The wonderful world of meal delivery services. Also known as, the only way that Shawn and I ever have anything delicious to eat in this household. I am sure you have heard of several different brands of dinner boxes, meal delivery services, whatever you want to call it [I prefer “those cool things that taste really good and save me the dreaded time of walking through the aisles of the grocery store”] but you may not have either a) tried any of them b) tried one, or a couple, but are still curious about the others and well, good news friends, we’re here to break 5 of the most popular meal delivery services down for you! There are definite pros and cons of using a dinner delivery service – the obvious pro is the time that it saves! No more meal-prep and planning for your nightly dinners and it also allows you to try a ton of new recipes that you would never have otherwise. All ingredients show up at your door and all you have to do is pour the wine and begin cooking! The con? Using a meal delivery service can be more expensive than traditional grocery shopping and meal planning.
Prior to this experiment, the only meal delivery service we had tried was Hello Fresh. For over two years now, we have received countless numbers of meals to ensure we have tasty little dinners on our table every night [I think I’ve tricked the people of Instagram stories into believing I’m actually this amazingly creative gourmet chef who just comes up with these fabulous meals on the regular..jokes on you, suckers] and while we do love it, I was curious to give some others a shot to see how they ranked up. Here’s how the process worked:
- We ordered a meal delivery service from each of the five companies:
- Three of us on the LIY team divided the meals up, each of us cooking one of the meals in the box. This way, we could have three different opinions on each service!
- We cooked, we tasted, we drooled and then we did it all over again..and again..and again. And it was awesome.
Here were our results….
Meal Plans: Classic (2 or 4 people option with 3 or 4 meals per delivery) Family (4 people with 2 or 3 meals per delivery) or Vegetarian (2 or 4 people options with 3 meals per delivery)
Meal Selection: 8 meal options every week [7 meat, 1 seafood or all vegetarian based on your selected meal plan] and you can choose any 3-4 meals that you want per week!
Cost: $9.99 per serving or $8.74 for family plan, $69 for 2-serving, 3 meal plan
Ordering Process/Website: Easy to use and signup! Also easy to select meals every week and to skip on weeks where you don’t want it! Appreciate the app alerts to notify you when it’s time to choose your meal!
Packaging/Instructions/Cook Time: All of the meals come individually packaged with labels on the bags, other than the meat which is alone to easily put in the freezer! Their instructions are individual cards and are very easy to follow, their branding is bright and fun and their meals are typically not too difficult with the average cook time around 30 minutes! Canceling: Easy to do on the right website, under account settings!
Here was what we each had to say about our thoughts on our individual experiences with Hello Fresh!
Erin – “I made the Carolina BBQ chicken w/stovetop mac and cheese and green beans and wow, it was delicious [this is coming from a very biased and experienced mac and cheese conessoiur]! Like I mentioned above, I have used Hello Fresh for years in our house, as it was the first and only one I had tried prior to this dinner box experiment! We have always been very pleased with our meals. I find them typically easy to make [average time spent preparing and cooking usually ends up being about 30 minutes]. In all of the hundreds of meals we have had, we have only disliked 2 or so. The ingredients are typically fresh, although there have been a few times when a box has arrived and we felt the urgency to prepare the meal in the same day or next to make sure it didn’t go bad. Their instructions are easy to follow with pictures to guide you and I love that each meal comes packaged in their own bags. Even Shawn enjoys cooking now because of Hello Fresh!” Would you order again? YES!
Steph – “While the food is generally fresh, the ingredients do tend to need to be used quicker than another service I have used regularly. I like that the meals come packaged in their own bags (except for the meat of course!) which saves me time from sorting. Meal choices tend to be on the less adventurous side- still delicious, just not a service for those wanting to use it to force them to try new ingredients they’ve never heard of. I feel like Hello Fresh is best for a family looking for basic, quick, easy to prepare, tasty meals.” Would you order again? No.
Becca – “Hello Fresh has the cutest branding out of all the dinner boxes we have tried! I love that they have personality in their packaging – for example, one recipe I tried included soy sauce which came in a cute little fish-shaped container, and my bag of feta said: “Feta is Betta”! I also like that the recipes are super easy to read and follow along, and they don’t take very much time to prepare! I have noticed that the ingredients were a little less fresh than other boxes, a few times I had to toss a produce item and substitute it with one from my fridge. And the recipes were less adventurous than others, but still tasted great!” Would you order again? No.
Meal Plans: 9 different Plan options [2,3 or 4 servings, 2,3 or 4 nights a week]
Meal Selection: Tons of meal options! [19 different meal options — 13 meat, 2 seafood, 4 vegetarian] Optional add-ons: 2 dessert choices, $8 each
Cost: $9.95 – 11.95 per serving depending on which plan // $71.70 for 2 serving, 3 meal plan
Ordering Process/Website: The website is super helpful! So many different options and easy to use!
