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 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 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.
This meal kit was a mixed bag. The pork milanese was sort of bland and it really needed acidity. The blistered tomatoes just didn’t provide enough of it. It was good with lemon juice, but not extraordinary.
I did like the cheesy mashed potatoes a lot – but what’s not to like about cheesy mashed potatoes?
I think my favorite thing about the kit was getting the eggs in their little container. Plus they were cool eggs. I only had to use one, and it had the darkest yolk I’ve ever seen.
Review: Hello Fresh’ Melty Monterey Jack Burgers with Red Onion Jam, Garlic Mayo, and Crispy Breaded ZucchiniPosted: April 11, 2019 | Author: marga | Filed under: Meal Kits | Tags: burgers, Hello Fresh, HelloFresh meal kit reviews | Leave a comment »
I made this kit for my husband and daughter, and they were both very pleased with it. A burger may seem like a trivial thing to make, but making a new and exciting burger and getting the right amount of fat in the meat – and the right quality meat – is not always easy. Given how expensive burgers have become, even at the regular price of $21 per kit this would have been a good meal, but I got the whole kit for $11 with a promo (make sure to always check on the right hand menu for referral links with promo), which was a super bargain.
BTW, keeping the buns in the oven and then toasting them seems tow ork very well.
For the first time, I got to cook a recipe that fit within two of my cooking projects. As a Hakka recipe, this meal of Singapore-Style Hakka Noodles with Summer Veggies fits into my International cuisines project. As a recipe from a meal kit, it fits into my meal kit hacks. Plus, it’s a vegan recipe, which I’m guessing will soon become a project of its own.
What’s even better, is that my daughter liked it! It’s one of the very few vegan meals she’s said she’d like me to make again.
It was, I must admit, more complicated than most of the stir fries that she eats so often now – and it used more pans – but hey, it’s all about the results. I tasted the noodles, and they were delicious – very much like the garlic noodles that you get at a variety of Asian restaurants. I’m definitely going to make them again just for me 🙂
Talking about noodles, I waited to make this dish until I could send my husband to the Asian supermarket to pick up some Hakka noodles. We usually shop at 88 Manor Market, where they have a zillion varieties of noodles, maybe more. But I also wanted him to pick up some pork belly for a different recipe and I wasn’t sure they’d have it there – so I asked him to go to Foodnet instead. I hadn’t been there before, however, and apparently Foodnet is the one noodle-free Chinese supermarket. Go figure. They did have a 4 lb box of Imperial Taste Dried Noodle, which turned out to be vermicelli-like noodles. According to the box, they had a “chewing taste!,” and they did prove to be nicely chewy. They worked great in this recipe even if they weren’t what Hakkas in Singapore would use.
I spent $10 to make this recipe, which resulted in two large bowls. That’s half of what the HelloFresh meal kit would cost (though this kit is from England, so you can’t get it anyway :-). As usual, I count the total cost of the ingredients I had to buy to make this meal, but not of the ones I already had at home.
|Plated Ingredients||My Ingredients||Cost|
|200 g Hakka Noodles||4 lbs Taiwanese dried noodle||$5|
|10 g chives||1 pckg fresh chives|
|30 g ginger||1 lb ginger||$2.3|
|1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce||2 garlic cloves + 1/8 tsp chili sauce||pantry|
|1 Tbsp soy sauce||1 Tbsp soy sauce||pantry|
|1 tsp mild curry powder||1 tsp mild curry powder||pantry|
|113 g julienned carrots||1 carrot||$0.2|
|1 zucchini||1/2 zucchini||pantry|
|113 g Green Peas||1 cup grozen green peas||pantry|
|200 g extra-firm tofu||8 oz extra-firm tofu||pantry|
I will link to my version of the recipe once I post it on my International Cuisines site.
Meal Kit Review: HelloFresh’ Sirloin and Horseradish Cream Sauce with Garlic Bread and Roasted CarrotsPosted: February 28, 2019 | Author: marga | Filed under: Meal Kits | Tags: Hello Fresh, HelloFresh meal kit reviews, steak | Leave a comment »
This meal kit for Sirloin and Horseradish Cream Sauce with Garlic Bread and Roasted Carrots may be the first HelloFresh kit that really failed to impress me. It was acceptable dinner fare, but very pedestrian. There were no new flavors here, no tricks, no recipes I’d care to copy and repeat. It was ultimately what it looks like: meat with carrots and garlic bread, with some onions and sour cream. I’ve had it all before (indeed, I had pretty much the same dish concept from EveryPlate – HelloFresh’ cheaper meal kit brand). Moreover, it seems to me that HelloFresh is trying to cut corners and send out cheaper ingredients and ask cooks to include more and more staples of their own to the meals.
