Best Meal Kit Delivery Services
Since first writing this review of the best meal kit delivery services, some of the companies I profile below have updated their services or introduced new discounts. Also, this review started with three companies. I’ve now added a fourth and will soon be adding a fifth. Here are some timely updates from each company:
Updates from meal kit delivery services reviewed
- I’ll be adding Blue Apron to this review in the near future. Now that Blue Apron has partnered with Weight Watchers, you’ll be able to get Weight Watchers meals delivered to your door. So, I’m curious to see how revised calorie counts will have changed my opinion of this meal delivery subscription service. When you sign up for Blue Apron, you’ll get $60 off your first three boxes. Even better, if you’re eating vegetarian these days, now you can order Beyond Burgers with your Blue Apron meal kits!
- HelloFresh introduced a wine pairing part of the program and new way to save money on it. 50% Off Your First Wine Box! Note: that’s a box of wine, not wine in a box. This offer is valid for new customers only and includes Red, White or Mixed plan.
- Take $30 off your first and second boxes, and $10 off your third and fourth. That’s for a total savings of $80 off four boxes all together. You’ll also get free shipping on the first box!
Sun Basket Updates
- The Sun Basket review below was just updated!
- You’ll love this current offer from Sun Basket: $80 Off – $35 & $25 Off the First, Second & $20 Off your Third Orders
- Peapod has added more meal kits–there are now 20+ to choose from. You can select meal kits for two people only or more than four to feed. We recently tried the Buffalo chicken quinoa skillet one and loved it! Also, Peapod is offering a meal kit deal for a limited time in three markets: the NY Tri-State, Philadelphia area and the Midwest. See individual links below:
- New customers can save $30 off their first order of $75 or more, plus get 60 days FREE delivery when you use Code SCHOOLTIME!
Now onto the original review!
Why we started using meal kit delivery services
Why did my husband and I first considered using meal kit delivery services? Because we were in a menu rut. I found myself making the same few meals repeatedly. It was boring. Cooking wasn’t fun anymore. Plus, we were trying to eat healthier. We’d seen advertisements for companies like Blue Apron–plus pictures from friends and family members on Instagram and Facebook of their Blue Apron meals. So we figured, what the heck, let’s give these meal kits a try.
And try we did. Not only did we try companies like Blue Apron, we tried Blue Apron itself. The meals were delicious but high in calories and expensive.
Update: We will be trying Blue Apron again. So eventually this review will become Blue Apron vs Sun Basket vs Hello Fresh. Then I’ll be able to answer the question: “What is better? Blue Apron or Hello Fresh or another of the meal kit delivery subscription services.”
The three companies we tried originally that allowed us to make fresh meals conveniently and affordably were HelloFresh, Sun Basket and Peapod. Yes, Peapod, the grocery delivery service now offers meal kits. I mentioned this in my Peapod review, too. Now this review has a fourth meal kit delivery services so it is HelloFresh vs. Sun Basket vs. Peapod.
Overview of how Meal Kit Delivery Services work
If you’ve never tried a meal kit service, let me go over the basics of how most work. When you sign up with a meal kit service, you make a few selections upfront.
- How many meals a week you want
- How many people you’ll be serving
- What your dietary preferences are
- What your preferred delivery day is
With all the services we tried, we had to provide a credit card. However, we were not roped into any long-term agreements. You could sign up for one week and cancel the next. All of the meal kit delivery services we tried let us pause our service if we were traveling.
When your service is active, you can go in and choose your menu up to three weeks in advance, and you can change your menu selections or even the number of meals you were receiving up to a week before your next delivery. This latter convenience was super helpful when our daughters came home for spring break and we wanted to up our delivery from two meals per day to four meals. Then, when they went back to college, we went back to two meals per day.
Meal kits offer both dinner and breakfast options
Most meal kit delivery services are designed to give you dinner options for two to three nights per week. Many of the ones we tried have also added breakfast options. Sun Basket had an overnight oats options. HelloFresh has had egg dishes, pancakes and a bacon flatbread that I actually made for dinner one night. Yeah, breakfast for dinner!
