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Tired of serving your family out-of-the-box meals every evening? Frozen lasagna and mac ‘n cheese can get old after awhile and is definitely not the healthiest choice. But often there’s just not enough time to have fresh and healthy meals prepared on a regular basis. That’s where a meal delivery service come in, to provide easy-to-prepare, healthy dishes for all kinds of tastes.
All of the meal delivery services we’ve reviewed are committed to providing locally sourced ingredients to benefit our U.S.-based economies and ecosystems. And all of these services use pre-measured (often hard to find or rarely used) ingredients and seasonings to reduce food waste.
- How Do They Work?
- Best Meal Delivery Companies
- What Are My Other Options? (For Dog Too!)
- How Do Meal Kits Impact The Environment?
- Can You Recycle Them? (Video)
- Are They Worth The Price?
Fresh meals delivered to your home sounds too good to be true, right? While there is some work to be done on your part with most home delivery meals, you will save time on shopping and meal planning.
Typically you choose the number and types of meals and recipes you want each week; then all the pre-measured ingredients are delivered to your doorstep in a temperature controlled box with ice packs to prevent spoilage. Then you follow the detailed instructions (also delivered in the box) to do the preparation and cooking.
The average cost of feeding healthy meals for a family of four runs $146 to $289 per week. But these figures don’t take into account the time you’ll spend planning, searching, shopping and prepping for meals, nor does it account for gasoline costs for running up and down the road.
Although you’re not getting fully prepared meals delivered to your home, you’re still saving a ton of time that you’d otherwise be spending searching for a variety of recipes, putting ingredient lists together and grocery shopping. Some recipes also call for exotic spices, sauces, or hard to find vegetables. They provide these less common ingredients, so you don’t have to search for them or keep each on hand, taking up valuable shelf space in your pantry.
Measuring out all the ingredients can also take time (not to mention can be wasteful because you have too much of an ingredient you don’t use). Meal delivery services can be seem more expensive than buying all the ingredients on your own, but the time it saves may be worth it for busy people who wish to eat home-cooked meals.
All the boxes we reviewed have the following:
- Calories Per Meal: Each meal typically runs from 500-700 calories.
- Meal Prep Time: Most services estimate prep time at around 30 minutes.
- Delivery & Packaging: All services we reviewed use refrigerated boxes that can last for hours on your doorstep and most packaging is recyclable or compostable.
- Subscription Terms: None of the following services require a long-term subscription. You can skip weeks, as long as you meet their cut-off deadline. And you can cancel service at any time.
Note: Don’t sign up and expect to get your meals right away. Most companies require you to pick your menus seven days in advance, so they have enough produce to source and pack (without it going to waste). So, depending on what delivery day of the week you choose, you might end up waiting a week or two to get your first delivery.
What Is The Best Meal Delivery Service?
The best food delivery service really depends on your needs, your palate and your budget. We provide recommendations for each category that will help you fill up your plate with convenience and deliciousness!
Hello Fresh, an extremely popular meal delivery service, is a great choice for a couple or family who prefers more basic comfort food. Meal portions tend to be more generous than competitors, and it includes more nutritional information on the recipe cards than most.
Hello Fresh is also a good option for vegetarians as you can choose its Classic or Veggie boxes each week. Customers who like spicy food, or more experimenting, should look elsewhere.
- Pan-Seared Steak with Cipollini Onions, Roasted New Potatoes and Tomato Pan-Sauce
- Sole en Papillote with Mushrooms, Croutons, and Brown-Butter Caper Sauce
- Autumn Risotto with Butternut Squash, Sage and Pepitas
- Meat & Veggie Menu starts at $8.99 per serving for 3 meals for 2 people
- Veggie Menu starts at $8.99 per serving for 3 meals for 2 people
- Family Menu starts at $8.99 per serving for 3 meals for 2 people
- + $7.99 for shipping
Want to get the kids involved? Cooking can be fun for the whole family and Blue Apron is a great choice for families. They stand out as the best value for the quality and variety of meals you get each week compared to all the other services we reviewed. Blue Apron is one of few services that offers entire family meals delivered.
Blue Apron never repeats its recipes during the year and offers specialty products that are hard to find elsewhere. It sources its ingredients from family-run farms and businesses.
Blue Apron also offers a monthly wine delivery program with six bottles paired for your upcoming meals. At $65.99 per month (includes shipping but tax will be added), the wine delivery program is a great deal. As of August 2019, Blue Apron has partnered up with the popular meatless brand Beyond Burger™ to offer plant-based burger patties as part of their Signature plan.
