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Simplifying Dinner, One Meal Kit at a Time

Meal Kit Service Unique Features Weekly Cost for 3 Recipes Serving 2 People Meal Plans/ Dietary Preferences Select Your Own Meals? Additional Features
Hello Fresh RD-approved recipes $59.94 Classic Plan

Veggie Plan

Family Plan

Only with Classic Plan Wine club – 6 bottles of wine per month for $89

Manage subscription on an app

Blue Apron Sustainability-focused $59.94 Two-Person Plan

Three-Person Plan

Yes Wine club – 6 small bottles of wine per month for $65.99

Purchase kitchen equipment with recipes

Manage subscription on an app

Green Chef 90-95% certified organic

Offset 100% of carbon emissions

$80.94 Omnivore

Carnivore

Vegetarian

Vegan

Gluten-Free

Paleo

Keto

No, but can adjust dietary preferences to change weekly meals Website includes informational articles, such as kitchen safety and safe food handling tips
Sun Basket 70% certified organic $74.93 Chef’s Choice

Lean & Clean

Paleo

Vegetarian

Gluten-Free

Yes Website includes blog with informational nutrition articles
Plated Antibiotic-free pork and poultry Hormone-free beef

Organic whenever possible

$71.70 Two, Three, or Four servings per night Yes Add dessert to your weekly meals for an additional charge

Manage subscription on an app

Home Chef Cook up to 6 meals per week

Sources ingredients from three family-owned companies

$59.70 Cook between two and six meals per week for two, four, or six people Yes, from 11 options Add a fruit basket, smoothie, or “premium meal” for an additional charge
Purple Carrot Plant-based meals $72.00 Three meals per week for 1-2 people

Two meals per week for 3-4 people

High-Performance Meals

No High-Performance Meals created with Tom Brady and designed to be higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates

Submitted by Amy Sercel MS RD CD

Edited by Marcia Bristow MS RDN CSSD CD

For many people with busy schedules, meal kits provide an easy answer to the question, “What’s for dinner tonight?”  When you subscribe to a meal kit, all the ingredients you need to make several recipes are delivered right do your doorstep, pre-portioned in the amounts you will need to make each recipe.  Meal kits have become popular recently, and there are many different services available.

Each meal kit service ships you an insulated box every week containing all you’ll need to prepare your recipes.  When you select your recipes you’ll have the opportunity to see the nutrition facts information for each.  The recipes’ calorie contents range from 500-800 calories in each meal kit service.  For the most part you can recycle all of the packaging, bring the insulation to an industrial composting facility, and save any ice packs they provide to re-use later on.  The services all assume you have some basic ingredients on hand, like salt, oil, and butter, so these will not be included in your box.  If you’re thinking of trying a meal kit, read on to learn the differences between each service and find out which one would be right for you and your family.

Hello Fresh1 – $8.74-9.99 per serving, includes shipping

Hello Fresh appears to be the only meal kit service with recipes that have been approved by a Registered Dietitian.  There are three plans you can choose from, depending on your dietary preferences and the number of Hello Fresh meals you’d like to make each week:

  • The Classic Plan includes meals with meat, shellfish, and produce.  This plan provides three or four recipes per week that serve two or four people.  This is the only plan that allows you to choose the recipes you will make.
  • The Veggie Plan includes vegetarian meals that contain plant-based protein and whole grains.  This plan provides three recipes per week that serve two or four people.
  • The Family Plan is designed to provide quick and easy-to-prepare meals that a variety of audiences will enjoy.  The plan includes two or three recipes per week that serve four people.

Some recipes include Pesto Panko Chicken with Green Salad, Honey-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans, and Spiced Dijon Salmon with Apple Arugula Salad and Couscous.  Hello Fresh has an app you can use to view the recipes you’ll get for the next week (and choose them if you have the Classic Plan), decide when you want your box to be delivered, and manage your account.  They also offer a wine club in which you can receive 6 bottles of wine per month for an additional $89.  These wines are designed to pair with the recipes provided.

Blue Apron2 – $8.99-9.99 per serving, includes shipping

Blue Apron was the first meal kit service offered, and as a result their website seems to be the most comprehensive.  Sustainability is an integral part of their message.  Blue Apron claims to promote sustainability by using grass-fed and pasture-raised beef, seafood recommended by Food and Water Watch, livestock raised without antibiotics or hormones, and food produced without genetic modification.3 Like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron also offers several different plans:

  • The Two-Person plan provides either two or three recipes per week that serve two people.  Exclusively vegetarian recipes are only offered through this plan.
  • The Family Plan provides two, three, or four recipes per week that all serve four people.

Once you select and purchase a plan, you will be able to tailor your dietary preferences and choose the recipes you would like to receive.  Some of Blue Apron’s recipes include Sweet & Spicy Beef with Wonton Noodles, Basil Pesto Spaghettini, and Roasted Chicken with Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes and Sautéed Carrots.

