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If you live anywhere where it's even a little bit possible to glimpse the stoops of your neighbors, you've probably noticed cheerful boxes from the likes of Freshly, Home Chef, Sakara Life, Purple Carrot and Gobble making ever more frequent appearances on said stoops over the last several years. The age of the meal kit food delivery service is upon us. It's a type of convenience service that combines the efforts of chefs, nutritionists and personal shoppers, and delivers them into the hands of enthusiastic eaters or willing , with weekly menus and delicious, preportioned fresh ingredients for you to easily prepare. The breadth of options available today is just staggering, with everything from gluten-free meals to vegetarian options available and ready to ship. That means that people with special diets don't have to exclude themselves from reading further. It's time to find the best meal kit delivery service.
I once met one of the founders of Blue Apron, whose delivery box I'd become familiar with, thanks to the denizens of my apartment building. I mentioned that I thought the service sounded like a cool idea, but inundated him with a litany of reasons why such a thing didn't apply to me: I work in an industry where tasty meals are often provided, I'm rarely home, I'm culinary school-trained and so on. His counterargument was flawless: "Can I send you a free box?" I mean, duh.
Despite my protestations, the reasons I enjoyed the meal plan were plenty, and inspired me to continue my subscription with an occasional box of ingredients. Even with culinary school cred, I liked having ingredients I didn't know of or would rarely seek out put directly into my hands. I was especially moved by the concept of getting provided the single rib of celery that a recipe demanded, sparing me the heartache of watching an entire head of celery languish in my produce drawer when left to my own devices.
There are now dozens of meal kit delivery programs to choose from, like Sun Basket, Martha & Marley Spoon and Purple Carrot, with niche customizations, ingredients and menus to fit special diets like vegan gluten-free, vegetarian gluten-free, plain old gluten-free, paleo, low-carb, vegetarian pescatarian, keto, a plant-based diet and just about anything else. You'll also often find promotional offers for new customers and convenient features like being able to skip weeks and cancel anytime. With limited or no commitment, if you're a calendar master and an account-management ninja, you can dabble in any or all of these services and choose, week-by-week, which best suits your circumstances.
Note: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the services featured on this page.
Special offer: $100 Off Home Chef: $25 Off Your First 4 Boxes
Home Chef boasts over 38 meal kits to choose from in any given week, including the all-new grill packs and one-pan dinners. Plus, you can customize the protein in your meal choices, which makes Home Chef dishes stand out from the pack. For example, with some Home Chef recipes, you can order double the protein without doubling the overall portions. With other Home Chef options, you can choose to order antibiotic-free protein instead of the standard version. Meal kits and ingredients are usually pretty standard in their offering (which is what keeps Home Chef efficient to the masses).
One new and unique offering from Home Chef is their oven-ready meals, which come with everything you'll need to make the meal including the cooking tray (no mess and no dishes). See an example of an oven-ready meal here.
Subscription: Starting at $7.99 per serving with additional premium Home Chef recipes offered at market price.
Healthy and fresh are common favorite meal kit descriptors, but Sun Basket goes a step further. Sun Basket is committed to organic, non-GMO, sustainably and responsibly raised products and ingredients, which it packages in 100 percent recyclable materials to boot. Basically, the box took the trip to the farmer's market for you. Sun Basket's recipes are developed by Justine Kelly, a San Francisco chef known for her work at the James Beard Award-winning Slanted Door restaurant, and for her appearance on Top Chef. All of her easy and delicious meals with organic ingredients are nutritionist-approved (500 to 800 calories per serving), and most meals take only about 30 minutes to prepare, with online Sun Basket tutorials available if you need a little extra guidance. You've got options too -- you'll be able to choose from a selection of six to 18 different organic meal recipes each week, including paleo, vegan meal, vegetarian and gluten free meals, so you'll always get what you want. Sun Basket delivery is available in 36 states, and Sun Basket shipments arrive on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. For three Sun Basket meals each week, you'll pay $74.93 for the two-person plan (or $11.99 per serving) and $143.87 for the four-person plan ($10.99 per serving), with a $5.99 shipping fee either way.
