It is extremely easy to hate on the idea of meal delivery services, and pretty fun, too. A meal kit is a cardboard box full of ingredients shipped to your door with instructions on how to turn those ingredients into a meal. They’re a perfect vessel for making lazy riffs about startups, millennials, people who can’t cook, and Instagram ads. So many Instagram ads.
People who regularly cook are flabbergasted that someone would pay a premium to avoid going to the grocery store. People who regularly order delivery think paying for a box of uncooked ingredients is like paying to be given homework. But in reality, meal delivery services are a pretty solid option to keep in your home-eating repertoire, especially during a pandemic when we’re all minimizing our trips to the grocery store. Among the dozens of competitors, there will probably be one that you’ll like. Some meal kits are built for the experienced cook, teaching new recipes and skills. Some are built for feeding families, delivering simple meals for those nights when there is no time for Beef Wellington but you had Domino’s the night before. And some meal kits are built to ween you off your Postmates habit with what are essentially culinary training wheels. No matter how you’re looking to cook, there’s an option worth trying.
Between my editor and I, we tested dozens of meal kits. He’s a semi-regular cook. I am an irregular one. My kitchen skills are average, my attention span mediocre, my interest in chicken tenders high. But we shared many favorites. The best meal kits had lots of tasty-looking recipes and fresh ingredients. That’s a given. Meal delivery services are an experience, and so the very best ones also do a good job of making the entire process go smoothly—from planning online to unpacking to making recipes that actually made sense.
It can be a little disorienting wading through all of the options. Thankfully, all of the startups will happily hand you some of their venture capital money to experiment in your own kitchen. Every company will give you a discount on your first meal kit, praying that you will either be enraptured by their food or, like a good millennial, too lazy to unsubscribe afterward. But with all of these introductory discounts, you can test all of our favorites below pretty easily.
And you should. Below, our favorite meal kit for every type of cook.
The Best Standard Meal Kit
$60.00, Blue Apron
Blue Apron is one of the original meal kit companies, and against all of their knockoffs, they still are the baseline for a good meal kit. The ingredients are fresh, the recipes are smart, and there are enough options to satisfy most people. If we were to recommend one meal kit to someone and we knew nothing about their experience and fussiness level, we’d recommend Blue Apron.
You can think of Blue Apron as the start of your journey. Start here, and you’ll soon have much to judge the others off of. The entire process feels more thoughtful than most of the others. Your recipe options vary from easy to complex, and you can plan your meals and deliveries using the site pretty easily. The recipe cards are clear and useful, and the corresponding app is also nice, too. And, since all the recipes are listed on there, this kit is one of the best options for learning new recipes and then later recreating them on your own. The recipes lean on the simple side, but not always—a recent week offered a feta & olive pizza, tempura zucchini bao, and crispy chicken and potato salad.
Where other meal kits often feel like someone just went to the grocery store for you, the Blue Apron kits are a bit more color-by-numbers. Things like spices, honey, and vinegar come in nice Blue Apron bottles and tear-off packets that feel made for the recipe; other meal kits often cobble together these things in odd looking plastic vials or waste food by giving you more than you need. The vegetarian recipes are somewhat limited, better for someone who occasionally goes meatless rather than someone who is vegetarian. (For that, we suggest Purple Carrot.)
Overall, Blue Apron feels the most polished and makes the cooking process less confusing than anywhere else. Whether you’re a knife neophyte or a curious cook, here’s where you start.
Price: The “Signature Plan” gets you 3 recipes for two people each week for $59.94.
The Best Slightly Elevated Meal Kit
$72.00, Sun Basket
Sun Basket’s meals cost a little more than average, but in return, you get some of the best quality ingredients available—and all organic, too. You can think of it as the slightly fancier alternative. You’re not necessarily saving that much money, but in return you get great ingredients and tons of menu options.
The menu can be organized by diet and preference, which is super nice. Their list of plans is vast and makes picking recipes much easier for those who stick to a specific diet. There’s a plan for paleo, “Carb-Conscious,” vegan, gluten-free, pescatarian, vegetarian, you name it. And there are also plans that just help you find something that works for you. “Quick & Easy” makes sense for beginners or the convenience-driven, whereas “Chef’s Choice” features premium meals that are perfectly suited for foodies who want their meals a little more sophisticated than chicken and pasta. Some recent Chef’s Choice offerings: Moroccan lamb tagine, seared tuna with kiwi-avocado salad, and a chickpea paella. Dang.