Whether you choose two meals a week or five, meal kit delivery services deliver that week’s box in one delivery. That means you have to ensure you have room in refrigerator so when you unbox your ingredients, you have somewhere you can put them so they stay fresh.
Popularity of meal kits
Since starting using meal kit delivery services, I’ve noticed how many of these boxes are showing up on my neighbors’ doorsteps throughout the week. Or, frankly, how many of the boxes are flattened and put out on recycling day. Bottom line: meal kits are hugely popular. Inc.com says that in the next 10 years, the meal kit industry could grow to $5 billion.
Our family has been cooking with HelloFresh meal kits since January and we love them. We get three meals a week, which is the right amount–enough to make dinner interesting a couple nights a week but not too much to be overwhelming. HelloFresh got us out of our meal rut and into eating a healthier menu. My husband, who tends to avoid anything green, has chowed down on arugula salad and roasted Brussels sprouts–something I’d never witnessed in 25 years of marriage.
Combined with a stepped up exercise program, eating HelloFresh meals three times a week has helped my husband to lose weight. Most recently he told me he was in three belt notches. His better health is all the more reason for us to continue ordering, cooking and serving HelloFresh meals.
Each box filled with HelloFresh meal kits comes with 8×10 recipe cards. On the front is a picture of the meal, plated and finished. On the back are step-by-step instructions. I’ve taken to using a cookbook stand to hold the recipe card up on the counter when cooking. It’s so easy to see. (That was not the case with Blue Apron. When we tried it, briefly, the recipe cards were more like little pamphlets like what you might get with your prescription medicine. They were not easy to work with at all.)
Each recipe card includes the prep time, the cooking time, and the number of calories per portion. I have never had a HelloFresh meal that took more than 40 minutes to prepare and cook.
Like other meal kit services HelloFresh ingredients are pre-portioned so there is no food waste. Also, the packaging itself is small and not wasteful. The garlic comes pre-peeled, a nice convenience. Many veggies do, too.
Why we like HelloFresh ingredients and recipes
HelloFresh does a good job of presenting meals with at least three main ingredients. It might be a meat, a cooked vegetable of some kind and a salad. With a former football player husband, there would be no way I could present a dinner that barely fills the plate. In nearly every instance HelloFresh meals did not disappoint.
In a few months of using HelloFresh, we’ve already determined some favorite recipes, which we’ve made again. That’s the great thing about these recipe cards. You can keep them on hand–maybe even put them in a loose-leaf notebook–and use them in the future, with ingredients you purchase at the supermarket.
With HelloFresh delivery is always free. I like that.
Over six months of using HelloFresh, we’ve had only one or two problems with our deliveries. One time the delivery service that dropped off the box on our front step must have heaved it from the street. I’m guessing this, because when I got to it, all the meal packages had split open. Pork, chicken and beef juice dripped from the bottom of the box before I realized what was going on. (My dogs loved licking up the mess.)
Another time we were too busy to cook the night the boxes arrive. When we finally got to making a meal kit, some five days after delivery, the vegetables weren’t good anymore.
In both instances I called HelloFresh customer service. The customer service reps, who picked up the phone right away, immediately credited us for the meal or, in the case of the meat packages that had opened, the entire week. Plus, they offered a discount on the next week’s delivery. No questions asked. So even though this part is listed in the “cons” section, the top-notch customer service is definitely a “pro.”
HelloFresh needs to describe some ingredients better
Also, when choosing my menu in advance, we tend to like chicken. However, the menu doesn’t tell you if you’ll be cooking with chicken breasts or chicken thighs. I have an issue with chicken thighs (it’s a texture thing) so when I would get a box with thighs when I thought it would be breasts, I was unhappy.
