modern American, with some ethnic accents. They seem to specialize in relatively safe recipes with broad appeal, including kid friendly offerings. Still, most of the recipes did not look particularly interesting or exciting to me.
While recipes are relatively quick and easy to make, they call for some kitchen equipment that not everyone has at home, in my case, kitchen sears. Problematically, they don’t provide alternatives to that equipment.
The ingredients tend to be rather simple and not particularly exotic, and some are inadequate for the recipes. For example, the canned tomatoes I got were whole and asked me to dice them, when they could have just as easily provided diced tomatoes. Both of my dishes included baby spinach, but in both cases all the spinach did is provide an unpleasant bitter flavor to the dish.
Most of the food was fresh, but I did receive a bruised red pepper – still, it remained fairly firm until the end of the week, when I cooked it.
My biggest beef is that the kits did not include all the ingredients necessary to make the meal. None of the meal kits include oil, salt or pepper, and Hello Fresh irked me by not including butter, but Martha & Marley Spoon went a step further to not include balsamic vinegar – in a dish for which it was essential. To me this is a big fail.
My final complaint about Martha & Marley Spoon is that the portions were smaller than I wished.
Martha & Marley Spoon is a bit better than its competitors as far as packaging goes. While the freezer packs need to be thrown in the garbage, the lining of the box is recyclable – unfortunately, there was no mention of this on either the lining or the literature that came with the box, I had to look it up on their website.
Each kit arrives in a separate paper bag, which I prefer to plastic. I usually put the trimmings from the vegetables in these bags for curbside composting. The meats, as with other kits, were between two freezer packs and they arrived quite cold.
I cooked two meals:
A decent dish, though it left me hungry. The glaze was a winner, though.
Overall disappointing dish
I paid only $18 for this box ($9 per kit or $4.50 a serving), using a promo I found online, and for that price the meals were a steal. At more than twice the price, I’d be pretty disappointed.