Overall, Sun Basket is great for anyone who wants a slightly nicer experience and is willing to pay for it. More seasonal recipes, more high-quality meat, and plenty of house-made sauces that are tasty and require absolutely zero from you to make.
Price: The Classic Menu gets you 3 recipes a week for two people each week for $71.94.
Another Solid Standard Meal Kit Option
$61.00, Home Chef
Home Chef, like Blue Apron, delivers the baseline meal kit experience—and that’s a good thing. The recipes vary in length and complexity, so you can have an interesting cooking experience when you want to and a super easy one when you just want to stuff some food in your children’s mouths. Their “Home Chef Express” options all take 10-15 minutes, and some are even quicker: the Carolina BBQ chicken comes ready to put in the oven, pan and all. Just plop the chicken and cheese on top of the broccoli, and you’re good to go. Also in the mix: Greek spinach and feta chicken, fajita-butter strip steak, and a French onion steak risotto. With all of the different options in prep time and cost (the strip steak was $14.95/serving), it actually feels like you have a lot of control week-to-week. Some weeks you’ll want to take it easy, but there are still fancier recipes and dishes for when you want to learn something new.
The recipes below each option are super clear, so you can look ahead to see if you actually know how to do everything in the recipe (hey, you gotta push yourself to get better). You can actually customize each kit to pick your preferred meat, which makes picking recipes for picky eaters way easier.
The extras are great too. You can add chicken breasts and burgers for the weekend grill session, smoothies, and lunches that you just have to reheat or mix. If you’re trying to avoid going to the grocery store, that goes a long way.
Price: Each Home Chef serving costs about $9. A box under $50 costs $14 to ship, while a box above that threshold costs $7. So if you were trying to get 3 meals a week with two servings each, like the kits above, it would cost about $61.
The Best Meal Kit for Delivery and Takeout Converts
If you want to feel like a television chef, there’s nothing better than Gobble. Gobble does as much of the work for you as they can, promising that all of their recipes can be made in 15 minutes or less. They do the “peeling, chopping & marinating,” leaving you to throw things in bowls, cook things, and tell made-up stories about your childhood that led you to this recipe. (Hey, no one said you have to tell your friends all of this stuff came in a box before they arrived.)
Many of the recipes are simple, but tasty. And while the easy prep times suggest less complex dishes, they usually got around this with pre-made sauces or spices that helped. A spectrum of a recent week’s offerings: red curry, baby back ribs, New York steak with potatoes and green beans. While the shorter cook times were obviously convenient, they usually meant that the recipes could be made with just a single pan; other meal kits leave lots of cleaning in their wake. You pay a bit extra for this prepping convenience, but you’re already doing the whole convenience thing with meal kits anyway. Might as well go all-in.
This meal kit is perfect for those who shudder at the thought of spending a whole hour preparing their meal, and the recipes are stress-free. Also great: their lunch kit, which allows you to batch cook six healthy lunches on Sunday all at once. Again, no one said you have to tell your coworkers you didn’t whip these up each morning.
Price: The “3 Nights, 2 People” plan gets you 3 recipes for two people each week for $71.94, plus $6.99 for shipping.
The Best Meal Kit for Vegetarians and the Performance-Focused
$72.00, Purple Carrot
A lot of the meal kits have similar, crowd-pleasing recipes—American classics, recipes of other cuisines that are varying degrees of authentic, and, like, three vegetarian dishes that appear to just be regular recipes where they removed the meat and called it a day. Purple Carrot gives you a true assortment of vegetarian options, and with fresh ingredients that will be up to snuff for even the fussiest of farmer’s market attendees. (Okay, there’s no pleasing them. But for everyone else.) There was a loaded kale caesar in a recent menu, but also sesame orange udon and a carrot pesto cavatappi recipes.
Purple Carrot offers plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, but they also have TB12 “performance meals”, which are plant-based, gluten-free recipes that are imbued with the spirit of Tom Brady’s TB12 nutritional guidelines. (If you’re curious about what that might mean, here’s a totally normal conversation I had with him three years ago about his $200 cookbook.
They have serving sizes of 2 or 6, which is also nice, because most max out at 4. You can also add extras, like salads, avocado smoothies, and whatever “golden milk chia pudding” is. They’re meant to be used as breakfasts or lunches, but they seem like they’d be equally useful as appetizers or snacks throughout the week.
Price: Its “2 Serving Plan” gets you 3 recipes a week for two people at $11.99 per serving, or $71.94.
