Editor's Choice: Somewhere between a meal kit subscription and grocery delivery lies this unique service.
If you've ever been tempted by meal kits, but find the commitment to those weekly set recipes too restrictive, Hungryroot is another option that positions itself somewhere between a meal kit company and grocery delivery. For anyone who prefers to freestyle a little at mealtime but welcomes a bit of inspiration -- and a few shortcuts -- Hungryroot was designed with you in mind.
I took the hybrid food delivery service for a test drive and I see why Hungryroot has earned a loyal following. It reminded me a bit of Trader Joe's with quirky self-branded ingredients mixed with supermarket staples, all of which arrived fresh and ready to be eaten or spun into quick meals.
We recently determined that the cheapest meal kits don't cost much more than buying the groceries. If you're wondering how much more (or less) Hungryroot is versus shopping at the supermarket, don't worry because we've done the math for this one too.
Here's everything you need to know about Hungryroot.
Unlike traditional meal kits, Hungryroot tailors a delivery of groceries with simple recipe suggestions that can be created from them. While services like Blue Apron and Sunbasket lock you into recipes with rather specific ingredients portioned for that particular meal, Hungryroot sends packaged goods often in the way you'd find them at a supermarket.
To start, Hungryroot gathers a bunch of information on your eating habits and preferences to get the best food to your door. The quiz asks about foods you like and don't like, along with any dietary restrictions (Hungryroot has a robust offering for plant-based eaters). It'll also find out which meals you're interested in receiving ingredients for -- breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks or all four.
After you log your food preferences via the questionnaire, choose a delivery address and date and supply a credit card, Hungryroot will curate a list of suggested groceries and recipes. Some are standalone food items while others are intended to make easy meals such as simple egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast, or curry chicken wraps for lunch or a light dinner.
Emphasis on sandwiches and wraps plural here, since most recipes are intended to feed you and the crew for multiple meals per week. Almost everything can also be used outside of the recipe if you decide you're not feeling that particular meal, so you won't be stuck with various packets of seasoning or small portions of a random sauce or other ingredient.
Before you submit your week's order, you can easily swap items that don't appeal to you. Each food is assigned a credit value and once you delete an item from the cart, you'll be given those credits to spend on anything else including produce, snacks, meat, fish, dairy products and tons more.
If you want something that exceeds your credit value, you can cancel other items to give yourself enough credits or go over and Hungryroot will charge your card on file for the amount. Hungryroot makes suggestions for replacement items too. If you cancel your whole-wheat bread, as an example, a few other bread options will pop up but you're not beholden to them in any way.
You can also cancel or swap out entire recipes if you want and you'll receive credits to pick a new one or select grocery items a la carte. It's like someone walking with you through the store saying, "Hey, I think you might like this based on what you've told me," and then very much letting you decide if you'd like to try it or not.
When I placed my order, I was given three recipe suggestions: egg and cheese sandwiches with seven-grain bread; curry chicken and broccolini wraps (lunch); and a Thai coconut chicken and green bean stir fry. The rest of my order was made up of snacks, cheeses, breakfast items, proteins and meal starters.
Hungryroot's pricing varies based on what plan you choose. Each plan comes with a number of "credits" that correlate to the number of servings you've chosen. The price of your box will remain the same each week if you always use the same amount of credits. Some ingredients, like meats, use up more credits than others, so you'll either have to pay more for meat-heavy boxes or settle for fewer servings.
Plans start at $65. Hungryroot gives you the option to add more servings in increments of two to four with a flat increase of $10 and the cost per serving decreases the more you order. Shipping is free for any plan over $70 a week.
Here's how the price per serving breaks down:
|Servings per week||Cost per serving|
To calculate the value of a Hungryroot subscription, I priced out each item I received in my shipment using the lowest price I could find from a local grocery delivery service like FreshDirect or Instacart. Some items are Hungryroot branded; in those cases, I found another similar item of similar portion size and used that price.
For my grocery order, Hungryroot proved to be $13 more expensive than if I were to buy the groceries individually. It's worth mentioning that these items vary in price depending on where you live. For me in New York, where the cost of living is high, these groceries would likely cost a smidge more if purchased at my local markets. I also didn't include the delivery fee for a typical grocery service like Instacart or Fresh Direct. Nor did I account for the cost of gas driving to and from the market.
