Meal Kit Reviews: Which are the Best Meal Kits Out There?

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

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

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

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

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

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).

Martha & Marley Spoon

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.

Plated

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

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

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

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

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

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).


Meal Kit Review: Home Chef is a Solid Choice for No Fuss Dining

Home Chef is a middle priced meal kit service furnishing easy-to-cook meals catering to all-American tastes. It’s a solid choice for people who want to get something tasty and not overly complicated on the table. It’s reasonably priced and some of the dishes are very good. However, overall, I wasn’t excited by the offerings.

The Plans

Home Chef offers quite a lot of flexibility with their plans. They have kits for 2, 4 and 6 persons and you can get from 2 to 6 meals a week. Meals costs $10 per person per meal (so 3 meal kits for 2 a week will cost you $60), and shipping is free for orders of over $45, otherwise it’s $10. This means that if you order only 2 meals for 2, you’ll end up paying $50. Premium meals cost extra.
Home Chef also offers “5 minute lunches” with pre-cooked ingredients for $8 a serving, and smoothies and fruit baskets for $5 per serving that you can add to your weekly deliveries.

Like other services, Home Chef provides incentives for signing up. Use this link to save $30 off your first box, or go directly to the site to get the most current offer (currently $20 off each box for four weeks).

The Food

Home Chef offers 13 meal kit choices weekly, including at least 3 vegetarian options. They don’t offer vegan options – unless the vegetarian kits just happen to be vegan. They don’t cater to any specific diet either.

The meals tend to be slightly upscale versions of basic modern American food. They include burgers, pastas, rice bowls, tostadas, flatbreads and baked chicken/salmon/pork chops with vegetable & starchy sides. Few of their recipes have exotic ingredients.

Home Chef is now offering the ability of slightly customizing some recipes by substituting the protein with another choice (for example, getting ground pork instead of beef strips or ground turkey, or getting a smaller amount of antibiotic-free chicken instead of regular chicken). This should give some flexibility to people who simply don’t like some proteins.

Premium meals are not yet available every week, but when they are, they usually consist of fillet, scallops or even lamb chops. They cost up to $20 per portion (so yes, a meal for two would be $40).

The quality of the ingredients I got was pretty good, but Home Chef does not specialize in sending organic ingredients.

While I enjoyed the meals I got from Home Chef, it’s not my choice for a long term service because the choices just don’t seem very exciting to me. Plus as most of their meals don’t usually require exotic ingredients, I can make them at home using my ingredients for less.

The Shipping & Delivery

Home Chef scheduled meals to be delivered at my house on Tuesdays. They can arrive between 8 AM and 9 PM, so you are better off not planning to cook them that night. Personally, I prefer kits that arrive on Monday to give me more flexibility as when I cook them during the week – I don’t like to get to the weekend and feel rushed to cook a meal kit before it goes bad.

A bigger problem with Home Chef was that while my first week’s box came without a hitch, the second week’s box never appeared! They sent me a notification that it was on its way, they sent me the tracking, but it never arrived. Fortunately, customer service was very helpful and they refunded my purchase.

Note: Home Chef kits are also available at some Kroger supermarkets

The Packaging

Home Chef sends its kits in a standard cardboard box. Like other services, the box has a liner (not pictured). While Home Chef says that the liner is made of recycled cotton and denim, it apparently cannot be recycled back or added to the yard waste/compost bin. That means it takes space in the trash can – and the landfill! Fortunately the freezer packs, which are also disposable in the trash, are smaller than those of other companies.

Most of the ingredients for the meals come in zippered plastic bags (though beware that the zippers break easily). The meats, however, are between freezer packs. This is a handy way of keeping all ingredients together – though it does mean either refrigerating them all, or taking the ones that don’t need refrigerator out of the bags.

With your first order, Home Chef sends you a folder and recipe cards come pre-perforated so that you can keep them in it.