Subscription: For three Sun Basket meals each week, you'll pay $74.93 for the two-person plan (or the $11.99 price per serving) and $143.87 for the four-person Sun Basket plan ($10.99 per serving), with a $5.99 shipping fee either way.
At just $4.99 per serving and with an emphasis on delicious, hearty meal options and generous portion sizes, EveryPlate is the best plan for those whose journey into meal kit delivery is based on affordability. It keeps its overhead low by offering eight easy recipes to choose from weekly, which does mostly exclude vegetarians and those on special diets, but the eight available meals are full of variety and flavor otherwise. Get 18 meals for only $3.33 each, free shipping on your first order, plus the ability to skip or cancel anytime.
Subscription: Each serving is only $4.99. Each weekly box includes three recipes with either two or four servings apiece.
Dinnerly rolls out some pretty exciting-sounding and delicious meals such as summery chicken panzanella and risotto with asparagus and cannellini beans. But with no more than six ingredients per recipe, the damage done to your time and kitchen is minimized. Along with not overwhelming you with myriad ingredients and multiple steps, the price tag for Dinnerly puts it squarely in the budget-friendly category, clocking in with a cost per serving of around $5.
Subscription: The options include a Two-Person Box for $30, or a Family Box for $60, each with three recipes for the week.
Gobble takes the template from the old guard of meal delivery kits but speeds it up by prechopping and part-cooking many of the components so that all recipes have a prep time of 15 minutes or less. Despite the "fast food" angle, each menu has a sophisticated and worldly vibe. Weekly recipe choices are cleverly categorized into From the Range, From the Ranch, From the Sea and From the Earth options.
Subscription: Options range from $11.99 to $13.99 per serving, with options for two to four servings of two or three (or more!) recipes.
A few of these services provide fully cooked prepared meals to your doorstep, and Freshly is a good one if you desire wholesome, tasty comfort foods such as peppercorn steak, penne bolognese or chicken and rice pilaf. Meals are prepared right before delivery and are never frozen. With minimal reheating required by you, it's like having Mom cook dinner for you in your kitchen, without having Mom live with you. (Sorry, Mom.)
Subscription: $8.99 to $12.50 per serving, with up to 12 servings per week. Shipping is free.
Blue Apron is largely accepted to be the granddad of meal kit delivery programs in the US. The eight menu choices available weekly range from simple pastas to delicious international options, with a seafood and vegetarian option always available. Even the simplest recipes might include an unfamiliar component or two, and the website often highlights these ingredients as an educational opportunity. Recipes are tagged with helpful keywords such as "customer favorite," "quick and easy," "great for grilling" and so on. Occasional promotions include a menu from guest celebrity chefs, or recipes that highlight popular travel destinations. An optional wine pairing service is also offered.
Subscription: Price per serving ranges from $7.49 to $9.99, with options to prepare two to four recipes per week and two or four servings per recipe.
We like Green Chef for its versatility in the different specific diet plans available. Green Chef offers paleo, keto, pescatarian, vegan, and vegetarian options as well as gluten-free meals. No matter which diet you're following (for health or personal reasons) you'll be able to find a Green Chef plan that works for you. Because it offers so many different diet plan choices, this also makes Green Chef one of the most versatile meal kit delivery services since you get a plethora of different tasty menu options per week.
Subscription: $12.99-$11.99 per serving for a two-person Green Chef subscription at three meals/week; $10.99 per serving for a four-person Green Chef subscription at two meals/week.
HelloFresh helpfully tags each recipe accordingly, whether you are allergic to (or avoiding) dairy, gluten, soy, nuts and so on. Familiarity of ingredients is key, even when applied to dishes from various world cuisines. A Hello Fresh's portion sizes are generous, going with its relatively high cost per serving (up to $10 a person). "dinner to lunch" element is a unique twist that provides the home cook a variation on tonight's dinner to serve as a tasty portable lunch tomorrow.
Subscription: Options range from $8.74 to $9.99 per serving, with options for two to four recipes per week and two or four servings per recipe, customizable along Classic, Veggie and Family plans.
Read more: The best meal kits tested on Chowhound ||
Originally published earlier this year.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.