It’s ok to admit when you’re feeling so overwhelmed with your schedule that you barely have time to plan meals or go grocery shopping. Even if you’re still staying home, prioritizing your family and work can be a lot. Or it could be that you want to learn to cook different dishes and you’re not sure where to start.
That’s one of the many reasons why meal kits have surged in popularity. You can get all the ingredients you need delivered to your door! Plus, with so many of these meal kits offering easy-to-follow recipe cards, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time to use fresh ingredients and turn them into delicious meals.
While it’s great that there are plenty of meal kit companies out there, choosing one can be overwhelming. In fact, it defeats the point of reducing stress in the first place!
Luckily for you, we’ve tested pretty much all the meal kits available out there so you don’t have to. For this article, were going to look at three: Home Chef, HelloFresh, and Blue Apron. Let’s get started!
In a Nutshell
Home Chef is a great meal kit that offers simple recipes that are flavorful and easy to follow. It’s a great choice for those who want a variety of recipes each week.
HelloFresh is great if you’re looking for affordable meal kits without skimping on quality.
Blue Apron is the meal kit for you if you want meals with fancy ingredients and wine recommendations (Surprise! The company also sells wine).
Home Chef vs. HelloFresh vs. Blue Apron Overview
|Home Chef||Hello Fresh||Blue Apron|
|Price per meal||From $8.99||$7.49||$8.99|
|Cost of Delivery||Free on orders over $49.95||$6.99||free|
|Minimum order||2 meals for two portions||2 meals for two portions||3 meals for two portions|
|Meal customization||Vegetarian plans||Vegetarian plans and other dietary restrictions||Vegetarians plans|
|Best for||Those looking for a wide variety of dietary preferences||Cooks looking for flexible plans||People who want quick meals and recipes created by chefs|
About Home Chef
Home Chef offers a neat onboarding form where you can choose the type of meals you prefer (for instance, carnivore, vegetarian, or pescatarian) and any dietary preferences. You can also indicate you want to avoid certain ingredients, making it one of the best meal kit customization options we’ve seen.
Home Chef even offers menu items based on how long it takes to cook -- some of them take as little as 15 minutes. What's also great is that in addition to detailed recipe cards, the ingredients are all bundled together based on the dish, so you don't have to dig through your fridge to figure out what goes where.
If you're not interested in full dishes, you can also order protein packs, basically a big box of meals you can stick in your freezer or cook ahead of time to meal prep for the week.
HelloFresh offers a few different menu options -- ones for vegetarians, low-calorie preferences, family-friendly meals, plus their “classic” plan with meat and vegetables. You can also choose meals for two or four people, up to four meals a week.
Some of the menu items are popular and classic choices like steak with potatoes, vegetarian enchiladas, and even chicken marsala. There are also different cooking experience levels to choose from based on how comfortable you feel in the kitchen. With the detailed recipe cards and ingredients grouped together by recipe, cooking dinner can be a breeze.
For more about HelloFresh click here.
About Blue Apron
Blue Apron was one of the first meal kit companies out there, offering a variety of menu items and detailed recipe cards so you can cook your meals quickly. These recipes are designed by chefs and their menus look a step above what a home cook would come up with. Some of their ingredients aren’t what you’d find in a typical pantry, perfect for those who want to be more adventurous with their cooking.
You can choose from different dietary options like vegetarian and calorie-conscious meals. You can also receive either two or four servings and up to four recipes each week. Plus, you can take advantage of their wine delivery service, pairing your meals with the perfect bottle of wine.
For more about Blue Apron click here
Quality of Ingredients
The quality and variety of ingredients for all of the above meal kits are great. They all arrive very fresh and can last a few days or more in the fridge. Plus, there are a variety of ingredients available, given the recipes you choose each week.
What does stick out about HelloFresh and Blue Apron is their emphasis on organic items and meat from suppliers that are high quality and take animal welfare into consideration. HelloFresh also includes tons of seasonal ingredients and sustainably sourced seafood. Home Chef uses mostly conventional produce and meats but works to ensure that they're high quality and adhere to animal welfare standards.
Related: Dinnerly vs. EveryPlate Review
The prices for Home Chef, HelloFresh, and Blue Apron are all pretty comparable to each other. Blue Apron is the most inexpensive as far as cost per serving goes. It also offers free shipping, whereas the other two companies don’t (unless you order a certain number of meals). However, Blue Apron has a higher minimum order than the other two, so if you’re looking for fewer meals per week, Home Chef or HelloFresh is a better bet.
Related: Best Cheap Meal Delivery Companies
All of the above meal kit companies offer a good variety of menu options to choose from when you’re choosing a plan for the week. Most have around 15 to 20 rotating menu items, and some that require more or less time to cook.
