I won't lie, I've been sitting on this piece for FOREVER and forgot about it. When we first put this piece together, I was in a bit of a slump. Now that I've been actively using a meal kit service, I actually love to cook and find the more I do it, the better I get at it and the more I want to do it. I was able to find one I liked through trial and error, but if you're looking for recommendations our meal kit delivery comparison offers good options, although if I'm being honest, this one emerged as the clear winner the more and more research I did.
I now cook maybe 2-3 nights of the week. But when I was first attempting to tackle this piece, I didn't at all. So, if you want try and get into better cooking habits, save on the restaurant bill, or try something new without having to leave the house, I fully encourage you to give one of these a try.
Our Meal Kit Delivery Comparison of the Three Most Popular Services
Blue Apron was one of the first “meal service” kits available on the market, so naturally, it's the first one I tried. Their emphasis is on providing sustainable and local products in their boxes, so there's the whole “better for the environment” angle to it.
Prices start at $9.99 per serving.
Ease of Use
I got three recipes – a salmon burger patty, a bolognese, and a beef noodle pho type dish. They were easy enough to prepare, but sometimes the “made from scratchness” of it all had me wishing for a shortcut. They're meant to take around 30 minutes to prepare, the salmon patty took me closer to 50 minutes start-to-finish.
Yeah, yeah, but how does it taste?
I enjoyed 2/3. The salmon patty called for more aggressive seasoning than I typically like to use, so it was very garlicky and mostly inedible. The other two were delicious, and I particularly enjoyed getting to cook with more exotic ingredients (like the Asian ones that came with the Pho) that I normally wouldn't buy.
My take: I enjoyed cooking with new-to-me ingredients, and since it was the first, it was fun to experience a new process. Recipes were a bit hit-or-miss, but I believe this can be remedied if you feel confident enough to season to your own tastes and not what is on the menu card. I'm also pretty pumped about the new Whole 30 service they're offering (which wasn't available at the time we were writing this piece.) Genius.
HelloFresh is an international company founded in 2011. In the US, they offer fresh ingredients from local farmers and growers (when available), and every week HelloFresh will send you a box of fresh ingredients for you to cook and serve within 45 minutes or less.
How Does Hello Fresh Work?
You sign up on the website and enter in your CC info because it is a recurring subscription. Then, every week on Wednesday/Thursday they will email you and ask you to select which meals you want for the week going forward. You choose your meals and your delivery day (mine is always Monday) and then the box gets shipped to you.
And they bill your credit card on a recurring basis. Their platform is super easy to you and you can cancel or pause at any time.
Hello Fresh meals range from $8.74 (family plan) to $9.99 per serving.
Ease of Use
Each meal plan is designed to cook and serve in around 30-45 minutes. HelloFresh provides recipe cards that are easy to follow, complete with pictures and links to videos. (*Hint: of the 3 this is the one we're still using and love!)
But, How Does it Taste?
Both the omnivore and vegetarian dishes are very tasty. Picky palates will love how Hello Fresh recipes do not repeat, so you get to experiment with different spices and cooking techniques. HelloFresh saves you time at the grocery store and in the kitchen.
My take: You get all the ingredients you need to prepare these meals, nothing is going to waste. However, the portions are smaller than the “average” American dish but are still nutritious and satisfying enough. This makes it easy to keep your meal portions healthy without much fuss.
All-in-all, it was pretty easy. Way easier than some of the Blue Apron recipes (IMO). The best part was being provided healthy portions of food without you having to count calories and manage portion sizes.
Where Hello Fresh brings you fresh ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes for you to cook, Freshly provides fresh ready-made meals to save even more in the kitchen. (Uhm, yes, please.) All meals are pre-cooked and ship fresh every week. Each week you choose from 25 recipes, up to the number of meals in your plan, and ships to you on the day you choose (Monday through Friday depending on your location). Shipping is free.
Depending on the plan, meals are around $8.99 to $12.50 per meal. So, the priciest of the ones we compared, but you also don't have to cook.
Ease of Use
Freshly is hands down the easiest of any of the meal plans. Food is prepared fresh and shipped to you every week (never frozen). All you have to do is microwave and enjoy (you can either microwave it in the package it comes in, cook it in a microwave-safe dish or on the stove). Kinda doesn't get much easier than that.
But, How Does it Taste?
I tried a combination of vegetarian and omnivore meals, but only three of the five meals were tasty. Loved the peppercorn steak (the steak I cooked to medium rare using suggested microwave times) and the chicken breast risotto was tender and delicious. However, the paleo chili was missing something, and the vegetarian chili was not tasty at all (I couldn’t finish it).
Our take: While I prefer fresh home cooked meals, in a pinch, Freshly is worth the price for the time if you want less time spent shopping and cooking.
Meal Kit Comparison – FAQs
Which meal delivery service is easiest?
Freshly is the easiest because it offers pre-cooked food vs. ingredients cooks at home prepare.
For the other two services, it's important to distinguish between “easy” and easy but time-consuming. I thought all of the meals for HelloFresh were easy, but some of them took me close to an hour to prepare start to finish. Blue Apron meals took me even longer. I did get better and faster the more I cooked, but I think for those looking for simple prep right out of the box, it's best to continue trying new services.
What is the cheapest meal kit service?
As of this writing, factoring in the incentives, it's cheapest to try out HelloFresh right now. With the $20 off the first three boxes promotion ($60 total), each service (2 people, 3 recipes each week) comes down to $5.66 per serving.
For those who aren't quite ready to splurge on a meal delivery kit, you can try meal planning services for a fraction of the cost and you can do it all online. Try:
- The $5 Meal Plan
- Emeals (perfect because you can send the ingredient list of your dinner picks to Instacart or Shipt!)
- PlateJoy (get $10 off with my link)
Which meal box is best?
It's hard to pick which meal kit service is the best because there are so many out there, and each person has different needs, preferences, and price points.
Personally, I vastly preferred HelloFresh out of all the meal kits I tried for this piece. I felt they offered a lot of variety in the recipes, that the recipes were easier than Blue Apron, and I didn't really try any meals that I just flat out hated. So, for the purposes of this article, I'll say HelloFresh is the best.
If you're looking for ways to “save money” meal kits are not the way to go, at $6-$10 per serving. BUT it is cheaper than 90% of restaurants and a fun way to experience new food. Plus you're sharpening up a life skill (cooking) and honestly, meal planning is half the battle. Cooking is actually really fun if you take the pressure and planning part out of it.
While I couldn't do a dollar-for-dollar comparison of groceries vs. meal kits, I also know I (like many people) waste a lot of ingredients when I shop because I plan for dinners and then things don't work out.
Having pre-portioned ingredients is nice because you're not being wasteful, and time saved from not shopping and planning is also worth something. For me, it's a financial win, but you may feel differently.
Ultimately, I think meal kit delivery services are something everyone should try at least once.