Meal Delivery Services – Worth the Cost?
When going to a grocery store seems too complex or time-consuming, you may want to consider a meal delivery service. Meal delivery services can take many forms. Some include meal ingredients and recipes, while others deliver fully-prepared meals for you. Either way, meal delivery services can offer a simple way to incorporate a meal plan into your daily life.
Types of meal delivery services
There are several meal delivery services out there today, and they’re not all the same. Some focus on easy meals, while others are tailored toward plant-based or keto-friendly diets. Even so, there are a few main categories of meal delivery services that you should be aware of if you’re interested in trying one out.
Meal kit delivery services
Meal kit delivery services may be what you imagine when you think about meal delivery services in general. These subscription boxes usually allow you to choose 3 or more meals per week that you’re interested in having sent to your home. An insulated box is sent to your home with everything you need to make those meals, as well as the recipes for the meals you’ve chosen. Keep in mind, though, that most of these boxes will assume that you have some general staples at home, such as salt and pepper and olive oil. You’ll also need to use your own cooking utensils and serving dishes for the meals.
Prepared meal delivery services
If you don’t want to deal with cooking, prepared meal delivery services might be more your speed. These services will send you fully prepared meals that are either ready to eat or ready to pop into your oven. Most of these meals are prepared and portioned out, then frozen before they’re shipped to you. You can then pop the meals into your freezer to eat at your convenience.
Oven-ready meal kits
Of course, there’s also an in-between option if you don’t want a frozen meal, but don’t want to put in all of the efforts that a traditional meal prep kit requires. These kits usually come preassembled for you so you can pop your meals into the oven with very little prep work required. Some kits even come with the cooking tray that you need to heat your meal.
Meal delivery companies
Blue Apron is the company that seems to have really kicked off the meal delivery subscription box movement. It’s a great box if you’re interested in trying out the meal delivery trend because there are just enough meal options without being overwhelming. Most Blue Apron meals have meat in them, but there’s always a vegetarian option included as well. You can select between two and four recipes per week with two or four servings per recipe.
Sun Basket is a popular option among the organic food community. This company offers organic ingredients that are delivered in a material that is 100% recyclable. It also offers a wide variety of recipes to choose from, including paleo, vegetarian, and gluten-free meals. Sun Basket meals can come in portions large enough for two or four servings.
Daily Harvest is a plant-based meal delivery service that is mostly known for its smoothies, which come frozen and ready to toss in the blender. It also offers items such as soups, flatbreads, and grain bowls that are premade and ready to either cook or freeze.
This subscription works a bit differently than others because instead of ordering meals, you’re ordering a plan that offers a set number of items. After selecting your plan, you’ll be able to add the premade items that you want to be delivered to your box. Depending on your plan, you can choose between weekly or monthly deliveries.
Green Chef offers plans that are based on specific diets, making it a great choice if you’re looking for a service that can meet your dietary restrictions. You can choose from the following plans:
- Keto + Paleo
- Balanced Living
- Plant-Powered Vegetarian and Vegan Meals
All of the ingredients sent in Green Chef boxes are organic and prepped for you to make cooking and assembling your meal as quick and easy as possible. Each box comes with your ingredients as well as the recipe cards for the three or four meals that you’ve selected. Green Chef offers larger serving sizes than some of its competitors, with options to feed two, four, or six people per recipe.
Hello Fresh is one of the more customizable and user-friendly meal kits. It offers a wide variety of recipes, each of which is helpfully labeled to help you make informed decisions about what you’re eating. When browsing the weekly recipe, you’ll be able to see at a glance which options are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and so on.
Hello Fresh offers Classic, Veggie, and Family plan options for you to choose from. You can order between two and five recipes per week and each recipe includes either two or four servings.
Purple Carrot is a plant-based meal kit that offers nutritious meals with helpful guidelines for picking the ones that best fit your needs. All of the recipes on the Purple Carrot website are labeled with helpful information such as nut-free, gluten-free, high-protein, and low-calorie. Each weekly box must have a minimum of three recipes of two servings or two recipes of six servings, and you have the option to add additional meals as needed. Purple Carrot also offers breakfasts, lunches, and snacks that can be added to your subscription box.
EveryPlate markets itself as an affordable meal kit option that can work for anyone. Each week, it offers 16 recipes that can be made in six simple steps to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. There are a few vegetarian options each week, which are labeled in the weekly menu. You can also order protein packs that can include items such as chicken breasts and ground beef to add extra protein to your week.
EveryPlate offers plans for two or four people with anywhere between three and five meals per week.
