This is the first of a three-part series examining how to reduce your dependence on grocery shopping. In this part, discover which meal kit service is right for you, your family, and the way you cook.
Make 2017 the year that you get out of the grocery store and into the kitchen. Today, a veritable plethora of services offer ways to have groceries delivered right to your door, from grocery delivery services to ready made meal delivery. Halfway between the two is the growing world of meal kits.
Meal kit services allow you to choose meals that you'd like to prepare from a selection of recipes curated by the service itself. You then receive a box of ingredients, and all you have to do is follow the steps, and dinner is served.
Different services use different amounts of packaging to deliver these ingredients to you. Some package each individual ingredient separately, while others take care to reduce the amount of packaging as much as possible. Either way, it's a trade-off: you may end up putting a bit more into your recycling containers each week, but you're not going to toss that bag of salad you forgot at the bottom of your crisper drawer until it was too late (or make another round-trip grocery store run in the car because you forgot to buy parsley).
These ten meal kit services each approach this modern grocery shopping solution in different ways -- choose your favorite, and get cooking.
With a culinary team led by Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Elana Karp, Plated's flexible service offers choices from 11 rotating meals per week, including gluten-free, low-calorie, and vegetarian recipes, and anywhere from two to seven nights of meals. You can change your delivery day whenever you like, opt in or out of dessert, and even cancel the service entirely for a week or two.
Starts at $12 per plate (two-person, two-night minimum, $6 shipping)
This service is (almost!) available nationwide: if you live in the continental U.S., you can probably use Plated, unless you live in a few cities in Texas that Plated does not yet ship to.
Couples or small families (max 4 servings per recipes) who love good food (and have a sweet tooth!) will love this service.
“Plated is for people who want something more out of their dinner experience, from selecting a recipe that excites them to getting the ingredients delivered to their doorstep to create and share a great meal,” explains Plated PR Director Liz Marsh.
Quinoa and Burrata Bowl with Arugula, Roasted Carrots, and Blood Orange
Spaghetti Squash Amatriciana
Peanut Butter Marble Brownies
Chef’d markets itself as the “first and only online meal marketplace,” featuring more than 300 recipes created by world-class chefs like Ben Vaughn and Melissa d’Arabian that are easy enough to follow no matter your skill level in the kitchen.
“One of our core beliefs is that everyone is different and everyone is cooking for a different reason,” says Chef’d rep Gerri Shane. “We have meals for a beginner cooking for his girlfriend. Or a mom cooking for her family. We have something for everyone.”
Starts at $5 per plate (two-person minimum, shipping not included on orders under $40)
Anywhere in the continental United States.
Chef’d is particularly well-suited to beginners. With pre-measured ingredients and video tips and techniques featured on the Chef’d website, this service will make people who are less confident in the kitchen feel like pros.
Because there’s no minimum order or subscription required, you can choose Chef’d just for special occasions and not feel obligated to order meals every week.
Beef Bourguignon with Mashed Potatoes and Herbed Green Beans
Scallops and Apple Gastrique
3. Sun Basket
Sun Basket is a service focused on healthful, sustainable, high-quality ingredients. Certified organic and non-GMO products are this company’s MO, and meat and seafood are sourced sustainably “to the greatest degree possible,” according to the company, from producers like FishPeople, a leader in long-line fishery.
Sun Basket recipes are developed by Executive Chef Justine Kelly, formerly of the James Beard Award-winning restaurant The Slanted Door, in cooperation with in-house nutritionist, Kaley Todd, to create specific paleo, vegetarian, and gluten-free meal plans, though consumers can choose any recipe they like each week.
Starts at $11.49 per plate (two-person, three-night minimum, $5.99 delivery)
34 states; enter your zip code here to see if they deliver to you.
Sun Basket is the ideal service for the conscious consumer who wants to eat well without spending too much time menu planning, particularly someone who has chosen a specific eating style, such as paleo.