The Results

These are the three Home Chef meals I made:

Texas-Style Steak on Toast with smashed red potatoes and red onion gravy
A very good meal.
Parisian Bistro Bone-In Chicken with dauphinoise potatoes and Vichy carrots
Really, really delicious. I’ll make it again.
Jerk Steak Tacos with caramelized pineapple slaw
I wasn’t fond of the jerk sauce, but liked the slaw.

I also made one meal using my own ingredients:

Coq au Vin with Bone-In Chicken & Mashed Potatoes

This was more like baked chicken with mashed potatoes, mushrooms and wine sauce, but tasty enough

All in all, I was happy with the service. Cancelling was very easy and quick, it’s done online. Home Chef preserves your account, so that it’s easy to resubscribe again. Home Chef’s offers some incentives to resubscribe. Twice they e-mailed me giving me a $10 credit – which they seem to be adding to the $10 credit I already had (which has not gone away!). More recently, they offered me the same deal they are offering new subscribers: $20 off per week for four weeks. Alas, when I looked at their menu I didn’t find much that excited me, so I decided to re-subscribe to HelloFresh and alternating it with Blue Apron for a month or so. I will make more Home Chef recipes to get a better feel for the service, however.


Meal Kit Hack: Coq au Vin with Bone-In Chicken & Mashed Potatoes

Rating: 7/10

I didn’t get any meal kits this week, so I decided to hack a Home Chef recipe for dinner. I wanted something with chicken, as I’m trying to eat less beef, and this one seemed simple enough. I love coq au vin (which I haven’t made in a while). and while, obviously, you can’t make coq au vin in an hour, I was willing to give this recipe for Coq au Vin with Bone-In Chicken & Mashed Potatoes a try.

Alas, once I started making it, I realized there wasn’t much to it: you make mashed potatoes, you sear and then bake the chicken, you sautee the mushrooms and pearl onions, you make the 2-two ingredient sauce and voila!

The results were good, but not great – though that may be because I actually used chicken breasts instead of the thighs I prefer and because I didn’t make enough sauce for the massive breasts I got (lord, that sounds dirty!).

The sauce, which was tasty enough, consisted of 2 tsp of chicken demi-glace dissolved in 5 oz of red wine. I used beef demi-glace, as I didn’t have the regular kind.

I also didn’t use pearl onions because Safeway failed to deliver them to me.

In all, I spent $20 to make this meal, which actually fed 3 of us with leftovers (those were really big chicken breasts) – so about 1/3 less of what the meal kit would have cost.

I also went out of my way to look for “antibiotic-free” chicken, only to find out that California passed a law to ban the use of growth-promotion antibiotics in chickens. Antibiotics can only be used if a veterinarian prescribes them to cure a specific ailment. So it would seem that any “antibotic-free” designation on chicken raised in CA is just for advertising purposes. I had wanted to see if antibiotic-free chicken tasted better than regular chicken, and obviously I found out it didn’t.

I did find out, though, that searing the chicken skin-side-down for a couple of minutes and then baking it at 400F, leaves you with a very nice crispy chicken skin.


Meal Kit Reviews: Home Chef’s Parisian Bistro Bone-In Chicken with dauphinoise potatoes and Vichy carrots

Rating: 9/10

The key to  making this dish of chicken with dauphinoise potatoes and Vichy carrots  is to not overcook the chicken.  Seriously.  The plate I served first was great.  The chicken skin was incredibly crispy (it’s nice to finally learn the secret of making crispy chicken!), the chicken itself was moist (I tend to prefer dark meat exactly because breasts are often too dry) and the sauce was just delicious.  I only really got to eat my daughter’s leftovers, but I couldn’t help moaning while eating them.

I reserved the second serving for my husband, who was walking the dog while my very hungry daughter ate.  I left the chicken breast in the oven (turned off and with the door open), where it dried up and I was reminded of why I hate white meat.  My husband, who likes chicken breast, wasn’t impressed either.  Once I ate his leftovers, I understood why.  So, if you make this kit, make sure to not overcook the chicken and not leave it in the oven to remain warm.

I also really enjoyed the dauphinoise potatoes – and there were enough for the three of us plus leftovers -, but they didn’t keep well.  The next day they lacked in flavor.  But hey, you are not going to eat them the next day.