It would be great if HelloFresh was more descriptive so I could know if I’m getting chicken thighs or chicken breasts. When HelloFresh describes steak dishes, it will say if it is skirt or sirloin. Same thing with pork–whether it is chops or tenderloin.
Maybe no one else has an issue with chicken like I do. Still I wish that option existed. Nonetheless, it hasn’t stopped me from selecting chicken dishes. In fact, recently we made a Rachael Ray Buffalo Chicken dinner.
Peapod Meal Kit Delivery Services Review
As you know from this popular review of Peapod grocery delivery service, I was a Peapod customer for years. I found it a convenient way to go grocery shopping. As the review points out, I’ve saved tremendously when buying meat. A few years ago I’ve discovered that I can use Peapod to save tremendously on meal kit delivery.
So I ordered a meal kit. It was for chicken cacciatore. What attracted me to it was the fact that it was a meal kit designed to be cooked in a slow cooker. None of the other meal kit services I’ve tried offered a Crock Pot option. Even better than the price was the fact that this meal kit served six. Neither Sun Basket nor HelloFresh ever offered a meal kit that served more than four people.
Peapod Meal Kits Pros
Like I said earlier the meal kit for chicken cacciatore that I chose from Peapod was designed to be cooked in the Crock Pot. That’s a huge convenience. You know what else was convenient? When the meal kit arrived, all the vegetables were pre cut and pre chopped. That meant even less prep time for me.
While the directions suggested I cook the chicken in a pan first and then add to the slow cooker, I never do that when using my Crock Pot. Everything goes in at once–raw meat included–so that’s exactly what I did with this recipe. I opened all of the Peapod meal kit containers, dumped it in my slow cooker, set it on low for eight hours, and went about my business.
Around six hours from the time I started cooking, the meal smelled done. I checked the meat; it was fully cooked. So I called everyone in for an earlier-than-expected dinner. That’s wasn’t a problem as everyone’s tummies were grumbling, having spent the last few hours smelling this delicious meal cooking away in the slow cooker.
Deals on Peapod meal kits
Check out the latest deals on Peapod meal kits. They include hearty comfort foods, such as:
- Chicken Pot Pie
- Slow Cooker Beef Stew
- Korean Chicken & Vegetable Fried Rice
- Ghost Pepper Bison Chili
Peapod plating presentation not so great
One of the fun experiences about using meal kit services like HelloFresh is the plating process. If you’re a Food Network nerd, you get it. You want your food to look pretty. Not so with the Peapod meal kit. The picture below is from another Peapod meal kit for Steak Au Poivre.
So yeah, not so pretty. Not very exciting ingredients. However, it was a delicious, filling, affordable meal. I’m not so upset about the esthetic to put it in the “con” column. It’s just a fact–a Peapod meal kit doesn’t come out as pretty as other meal kit services.
What it does come out as is delicious. Even my daughters who are notorious about not liking most tomato-based sauces (save for pizza) dug into the chicken cacciatore, cleaned their plates and asked for more. My husband, who grew up in a household with Italian immigrant grandparents, praised the dish as well. My mother, who was visiting at the time, wanted the recipe so she could make it the next time her girlfriends had a potluck dinner.
New Peapod Meal Kit Offerings
Peapod has expanded its popular meal kit line with its first ever restaurant collaboration. Working with Wildfire and Big Bowl, which are two long-standing favorites of the Chicago area, Peapod has created three new meal kits. They are:
- Wildfire Beef Tenderloin with Couscous
- Wildfire BBQ Bison Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, and Carmelized Onions
- Big Bowl Sweet and Sour Chicken
Each meal kit contains prepared portions and ingredients for delicious, restaurant-quality meals with minimal prep time.
Peapod Meal Kits Cons
Unlike traditional meal kit delivery services, the only way to get a Peapod meal kit is to order it with your regular groceries. That’s not a big deal, if you’re already using Peapod over a trip to the supermarket.