Gobble is a meal kit service that is designed to go from box to plate in 15 minutes. This company does more of the prep work than some of its competitors, so your ingredients arrive peeled, chopped, or marinated and ready to use. You can choose between meat, fish, and vegetarian dishes that are designed to be sophisticated and delicious meals. Gobble also labels possible allergens under all of its recipes, including fish, soy, eggs, and wheat.
In addition to main meals, Gobble offers the option to add desserts and breakfast items to your box as well. Gobble recipes are designed to offer two or four servings and you can order two or more recipes per week.
Home Chef makes it easy to personalize your meal delivery service to give you exactly what you want. You can choose between a meal kit delivery that includes ingredients and cooking instructions or a Fresh and Easy delivery that includes meals with low or no prep time required. During the signup process, you can let Home Chef know if you’re calorie or carb-conscious, as well as if there are any main ingredients you want to avoid, such as red meat, nuts, or shellfish.
Each week, Home Chef offers over 20 meal options to choose from, including keto-friendly, vegetarian, and low-carb meals. You’ll also have the option to substitute items in some of the meals to change your protein source or remove an ingredient that you don’t want. Home Chef offers protein packs — including a fish option — in addition to its meals.
Hungryroot offers an alternative option to grocery shopping that isn’t quite like other meal delivery services. It delivers groceries based on your preferences to help get high-quality products in your home without the restrictions of following a recipe. This delivery service can be a great option if you don’t have time or don’t want to head to the grocery store each week. Hungryroot also sends recommended recipes based on the items you’ve chosen to help you put meals together if you want some assistance. You can choose from a few different sized delivery boxes, with the smallest box including enough groceries to make six to eight meal servings and the largest including enough for up to twelve meal servings.
Snap Kitchen is a meal delivery service that offers dietician-curated meals that are made-to-order. You can order a variety of items, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, salads, soups, snacks, drinks, and even sweets. In addition to having your meals shipped, you can order delivery or pickup from any of Snap Kitchen’s locations in the southern United States. For shipped boxes, you can choose between six and 12 meals per delivery. Popular menu options include turkey quinoa bowls, chicken tenders with turnip mash, and almond crusted salmon.
Dinnerly offers straight-forward and affordable recipes with no more than six ingredients each. Each meal on the website is labeled to let you know if a recipe is a one-pot meal, kid-friendly, dairy-free, under 30 minutes, vegetarian, and more. You can also select add-ons including protein packs, quick breakfast items, and desserts to your box.
Dinnerly offers a two-person box and a family box with the option for anywhere between three and six meals per week. Any of the boxes can be made vegetarian upon request.
Costs of meal delivery services
Meal delivery services do cost money, and the costs can add up if you keep at it. However, the costs per serving are typically less than the cost of restaurant entrees, so if you’re used to ordering takeout often, it might even be able to save you some money.
Most of the subscription services offer a flat price based on the plan you offer. Generally speaking, the more meals you order, the less expensive the cost per serving may be. You can also look for discount codes and referral offers to help you save on a new subscription.
Meal delivery prices
|Provider||Cost per Meal||Shipping Fee|
|Blue Apron||$7.49 - $9.99||$7.99|
|Sun Basket||$9.99 - $11.49||$5.99|
|Daily Harvest||$7.49 - $7.99||$167.76/mo|
|Green Chef||$10.49 - $11.99||$7.99|
|Hello Fresh||$8 – $10||$7.99|
|Purple Carrot||$8.99 - $10.99||Free|
|Home Chef||$7.49 - $9.94||$10; free if spend $40+|
|Hungryroot||$7.99 - $12.99||$6.99; free if spend $70+|
|Snap Kitchen||$8.75 - $11.67||Free|
Pros and cons
- Meal delivery services offer an easy way to try new recipes and try out different meal options.
- Most subscriptions include options for a variety of diets, including Mediterranean, diabetes-friendly, pescetarian, and comfort food options.
- Some boxes offer healthy meal choices that are designed by nutritionists.
- Food delivery services can get expensive.
- Most boxes come with fresh ingredients that need to be used up within a few days.
- Most meal delivery services automatically choose and send you meals, so if you want to skip a week, you need to be sure to do so ahead of time.
- Most do not deliver to Hawaii or Alaska.
The bottom line
Meal delivery services can be a great way to try new recipes and get creative in the kitchen. With several companies to choose from, you’re sure to find a subscription box that meets your dietary needs. For those who are short on time, ordering one of these boxes can ensure that you’re getting a healthy meal with almost no work required.
Before signing up for a subscription box, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Since these meal delivery services operate on a subscription model, you’ll need to cancel or skip weeks if you want to stop receiving your meal deliveries. You should also be prepared for the costs that come with these convenient meal options.