- Za’atar Chicken & Farro Salad with Beet, Goat Cheese & Pistachios
- Crispy Cod with Warm Cauliflower & Mustard Green Salad
- Queso & Pepper Arepas with Kale-Avocado Salad & Chimichurri
Signature, Freestyle and Vegetarian (2 serving)
- $9.99 per serving (2 or 3 meals per week)
- + $7.99 shipping for 2 meals per week (free shipping for 3 meals per week)
Signature for 4 (4 serving)
- $7.49 to $8.99 per serving (2-4 meals per week)
- Free shipping
Sun Basket is one of only two USDA-certified organic companies and has quickly established itself as a leader in organic and non-GMO meal kit delivery service menus (note: Green Chef is the other USDA-Organic service we review).
It offers straightforward pricing and a variety of menu options, including Chef’s Choice, Vegetarian, Vegan, Pescatarian, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Lean & Clean and Mediterranean.
It differentiates itself with its sustainability practices that include packaging materials that are all recyclable or compostable and products that are responsibly raised and contain no GMO’s.
Most meals take about 30 minutes to prepare and are about 500-800 calories per serving. We like that each meal is contained in one big paper bag so you can easily grab what you need to get started and then recycle the bag when you are done.
Sun Basket also has a wine club. Each monthly shipment comes with 3 bottles of wine from biodynamic, organic or sustainably farmed grapes.
Our Personal Review
A few members of our team use Sun Basket regularly.
We were impressed with the wide variety of meals offered and the ability to 100% choose your menu, including whether you want 2 or 3 different meals for the week.
- Fish Tacos with Avocado, Baja Cucumber Salad and Mint Yogurt Sauce
- Ginger Sesame Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas and Red Rice
- Curried Black Lentils and Potatoes with Swiss Chard and Naan
Sun Basket offers 2 plans with lots of diet types for each (e.g., Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, Lean & Clean (weight management), Pescatarian).
- Classic Menu – choose pick 2 (or 3 or 4 for an additional cost) from 15+ weekly options for 2 people.
- Family Menu – pick 2 (or 3 or 4 for an additional cost) recipes per week and each recipe serves 4 people.
Prices start at:
- Starts at $10.99 per serving for 2 serving (4 recipes)
- Starts at $12.99 per serving for 2 serving (2 recipes)
- + $7.99 Shipping
Dinnerly aims to be the most affordable meal service with aggressively low prices per plate (only $4.99, which is almost half that of other subscriptions). It has lowered the cost to consumers by limiting the menu with no menu choice — you only get three super simple recipes with fewer ingredients per dish and digital recipe cards (which cuts down on waste too).
Because there isn’t the option to select your recipes, this isn’t the best choice for picky eaters, but it’s perfect for younger chefs on a budget or if you are looking to get a taste for meal delivery services.
- Chicken Broccoli Pan Roast with Creamy Mustard Sauce
- Grass-Fed Cheeseburger with Macaroni Salad
- Vegetarian Fried Rice with Edamame
- 2 person box starts at $4.69 per serving for 5 meals a week
- Family box (4 people) starts at $4.44 per serving for 5 meals a week
- + $8.99 shipping per box
Diet-to-Go helps you stay on track with your dieting goals. Your choices include: (a) meals for either 5 or 7 days per week, and (b) 2 or 3 meals per day. Unlike others in this article, Diet-to-Go offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with sides.
You select from their weekly meal options, and they’re delivered to your door. No prep or cooking is necessary. All you have to do is heat it up, so there’s no excuse to not stay on track with this diet since it comes ready to heat and eat.
There are four meal plans to choose from:
- Balance is the most popular and doesn’t include red meat or pork to help with weight loss and control your caloric intake
- Balance-D is for those who have type 2 diabetes or are on the cusp of it
- Keto-Carb30 is for those on the keto diet and restricts fruit, yogurt and bread
- Vegetarian is for, you guessed it, vegetarians
You can also opt for no seafood or specify the types of seafood you prefer.
- Balance: coconut parfait, turkey meatloaf, Italian chicken
- Balance-D: cinnamon walnut cereal, aztec quinoa salad, blackened salmon
- Keto-Carb30: scrambled eggs, chicken fontina, roasted half of chicken
- Vegetarian: ratatouille omelet, mushroom ravioli, black bean chili
Pricing varies based on the plan you select, the number of days you want meals and the number of meals you want each day. Below are some pricing examples.