Packaging/Instructions/Cook Time: All of the meals come individually packaged with labels on the bags, other than the meat which is alone to easily put in the freezer (although nice feature – the meat is individually wrapped in its own bag to keep leakage at bay)! Their instructions are individual cards and are very easy to follow, however, their branding isn’t as eye-grabbing! The average cook time is around 30-45 minutes. Canceling: Easy to do on the right website, under account settings!
Here was what we each had to say about our thoughts on our individual experiences with Plated!
Erin – “I made the Seared Pork Chop with Fennel Salad and it didn’t disappoint one bit! I did like that all of the ingredients came packaged in individual bags which made it very easy to put in the refrigerator and grab once ready to cook! The photo cards to me looked a little old school and dated (not that this matters, just didn’t grab my attention from a branding standpoint like some others)! Ingredients were all fresh (even after a week of having it) and the meal preparation was very easy, total cook time was around 30 minutes! Shawn and I both really loved the meal and would most definitely try this service again!” Would you order again? YES!
Steph – “My family will definitely be ordering from Plated again! I loved that the meals were divided into bags which makes it faster and easier as I prepare dinner with kids running all over. No chasing down kids and ingredients at the same time! However, I loved even more that the sealed package of meat came in its own (additional sealed) plastic bag separate from the food, unlike some other dinner box subscriptions where the sealed package of meat is in the bottom of the box with the potential to leak on other ingredients. The food was DELICIOUS and portions were great! Ingredients were very fresh- and I didn’t use them for several days after receiving! Great family friendly option!” Would you order again? YES!
Becca – “I LOVED this one! Our soup was seriously delicious! It had 4 different fresh herbs in it, which took it to a whole new level of freshness/deliciousness. The recipe card was helpful, I like that it lists on the side the ingredients, things you will need that are not supplied [like kitchen tools & olive oil], and recipe tips. I will definitely be making this recipe again and again! Also, we had enough soup leftover for a 3rd serving. Yay leftovers! This is not necessarily a negative, but I have worked with all the ingredients they sent before — one thing I really like about dinner box subscriptions is when they teach me about new ingredients or recipes that I wouldn’t have known about without it. It did take me 45+ minutes, but it was worth it for me! I would suggest this box to a lot of people, but maybe not someone looking for quick meals! Overall, very impressed with Plated and might consider ordering this one again in the future!” Would you order again? YES!
Meal Plans: 2 person option with 2 or 3 meals, or 4 person option serving with 2, 3 or 4 mealsMeal Selection: 6 options [2 meat, 1 seafood, 3 vegetarian], you can’t choose any combo you want — choosing some options may mean that you can’t choose 1-2 other meals.
Cost: $8.99-9.99 per serving // $59.94 for 2 serving 3 meal plan
Ordering Process/Website: Easy to navigate and use!
Packaging/Instructions/Cook Time: Unlike the others, the ingredients are not individually packaged per meal, but rather all together in one box that you would want to separate upon arrival. The instructions are individual cards and are easy to follow. The average cook time is around 45 minutes. Canceling: Simply click this link and you can easily cancel online!
Here was what we each had to say about our thoughts on our individual experiences with Blue Apron!
Erin – “I made the Sweet Pepper Chicken with Ditali Pasta & Spinach: The meal was probably one of the best that we had! I thought the prep and flavors of the meal were pretty similar to Hello Fresh! All of the ingredients were fresh and seemed to be high grade with a 30 minute or so prep/cook time. My one con with Blue Apron is that all of the items arrive together, not separated out by the meal, which means a little more prep work on your end! Otherwise, I was very satisfied would absolutely try again!” Would you order again? Yes.
Steph – “I have ordered from Blue Apron several times, and will continue to do so! The recipes push my family to try new things – but very rarely have we had a “miss” from those out-of-the-box recipes! This is a dinner box subscription for foodies! The ingredients are fresh, the instructions are easy to follow and the food is always bursting with flavor! One thing I have noticed about Blue Apron is that the chefs making the recipes pair all of the food really well! The sides always perfectly compliment the flavor of the main dish in a way I wouldn’t have thought to pair them. The one thing I don’t love is that the ingredients all come together in the box. When I receive it I get out three grocery bags and divide up the ingredients, throw the recipe card in and stick them in the fridge. It’s easy to solve but it is an extra step.” Would you order again? YES!
Becca – “I love Blue Apron, I have used it many many times and have found their food to almost always arrive super fresh. I love the exciting recipes that I have often never tried, and interesting ingredients that I wouldn’t know about without using their recipes. The recipe cards are super easy to follow and Matt and I end up loving [and remaking] 95% or more of the recipes we have received. Their recipes do take a little time commitment, I usually find it to be the upper end of the time range they provide. The food does not come organized by the recipe, which I think might be a negative to some, although I kind of like it because I like to organize my fridge by food type anyhow. I would definitely recommend this one, but maybe not to someone who doesn’t want to spend 40+ minutes in the kitchen, and maybe not to a pickier eater.” Would you order again? YES!
