By some estimates, meal kit services are a $2.2 billion industry. Head to your favorite social media site, and you’ll see plenty of advertisements for Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Plated, and various other services, which got us wondering: What’s the difference?
Most meal delivery kits use the same basic approach: You pay money, choose your recipes, and receive a big box of refrigerated foodstuffs every week. All the ingredients are pre-portioned, so all you have to do is follow the recipes.
However, there are some significant differences between the most popular options, and if you’re looking to improve your diet or expand your palate, you certainly need to understand those differences. We tried a few of them out. Here’s what we found.
Unquestionably the biggest and most well-known of the meal delivery services, Blue Apron provides chef-prepared recipes with unusual ingredients. In recent months, they’ve courted high-profile celebrities to promote their service (when we signed up, we could choose from a few Chrissy Teigen–approved meals).
They’ve also expanded their selection significantly. Instead of being locked into a few recipes, users can choose from a variety of dishes, including vegetarian options. We still prefer HelloFresh’s variety, but the best Blue Apron recipes are absolutely incredible.
Blue Apron also provides excellent video tutorials, so if you’re completely new to cooking, their service might have a slightly smaller learning curve. However, we’ve got to dock some points for packaging. Blue Apron sends individual packets of sugar, butter, and other essentials, which seems wasteful. The good news is that everything’s recyclable, but even so, we found ourselves dreading trash day.
Price: On average, $9.99 per serving. The family plan is a slightly less expensive $8.74 per serving.
Blue Apron’s best meals are fantastic, but while their options have expanded significantly over the last year, they’ve still got some work to do to catch up to HelloFresh.
How’s this for common sense: HelloFresh doesn’t send you individually packaged tablespoons of butter, sugar, or oil. Hey, you’re an adult with a kitchen—you already have those essentials, don’t you? That helps cut down on the packaging significantly, addressing one of our big concerns with Blue Apron.
We also loved HelloFresh’s selection. We often cook for friends with dietary restrictions, and HelloFresh allowed us to easily avoid foods with gluten, eggs, nuts, or shellfish. The service also offers a Fit option for any plan, which is ideal for calorie counters.
Price: $9.99 per serving under the classic and veggie plans and $8.74 per serving under the family plan. HelloFresh is clearly priced to compete, and given its advantages in packaging and selection, it’s our favorite of the services we tested. Try it here.
If you’re tracking macros, Plated is pretty fantastic. The company focuses on providing information, and they’re pretty good at it; each meal has detailed nutrition facts presented in a clear, simple way. Thanks to a steady supply of fresh, seasonal ingredients, Plated’s food is delicious, although we give a slight edge to Blue Apron in this department.
Depending on why you’re ordering a meal delivery service, you might appreciate Plated’s simplified ordering process, but it wasn’t for us. You sign up, then choose from about 20 recipes per week. You can’t simply declare yourself a vegetarian or vegan, however—you have to manually select the recipes, which can get a bit annoying over time.
The good news is that the service makes up for that minor inconvenience with other options. You can cook with Plated every night if you’d like, and if you’re a mediocre cook, you can use the service’s difficulty ratings to tailor your menu to your abilities.
Price: If you order at least three servings per night, you’ll pay $9.95 per serving. However, unlike the other services we reviewed, shipping isn’t free unless you spend at least $60 per week on the plan—you’ll pay a whopping $7.95 for shipping.
If you’re ordering a large number of meals, Plated is actually cheaper. However, for small families and couples, we’d recommend trying one of the other services first.
The bottom line: Know why you’re ordering a meal delivery service.
We loved HelloFresh for its awesome selection and responsible packaging, but each service had some advantages. Blue Apron is arguably the most adventurous from a culinary perspective, while Plated has some serious flexibility.
With that said, we didn’t notice a drastic difference in food quality between the services. We’re just thankful that we haven’t brought home takeout for the last several weeks. If you’re in the same boat, we’d recommend jumping in for a few weeks. Worst-case scenario, you’ll eat some nice foods at a nice price.