Blue Apron also has an app where you can find recipes and view how-to videos if you need help with any cooking techniques.  Additionally, for $65.99 per month you can sign up to receive six bottles of wine.  These bottles are 2/3 the size of a typical bottle of wine and are designed to be shared by two people.

Green Chef4 – $10.49-14.99 per serving, shipping not included

Green Chef was rated the best meal kit service by USA Today because the recipes were the most flavorful, convenient, and fun to make.5 90-95% of Green Chef’s ingredients are certified organic and the service claims to offset 100% of their carbon emissions through sustainable practices.  Green Chef also offers a wide range of menu options in either a two-person or family plan, both of which have the same per-serving cost.  The two-person plan provides three recipes that serve two people, and the family plan provides two recipes that serve four.  Only the Omnivore and Carnivore menus are available on the Family Plan.

  • Omnivore includes meat, seafood, and vegetarian meals.  You can choose not to receive meals that contain beef, poultry, lamb, shellfish, fish, or game if they do not fit into your preferred meal pattern.
  • Carnivore provides meat or seafood in each meal.
  • Vegetarian provides meat-free meals that still include dairy and eggs.
  • Vegan includes only plant-based protein.
  • Gluten-Free provides two meat or seafood and one vegetarian dinner per week, all of which contain no gluten.
  • Paleo does not include processed foods, grains, legumes, or dairy, and instead is high in meat and vegetables.
  • Keto offers low-carbohydrate meals that don’t contain dairy or grains.

Once you select a plan and set your dietary preferences, Green Chef will automatically select two or three recipes that you will receive.  This is different from Hello Fresh or Blue Apron, which allow you to select your recipes from a list every week.  You can change the recipes you are scheduled to receive by changing your dietary preferences; for example, if you do not like the beef recipe one week, you can modify your dietary preferences to exclude beef for that week.  Some of Green Chef’s recipes include Tamarind Glazed Tempeh, Moroccan Chicken Tangine, or Spanish Egg’n’Hash.  Their recipes provide a variety of different vegetables and grains.

Sun Basket6 – $9.99-11.49 per serving, shipping not included

Sun Basket states that 70% of their ingredients are certified organic and hope that all ingredients will be organic by the beginning of 2018.  They claim that all of their meat and poultry is antibiotic-free, their lamb, chicken, and poultry are pasture-raised, their dairy products and eggs are organic, and their seafood is certified for sustainability by the Marine Stewardship Council.  You can choose between the Classic Plan that provides three recipes per week that serve two or four people or the Family Plan that provides two, three, or four recipes per week that serve four people.  Within these, you can also choose one of several meal plans:

  • Chef’s Choice provides a variety of meat, seafood, and vegetarian dishes.
  • Paleo includes recipes that do not contain grains, soy, corn, dairy, and gluten.
  • Lean & Clean limits meals to 550 calories per serving and does not include gluten, dairy, or added sugar.  This meal plan is not available on the Family Plan.
  • Gluten Free includes meat, produce, and gluten-free grains.
  • Vegetarian includes produce and plant-based protein.

Like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, you can choose your recipes for the week from a larger list after you select your meal plan.  Some of Sun Basket’s recipes include Steak Salad with Romanesco Vinaigrette, Burmese Salmon Salad with Lemongrass and Apple, and Chorizo and Tomatillo Chili with Coconut and Lime.  Each recipe should take less than thirty minutes to prepare.

Plated7 – $9.95-11.95 per serving, shipping not included

Plated allows you to choose from 17 recipes each week, offering a little more flexibility even though they do not provide meal plans for specific diets.  Their pork and poultry are raised without antibiotics, beef is raised without hormones, seafood is sustainably caught, produce is seasonal, and ingredients are organic whenever possible.  Plated allows you to choose two or four recipes per week and gives you the option for two, three, or four servings per recipe.

Once you sign up for a plan you will be able to select the recipes you’d like to make.  You can also add or subtract recipes each week.  Some of their recipes include Sticky Sesame Cauliflower with Vegetable Fried Rice, Spaghetti and Chicken Meatballs with Creamy Cherry Tomato Sauce, and Crispy Flounder with Miso Ratatouille.  Plated also offers telephone support, so you can give them a call if you get stuck while preparing any of their meals.  You can also add dessert for an additional charge.

Home Chef8 – $9.95 per serving, shipping included when spending over $45

Home Chef allows you to choose between 11 recipes per week.  When you select your meal plan you will be able to choose ingredients you want more often (such as vegetables), and any ingredients you’d like to avoid (such as meat, dairy, and mushrooms).  Home Chef will automatically choose three recipes for you based on your preferences.  If you are vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions, your options will be more limited because there may be only two or three recipes that meet your dietary need available that week.

