Home Delivered Meal Kits - Ingredients With Recipes

by dustytoes

Here I compare three services that will deliver fresh ingredients, along with the recipe, straight to your door.

If you are too busy to grocery shop, but still want to cook a healthy meal for the family, have you considered trying a home delivery service? There are a number of companies that will put the ingredients together for you and include the recipe to create a healthy meal. On this page I compare Blue Apron, Plated, and Hello Fresh. All three offer the same type of service, and all ship within the United States only.

This page is written as much for myself as for the reader, because I find the concept appealing. In this super fast-paced world, grocery shopping is an unappealing task. Between finding a good store to purchase quality fish, meat and produce, then driving there and back, unpacking, freezing, storing and organizing the food, shopping is a giant chore.

My first thought is that having a food delivery service would be too expensive to use. So I want to find out the cost, the quality of ingredients, and the products available. Is this a feasible idea for a family or a single person or both?

On this page I'll compare three services that basically supply the groceries needed to cook the meals. The upside is there is no meal planning or shopping, but cooking is required.

PLEASE NOTE: The photos shown are not the meals you can buy. None of the food photos on this page are from the home delivery websites. They were chosen to enhance the page, and all images came from Pixabay.

Home Delivery Meal Kits Comparison

On this page I will compare three companies which provide a home meal kit delivery service.  They send the ingredients only to your home, with the recipes necessary to produce a delicious meal from scratch.

These are the questions I want answers to:

  1. Cost and options, such as number of meals I must commit to.
  2. Commitment:  Can I cancel at any time?
  3. Guarantee of fresh ingredients, and how fresh are they? 
  4. When are the meals delivered?  On the day I want them, or all together in one big box?
  5. Do they offer meals that are gluten free, vegan, or vegetarian?
  6. How does the food taste?

 I attempt to answer these questions in the sections below.  My question #6 is somewhat subjective as it depends partially on the cook.

Blue Apron

Farm fresh ingredients are sent, with the recipe, to cook your own meals.

salmon meal entreeBlue Apron is one of the first companies I came across in my search.  Their website is beautiful and straight to the point, saying it's a "Better way to cook".  They deliver nationwide in the USA (not to Alaska and Hawaii).

According to the Blue Apron website, they use seasonal recipes created by a 'culinary team' and 'renowned guest chefs'.  Their ingredients come from family run businesses, and it looks like most come from California, but some come from New Jersey and Vermont.

(Photo is NOT a Blue Apron meal.)

I couldn't find out where the company is based, but they deliver the food in refrigerated boxes according to a time schedule that is convenient to the buyer.  And there is no need to be home when it's delivered as it's packed in cooled boxes (all of the sites do this).

They offer a 2-person or Family plan (4 person).  The food and recipes they show on their site look delicious to me, and they say they try to be kid-friendly with the family recipes.

Look up all the boxed meals for the upcoming month, in either plan, to see what will be shipping.

The 2-Person Plan gives you three meals a week, for $9.99 per person.  That is not a bad price if you want to eat three excellent meals each week (or 6 meals if you are single!).  It's approximately $60 out of your food budget.  Just remember that you must cook it yourself!  The 2-Person plan delivers once a week.

The Family Plan feeds four, and can be ordered as 2 or 4 meals a week.  The cost is $8.74 per person.

Is their food organic?  Maybe some of it is, but not all of their food is certified organic.  They don't have a gluten free menu option, that I could see.    Blue Apron has a good  FAQ section where you'll find answers to this type of question.

When I signed up to order the 2-Person plan, I chose fish and shellfish from the menu options that also included chicken, pork, lamb, beef, and vegetarian.  After entering my zip code (I live in New Hampshire), my delivery day choices were Thursday, Friday or Saturday.   This is the minimum plan option at the time I am writing this. 

Love this!  For each meal that will be delivered there is a corresponding recipe page which shows exactly which ingredients will be shipped, and the way to prepare it step by step - with pictures.  Seeing this information beforehand is a great help.  Also, you may find comments from customers at the bottom of the recipe page.

AND... the meal can be made without using their service.  Follow the recipe and make it yourself.  Find the meal plans at the top of the site at the On The Menu link.

Have you used Blue Apron?

What did you think?
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This is the knife I have and use every day.
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"Eating well made easy" is their slogan. (Photo is not a Plated meal)

cooking, kabobs, fry panThe second meal kit service I wanted to research was Plated.  Their website says, "Eating well made easy" on the header, and the site is very nice.

They deliver to to 95% of the US and shipping is free, UNLESS you choose the option to receive 2 recipes, of 4 total plates, then you must pay $6 in shipping.  

You will get all the ingredients needed to make each meal, as well as the recipe card, with photos, and easy to follow directions.  They don't send staples such as eggs, salt, pepper and oil.  I think most of the sites expect you to have the basics handy, but I'm not sure.

