The Best Meal Kits
A meal kit delivery service gives you a weekly set of recipes and ships ingredients directly to your home. Meal kits are great for people who want to cook at home without having to research new recipes or make weekly trips to a grocery store.
After chopping more than 125 ingredients and washing about 80 plates, we compared the meal kits and highlighted what we like and don’t like about each.
We reviewed 13 different meal kits and have six recommendations. We ordered 34 different recipes, which probably made our delivery guy wonder why we needed to eat so much.
Plans & Prices
All of the meal kits offer introductory pricing for your first week. The standard plan for most services is 6 servings per week: three recipes, each serving two people.
Prices may vary by chosen recipes (like Paleo or Vegan).
Most meal kits operate on a weekly subscription model (but let you skip weeks at no charge). Although some kits let you order a week without a subscription, there’s usually a surcharge for doing so.
The most common subscription plan is designed for 2 people to have a meal 3 nights per week. While we didn’t look at family plans, all of the meal kits have options to add more servings or a recipe selection tailored for families. Most also allow you to add more meals if you want to eat at home more than 3 nights. While some meal kits will allow for 2 nights, you usually give up free shipping or pay more per serving.
A majority of plans offered a menu of 8 to 10 recipes per week, but Plated offered about 14 recipes. Terra’s Kitchen offers more than 100 recipes with a couple of weekly additions. Green Chef was fairly restrictive: you choose what type of meals you get (standard, vegetarian, paleo, etc.) but does not let you customize what meals you get. Purple Carrot offered no flexibility in their weekly menu: you get the 3 things they have for the week.
We found that Chef’d offers largest recipe variety and ships very quickly: it has a catalog of more than 500 recipes and ships nearly on-demand. You can also order a single night of meal (but will likely pay a shipping charge).
Many meal kits offer diet-specific plans or have a variety of accommodating recipes.
The prices for meal kits generally range from $9.99/serving to $14.99/serving. Assuming you’re on a 2-person, 3-night plan your costs can range from $59.94/week to $89.94/week. While Blue Apron and HelloFresh are the cheapest (both $9.99/serving), we think Marley Spoon offers the best value by giving larger portions at a similar price ($10.25/serving).
If you eventually decide that a particular meal kit subscription isn’t right for you, they all make canceling fairly easy: either by providing a button in account settings page or by emailing customer support. Just make sure you do this before the cutoff time before your next shipment.
Generally, you’ll receive your first shipment one week after you place your order. Chef’d offered the quickest delivery (2 days) which is good to consider for one-off events like a dinner party (because there’s no subscription needed with Chef’d). PeachDish was one of the slowest, sometimes taking 10 days to arrive. If you’d like to adjust what day you get your shipment (such as “every Tuesday”), most let you delay or adjust your shipment.
With two exceptions, all of the meal kits come delivered in a cardboard box with some insulation and ice packs to keep your food cold. For most kits, ingredients come sorted into the separate bags to help keep everything together. However, neither Blue Apron nor Green Chef sort any of their ingredients, so you have to organize a box of ingredients yourself.
Terra’s Kitchen attempts to be eco-friendly by arriving in a “Reusable Vessel” that you mail back to them (they cover shipping).
We found that most meal kits offer fairly standard ingredients—similar to if you went to a big-chain grocery store. If you’re looking for organic ingredients, Sun Basket, Green Chef, and Terra’s Kitchen try to use organic and non-GMO ingredients whenever possible. The ingredients that came with our Home Chef were bad enough to warrant us to not recommend it all.
Every meal kit we tried had at least some form of preparation needed. Fortunately, there were a few that had much less prep-work than others. Terra’s Kitchen does a good job of doing most prep work for you. Gobble had the least prep-work needed and was the quickest to make. Most of Gobble’s ingredients come pre-prepared (like a bag of chopped veggies for a salad) or pre-made (like sauces and dressings); any chopping we had to do was minimal.
Some kits, like Plated, took a lot of effort to prepare (mostly chopping ingredients) but it also was the closet to cooking from scratch.
In most cases, you won’t need much more than a pan (an oven-safe one was often expected), baking sheet, cutting board, and knife. Some recipes assume you have specific things like a cheese grater or lemon zester (we noticed this with Home Chef, HelloFresh, and Blue Apron).
You’ll want to have salt, pepper, and some cooking oil on hand. Marley Spoon sometimes expected you to have sugar and eggs.
We thought the recipe cards from all of the meal kits were clear and easy to follow. Most include photos for most of the steps and highlight ingredients in bold every time they are mentioned. We also loved when cards included a list of equipment and ingredients to get from your cabinet. Plated had particularly helpful and clear recipe cards.
Some recipe cards could use serious improvements. PeachDish was hard to glance at because none of the ingredients were emphasized in bold. Gobble arbitrarily makes their recipes “3 steps” but crams multiple directives in each step. Sun Basket’s recipe cards didn’t have photos of steps.
There was a pretty big range in total cook time, with the quickest being Gobble (~20 minutes/meal) and the longest being Plated (~1 hour 10 minutes/meal). We found that time estimates provided for recipes weren’t very accurate from any meal kit.
Most meal kits gave an adequate amount of food to fill up 2 adults. Chef’d, Green Chef, Plated, PeachDish, and Purple Carrot gave generous portions of their food. Marley Spoon gave the biggest portions, often having enough leftovers for lunch; Marley Spoon suggests that their 2-person plan is actually enough for 2 adults and 1 child.
Every meal kit provided at least estimated calories for their recipes. Home Chef, Marley Spoon, Plated, and Purple Carrot also provided additional details such as carbs, fat, and protein content. Blue Apron, Chef’d, PeachDish, and Sun Basket provided complete nutrition label information.
If you’re not sure if a meal kit is right for you, we recommend starting with these kits because they have an amazing new-user discount—making them some of the cheapest to try.
Great Starter Kit
Blue Apron is one of the cheapest meal kits to try that has great recipes.
Quick Starter Kit
Gobble is great kit to try if you want quick meals with minimal prep work.
Diet Starter Kit
Green Chef is good start for specialty diets, but their menu is limited.
Marley Spoon was the only meal kit where that had tasty food and we consistently had leftovers for lunch.
Quickest to Make
Gobble offers a great recipe kit for people looking for a low-hassle, quick way to make meals at home.
Plated recipes took over an hour to make, but the recipes were the most impressive that we tried.
Sun Basket offers a great variety for those that want organic, vegetarian, paleo, or gluten-free recipes.
Chef’d stands out because you can order à la carte from over 600 recipes (or subscribe and save).
Terra’s Kitchen uses a reusable “shipping vessel” which means there’s less packaging to discard.