A little about me: I enjoy cooking but don’t consider myself to be very good at it. So, about 3 years ago, I started looking into meal delivery boxes, which have been increasingly popular in the last half-decade or so. But, because I’m never satisfied, I couldn’t just stick with one single company, I had to try out all of the competitors to make sure I was getting the most bang for my buck and the most delicious offerings available.
Here are my thoughts on four of the most competitive meal delivery boxes on the market, and why you should (or should not) give them a try).
I’ll start by saying that none of these boxes save a tremendous amount of time, in the long run. They don’t eliminate trips to the grocery store, as you still need to eat breakfast and lunch, plus, feed your children. They don’t save me a ton of prep time, since I wasn’t spending more than 30-40 minutes making dinner on any given night, anyway. I find that they’re really intended for people who love to cook (or enjoy learning), are trying to move away from eating out as often, and want to spark some creativity into their meal planning repertoire.
For those wondering, I rarely feed my kids from these dinner boxes for a few reasons.
- They don’t eat enough to justify to bump in cost from 2 people to 4 people.
- I use the boxes to branch out creatively, which often means the recipes are things a 2 and 3 year old aren’t super excited to try.
- The prep and cooking is a pretty intense 30-40 minutes for each meal. It’s much easier for me to focus in the kitchen after they’ve gone to bed. (Luckily, my kids have an absurdly early bedtime of 6:30pm, so dinner is often after they go down.)
- Since the price per meal is the same regardless of the menu (with the exception of GreenChef), I try to pick meals that are a little fancier or more exotic than what I’d make unassisted (fish, game, vegan, spicy, etc.). We often replace a take-out night with a dinner box night – the cost ends up being in our favor. It gives my husband and I a sweet little “date night” at home and a chance to relax and have a nice dinner together.
I think the Blue Apron brand is the most widely recognized name in dinner/meal kits. Each week, you have the option of picking 3 meals from a menu of 8 choices. The cost is the same, regardless of what you select (about $9/serving). Prep/cook time is pretty consistently 30-40 minutes per meal, although if you aren’t used to their instructions and timeline, it can take longer than that. They use some seasonal ingredients, but don’t have organic options. There’s also no easy way to filter meal choices based on a food allergy or dietary preference (gluten free, for example). There are usually 3 vegetarian options among the menu choices. While the meals usually turn out tasty, they’re also among the least health-conscious of the boxes I’ve tried. I’ve often ended up with meals over 800 calories per serving or containing 40-50% of my daily cholesterol or fat. There’s also often weeks where I’m less than thrilled with the menu, and I end up skipping rather than spending money on food I’m not interested in eating. You can skip weeks anytime, without penalty, as long as you make the change prior to the cut off date. We’ve been using Blue Apron about one week each month for the last year.
Gobble’s claim to fame is that prep/cook time averages about 10 minutes per meal. They also list specific meals as “certified family friendly” catering specifically to families with kids. The weekly menu includes 10 options, of which you can select 2 (at $14/serving) or 3 (at $12/serving) choices. So, while the plan is geared toward busy families, the price makes it a little restrictive to feed a family of 4 – I don’t usually spend $48-56 on a home cooked meal for my family. I was also pretty disappointed in the flavors that the meals delivered. In order to have the food table-ready in 10 minutes, most of the sauces, marinades, chopping and prep have been done for you. I found that a lot of the food had an overly-processed taste and lacked the freshness that I love about the other boxes I’ve tried.
The recipes available through Hello Fresh are the closest to meals I would make at home, without the inspiration or guidance of a meal delivery box. Most meals have a protein, starch and vegetable. They’re tasty and clean, but can be on the boring side. Prep and cooking techniques are easy and straightforward. At $10/serving, they’re a little higher in cost to what I’d spend on the ingredients alone. I usually try to pick the fancier proteins to get more bang for my buck (because who wants to make ANOTHER dinner featuring our friend, the boneless, skinless chicken breast). Of all the boxes, these are the meals that my kids are most likely to enjoy, and the portion sizes are usually large enough to put aside portions for them. My favorite Hello Fresh feature is the ability to download all of the week’s recipes, whether or not you’re a current member. I’ll often print out that week’s recipes and file them away for a future week of meal planning. Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating the system, but I guess they wouldn’t offer the option if it took away from their business!
This was the first meal delivery box I signed up with, over 3 years ago. They offer all organic ingredients, along with menus specifically addressing different dietary preferences (omnivore, carnivore, vegetarian, gluten free, Paleo). Unfortunately, once you select your menu preference, GreenChef picks your meals for you so there’s little flexibility if there’s an ingredient you aren’t super fond of. Also, at $10.50-15/serving, they’re on the more expensive end. Their menus are, by far, the most creative and delicious – using rich flavors, interesting proteins and unusual grains. Having all the ingredients certified organic helps justify the slightly higher cost. And, despite the decadent flavors, the meals are usually surprisingly healthy, with most servings coming in around 550-650 calories.
Score: 9/10 (I’d give them a perfect score if there were more meal choices each week, instead of a fixed menu for each dietary preference)
So, there you have it! I’ve attached my referral codes, below, in case you want to try any of these services out. Most links will give you a sustancial discount off of your first delivery, which is a great way to try them out for yourself.
Blue Apron: Receive your first delivery FREE (limited quantities available, must provide valid email address, below)
I’d love to hear your experiences, as well! Have you tried any of the ones I’ve reviewed here? Any others you suggest I check out? Rumor has it that Amazon has a meal delivery box in the works. If that’s true, that will be the one I’d love to check out next!
All of these reviews are my honest, unbiased opinion. I received nothing complementry from the companies featured.