Because we’re a busy growing family and I hate to meal prep, and most subscription services give a good deal for the first few weeks, we’ve tried several. And here are my thoughts on each.
The first service we tried, and the one we like the best, is Hello Fresh. There is a wide variety of recipe selections, and everything we’ve tried has been delicious. It’s very kid friendly and nutritious, and I feel like it’s a pretty good value. The portion sizes are adequate—the four serving plan feeds our two adults and two kids and we usually have a small portion left over. The delivery is reliable and the food is fresh. The meat is “responsibly raised”, another plus. I like that there are a lot of meals that I wouldn’t ordinarily make, but that are still delicious. We are trying new things and getting a wider variety of foods. The one con, in my opinion, is that there’s just a lot of packaging. The wrapping is all recyclable, but the insulation is not, which just feels like a waste. Most of the recipes are relatively quick (20-40 minutes), but can be pretty involved, which makes meal time a little difficult when you have three kids screaming and fighting. Overall, I give Hello Fresh five stars.
We tried Blue Apron for a few weeks, but were not impressed with their recipes. They were all kind of “meh” and the kids weren’t very excited about the things we tried. The packaging and price was very similar to Hello Fresh. All of the recipes we tried were pretty involved. After about three weeks, I cancelled my account. I’d give Blue Apron three stars.
I really wanted to like Plated. I liked their commercials and just felt like it was a classy service. It’s a little more expensive than Hello Fresh (~$80/week), but every recipe we tried was delicious. The box is substantially smaller than Hello Fresh & Blue Apron, but it didn’t impact the freshness of the food. However, they have a reliability problem. I didn’t receive my first box, and while I was given a refund and an apology, there was no future discount applied for inconvenience. We received our second box, everything was great. But my third box never showed up. Lasership said it was delivered and I checked my front door within five minutes of delivery, but there was no sign of the food. So I called and they were apologetic and sent a new box later that week, but, again, no discount for the inconvenience. I cancelled our account—I need my meals to show up when they say the will. Plated gets two stars.
We like to eat organic food when we can, so the next service we tried was Sunbasket. Their introductory pricing is not as appealing as the other services and it is significantly more expensive than Hello Fresh/Blue Apron. We chose the cheaper four person, two meal a week plan, which just has less variety (you choose from 6 recipes instead of 18). The box is substantially bigger than the other services, but every bit of the packaging is recyclable and/or compostable. Big win. The recipes are generally pretty different than what I would ordinarily make and are pretty mushroom and olive heavy, neither of which my family enjoys. I do like that some of the ingredient they use are things that I would not normally buy but are totally delicious—dates, for example. It seems like the packaging of the meal itself could have been better thought out. They package meals in servings of two, so we got two sets of ingredients for each meal which ended up meaning excessive packaging and getting way more spices than we actually needed. Also, all of the other meal services send (large) recipe cards for only the meals you are getting. Sunbasket sends a magazine with all 18 recipes they offer for the week. Again, excessive. They could probably cut costs a bit if they eliminated this. I did like that the recipe cards included hints on how to include kids in the meal prep or other useful tips. If you are vegan, vegetarian, paleo, etc, Sunbasket offers more options than most meal services. It is a nice service, but because of the cost it’s not one that we will use beyond a few weeks.
One of my very favorite meal services is A Joyful Kitchen. The owner/chef, Anna, is a longtime family friend and just about the sweetest person I’ve ever met. She’s a fabulous cook—I’ve never eaten anything of hers that has been less than amazing and she is my go to for any catering need. Anna opened her kitchen on the east side of town a while ago and offers ready made dinners for pick up that are delicious, nutritious, and an exceptional value. The menu usually changes every two weeks. The bonus, all you have to do is put the food in the oven. There is zero prep work!!! The downer, if you don’t live on that side of town, the drive can be a pain. A meal that serves 4 people is closer to actually feeding 5 or 6. Per serving, the cost is far lower than any subscription service and it has the added benefit of supporting a locally owned business. Five stars.