Gingered Turkey Meatballs in Lemongrass Broth
Roasted Pork Chops with Sweet Potato Hash and Cilantro Pesto
Mango-Turmeric Smoothie with Ginger
4. Purple Carrot
Purple Carrot Founder and CEO Andy Levitt started this plant-based meal kit company in 2014, shifting his focus from his long-time pharmaceutical career to the concept of "food-as-medicine," he says.
Purple Carrot's goal is to make plant-based eating delicious and nutritious, with innovative, internationally-inspired recipes.
While Purple Carrot has fewer choices than some other meal kit services, with just three meals on offer every week, if you're not feeling inspired, it’s easy to pause or skip the service for a week or two and come back later.
Starts at $11.33 a plate (two-person, three-meal minimum)
Purple Carrot ships anywhere in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and on the West Coast, with select service in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
Purple Carrot is the perfect service for anyone interested in pursuing a plant-based lifestyle.
“Purple Carrot empowers people who want to consciously and easily integrate plant-based eating into their life — while not completely giving up meat, fish and dairy — and become a Balancetarian,” explains Levitt.
That said, life-long vegans and vegetarians will get great inspiration from this service too.
Southwestern Black Bean Burger with Curtido Slaw and Chipotle Aioli
Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo with Crispy Sage and Broccoli Rabe
Kimchi Quesadilla with Togarashi Sweet Potato Fries and Meyer Lemon Aioli
5. Terra’s Kitchen
Terra’s Kitchen is all about making healthful eating super simple, with pre-prepped ingredients that are ready to cook.
Keeping true to the Terra in its name, this service not only chooses products that go “above and beyond the norm of what’s required in the regulatory world,” according to CEO Mike McDevitt, but it also ships in a special container called “the Vessel” -- a mini-fridge of sorts that is shipped back to the company, cutting down quite a bit on the packaging waste that many similar services grapple with.
“We're kind of like a modern-day milkman,” says McDevitt, who says that one Vessel is used "hundreds of times."
Starts at $9.99 per plate (two-person, three-dinner minimum).
Most of the continental United States, except some parts of Texas and the Dakotas.
An ideal Terra’s Kitchen consumer, says McDevitt, is looking above all for convenience.
“Having everything pre-cut, pre chopped, doing that sous-chef work, we've pretty much taken out the most complicated areas,” he says. “We're more about the dining experience than we are the cooking experience.”
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In fact, the cooking experience with Terra's Kitchen will only take 25 minutes, on average.
Sweet Potato Tacos
Seared Lamb with Chickpea and Cucumber Salad
Ball Hawk Sliders
6. Out of the Box Collective
Out of the Box Collective is not a typical meal kit, but more of an inspiration for foodies: subscribers receive curated box of seasonal, artisan items with suggested recipes, as well as the option to add even more items from an online shop.
“If you do a Venn diagram, we are a little bit of an overlap of your farm box with a meal kit with a sort of online farmer's market,” says founder Jennifer Piette.
Starts at $14.25 per plate (vegetarian option, two-person, two-night minimum).
The box service is available exclusively in Southern California, from San Diego to Santa Barbara. An online pantry service is available nationally.
This service is for confident cooks who want great products delivered right to their door. Unlike other services, the Collective doesn’t send small amounts of ingredients measured perfectly for a recipe, and in fact, while recipe ideas are included, users are encouraged to use their ingredients in other ways.
“I want people to go off-road, because really it's about confidence, and those ingredients will work together in one form or another,” says Piette.
Fried Chicken with Broccoli and Potato Salad
Spanish-Style Tuna and Potato Salad
Hyper-local Quinciple was born of the union between a curated CSA company founded by a former Spotted Pig forager and an online specialty food market known as Farm to People. The result is a meal kit company that is a bit more flexible than most, shipping boxes of great local ingredients (and recipe suggestions) all over NYC.