Once you start a subscription to Plated, you will be signed up to receive weekly shipments, but the site says that you can skip weeks without a penalty.

The site says that their chefs will create nine meals a week to choose from, in a variety of veggie, seafood and meat themes.  They offer an upgraded "chef's table" menu, and also desserts.

I did not go through the motions of signing up, so I couldn't see any further.  I did chat with someone on the site and asked where they ship from.  I was told they are based in NYC and have 4 different locations they ship from.  This makes sense, if the sites want ingredients to be as fresh as possible.

At the top of their site, click on the Food with Thought link which tells us they use antibiotic free meat, sustainable seafood, and seasonal produce.  No mention of gluten-free or vegan offerings, so I assume they don't offer that.

As far as price, when I put in my zip code, I was shown a page that gave me a price of $72 for 3 recipes, or 6 meals.  That converts to $12 a meal.

In the FAQ section I found that 2 recipes (4 plates) cost $48.00 a week.  Three recipes (6 plates) costs $72, and four (8 plates) costs $96.  Each recipe is for 2 people.

I eventually came across "view this week's menu" page where I could view four separate meals and one dessert.  Each came with a calorie count, what food is sent, and the time it will take to prepare.  The dessert listed was Clementine Upside Down Cake which would take 20-30 minutes to make.  Personally, I don't want to spend all that time making a tiny, cupcake size dessert for one - two?! 

Have you ordered from Plated?

Share your thoughts with us please!
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Hello Fresh

Their website header: "More than Food"

fresh sweet peppersHello Fresh is the third meal kit delivery service I want to write about.  My sister has used this company so I thought it would be helpful to interview her and post her comments here.  It's always nice to have a first hand account.

My sister is a seasoned cook but one of the meals / recipes did not make her happy.  It was too time-consuming.

Here is my interview with an actual user:

How many times did you use this service? 2 

Was the food nice and fresh? Yes The produce was awesome and even better than the store. Ingredients are all measured and the instructions are very easy to read. 

Does every recipe show a difficulty level? Yes.  The meals aren't difficult to make just very time consuming. Fine for a weekend when you have more time. I don't want to be in the kitchen for 2 hours cooking when I get home from work. 

Did you think it was worth the money? It's worth the money if you're wealthy or a shut in who can't get to a store. But to have 3 meals for $69 then have to go to the store and spend another $100 for the rest of the week is not in my budget. 

End of interview.  Thanks Sis!

The pricing on the Hello Fresh site says that for 3 meals (that feed 2 people each) the cost was $69.00 ($59.00 vegetarian).  For a family of 4, the cost is $129.00 ($109.00 vegetarian).  Shipping is free. (These prices showed for me after I put in my NH zip code.)

Recipes can be downloaded, and are easy to follow.  They contain nutritional information, preparation time, difficulty level, and nice pictures.

They deliver nationwide in the US (no deliveries to Alaska and Hawaii).

Each week you will choose 3 out of 5 recipes.  Subscriptions can be put on pause, and changed, according to the FAQ section, which is easy to find at the top of the website. There is no minimum length for a subscription.  

Have you tried the Hello Fresh delivery service?

Did it live up to expectations?
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The Positive

meal, cooking, food

The obvious upside to using a home delivery service is the saving of valuable time.  It takes time to find a good recipe, buy the ingredients (if you can find them) and then make the meal.  After all that, it could end up being gross and no one will eat it!

Another plus is fewer grocery shopping trips.  Don't plan on saving money, although, depending on the cost of groceries in your area, I suppose you could save money.  After all, being in the store less often may mean spending less money.  And there is no waste, as the exact ingredients are sent.

It's a lot to ask women (or men) who cook for their families to come up with new, healthy and delicious meals week after week. These home meals programs do that for you.   The convenience is one of the best aspects, as you may imagine.

Also, if you are not happy with what your local grocery store offers, the ingredients from the service may be of better quality.  They do try to send the freshest ingredients.  This is what I would love, as I don't like the grocery stores in my area.

A single person can cook for the meal meant for two, and have leftovers for lunch the next day.

All companies mentioned seem to be very accommodating if you want to cancel, pause, or change shipments.  

The Negative

The obvious down side is that shopping is still required.  Obviously you will still need to shop for groceries.  We eat more than one meal a day.  Even if you eat lunch at work, and skip breakfast, what about drinks, snacks, bread, etc.?  Shopping for groceries may be faster and easier, but it will have to be done.   The meal plans don't cover seven days either.

For a single person, those fresh ingredients won't be as fresh by the 5th day, which is when you'd be cooking the third meal - assuming each meal (for 2) feeds you for two days.    For 2 people, you are still holding onto the ingredients for three days, which isn't bad, unless you don't want to use the meal plan for three consecutive days.

