During the pandemic rather than visit restaurants, I subscribed to six different meal preparation kits. I enjoyed each, and each had their own strengths. Here is how they compare.
Blue Apron is the first kit we tried. Limited customization of meals is available, but there is a lot of variety in the recipes. There are some good ethic selections. Packaging is very good, with the ingredients in separate bags. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. My only nit is that sometimes condensation had soaked the instruction cards. This is an excellent choice, and a moderate price. Let me know if you want a free starter box and I’ll send you one.
Home Chef offers the most flexibility in swapping ingredients. Nearly every meal allows substantial customization of the proteins, including upgrades in quality, change from beef, to chicken, to vegetarian, etc. When fish is part of a recipe it is impressive how fresh it is. We had a bento box that included raw tuna, and it was as good as at any sushi place. Instructions are clear, and the recipes are interesting and varied enough to avoid repetitiveness. They also have options you can simply heat up, although we never tried these. Packaging is very good, with the ingredients in separate bags. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. For overall quality, this is my favorite of the five plans. Here’s a $35 off coupon: https://www.homechef.com/invite/stevea85
Purple Carrot is a vegan meal kit. It has the most ambitious recipes, excellent ethnic options, and a lot of variety. Because a lot of the recipes involve tofu or seitan, neither of which are my favorites, I stuck with the vegetable-only recipes. I really like that instead of instruction cards each week includes a very professionally produced booklet with all of the recipes. Purple Carrot is the only where service where I had delivery issues. They use a company called laser ship which lost my orders a full 20% of the time. This is the most expensive of the five plans. Let me know if you want a free starter box and I’ll send you one.
Every Plate is by far the least expensive of all the meal kits. The downside is that the recipes are quite repetitive. If there are three possible proteins, three possible sauces, three possible carbs, and three possible vegetables, then there are 81 possible combinations, and you tend to see them, over and over. True, there are also some other varients, but it just seemed too mundane. Instructions tend to be very simple. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. This is a good pick if price is your most important consideration. Here’s a $20 off coupon: https://www.everyplate.com/plans?c=ES-3IM7GEVPS&plans_ab=true&utm_campaign=clipboard&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=raf-share-hpt
Hello Fresh offers a lot of different meals each week, and has an excellent selection of vegetarian choices in addition to meat-based ones. Limited customization of meals is available. I really like their recipes. Packaging is very good, with the ingredients in separate bags. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. A good pick in terms of value for the variety. Here’s a $70 off coupon: https://www.hellofresh.com/pages/share?c=HS-58NYSUJ2L&utm_campaign=clipboard&utm_couponvalue=70&utm_invitername=Steve&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=raf-share
Gobble was the last meal kit I tried. It has a good range of menus like Hello Fresh, good customization options like Home Chef, and interesting ethnic meals like Purple Carrot. Gobble’s big advertising point is that meals can be prepared quickly because many elements have been prepped for you. For example, in the Caribbean Vegetable Rondon Stew (pictured at the top of this article) the kohlrabi had already been peeled and diced, and the basmati cilantro rice was already cooked and provided in a sealed pouch. The company claims meals can be prepared in 15 minutes, and I found this close to the truth. I’ve loved all the recipes I’ve gotten from them, and one of the regular fish offerings is barramundi, which I find much better than the tilapia that predominates at some of the other services (photo above). I also like the way Gobble calls out the calories of each item in the kit, in case you want to make substitutions or omit ingredients. Discount link: https://app.gobble.com/referral/G0BgcSNDR
Overall, my choices are:
- Overall: Gobble – great recipes, fast prep, protein options
- Most Customizable: Home Chef – multiple swaps on every protein
- Best Selection: Hello Fresh – also great vegetarian options
- Vegan: Purple Carrot – complex prep, all vegan ingredients
- Cheap: Every Plate – repetitive but easy recipes