Michael Robinov, one of the founders of Farm to People, notes that only half of Quinciple customers use the included recipes every week; users often share their own dishes with Quinciple and other subscribers on Instagram.
This is not a one-stop-shopping experience. While unique or rare ingredients for suggested recipes are included, a stocked pantry is a must.
“We'd rather give you, like, a watermelon radish, an extra piece of really nice cheese," explains Robinov. "We want to give you something that we know you don’t have."
Starts at $12.25 per plate (vegetarian option, two-person, two-meal minimum).
This hyper-local service is only available in New York.
The service is designed as a “next step” meal kit option, ideal for those who seek a bit more freedom than traditional meal kits offer -- and who aren't looking for everything needed for a recipe to be in one box.
Glazed Mushrooms over Bok Choy
Scallion Pork Stuffed Cabbage
Cod en Papillotte
8. Home Chef
Home Chef's 13 weekly meals may seem a bit more familiar than recipes you'll find with other meal kit services.
“Whereas some of our competitors are offering more exposure to new cuisines that you've never really tried before, we're really focused on giving out customers recipes that they're familiar with, but just making it easier for them to cook those recipes,” explains chief revenue officer Rich DeNardis.
Starts at $9.95 per plate (two-person, two-meal minimum, free shipping for three or more meals).
Home Chef is available in most areas of the continental United States, with a few exceptions in some areas of Maine, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Idaho, Northern California, Oregon, and New Mexico.
Beginners who crave the flavors of home-cooked, continental fare will love Home Chef. Recipes are designed to be quick and easy to make, notes DeNardis.
“I'm not much of a cook myself, and one of the reasons I joined the company is that I cooked the meals, and was able to make them myself,” he says.
Crispy Dijon Chicken with Parmesan Cauliflower Mash and Roasted Green Beans
Parisian Bistro Steak with Dauphinoise Potatoes and Green Beans
Parsley-Pistachio Fettuccine with Roasted Red Peppers, Spinach, and Baguette
PeachDish is a service for conscious foodies led by an organic farmer: president Judith Winfrey.
“We are food and agriculture people at the core,” she says.
Quality ingredients and transparency are on the menu, with a letter from Winfrey in each box indicating the farms that contributed to each recipe. Produce is local whenever possible, and if it's on the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list, you can bet it'll be certified organic.
Starts at $12 per plate (two-person minimum, $45 minimum to order).
Continental United States
PeachDish is ideal for those who are interested in transparency and high-quality ingredients. The service makes farmer profiles easily available on the website, so consumers can see who produced their food.
PeachDish is also an excellent service for people who want to feed a crowd, with up to twelve servings in every box and special kits for events like Game Day.
Beef Tenderloin with Demi-Glace, Roasted New Potatoes, and Heirloom Beans
Chef Todd Richards’ Coffee-Rubbed Wings with Sriracha Dipping Sauce
Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding
10. Blue Apron
Blue Apron’s name is the key to understanding its philosophy: this company seeks to turn everyone, no matter their skill level in the kitchen, into a chef.
“Chefs around the world wear blue aprons when learning to cook, and the blue apron has become a symbol of lifelong learning in cooking,” explains the team. “We encourage this lifelong learning by introducing customers to new ingredients, flavors and cooking techniques with every recipe we create.”
Blue Apron is a very flexible option with loads of choice, no matter a user's dietary restrictions or preferences, that has the added benefit of being less expensive than many competitors.
Starts at $9.99 per plate (two-person, three-meal minimum)
Continental United States
Blue Apron is perfect for people looking to eat seasonally who crave variety.
The company’s culinary team creates and tests ten new recipes a week (no repeats for a year!) based on seasonal ingredients sourced directly from sustainable, family-run farms regional to its distribution centers in New Jersey, Texas, and California.
Cheesy Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas with Salsa Verde
Sunchoke and Egg Noodle Casserole
Potato and Broccolini Samosas
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