With Hungryroot you're paying a little extra for the convenience of curated recipe suggestions and also food being delivered straight to your doorstep.
One thing Hungryroot does well is to stock food items that can either function as small meals themselves, like the excellent breakfast tamales and sous vide egg bites, or that can be easily integrated to make more complex meals and recipes. Even the food intended for recipes is often more than you'll need, so then it's up to you to decide how to use it.
The loaf of seven-grain bread, for instance, did double duty. I used it for its intended egg and cheese sandwiches, but also made a toasty grilled cheese for lunch one day with the mozzarella cheese and prosciutto that was also included in my box. And since I only really needed half of the trimmed green beans for my Thai curry stir-fry, I paired the rest with the tuna steaks for dinner on another night. I also used the sweet potato wraps, shredded cheddar and some salsa I had on hand for a quick quesadilla one afternoon.
As much as I enjoy meal kits, once you select your recipes for the following week, you are more or less locked in. It's the flexibility Hungryroot affords that separates it from most other meal kit and meal delivery operations. For someone who enjoys cooking creatively and whose desires change on a whim, this format works especially well.
The only ingredient I thought I might not use all of was the 8-ounce jar of Thai curry sauce. I only used about half the jar to make the intended recipe and the meal was still more than enough for me and my dining partner. There was no other natural fit in my grocery order to use the rest of it on, so I bought some eggplant and chickpeas and made a vegan curry meal a few nights later.
After each delivery, Hungryroot surveys you on what you liked and didn't. It asks you to rate each recipe but also to decide if you'd want certain food items again and how frequently: never, sometimes or often.
If you sign up for a subscription to Hungryroot you'll keep getting curated boxes of groceries. You can customize your order every week but unless you cancel, it'll continue to send boxes and charge your card.
One small annoyance is that you can't cancel your subscription until your order is fulfilled and shipped (generally same-day shipping) so you'll have to set a reminder to cancel typically a few days after you've confirmed your latest order.
If you've tried meal kits and like the concept but find that you're not always in the mood to make the recipes that arrive, I'd suggest trying Hungryroot. You can select full recipes but they're never so complex that you can't use the ingredients in other, often simpler ways if you want. Speaking of the recipes, Hungryroot's are mostly easy, sometimes with as few as three ingredients. I made a paleo Thai chicken stir-fry, for instance, with precooked chicken, a packet of tasty Thai curry sauce and green beans (uncooked) that turned out great and took almost no time or effort.
Hungryroot also functions like an easy grocery delivery service making suggestions for new and interesting foods and snacks each week based on your preferences so it's a good pick for anyone who wants to cut down on trips to the market.
It's a bit like Trader Joe's with some fun, proprietary products you probably won't find elsewhere, so I'd suggest Hungryroot for anyone looking to expand their arsenal of ingredients.
If your goal is to improve your cooking skills and learn to make recipes fit for a dinner party, this probably isn't the right service. Hungryroot is more about shortcuts and quick meals than it is serious cooking. For that, I'd suggest a full meal kit service such as Sunbasket or Blue Apron.
Hungryroot makes meal prep for mealtime and snacking super easy and even fun. It's also a great medium for discovering interesting new foods, snacks and recipes without the pressure to make or eat something you're not in the mood for. The service curated a tailored bundle of groceries that kept me satisfied for most of the meals throughout the week, all for just a few bucks more than if I went out and got the groceries myself.
I found the ordering and customizing process easy and liked the recipe and grocery suggestions, but also that I was able to easily swap out items and peruse the extensive market for other things I wanted more. Upon arrival, I found all the food to be fresh and a lot of it was interesting.
The meals I made were simple but tasty and I was turned on to a few brands and products I wasn't aware of. The bruschetta chicken burgers, for instance, were an easy meal and a big hit when I sizzled them on the grill one evening. A nice change of pace from the burger and chicken routine. The breakfast tamale was a revelation and a welcome shakeup of my famously mundane breakfast regimen (I definitely plan on ordering more of those).
If you're looking for easy answers to that perpetual question "what's for dinner?" but find traditional meal kits a bit too restrictive, Hungryroot is a perfect alternative for all the freestyle home cooks out there.