Chances are, you’ve heard about meal kit delivery—the ability to have fresh meals, or meal ingredients, delivered weekly to your home. Prices vary, but generally hover in the $65 – $80 per week range for three meals for two people, including delivery. Our two-person household has had the benefit of sampling most of the kits on the market today, and found them to be a great option for families, couples, or even individuals who enjoy cooking, but don’t have the time or the inclination to spend their weekends meal prepping or at the grocery store.
Not sure if meal delivery is right for you? We outline some of the basic concepts, as well as as highlight a few of the top nationwide services available, below.
Let’s Talk About Costs: The primary draw of meal kit delivery is convenience, with added benefits like calorie control, nutritiously-balanced meals, and variety. Cost varies per kit, but generally portions price to around $10 – $14 per person, per serving. Meals generally begin around $48 per week for two meals for two. For $74 for three meals for two people, Purple Carrot, a vegan delivery service, is the most expensive. Many services also offer options for more meals per week, or additional servings, ideal for leftovers or feeding a family. Shipping is usually free for a minimum spend per week, and meals or meal ingredients will arrive fresh to your door on your chosen day, packaged in ice to keep ingredients fresh and cool.
Picky Eaters & Dietary Restrictions: Kits offer a number of meal options per week, and can generally be customized to suit your dietary and palate preferences. Options range from three (one per meal), to as many as 13 for services like Plated. Generally, you can customize to avoid certain ingredients, such as shellfish, dairy or gluten, or opt to stick with vegetarian choices or stay with low calorie choices.
Bad Cooks, Unite: A primary draw of meal kit services is that they make even the worst cooks like stars. Recipes feature step-by-step instructions and tips, so that the meaning of terms like “sear” and “braise” is immediately apparent. Pots and pans are kept to a minimum as well—ideal for those without well-stocked kitchens. You’ll generally need a pasta pot, large saucepan, and frying pan, as well as a baking sheet. Limited kitchen ingredients are necessary—we’ve yet to see more than a request for an egg, olive oil, salt and pepper and the occasional piece of foil. Some services even indicate the level of difficulty when selecting a meal so you know to be prepared if cooking isn’t your forte.
The Time Factor: Meal kits are ideal for working families, as they allow one to go from work to dinner table in about 30 minutes. The longest time we’ve taken to cook a meal kit is around 45 or 50 minutes, about 15 minutes of which is spent waiting for cook in the oven.
The Pros & Cons: We love the wide variety of ingredients and cuisines available—in a given week, we’ll choose between cuisines with traditional European influences, like French or Italian, as well as Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, or Asian flavors. For a working couple without children, three homemade meals each week is the perfect amount to satisfy without overwhelming, but it won’t eliminate grocery shopping entirely. Leftovers are highly irregular, and some meals require a salad to supplement when one party has a healthy appetite. While it’s wonderful to have fresh ingredients and a plan each evening, on a busy week, one can sometimes find themselves with “meal kit anxiety,” or the panic of a fridge full of ingredients that are on the verge of going bad. Some services also have more choice than others. Plated, our preferred subscription, offers 13 choices of new favorites and “Encores,” or popular options of each week, so it’s easy to find meals to our taste, but other services, which offer equally tasty dishes, offer fewer choices and occasionally we’d find ourselves less than satisfied with the options.
Our Favorite Options & Promo Codes:
Most services today are available for nationwide shipping. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Plated is our go-to meal delivery service, for both its variety in recipes and its easy instructions. We love that you can add a small dessert for $8 extra per week. Save 50% on your first order. According to Money, Plated offers the best value for the cost.
- Blue Apron is one of the industry’s first and still one of the most popular kit delivery services. Try everything from homemade pizza to Ethiopian fare in a given week.
- Hello Fresh is an industry stalwart, offering some of our favorite combinations of ingredients and meals. Get $15 off your first week. Options range from classic to vegetarian, with special choices geared towards family-friendly meals, and you’ll choose from more than a dozen options each week.
- Purple Carrot is the industry’s only vegan specific meal kit. We love experimenting with a wide range of vegan flavors, and this kit also offers the option to eat like Tom Brady, thanks to a partnership with his TB-12 diet and exercise plan. Code Purple20 gets you $20 off your first order of non TB-12 meals.
- Chef’d promises hundreds of menu options, without the commitment of a subscription. Simply select the recipes you like, many of which are curated by celebrity chefs or by diet need. Pricing ranges, but there’s no minimum order. Meal plans are also available, by organizations like the American Diabetes Association, Atkins and Weight Watchers as well.
- Green Chef offers organic ingredients that fit diet plans like vegan, ketogenic, and paleo. These healthy meals focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients and tend to use fewer carbs than other services. Get two free meals during your first week.
- Takeout Kit is a great option for those who want meal flexibility. Ingredients don’t require refrigeration and have a two-month shelf life, so you can whip up a meal whenever you have the desire. Save 10% on your first order by signing up for their emails.
- Peach Dish offers a unique mix of meals, available a la carte, as well as an onsite “market” where you can easily add grocery style ingredients to form your own menus.
McLean Robbins is a Washington, D.C.-based luxury lifestyle writer specializing in travel, spas, and weddings. She writes regularly for the Travel Channel, Forbes Travel Guide, The Washingtonian, AOL, Robb Report, Pursuitist, and many more. Follow her on Twitter: @McLeanRobbins and on Google +