Look, most of the meal kits out right now do the same thing: bring you recipes and pre-portioned ingredients to your door. It’s hard to know what the difference is, but as someone who has tried three different services, it was all about the nuances of each that fixed in my mind as good or bad. The packaging of one or the recipe selection of another were dealbreakers for a continued subscription. Here’s a look at the subtle differences between three of the most popular services to help you sort it all out.
Real Eats, $58-$150/w per week: What helps Real Eats 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. | Sign up at Real Eats >
HelloFresh, $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. | Sign up at HelloFresh >
Plated, $9.95-$11.95 per meal:
Update: Plated ceased operations in November 19th.
I found that of the three services I've tried, Plated was the best for leftovers. It felt like the portions for dinner were substantial and there was usually enough for a lunch serving the next day. Plated did assume you had certain things in your pantry that you may not, like types of vinegar or eggs (my boyfriend doesn’t like eggs, so we don’t keep them in the apartment often). None of the recipes felt like they were time-saving though, which is slightly hard to justify when you live in NYC and don’t get home until around 7:00 pm. You do get a much larger selection of meals, including the ability to repeat ones from weeks prior, which is a plus when you’ve found a recipe you’re particularly fond of. | Sign up at Plated >
Blue Apron, $59.94-$139.84 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). | Sign up at Blue Apron >
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