Although this service doesn’t offer specific meal plans to choose from, it does allow you to purchase more meals per week than any other meal kit service.  With Home Chef, you can order between two and six meals each week that serve two, four, or six people; most of the other meal kit services provide a maximum of three or four meals per week.

Some of the recipes include Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Spaghetti with Tomato Bruschetta, Sirloin Steak alla Modena with Potatoes and Broccoli, and Cod Amandine with Wild Rice Pilaf.  Home Chef’s recipes may not contain as many vegetables and whole grains as the recipes of other meal kit services, which may be important to consider if you are thinking of purchasing six meals per week.

Purple Carrot9 – $10-13 per serving, includes shipping

Purple Carrot provides 100% plant-based recipes, making this a good option for vegetarians or vegans.  One of this company’s objectives is to introduce people to a wider variety of plant foods, and their website cites many health benefits of choosing a plant-based diet.  Other reviewers appreciated the fact that the recipes provided a lot of leftovers and said the meals provided delicious flavors and textures.5 Purple Carrot offers three possible meal plans:

  • Three meals per week for 1-2 people
  • Two meals per week for 3-4 people
  • Three “high performance” meals per week for 1-2 people.  These meals contain more protein and are all gluten-free and are created in collaboration with Tom Brady based on the diet he follows to enhance his performance.

Once you sign up for a plan, you will not have the option to select the recipes you receive.  Some of Purple Carrot’s recipes include Ginger Tofu with Broccolini and Carrot Dressing, Thai Coconut Rice Bowl with Roasted Carrots and Cilantro-Mint Chutney (from the Performance Meals), and Mediterranean Eggplant with Chermoula and Apricot Couscous.  The nutrition information for each recipe is available online.

The Bottom Line

Meal kits can be a great time saver by reducing the amount of time you’ll need planning meals, buying ingredients in the grocery store, and actually cooking.  They might also reduce food waste since you are given the exact amount of each ingredient you need.  This would be especially helpful if you’re an adventurous eater who likes to try new foods but doesn’t know what to do with the “extra” you have left over after preparing a recipe.  You can also look at the nutrition facts for each recipe before you finalize your menu for the week, so you’ll be able to choose the meals that best meet your needs.

You may be more interested in one meal kit service or another depending on your food values, dietary preferences, and degree of control you want to have over your menu selections.  Each service offers around $30 off for your first week and you have the option to suspend or cancel your membership at any time without any additional cost.  If you’re having trouble deciding which service fits best with your food preferences, consider trying a few of them before you make the final decision.  No matter what, you’ll be introduced to new foods and have fun in the kitchen!

References:

  1.  Our Weekly Meal Plans | Fresh Food Delivery | HelloFresh. https://www.hellofresh.com/food-boxes/. Accessed September 18, 2017.
  2.  Blue Apron: Fresh Ingredients, Original Recipes, Delivered to You. https://www.blueapron.com/. Accessed September 14, 2017.
  3.  Blue Apron: Fresh Ingredients, Original Recipes, Delivered to You. https://www.blueapron.com/pages/vision. Accessed September 18, 2017.
  4.  Green Chef: Organic. Delicious. Delivery. https://greenchef.com/home. Accessed September 14, 2017.
  5.  Leonhardt M. This Is the Best Meal-Kit Service on the Market Right Now. Money. http://time.com/money/4856342/best-meal-kits-value/. Accessed September 18, 2017.
  6.  Sun Basket | Healthy, Organic and sustainable Meal Kit Delivery. https://try.sunbasket.com/?offer=A-LQSEM35&SCID=GCPC&utm_source=Adwords&utm_medium=LQSEM&utm_campaign=NB:General:EC:S:G&utm_term=MID&test=&sl=&utm_audience=Classic_CC&utm_adset=Text&akd=213199086882+kwd-12836190414+c. Accessed September 14, 2017.
  7.  Plated | Cook more. Live better. Plated. https://www.plated.com/?utm_medium=search&utm_source=google_brand&utm_campaign=PR_Newengen_Brand_Plated_Meal_Delivery_v2+l_DE1+a16b&utm_term=plated%20meal%20kit&utm_content={AdGroup}&cvosrc=ppc.google.plated%20meal%20kit&cvo_creative=218843050933&cvo_pid={AdGroup}&cvo_campaign=PR_Newengen_Brand_Plated_Meal_Delivery_v2+l_DE1+a16b&cvo_crid=218843050933&matchtype=e. Accessed September 18, 2017.
  8.  Home Chef Meal Delivery Service, Fresh Ingredients to Cook at Home. Home Chef. https://www.homechef.com/sign-up/welcome. Accessed September 18, 2017.
  9.  Purple Carrot | How it Works. https://www.purplecarrot.com/how-it-works. Accessed October 3, 2017.

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