Nutrition: A review of meal subscriptions
NUTRITION CORNER: Taking a Look at Meal Subscriptions
By Christy Goff, MS, RDN, CD
Many of us have been doing a lot more cooking recently. And while this can be great for expanding our recipe repertoire and learning new techniques … sometimes it nice to have some shortcuts. Here, we explore one such option: meal subscription boxes or kits.
In general, meal subscriptions are pricier options for meal planning. But they save you time by taking planning, shopping and meal prep decisions out of the equation.
Some meal kits have lengthy steps, while others keep things simple; some give more choices for proteins, while others offer savings through coupon and first-timer deals. Meal subscriptions generally help alleviate food waste, and many programs say their kits come with less packaging than the supermarket.
Let’s review some of the pros and cons of several popular services. Please note that PacMed is not affiliated with any of these companies, and this review is done on an individual basis.
Blue Apron delivers food boxes, and you cook the meals yourself. The company tends to have less selection of meals, plus limited flexibility if you don’t opt into a continuous delivery subscription. Some reviewers have said that while Blue Apron provides tasty meals, they often require a lot of steps.
Variety of food: Familiar ingredients used in a new way. Several protein selections as well as vegetarian and Mediterranean options. Wine pairings are available with specific dishes.
Cost: Subscriptions run $7.49–$9.99 per serving or start at $47.99 per week, depending on the plan and shipping costs.
Hello Fresh delivers ingredients to your door, and you prepare the meals following the easy directions. You pick the dishes from the company’s chef-curated list and schedule convenient delivery times. You have some flexibility with the number of boxes you choose to purchase. Many people are pleased with this service when interviewed.
Variety of food: Mostly crowd-pleasing classics that are time efficient. Hello Fresh caters to vegetarian diets, as well as low-calorie and family-friendly packages. It’s easy to add additional protein/veggies to these meals.
Cost: $9.99 per serving, plus shipping in some plans. (It often promotes coupons for additional meals.)
Freshly delivers cooked meals. You choose your meals from a rotating menu and a variety of cuisine preferences. Reheat meals lightly and enjoy! This is the easiest of kits if you are looking to save time.
Variety of food: Good variety of options, including diets such as vegetarian, gluten-free, peanut-free and dairy-free. No prep time; just heat and eat.
Cost: Choose from 4-12 meals per week, ranging from $50/week for 4 meals to $108/week for 12 meals. Free shipping.
Green chef prides itself on using only sustainable and organic ingredients, making this kit a bit more expensive. It delivers ingredients and meal instructions, which you follow to put together the meal.
Variety of food: Twists on classic meals as well as globally inspired ideas. Green Chef caters to vegetarian, vegan, ketogenic and paleo. Its gluten-free menu is certified gluten-free, meaning diners following this strict diet can have confidence in this service.
Cost: $11.49–$12.99 per meal. Occasional shipping costs, but coupons often available.
With this vegan meal kit, you make meals using pre-packaged ingredients and recipe cards. Although many kits are vegan/vegetarian friendly, this is also a great option for those moving toward a vegetarian or vegan diet to gain more variety and skills in vegan cooking.
Variety of food: Variety of food: Offers worldly cuisine options and easy-to-follow cooking instructions for plant-based meals, such as tofu and tempeh. Purple Carrot rotates its menu items often.
Cost: Around $12 per serving plus shipping.
The number of businesses offering meal kits grows each month—check out Gobble, Home Chef and Sun Basket! These popular kits can lead to healthier eating if you stay with the provided portion sizes. Before signing up, look for coupons, know your budget and check to see if contracts will auto-renew. To save money in the future, consider keeping recipes from your meal kits and using them in your own meal planning and grocery shopping endeavors.
Happy cooking and eating!