Meal Plans: 2 or 4 person options with 2, 3 or 4 meals // Classic Meal option or Family [quick & easy recipes and kid-friendly meals] Great for families with pickier children! Meal Selection: 12 meals [ 6 meat, 3 seafood, 3 vegetarian]. It does show if meals are vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten free, soy free, dairy free — great for people with allergies or dietary restrictions!
Cost: $11.99 per serving + $6.99 shipping
Ordering Process/Website: Easy ordering process and lots of options for meals!
Packaging/Instructions/Cook Time: All meals did arrive packaged individually, however, the instructions all came together in a book of many, many recipes and unlike the others, they aren’t easy to follow. The average cook time is around 30-45 minutes. Canceling: Must call to cancel.
Here was what we each had to say about our thoughts on our individual experiences with Sun Basket!
Erin – “We made the Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles with Pork and Garlicky Green Beans and while it was delicious, the instructions were not very user-friendly. They don’t offer pictures in their instructions like many of the other meal services and it was laid out in more paragraph form rather than steps which made it hard to find your place while cooking. I personally wouldn’t use this service again just because I like things to be as simple as possible when preparing a quick dinner in the evenings, however, all of the ingredients were fresh and again, the taste was wonderful! I do like that they use all organic and sustainable ingredients and really do offer a lot of options for different diets. One thing to note as well – this is the most expensive of the choices that we tested, most likely due to their organic ingredients. All of their packages are also recyclable and compostable. I would recommend this service to somebody with a specific diet and/or wants to be conscious about eating organic.” Would you order again? No.
Steph – “While good, this was the least favorite meal for my family. It was okay, but it wasn’t bursting with flavor like some of the other dinners we had. I probably will not be ordering from this service again, simply because I prefer some of the others so much more. I did like that it came packaged mostly together, although there was some confusion on where a head of lettuce should go because it was not with the other ingredients. One thing to note – recipes are not individual but are included in a book with other recipes!” Would you order again? No.
Becca – “This meal tasted great! However, the instructions were not easy to follow along – no photos included and in a strange order. Rather than having you do all the prep before cooking, it was prep one thing then cook, prep another then cook. I found myself losing my place in the instructions multiple times. I probably would opt for a different meal service option — even though the food was good, there just seem to be others that are great food and easy recipes to follow.” Would you order again? No.
Meal Plans: 2, 4 or 6 servings with options of 2-8 meals per week!
Meal Selection: 11 meals [6 meat, 2 seafood, 3 vegetarian], Add-ons: Smoothie, salad, fruit basket.
Cost: $9.95 per serving // $59.70 for 2 serving, 3 meal option
Ordering Process/Website: This was the most confusing order process of all the dinner boxes we tried. The emails they send lead you to believe you are receiving meals that you are not scheduled to receive, and the food arrived 2 days late.
Packaging/Instructions/Cook Time: All meals did arrive packaged individually in clear bags which was nice to see all of the ingredients! The instructions were easy to follow on individual recipe cards and the average cook time is around 30 minutes. Canceling: Easy to do on the website — Pausing the account is the same as canceling.
Here was what we each had to say about our thoughts on our individual experiences with Home Chef!
Erin – “We made the Acapulco Steak Tacos and like most of the meals we tried and made, these were also delicious! I do think I prefered the quality of the meats on some of the other services a little better, however, it was still a tasty meal with easy to read instructions. I did like that these came packaged in clear bags making it easy to see what meals were what. Due to the difficulty of ordering and delayed shipping, I don’t think I would use this service again, but it was fun to try!” Would you order again? No.
Steph – “I would consider ordering from Home Chef again! The recipe I chose was more basic so I cannot speak to if the subscription would encourage us to try new things, but the recipe did teach me a new way to make something I’ve been making for years! Moving forward whether I use this recipe or my own, I will probably adopt this new technique! In my opinion, that is definitely worth something! Delicious, easy to follow instructions, I call this one a success!” Would you order again? YES!
Becca – “Flavor-wise, this recipe was really good! We opted for one of the vegetarian options for this meal service. However, there really wasn’t enough food for two! Plus, the avocado was underripe, so we had to make the recipe without it. We finished the meal and started looking through the pantry for something else to munch on!” Would you order again? No.
And that is a wrap, my friends! All in all, this was the tastiest blog post ever written and a really fun experience! We’d love to hear which one(s) you are wanting to give a try after reading this! Drop it in the comments below and get to cookin’. 2018, you’ve never tasted better…