- Balance, original, women’s calories, 7 days per week, 3 meals per day: $8.57 per meal
- Balance-D, 7 days per week, 3 meals per day: $8.57 per serving
- Keto-Carb30, original, 7 days per week, 3 meals per day: $9.74 per meal
- Vegetarian, 7 days per week, 3 meals per day: $8.57 per meal
- + $9.99 per delivery (or free delivery and local pick up at some locations)
While the boxes above were our top picks, it’s worth discussing the following companies too, especially since we had the opportunity to personally try some out and confirm their yumminess! Plus, we added a bonus eco-friendly food delivery option for your beloved dog.
Chef’d was previously in this article but it shut down it program in June 2018.
Green Chef stands out for catering to organic eaters who eat more unique diets including vegan, gluten-free, keto and paleo. However, it also has power plant, pescatarian and omnivore options too.
All of its ingredients are responsibly sourced, and Green Chef uses recycled (and biodegradable) jute to pad its box contents (which you can compost) instead of wasteful bubble wrap. The items are color coded and placed into a meal-specific paper bag so you can easily identify what you need when it’s time to cook.
Our Personal Review
Green Chef is used consistently by several members of our team because it offers a good variety of special dietary options.
With two vegans, two pescatarians and two gluten-free eaters on our team, this service makes it easy to select your dietary type and forget about it, with appropriate, varied and delicious meals every week.
- Curried Pork Chops with Quinoa, Raisins & Almonds and Garlic-Chard Naan
- Italian Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Tomato Jam, Broccoli Slaw and Spinach Pistou
- Maple-Roasted Tempeh with Potatoes, Carrot, Braised Apple, Cabbage and Aioli
The pricing is based on the type of meal you select and the number of meals and servings you choose per week. Shipping is an extra charge and varies depending on the amount of food ordered.
- Keto $14.99/serving (low-carb, no dairy or gluten)
- Paleo $14.99/serving
- Balanced Living (omnivore or pescatarian) $11.99/serving
- Plant-Powered (vegetarian and vegan) $11.99/serving
- Family Carnivore (meat and seafood with veggies) $12.99/serving
- Family Omnivore (meat, seafood and vegetarian) $12.99/serving
- + shipping (price varies)
Home Chef offers straightforward pricing and a variety of menu options from which to choose. It is on the more affordable side, and the shipping fee is included on qualifying orders.
If you don’t feel like cooking but want a home-cooked meal, Home Chef offers several “Fresh and Easy” meal plans to choose from. They include oven-ready, slow cooker and grill-ready meals.
It delivers to about 90% of the country and works with quality suppliers who utilize sustainable food production practices.
- Mushroom Parmesan Penne Pasta with Basil, Tomatoes and Toasted Baguette
- Summer Risotto with Roasted Corn, Pesto, Tomato Vinaigrette and Burrata
- Goat Cheese Crusted Chicken with Carrot Mash and Crispy Potatoes
- Meals start at $6.99 per serving
- Shipping is free for $45+ or $10 if less than $45
The queen of the kitchen and home entertaining Martha Stewart now has her own meal delivery service to add to her empire. Marley Spoon and Martha Stewart teamed up to prepare seasonal recipes made with the Martha seal of approval.
Similar to Sun Basket, the meals come pre-organized in brown paper bags for easy sorting out of the box. As with many other boxes they have photo step-by-step instructions and recyclable packaging. Its meals are simple, straightforward and make being a domestic diva look easy.
- Beef and White Bean Chili with Whole Wheat Couscous
- Shrimp & Rice Congee with Ginger-Scallion Chili Oil
- Spicy Eggplant Banh Mi with Pickled Carrots and Crunchy Slaw
- 2 people $9.50-$12.00 per serving for (2-4 meals per week)
- 4 people $8.20-$9.50 per serving (2-4 meals per week)
- Free shipping
This company shut down its subscription service on November 26, 2019. According to their site, they are shifting to be a house culinary brand that offers a wide mix of products in their “stores”.
Are you a wanna-be chef? Or just enjoy trying new tastes? Plated may be the food delivery service for you — it has the most innovative and creative recipes compared to the other meal delivery services we reviewed and you can choose from up to 20 recipes (the most of any major meal subscription service). Not only does Plated flavor its dishes with unique ingredients, but it also gives you more room to explore new cooking techniques than other services.
Plated is on the more expensive side mainly because it uses meat from animals raised with no antibiotics and sustainable seafood in its recipes. It also offers vegetarian and gluten-free meals, as well as specialty cuts of meat (for a bit more money).
Our Personal Review
Plated has been used a few times over the years by various member of our team.
The biggest plus for Plated, in our opinion, is the creativity of the menu options. You will get at least one meal every week that you never imagined you would be able to make and it will be a success.