The food comes on the specified day, week after week, unless you cancel.  It requires you to cook on those designated days, or risk eating food that is not as fresh.

There is the trash leftover from shipping, such as the box and freezer packs, or material used to keep the food cold, that must be discarded.  Where I live, there is a recycle center at the town dump, but for those without that option, I've seen comments about the packaging materials being overwhelming.

All three sites offer vegetarian meals, but they don't offer vegan, gluten-free, or claim that everything is organic.

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My Overall Impression

My research was all done online, except for the interview with my sister (see the Hello Fresh section).  I have not used any of these services, and can't comment on the taste, freshness, or if the actual prep time is close to what they claim.  BUT, I have seen reviews and read the comments, which have mostly all been positive.

After looking at all three websites, my choice would be to go with Blue Apron.  Their site was more impressive, they shared the recipes to all the meals, with precise directions that even a beginner cook could follow.  Each recipe showcases a specific ingredient, which gets it's own blurb - something neither of the others do.  Their meals were also the least expensive of the three.

Blue Apron and Hello Fresh deliver to the contiguous United States, whereas Plated doesn't cover a certain, few areas.  None of them delivers to Alaska or Hawaii at the time of this writing.

Read more reviews and comments (scroll down below the article) about all three of these meal delivery kits at the Life Hacker site.  Search the web for reviews as there are lots of people writing about their experiences.

Who Would Use a Meal Delivery Service?

family dinnerYour first thought may be that the additional expense of a home delivery service would not be worth it. These companies are doing a great business, and it's not only the wealthy using them.  In fact, it's any person feeling the stress of having to come up with a new, good-tasting meal every night of the week.

I see this service as a break for the overworked family chef.  Families with teens, or dads who arrive home in the evening before the main cook (usually the mom / wife) could easily throw these meals together and give mom a night or three off.

Single people and the elderly, who live alone, but still like to cook for themselves, could have six meals (using leftovers) which would feed them all week, with the exception of one day.

When the grocery store is not offering good, fresh, quality food, maybe a boxed meal could be just the ticket.

This idea could make a nice gift for anyone you know would appreciate this type of help.

I'm sure more of these home meal kits will be cropping up in the coming months.  Our society (and the working woman in particular) is generally feeling overwhelmed, and seems to embrace any help in relieving stress.  

I like this idea, and may try it myself one day soon.

Many thanks to Pixabay for supplying the great pictures.

Updated: 10/11/2015, dustytoes
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Have you used one of these meal kit services? Please tell us about your experience.

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dustytoes on 11/22/2015

I would probably not use any of these delivery sites for the reason you mention. I also have to be very careful of sodium due to health issues. And I am cutting out bread & pasta as much as possible. I have made some of the recipes offered at Blue Apron, but I adjust them where needed. It sure would be nice to get the break from cooking a few times a week.
Probably the better solution for us is to make our own food, in bulk, from healthy ingredients and freeze some for future use. That is what I am doing these days.

CruiseReady on 11/22/2015

We have used Magic Kitchen, which sends fully prepared frozen dinners. We appreciate their diabetic friendly and low sodium options, as my husband's diet is highly restricted die to health issues. Using their dinners a couple of times a week gives me a break from preparing meals from scratch. Hoping you'd found me another source, I checked Blue Apron, and couldn't find nutrition information, which rules them out for us. Oh, well.

dustytoes on 08/26/2015

I agree Mira that this service fills a need that many people have been looking for. If the meat, fish and produce is high quality, as they claim, the price is not all that high in some cases.
I'm wondering if these meals are large enough to fill a man's stomach.

Mira on 08/26/2015

I found this article very interesting. I think it's a great business idea to have these meal kits, and good for society too, because it encourages people to cook. Sometimes shopping for groceries can be difficult, especially if you don't have a car. Also, remembering to make lists and remembering to pick up the list can sometimes be a hassle when you feel you have more important things to do.

Price is a little high and there's the drawback of all that packaging, but as you and Henry said, this is a practical solution for many. I also think there are many people who dine out all the time (not only at good restaurants but also at cafeterias--some companies have their own), so this is a good way to get them started as cooks :)

dustytoes on 08/26/2015

I've read comments saying that it's a good way to learn to cook. The recipe cards look beautiful and the directions are easy to follow from the ones I've seen.
Good for him. A lot of men don't think they need to know how to cook.

Digby_Adams on 08/26/2015

One of my husband's friends is doing this to learn how to cook a meal, instead of eating out. He keeps the recipe cards and each week cooks a meal after going shopping. This might not sound like much, but he used to eat out for all his lunches and dinners. (He finds shopping to be the most difficult tasks.)

dustytoes on 08/26/2015

I think so too. You are not locked in to more than a few meals, just in case it doesn't work out.

blackspanielgallery on 08/25/2015

This is a very practical solution for many people.

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