Finally, everyone enjoyed the carrots (I didn’t try them as I don’t like carrots).

All in all, this was a much better meal than you would expect.  However, it was also more laborious than the other two I got that week, and it took far longer to prepare.

Now, for the secret of having super-crispy oven-baked chicken: first preheat oven to 400F.  Then saute the chicken breasts on olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes per side. Then place on a baking sheet and put in an oven for 24-28 minutes.

I got my first week of Home Chef at a discount, so I paid only about $8 for this meal.  Regular price would be $20 – which is a better deal than other home meal kits.

Chicken Demi-Glace Sauce

  • 2 tsp chicken-demi glace
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 large shallot, minced

On a saute pan, simmer ingredients together until the sauce thickens, 2-3 minutes.  Serve.

 

 


Meal Kit Reviews: Home Chef’s Jerk Steak Tacos with caramelized pineapple slaw

Rating: 5/10

Of all the Home Chef’s meals I got on my first week, this kit for jerk steak tacos with caramelized pineapple slaw was my least favorite.  The biggest issue was that it wasn’t very filling.  With no starches to speak of (3 small flour tortillas don’t count for much), 5 ounces of beef won’t take you very far.

I also wasn’t thrilled with the flavor of the jerk sauce.  Don’t get wrong, it wasn’t bad – but it wasn’t anything spectacular either.

On the plus side, I did enjoy the pineapple slaw as part of the tacos.  By itself, it wasn’t very good, but in the tacos it added crunch and sweetness to the meat and worked very well.  The quality of the meat was good and the meal was very quickly put together.  It just needed something more.

I paid $8 for this meal as part of a first week deal.  Regular price is $20.

 


Meal Kit Review: Home Chef’s Texas-Style Steak on Toast with smashed red potatoes and red onion gravy + recipes

Ratings: 8/10

Last week, it was my time to sample Home Chef meals, and all in all, they did pretty well.   This kit for Texas-Style Steak on Toast with smashed red potatoes and red onion gravy not only produced a very tasty meal, but it taught me recipes/techniques that I didn’t know and would use in the future.

First of all, who would have guessed that white bread brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with a tiny bit of salt before baking in the oven would be so tasty?  Of course, I’ve made crostini plenty of times, but the white bread seems to incorporate the flavor of the oil and remain soft inside in a way that crostini doesn’t.

The steak itself was better than I would have thought, and I enjoyed the onion sauce very much.  Once again, demi-glace showed its power.

I usually make mashed potatoes with large russet potatoes that I peel before boiling.  I really enjoyed the convenience of making it out of small red potatoes that I only needed to half before cooking.  It was a much faster approach (plus I hate peeling!) and the resulting mashed potatoes were very good.  The peel actually included some festive color to them.  I’m considering using this recipe to make mashed potatoes for my Christmas Eve dinner, but I’m not sure they’ll keep as well as my regular mashed potatoes.

The meal was simple to cook and the portion was adequate – in particular because mashed potatoes are filling.

I got my first week of Home Chef at a discount, so I paid only about $10 for this meal.  Regular price would be $20 – which is a better deal than other home meal kits.

Smashed Red Potatoes

serves 2

  • 12 oz small red potatoes
  • 2 oz sour cream
  • 1 oz butter
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 green onions, sliced

Wash potatoes and then cut in half.  Place potatoes in a cooking pot and cover with about 1″ of water.  Add salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.  Mashed them with a potato masher, then add sour cream, butter and salt to taste and mix well.  Serve, garnished with the sliced green onions.

I got my first week of Home Chef at a discount, so I paid only about $8 for this meal.  Regular price would be $20 – which is a better deal than other home meal kits.

Red Onion Sauce

serves 2

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprila
  • 2 oz red wine
  • 2 tsp beef demi-glace

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until it starts to caramelize, 6-8 minutes.  Add paprika and red wine and continue cooking until the red wine has almost evaporated, 2-3 minutes.  Mix together the demi-glace and 1/4 cup of water and add to the pan.  Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it thickens, 2-3 minute. Serve over steak.