HelloFresh stands out as having the most dietary options to choose from, whether you’re looking for calorie smart, pescatarian, or vegetarian choices. Home Chef also has meals for people who want ketogenic, low-fat, paleo, or vegan ingredients
For wine lovers, Blue Apron also suggests wine pairings and you can add bottles of wine to your order at a reasonable price. There’s also an option to join a wine membership, where you get about six bottles a month.
However, if you are allergic to any ingredients, you’re out of luck. All of these meal kit services will label allergens that are found in their recipes, but their meals are processed in facilities that can come into contact with many allergens. That means if you’re highly allergic, you may want to steer clear of meal kits altogether.
All of the meal kit companies use packaging that is mostly reusable or recyclable. You can check their websites for how you can dispose of or recycle them properly. To promote sustainability, both HelloFresh and Home Chef use packaging that’s mostly recyclable or reusable.
Related: Meal Delivery Comparison
Why Choose Home Chef?
Home Chef is best if you want simple meals that aren’t too complicated to cook. That means if you’re fairly comfortable in the kitchen and don’t want to learn new or fancy techniques, Home Chef is for you. It’s also best for those who want the widest variety of menu options but aren’t severely allergic to common ingredients.
Why Choose HelloFresh?
HelloFresh is best for intermediate cooks who want a fresh, home-cooked meal but don’t have a lot of time on their hands. There are also options for more complicated recipes, making it a great fit for those who also want to learn to cook better.
Why Choose Blue Apron?
Blue Apron is best for those who want what they consider fancy meals and want to explore ingredients and dishes outside of their repertoire. It’s for people who have quite a bit of experience cooking as many of the recipes make some assumptions that you have certain cooking items. Plus, those who love to drink wine with their meals will love that Blue Apron makes recommendations and even has a wine delivery service.
Frequently Asked Questions
What's a Meal Kit?
A meal kit is a set amount of ingredients that are pre-portioned to help you prepare meals. It also comes with a recipe (of your choosing) that you can follow so you can know how to cook your chosen menu.
The main benefit of a meal kit delivery services is so that you don’t have to go to the grocery store, saving you time and effort. These companies may also offer meals based on dietary restrictions, how often you want to cook and portions based on household size.
Do I have to Subscribe to a Meal Kit Service Each Week?
Not at all! Most, if not all meal kit delivery services allow you to skip deliveries. That means if you’re going on vacation or don’t need their services for a certain week, you can log into your account and skip a delivery. Some even go so far as to ask how often you want meals to be delivered, as well as the option to pause the service for a longer period of time.
If you do decide to skip deliveries, make sure to do so well before the mandated deadline. Otherwise, you may find a surprise, in the form of a credit card charge and an unplanned meal kit at your doorstep.
Should I Order a Meal Kit if I Can't Cook?
To be honest, it depends on if you want to learn how to cook. If you’re interested in learning how to cook, then a meal kit can help you — make sure to look at some of the sample recipes of different companies to see if you believe you can follow along.
However, if you’re not someone who likes cooking, then meal kits aren’t for you. There are companies that do offer ready-to-heat meals where you take them out of the package, throw them into the microwave (or oven) and it’ll be done within a few minutes.
Are Meal Kits Available Without So Much Packaging?
It can feel like there’s a lot of packaging when you order meal kit delivery services. Many of these companies are using as much reusable and recyclable materials as possible. Some even go so far as to use materials that have already been recycled.
However, if you still feel uncomfortable with materials like plastic, then you will find that most of these companies still use some form of it.
How Will I Know The Ingredients Are Fresh?
Meal kit companies don’t package your box until the day it’s being delivered. Plus, they’re careful to package it using items like ice packs and insulated materials so that the ingredients remain fresh until you unpack them. There are also companies that recommend how soon you should start cooking your meals so that freshness is guaranteed.
Can I Recreate the Meal Kit Recipes In the Future?
Of course you can! Most of the recipes offer the list of ingredients and the exact amount of everything you need. Plus, with most of them offering detailed instructions, you should be able to recreate them fairly easily (assuming you can find the ingredients you need).
The truth is, if you’re interested in any of the above meal kit companies, you can’t go wrong choosing any one of them. They offer you convenience in that you don’t need to plan and shop for meals during the week. You pick the dishes you like and they come packaged and delivered to your doorstep at the schedule of your choosing.
Of course, you might end up paying more than you would if you were to shop for all the items yourself at the supermarket. Using meal kit delivery companies regularly will set your grocery budget back by quite a bit. That’s not to say you can’t splurge every once in a while. A good balance can be to do your own meal planning and pay for meal kits when you know life is going to get hectic.
The best way to see which meal kit is best is to try them out. We’ve tried them all and think they are pretty good, but it really depends on your tastebuds and the dishes you choose.