Recommended Meal Delivery Services January 2020
Meal Delivery – Overview
I’ve always loved to cook.
But then life happened. Suddenly, between kids and work, I didn’t have a lot of time for cooking.
It wasn’t actually cooking I didn’t have time for—it was grocery shopping. Come dinner time, I was ready to start chopping vegetables and seasoning meat. But none of those things were ever in my refrigerator.
So the busier I got, the more I ordered take-out.
But eating out all the time isn’t good—for your health or your wallet. One study found that restaurant food has more fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories than home-cooked meals. Another study found the equivalent of a $22 take-out meal costs $12 to make at home.
Years ago, I started to notice ads on my Facebook feed for companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh that would deliver boxes of fresh, pre-portioned ingredients and restaurant-quality recipes to my doorstep.
Of course, I immediately worried about the cost. They sort of seemed like businesses for rich people, not someone like me.
But since they all offered discounts for first-time customers, I decided to give several of them a try. What I found was pleasantly surprising. All of these services offer fresh ingredients and delicious recipes. The work involved to prepare a meal varies. And while these services are not inexpensive, they may not be as expensive as you think.
How meal subscriptions work
All services—HelloFresh, Home Chef, Blue Apron , Plated and Freshly—work similarly. Their chefs create delicious, balanced, and healthy recipes. The service does the grocery shopping for you and ships you everything you need to cook the meal.
All deliver to most US zip codes and use packaging that keeps ingredients fresh for up to 24 hours after delivery (in case you’re not home) and between four and five days in the fridge.
One downside to consider, however, is the environmental impact of packaging. Meals ship with ice packs and some with foam liners. The foam may or may not be accepted by your local recycling facility. As for the ice packs, you can certainly reuse them, but once you accumulate more than a dozen you’ll be wondering what to do with them. When contacted, the companies here recommend thawing the packs, clipping the corner and placing the water-soluble, non-toxic gel in the trash, then recycling the plastic.
Each service offers different subscription options, but all offer the choice of between two and four weekly meals for two or more people.
If you want to eat well, but don’t have the time to plan and shop for every meal, meal subscription companies offer a solution. You’ll pay a hefty premium over doing your own shopping, but these services will likely save you money (and be better for you) than getting lots of take-out.
You can’t go wrong with the food from any of these companies. We tried them all, and each sent along some tasty meals. Each service, however, has its own quirks that will appeal to different tastes.
Hello Fresh offers exclusively vegetarian plans as well as family plans that are quick to cook and kid-friendly. (Your mileage may vary.) In our experience, Hello Fresh meals were the fastest to prepare.
Plated and Blue Apron will appeal to you if you want to try exotic flavors and unusual combinations. These meals include ingredients you won’t find at your local supermarket. That can be fun, but makes the meals hard to recreate. Meals from these two companies are the most involved to prepare, but also the most interesting to eat.
Home Chef would win our “all-around” award. We really liked it. The meals were simple but flavorful. I learned a few new techniques preparing them, but didn’t roll my eyes at extraneous steps like I often did with Blue Apron.
Finally, Freshly is in a league of its own, offering fully-prepared meals ready for the microwave. Don’t expect a five-star meal. But Freshly is a good option if you need decent food, really fast.