The main ingredient of this meal was the sirloin and I was unimpressed with the quality. The meat was tough and wasn’t particularly flavorful. The two steaks sent had very different shapes from each other and, as you can see above, they were partly discolored, which took from their visual appeal (at least before cooking).
The steak was stopped with sliced onions cooked with beef stock which were fine, but unremarkable. I wondered if HelloFresh was cutting corners by not including demi-glace instead of the stock concentrate.
The accompanying horseradish sauce was also disappointing. It was basically sour cream with a few green onions and horseradish powder. I think it might have been better with some prepared horseradish.
The carrots were just carrots – not my thing but my husband happily ate them just like he has every other time a kit has included carrots.
Finally, the garlic bread included the same “semi-baguette” buns that were included in the EveryPlate meal I referenced above. Once again, I really liked the consistency of the buns. I didn’t like that I had to provide my own butter – I understand that from EveryPlate, but I expect more from HelloFresh -, and I specially didn’t like that the kit included garlic powder instead of fresh garlic.
At the end of the day, however, I am likely to blame for choosing this kit. But I’ve noticed that I’m not particularly excited by many of HelloFresh’ kits – I’ll be suspending for several weeks now as I can’t find much in their upcoming menu I actually want to eat.
Update: I have 3 referrals for 1-week free of HelloFresh. E-mail me if you’d like one.
Meal Kit Review: HelloFresh’ Crispy Parmesan Chicken with Garlic Herb Couscous and Lemony Roasted Carrots + RecipePosted: February 27, 2019 | Author: marga | Filed under: Meal Kits, Recipes | Tags: boneless chicken, Hello Fresh, HelloFresh meal kit reviews | Leave a comment »
Believe it or not, in my half century in this earth, I’d never had Parmessan chicken. Indeed, I’ve never though of cheese and chicken as two ingredients that belonged together. Still, this recipe for Crispy Parmesan Chicken with Garlic Herb Couscous and Lemony Roasted Carrots sounded like something my picky younger daughter would eat – after all, the chicken looks like a chicken milanesa, and she loves milanesas.
Once again, this was a pretty simple recipe to put together and it didn’t really have any exotic ingredients (Israeli couscous was exotic once upon a time, but it’s now easily available). You can make it with ingredients easily found at the supermarket. Still, the chicken was moist and tasty – the smokiness of the paprika really came through. I quite enjoyed it.
The couscous, however, lacked flavor. It would have been better if some of the Parmessan for the chicken (there was more than enough) was used for the couscous.
I don’t like carrots, but my husband – who ate mine – thought the lemony carrots were good. All you do is roast carrot sticks for 20 minutes, with a little olive oil and salt, and then sprinkle grated lemon zest and lemon juice on them. My daughter, who also tried them, wasn’t fond of them, however.
For some reason, the recipe for the chicken called to only bread it on one side. It didn’t say why, so I breaded it on both. It was a good call.
I cooked this kit the day after I got it, and all the ingredients were fresh and I felt of good quality.
I paid $14 for this meal after a discount or $7 per serving. I think that was an appropriate price for a home cooked meal, though obviously I could put it together for less than that if I bought the ingredients myself.
The recipe for the chicken is below. While it calls for 2 chicken breasts, there was enough breading for a third one. It serves two.
Crispy Parmesan Chicken
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (~6 oz each)
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp sour cream
Preheat oven to 425F Line a baking sheet.
In a medium to large bowl mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and paprika.
Dry chicken breasts with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush sour cream over both sides of the breasts. Transfer them one by one to the breadcrumbs bowl and press breading onto the chicken surface. Transfer them to the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
Meal Kit Review: Breaded Pork Cutlets with Garlic Bread and an Apple and Sunflower Seed Salad + RecipesPosted: February 24, 2019 | Author: marga | Filed under: Meal Kits, Recipes | Tags: Hello Fresh, HelloFresh meal kit reviews, pork, salad | Leave a comment »
Some times the best meals are the simplest. There is nothing complicated about this HelloFresh meal of Breaded Pork Cutlets with Garlic Bread and an Apple and Sunflower Seed Salad. Nothing exotic. It can be simply put together with supermarket staples that won’t have you searching around up and down the aisles and things you already have in your pantry. And it’s very tasty and very satisfying.
