5 Things to Look for in a Meal Kit Delivery Service
We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.
If you’ve done a Google search lately for meal kits, you may have been surprised by the results – we were when we started researching this category! Sure, you know of the big names like HelloFresh, Blue Apron and Plated (so did we). But, we were surprised to find that there were tons more out there. And, dare we say it, some better than the big names.
While you could go with the tried and true, there is a way to narrow down the choices of meal kits out there and find the one that is right for you. Why? Because not all of these services offer the same types of meals, recipes, or even flare. Some offer gluten-free, while others don’t. Some offer cheap prices, but cheap quality ingredients too. So, if you want to find the best meal kit delivery service for YOU, we suggest taking a gander at these five things first.
Quality of Ingredients
This is a biggie. While these companies claim you’re paying less to use them than the grocery store, the fact is the quality of ingredients plays a critical role in how much you’re really “saving.” When we ordered these kits and tested them ourselves, we were surprised to find that some of these companies (including the big names), didn’t have as fresh of ingredients as they advertised.
To make sure you’re actually getting fresh, quality ingredients, we recommend:
- Finding out where they source them from. A good sign is when the company lists their suppliers on their website – like Green Chef. You can see where they get everything from dairy to produce to meat. When companies work exclusively with the same suppliers, that means ingredients will be consistent.
- Organic…if you’re into that. If you are strictly organic, then do not mistake the words “fresh” for “organic.” There are plenty of companies out there that advertise “freshest produce,” but these aren’t organic. Instead, make sure they are offering up USDA certified organic, like Terra’s Kitchen, Sun Basket or Green Chef. If you don’t care so much about organic, then no worry here.
- Good meat selection practices. Meets are rather critical here. You don’t want some chuck beef with nothing but gristle showing up at your door. Take a look at the information about where they get their meats, the type of meats they use, etc. Preferably sustainable and local – even better would be grass-fed. HelloFresh has some excellent quality meats and even Gobble delivered some killer filet mignon for one of my dishes.
Uniqueness of Recipes
If you can find it in your cookbook at home, what are you paying for exactly?
Recipes should be unique here and fun to prepare. It shouldn’t be a run-of-the-mill recipe – you can do that yourself and for cheaper I’m sure. If they’re serving up a “classic”, make sure that company is offering a twist on that classic – such as taking a meaty dish into vegetarian and making it hearty or adding an excotic flare to an American classic.
For a jumping off point, check out our list of the Meal Kits with the Most Interesting Recipes and Flavors.
Cooking Skill Required – And What They Teach You
Most home dinner kits advertise as novice-friendly. Which is great. You want something simple and not overly complicated. But, you do want to learn something here too. Some of these companies are better than others at actually teaching you. Some will even tell you the French culinary term (bonus) or specifically how to make a certain cut – or cut a mango the proper way (which isn’t as easy as you think….and you may be surprised to find out you’ve been doing that one wrong).
In my testing, I found that a few really stood out from the crowd with simplifying recipes that could have easily become over complicated – and they actually taught the home cook something. If you want to learn while you cook, I suggest starting with:
Cost Per Serving
Out of all of the meal kits we tested, we found the price per serving ran from $8.75 to over $17 per person. You might feel like fainting when you see the initial numbers – but please don’t. In reality, meal kits aren’t trying to appeal to the budget eaters. Instead, they are focusing on those that like to dine out (or frequent take-out restaurants) and change their habits inward. You are cooking restaurant-style food at home. When you look at it that way, you’re actually saving quite a bit.
So, when comparing the price per serving, you will want to compare how much you would pay for a menu option at a restaurant – not what you could whip up at home. For example, you order from HelloFresh at $8.75 per person. There’s no way you could get that same price at a good restaurant – sometimes even fast food comes out to that price. And, here you are learning new cooking skills, making fresh recipes with herbs that you might have never tried and branching out into something different.
Even when you compare the costs of making the same recipes at home, you might be surprised. These recipes come with perfectly portioned ingredients – so nothing goes to waste. If you compare that to purchasing ingredients for your home use, things are not perfectly measured from the store. You’ll have leftovers and they could go to waste. So, you’re saving there too.
In some cases, the ingredients curated by these meal kits are exceptional – and would kill your budget if you purchased them yourself. But, as a whole, you’ll find the savings more so when you compare to going out to eat.
You can see which meal kits we recommend for budgets, but don’t forget to check out which meal kits we also recommend for best quality – because you get what you pay for with these companies for sure.
If you have special dietary concerns, such as gluten-free, vegetarian or even Paleo, you will find that not all of these services are accommodating to your special dietary needs.
With Paleo, for example, there are plenty of companies that claim you can just omit their ingredients and create your own Paleo, but then what are you paying for? If you want to get your monies worth, I suggest checking out Sun Basket and Green Chef – the only two with dedicated Paleo plans.
Same goes for gluten-free. If you have a true gluten allergy, you cannot risk going with companies that make gluten-free “optional”. For a true gluten-free plan, I suggest Sun Basket, Green Chef, Terra’s Kitchen, Gobble or Plated.
Find the Right Meal Kit Delivery Service for You
If you’re ready to branch out and try something new (and delicious), check out all of our reviews of the meal kit services out there. We’ve personally ordered and tasted each one too – so don’t forget to read our tasting results! Also, check out our Bests lists to see which meal kits fall into the Top 5, best for vegetarian, best for date nights and more.