Have you ever wondered what the deal is with all those meal kit services!? Don’t worry! I’ve tried them all out so you don’t have to.
I enjoy cooking, but like most moms I find time to be the biggest issue. Cooking at home, for me, means cooking for two picky eaters with pretty plain palettes, and myself, a self declared foodie. After years of catering to their bland tastes, I found myself in a rut. Enter the meal kit. You know the ones I’m talking about, the kits where, for a price, the best produce and finest meats will be shipped to your door. They’ll be boxed with a shiny card that gives you step by step instructions and a promise for gourmet luxury in a mom amount of time. To me, it sounded alluring and maybe too good to be true. But, when a cousin said he had a code for a free week, I jumped on the bandwagon and ordered my first kit. And thus, a six month adventure of trying different meal kits to find the best of the best was born.
I started with Blue Apron. Next came Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Martha and Marley Spoon, and finally Dinnerly. Which one is the best? The simple answer, you get what you pay for. For me, I paid for convenience and the opportunity to try something new without actually having to step foot in a grocery store. I felt like a Food Network Chef opening the mystery baskets. I really did enjoy using the kits… however some of them proved to be much better than others.
Starting with Blue Apron made sense to me. It was one I heard a ton about and well… had a coupon for. I didn’t know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised to open the box of ingredients. I was eager to get started and could feel my mouth watering.
The Pros: Everything was fresh. The steps were easy to follow and the prep times given on the cards were pretty accurate. Overall, I felt the food was an adequate amount for two people and it was tasty.
The Cons: Although I didn’t know it at the time, the packaging to me, is a con. Why? Because the ingredients are all in one big box. It’s up to you to split them up by meal. Other meal kits, I would come to find out later, would have each meal’s ingredients separated by bag. A huge deal? No. But a con all the same. The other con was in the cancellation. It was a harder breakup than my own divorce. There were multiple emails involved and many steps before Blue Apron finally took the hint and stopped trying to send me boxes. Still, sometimes in the middle of the night, I get emails from them begging me to return. It’s not you, Blue Apron, it’s me.
The Price: Roughly $60 for three meals. (Each meal feeds 2 people).
My second adventure was with Home Chef. I opened my package to find a binder to put all my recipes in. The nerd in me was delighted. However, this may have been the highlight of the home chef experience.
Pros: Protein and produce selections were fresh. Portions were adequate. There were many choices that seemed tasty when picking weekly meals.
Cons: The instructions were complicated. I’m talking tricky. I had to read and reread them to figure out what to do. At the end of the day that’s really not the kind of stress I need happening in my life. Sorry, Home Chef, you’ve gotta go.
Price: At around $10 per meal per person, the price for Home Chef was comparable to the other services I tried.
Next on to Hello Fresh. After seeing some commercials on TV, I was optimistic that this meal subscription was going to go well.
Pros: Like all the others, Hello Fresh came packaged with shiny instruction cards and bags of fresh produce and ingredients. Each meal was separated into paper bags for easy storage. I also liked the ease of the Hello Fresh app. I could swap out meals, filter by choice (like vegetarian), and skip weeks without issue.
Cons: There really aren’t that many cons for this meal service. The only con is one that I have found with all of the services. Many of the services have meals that are 700-800 calories per meal. For my needs, I would prefer some lower calorie choices.
Martha and Marley Spoon
I will admit I hadn’t heard of this one before, but with Martha Stewart at the helm, how could I go wrong? Martha’s meals were packaged in individual bags, similar to Hello Fresh, which stores quite conveniently.
Pros: The directions were easy to follow and I enjoyed that the direction cards highlighted the tools I would need to complete the meal. Another big factor was that this service had meal choices that were unique and really made my mouth water.
Cons: Many of the choices were not meant for the picky palette. Out of the first three meals that came, my kids wouldn’t eat two. Both included a fair amount of spice and heat. Also, good luck getting in touch with customer service. I had a gel pack burst in my box and it covered a bulb of fresh, unwrapped garlic and some other items with chemical goo (think the inside of a soggy diaper…everywhere). I called them to see how to rectify the issue, but apparently they work less hours than bankers and school teachers. After three calls I just gave up and threw the ingredients away for fear of ingesting the chemicals.
Price: These meals were on par with the others, equating to roughly $10 per person per meal.
My last adventure was with Dinnerly which boasts that they have great meals at half the price. $30 for three meals that each serve two. I knew I had to check it out. How is it possible? Well, for one, their package came with less food in it than any of the others. Second, no instruction cards. That’s right, I had to download my own or read the directions off the internet. Not a huge deal, but less convenient than the others.
Pros: The price! Half off was the major seller for this brand.
Cons: Besides the cards, there was not a lot to say about this meal service. Mostly, because there wasn’t a lot of food. Also, the meals were very basic. My first meal was a burger with oven roasted potatoes. That’s it? No veggie, nothing to make it different than a normal meal that I could concoct by staring into the fridge. I don’t need to pay money for someone telling me to put a burger in a pan. Also, I need something green on my plate, something!
So what’s the takeaway here?
After trying all of these plans, what did I learn? I learned that it is fun to experiment with different flavors and ideas, especially if you don’t have to plan it out. The ease is worth it. But, for me, the price keeps me from ordering it every week. If I choose to use any of them again, it will more than likely be Hello Fresh. If you are looking to try it out, I would try Hello Fresh first. Or Marley Spoon if whoever you’re cooking for has a more adventurous taste. But, whatever you do, get a code first. They’re out there, don’t pay full price to try any of these plans! Then, get your kids, or your hubs in the kitchen with you and get cooking! Happy eating!