All the ingredients came fresh and stayed that way, even though I cooked the meal four days after it arrived. The pork wasn’t dry and the seasoning was spot on. However, they listed the amount of kosher salt to add, but they neither included it in the kit or listed kosher salt as a needed ingredient. I didn’t have kosher salt around, so I used a smaller amount of table salt. The original recipe called for breading the pork in a plastic bag, but I used a bowl as I didn’t have a gallon ziplock bag around and I’m already using too much plastic by getting these meal kits. A bowl worked just as well.
I very much enjoyed the salad. Mine came with mixed greens – though I see HelloFresh also offers it with just arugula – and a yellow apple (golden delicious?). The dressing was olive oil and lemon juice – I’ve not been fond of this combination in other salads, but it worked here. The star of the show were the sunflower seeds, however, which added crunch and a faint sweetness to the whole thing.
I’m not giving this kit a perfect 10, however, because Hello Fresh did not include the butter needed to make the garlic bread and I didn’t have any at home. I suppose I could have looked at the list of ingredients that I needed to have at hand for this recipe before I chose it, but the whole point of meal kits is to not have to go shopping for the ingredients. Particularly in the case of this meal, where all the ingredients are so easily available, if I’m going shopping for butter, I might as well pick up the rest and cook the meal for a fraction of the cost. I understand that Hello Fresh is trying to save money by not providing the butter, but it’s still not cool.
In any case, I think oven-baked garlic bread is not a good choice for this meal. Both the pork and the salad can be put together rather quickly, but making the garlic bread requires preheating the oven, which is both a waste of energy for such a small meal, and a waste of time. Instead, they could have suggested toasting the bread in the same pan where the pork was cooked.
I’m also dinging the recipe because I was still hungry when I finished – even though I ate a lot of salad (there was plenty of it). Perhaps that’s due to not being able to make & eat the garlic bread.
After the discount, I paid $14 for this kit or $7 per serving (regular price would have been $20/kit or $10/serving).
BREADED PORK CUTLETS
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 4 pork cutlets
- 2 Tbsp sour cream
- vegetable oil for frying
- 1/2 lemon, cut into 2 wedges
In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, salt and spices. In a different bowl or plate, coat pork cutlets with sour cream (you may need to use your fingers to spread it). Transfer the cutlets to the bowl with the breadcrumbs and coat well.
Heat a 1/4″ layer of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, transfer cutlets into the skillet and fry on each side, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to absorb extra oil. Serve with lemon wedges on the side to squeeze on the cutlets.
APPLE AND SUNFLOWER SEED SALAD
- 1 apple
- 1 celery stalk
- 2 oz spring mix
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 oz sunflower seeds
Core the apple and slice into thin slices. Thinly slice the celery.
Put apple, celery and spring mix into a medium bowl. Dress with olive oil. Squeeze the lemon half on it and mix. Add the sunflower seeds and mix again.
This week I went back to Hello Fresh, as I didn’t like the offerings of any of the services I hadn’t yet tried – and I was given a good deal ($20 off each of 4 boxes) for re-activating my account. I got just two meals (which frankly, works better for us, as I’m always rushing to cook all kits before they go bad) and tonight I made the first one for my daughter and I. It was pretty good.
This meal of Creamy Dill Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans was extremely simple: you cut and bake some potatoes, baked some green beans, sauteed some chicken and then made a quick sour cream-mustard-dill sauce. Still, it was a tasty and satisfying meal and I very much enjoyed the sauce (recipe below). My daughter didn’t have any sauce, but she liked the other elements.
There were some problems, however. The main one is that there wasn’t enough sauce. What they sent was barely enough for one serving (so it was fortunate my daughter didn’t want to try it). They need to double the ingredients for it. Secondly, the chicken breasts were too thin and they cooked in less than the 4-6 minutes per side that they recommended. Also, the portion size was a bit on the small size (or I was particularly hungry).
This is a very easy meal to put together on your own, however. I think I will add dill to the herbs I grow on my window to be able to easily make it again.
After the discount, I paid $14 for this kit or $7 per serving (regular price would have been $20/kit or $10/serving).
Update: it’s spring and this kit now comes with asparagus instead of green beans. I ordered it again – forgetting I’d already had it – and served it to my husband this time. He loved the dill sauce. Once again, there wasn’t enough of it.
Creamy Dill Chicken
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (12 oz)
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp sour cream
- 2 tsp chicken stock concentrate
- 1 tsp fresh chopped dill
- 1 tsp mustard
- 2 Tbsp water
Pat dry chicken breasts and season with salt & pepper. Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add chicken breaths and cook until cooked through and golden, 3-6 minutes per side. Turn off heat, remove chicken and keep warm.
Add the sour cream, chicken stock concentrate, dill, mustard and water to the saute pan and mix well, scraping up the brown bits on the pan. Serve chicken with sauce.