As we shut ourselves in our homes last year, we had to figure out a better way to eat. In the suburbs, it was about raiding supermarkets and meal prepping, while in cities, more and more people looked for a better way to cook. When restaurants closed and take out meant putting people’s lives at risk, meal kit delivery became a respite for those that wanted to cook their own meals, but from the comfort (and safety) of their own home.
Meal kits, like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, are nothing new. They’ve been an alternative to grocery shopping or ordering take out for years now. Many more have launched in the hopes of finding new and better ways to get people cooking and enjoying meals that satisfy their tastes (and habits). There was a large study that found some companies saw that in the first three months of 2021, there was a 74.2% increase of active users. And there’s a lot of data suggesting that these numbers are sustainable.
While most meal kit services remain similar to each other, there are some noticeable differences between what they offer, the types of food they specialize in, and the pricing models. We took a look at some of the most popular meal kits to help you decide which would work best for you and your habits.
Price: $40-$119 per week: HomeChef’s gold star attribute is its flexibility. Each week, choose from 15 different two-serving meals, a six-serving slow cooker meal, and two no-cook salads. Among the standard meals are elevated choices from the “Culinary Collection,” oven-ready meals where a disposable baking dish is provided, and ready in 15 minutes. Within most recipes, you have the option to swap the protein, making this a perfect box for picky eaters. There’s a minimum of four servings per box, but you can add or remove recipes from week to week without adjusting your account. Additionally, HomeChef experiments with bonus add-ons like smoothie packs, Butcher Box-esque protein packs, lunches, or holiday selections (think Superbowl apps or Thanksgiving sides). If choice and customization has been keeping you from trying a meal-prep box, consider HomeChef.
Price: $58-$150 per week: What helps RealEats stand apart from other meal kit services is that everything — all the portioning, all the seasoning, and (almost) all of the cooking — is done for you. All you need to do is pop the vacuum-sealed bags into a pot of boiling water for 3-6 minutes each, depending on the contents. It sort of borrows from sous-vide style cooking, but takes way less time because you're really just warming everything up instead of cooking it. The menu is expansive and you can choose up to 12 meals in a week. The only downside is that, unlike other kits, these are single-portion meals are. But, they’re basically stress-free and are a healthier option, too. (Each meal comes with nutrition facts about what’s inside.) Plus, the meal per person approach means you and your partner (or whomever you’re dining with) don’t have to eat the same thing. If you want great food, cooked for you by a professional chef that you really can’t mess up, this is for you.
Price: $69-$129 per week: What’s the most interesting about Hello Fresh is the packaging. Unlike other meal subscriptions I’ve used, Hello Fresh puts everything into one bag. In other kits, the protein is usually separated from the other ingredients and sometimes the ingredients themselves are packed completely separate. That means that once you open your box, you spend time separating and putting the ingredients together. HelloFresh’s approach is a small, but appreciated upgrade. The meals themselves tended to be easy to cook, albeit a little boring. This is the subscription I would recommend for people who want to stay healthy and also may not have the most adventurous palettes.
Price $46-102: Convenience is what you get when you pick Freshly. “They have a rotating menu of 30 options that includes meals like pulled pork, chicken tikka masala, sausage baked penne, and plenty more. They cook the meals and deliver them to you, and then you just pop them in the microwave to heat them up when you’re ready. Think of them as a TV dinner, just healthy, and shockingly, gluten free. That’s right. I didn’t even realize they were gluten-free until I went back and looked at their website. What’s great about Freshly, too, is that you can cancel or skip a week at any time, so it’s really easy to adjust your subscription based on your schedule.”
Price: $60-$140 per week: The recipes are bold and fun to make, like ramen and lettuce cups. You can only pick a certain combination of meals each week, which can be difficult if you like more than your allotted meals. The brand also replaces out-of-season ingredients so you can still make recipes even if certain ingredients would be expensive to get. While I appreciated that the cost was kept down by not seeking out-of-season ingredients, sometimes the ingredients that were the linchpin of the recipe were replaced with something pretty different (ie. green peppers instead of an Anaheim pepper).
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