The Best “Oh Shit, I Actually Don’t Want to Cook” Meal Kit
Freshly isn’t really a meal kit—it’s more like a fancy microwaveable dinner. There’s no prep. Each meal comes in its own plastic container, ready for you to microwave and eat. It’s like a slightly fancier, slightly fresher version of a meal you’d be served in a first class cabin of a transatlantic flight.
While you’re paying a bit for the convenience, this actually worked out great as a lunch or easy dinner option. If I didn’t live in a city where takeout options are vast and tasty, it would be even better. The food is pretty fresh, and the dishes are a little more interesting than you usually get in the freezer aisle. They come in individual servings. The microwaving instructions are incredibly accurate (no burned tongues!). Table for one, please.
Price: Freshly is priced by each individual meal—$11.50/meal for 4, but $8.99 for 6 or 9, and $7.99 for 12.
Six Other Meal Kits You Should Consider
Fresh n’ Lean
Fresh n’ Lean
$67.00, Fresh n’ Lean
Fresh n’ Lean is a meal service for time-starved people on pretty restricted diets. It offers five different plans, all of which are gluten- and dairy-free, tailored to different dietary needs. Its base plan is Vegan, with menu items like chipotle lime cauliflower and yellow curry vegetables. The company also offers slightly more expensive plans with premium proteins or that allow you to stick to a strictly keto or paleo diet.
Price: The vegan standard plan costs about $9 per meal, while the “Protein +”, Keto, and Paleo plans cost between $12-$13 per meal.
$240.00, Sakara Life
This is a meal plan for the Goop-crowd. 100 percent of the meals are plant-based and promise a litany of health benefits, including boosted energy, improved digestion, reduced bloat, and better skin. There are a few different programs to choose from, most tailored towards detoxing, and even one designed specifically for people preparing for their weddings. That might not seem like your thing until you see the sample menu. One day includes lemon poppy seed donuts and two delicious salads. If that’s what detoxing looks like, sign us up.
Price: A subscription to the company’s signature program costs $70 per day for 5 days worth of food per week.
$8.00, Daily Harvest
Daily Harvest’s meal kit delivery service doesn’t really deliver meal kits. Instead, you’ll get a selection of frozen smoothies, oats, bites, soups, lattes, harvest bowls, and more, all in a convenient-to-heat container. You will need to have a good blender to get the most value out of your subscription, but you don’t have to know how to dice an onion.
Price: Each of the company’s oat and chia bowls are $6. Smoothies, soups, bites, and lattes are $8. The harvest bowls, flatbreads, and ice cream scoops are $9. You have to buy at least 9 items, but you can save a bit of money if you buy over 14 items at a time.
Veestro’s vegan, preservative-free meals arrive frozen and are best prepared in an oven or skillet. The meals span a bunch of different cuisines, including Turkish meatballs, Thai curries, and shawarma. The aim is to provide people with three meals a day for under 1,200 calories total (ish).
Price: Veestro offers two ways to purchase its meals. The first is a la carte, in a massive box of 10-30 meals. Your total price will depend on how many meals you order and which meals you choose, but at minimum, you’ll pay $130 for 10 meals, $240 for 20 meals, and $330 for 30 meals, plus shipping. If you subscribe to bi-weekly deliveries of your a la carte box, or the company’s “Chef’s Choice” plan, you’ll save 10% and get free shipping. The company also offers a “Weigh Loss” subscription, which allows you to pay $176 for 5 days of curated meals or $227 for 7 days of meals.
$70.00, Snap Kitchen
Snap Kitchen’s offerings go beyond fresh meals. They also do snacks and drinks. The meals include offerings like bison quinoa hash and chicken butternut macaroni. The snacks are bit more expected: banana plantain chips, RX bars, HU Kitchen dark chocolate, etc. You can choose from different plans including high protein, keto-friendly, vegetarian, or “balanced” diets. Each plan also comes at a sliding scale calorie count from 1,200 to 1,800 calories. The brand also has locations in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, and San Antonio where customers can pick up orders in person.
Price: The company’s 6 meal per week plan costs $70, which nets out to about $12 per meal. The company’s 12 meal per week plan costs $115 per week, which nets out to about $10 per meal.
$22.00, Territory Foods
Here’s a meal kit delivery service for the gym rats. Territory labels each food item with all of the caloric and macro content, making it ideal for people who are into obsessively counting that kind of stuff. You can pick up your meals at one of their partner facilities (think a local CrossFit gym), or get it delivered to your door.
Price: With shipping and an introductory free meal, the company’s 10 meal plan costs about $150, which is about $15 per meal. The company’s 18 meal plan costs about $223, which is about $12 per meal.
Originally Appeared on GQ