- Curried Salmon Cakes with Spaghetti Squash
- Apple Cider Pork Chops with Creamy Butternut Squash Polenta
- Cheesy Quinoa-Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Creamy Tomato Sauce
Each Purple Carrot box is 100% vegan with sustainably-sourced vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits, as well as healthy fats and lean proteins. We love that Purple Carrot thinks “outside the box” with its recipes and have found them to be fun, filling and flavorful.
The packaging is made from post-consumer waste and is reusable, recyclable, biodegradable or compostable. Purple Carrot provides free shipping, with delivery on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
Purple Carrot offers three meal plan options: Quick & Easy (30 minutes or less), High Protein and Chef’s Choice (gourmet). Purple Carrot has also partnered with NFL quarterback and vegan Tom Brady to offer another meal option called the TB12 Performance Plan. It is specifically for athletes and people with an active lifestyle in mind.
- Toasted Quinoa Stir-Fry with Crispy Sesame Shiitakes & Chinese Chives
- Beluga Lentil Taco with Quick Guacamole & Sun Sprout Slaw
- Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo with Warm Broccolini Radicchio Salad
- $12/plate ($72/week) for 3 dinners that serve 2 people
- TB12: $13/plate ($78/week) for 3 dinners that serve 2 people
- Free shipping
Don’t forget about your furry family members! Fresh dog food delivery is a great way to get Fido’s food delivered to your doorstep regularly. It’s a healthy alternative to kibble and a terrific way to guarantee you won’t run out of canine chow.
There are several brands on the market, but our top pick for eco-friendly practices paired with high food quality is The Farmer’s Dog. Simply fill out a brief questionnaire about your pup, then they’ll customize your dog food’s ingredients and portion sizes. There are three recipes to pick from, and all contain fruits, vegetables, lentils, fish oil and a blend of vitamins and minerals.
Each shipment comes with a reusable and biodegradable container for serving and storage. You can easily clean and recycle the individual plastic pouches that contain the food (BPA-free and non-toxic). The shipping insulation is made of corn starch, excellent for composting or you can just run water over it, and the material will dissolve away completely!
The Farmer’s Dog bases its pricing on your dog’s age, weight, and other factors. Smaller dogs start at less than $3/day.
- $29.78/week (based on mixed-breed male, 7 years old, 24 pounds, healthy size, no health problems or allergies)
- Free shipping
- See all options
Given our commitment to preserving the ecosystem and passion for protecting the plant, we at Earth’s Friends were curious about the ecological costs that go into at-home meal kits. So we reached out to the Director of Sustainability at Green Chef to get some insights on this topic.
- At-home meal kits require packaging to keep them fresh in transit. In most cases, each item within the kit is individually wrapped too. All this can seem wasteful. However, these preservation methods may be doing more good than harm to the earth. The packaging extends the shelf life of each ingredient, thus reducing or eliminating the chances of wasted food. In addition, most of the materials are reusable if not biodegradable or recyclable.
- The carbon footprint of the materials manufactured is far less than the emissions, water consumption, energy use and labor associated with producing food itself. So tossing out that unused apple or spoiled onion might seem like no big deal, but you’re actually discounting all the costs and resources that went into that ingredient getting to you before you throw it in the trash.
- An estimated 30-40% of edible food in the U.S. is wasted. Also, the annual emissions associated with producing that wasted food is the equivalent of 33 million vehicles driven for that same year. Therefore, one of the many benefits of at-home meal kits is they portion out the exact amount of each ingredient, so there’s limited waste of each.
- At Green Chef, they aim to re-structure the food value chain to make it “work better.” For instance, if they chop vegetables ahead of time, they’ll capture small “trim & scrap” ends and handle it more responsibly than home chefs, restaurants or commercial kitchens who can’t or don’t compost.
If you’re still not convinced that at-home meal kits are less wasteful than other alternatives, consider this figure from the State of Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality which compares greenhouse gas emissions throughout the lifecycle of food semi-prepared meals (i.e., meal delivery kits), ready-to-eat meals and cooking at home with your own recipe, shopping, etc.
Green Chef’s Director of Sustainability shows you how to break down and recycle the plastic components of a home meal delivery box. All paper carton containers (including the box) is also recycable.
Without a doubt, healthy and eco-friendly meals delivered to your home can be a little pricey. But considering how much you spend on groceries already, at the end of a busy work day with the kids hungry and wanting a good home-cooked meal fast, it can be worth it if you can work it into your budget.
They’re fun for the whole family and get you to experiment with new recipes you would have never otherwise tried or thought of. If you want to learn more about other types of subscriptions services, we’ve also reviewed the best vegan meal delivery boxes and snack boxes too.
What home meal delivery services would you recommend and why?
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