Peapod does have a delivery charge–orders of $60 to $100 cost $9.95 for delivery. Orders over $100 get a discounted delivery rate–$6.95. Now that we live in Western Pennsylvania, we no longer have access to Peapod. Therefore, no more access to Peapod meal kits.
Special Peapod offer just for my blog readers! Get $20 Off Your First Order of $90+ at Peapod.com with code SFRUGAL20.
Sun Basket Review
What sets Sun Basket apart from other meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron, HelloFresh and others is that its ingredients are USDA certified organic, making it an organic meal delivery. When you sign up for Sun Basket, you can also opt to make it a vegetarian meal delivery service. Bonus: when we had a vegan friend visit, he confirmed that some of the Sun Basket vegetarian options were, in fact, vegan.
Sun Basket Pros
We first tried Sun Basket during a time when both of our daughters were home from college and they had friends visiting. Some of these friends are vegetarian and vegan so it was great to have the vegetarian meal delivery option. In fact, at one point I had four twentysomethings in my kitchen, cooking a vegan Sun Basket meal.
Most recently we tried Sun Basket again. This time we, the parents, are the ones who have decided to go vegetarian. Given my previous, positive experience with Sun Basket, I knew they would be the best choice for vegetarian meal kit options. In fact, given my praise for Sun Basket in the past, the company offered to send us meals for free for one week.
You can save on your first Sun Basket order! You’ll get $80 off when you sign up. That is, $35 and then $25 off the first and second orders, plus $20 off your third order.
Impressive portion sizes
Unlike some meal kit delivery services, which portions are so small you leave the dinner table hungry, this was not the case with Sun Basket. The meal the kids made was supposed to feed just four people, but there were seven people sitting down to dinner that night.
While we did add a salad to the menu, the bulgur vegan stew from Sun Basket served us all. It was delicious and filling. The vegan and vegetarian friends loved it and asked to take a picture of the recipe card so they could make it again when they went back to college.
This most recent time cooking with Sun Basket, the portions were, again, hearty. Technically, the Pomodoro pasta dish we made served two only. However, our oldest daughter was visiting and the meal for two not only served three of us but we had leftovers to boot.
Works well with Noom eating program
Even better our daughter is following the Noom eating plan, and the whole wheat pasta that Sun Basket provided was a green food. If you are a Noom devotee, you know that getting the most green food possible is a win-win. That is, no food is off limits with Noom. Instead, food is divided into green (for go), yellow (proceed with caution) and red (ok to enjoy but in limited quantities.) This way of looking at food is one of the reasons that some people believe that Noom is the last weight loss program you’ll ever need Sign up today.
Another pro for Sun Basket–the fact that everything is USDA certified organic. That’s a huge deal if you’re trying to eat clean. I know it’s important to my own daughters, who have asked that we buy only organic meat and produce when shopping in person at the grocery store.
Sun Basket has meal kits for all different kinds of eating:
Sun Basket Cons
Sun Basket charges for delivery. It is $6.99 each time. The meals per person are also more expensive than any other meal kit delivery services. However, for people who want to eat certified organic food, the price may be worth it.
And if you’re vegan and want to use a meal kit service, Sun Basket is likely your only option so you pay more for it. Even with the ingredients and delivery costing more, overall, there there aren’t that many “cons” for Sun Basket.
Overall Thoughts on Meal Kit Delivery Services
What I have loved about using meal kit delivery services is getting back to the act of cooking from scratch. It’s something I haven’t done in a long time, beyond making a salad or creating a dish in my Crock Pot. For me cooking everything from scratch is flexing a muscle that has gone lax. It feels good to use my brain this way. HelloFresh, Sun Basket and Peapod meal kits all allowed me to do this.
I realize that I could be using cooking app or recipe in a magazine to cook from scratch. But cooking that ways requires a trip to the supermarket, measuring out ingredients and more. That’s not always a good use of my time and money.
Conclusion about meal kit delivery services
In the past I’ve had good intentions of cooking from ingredients I bought. However, sometimes life got in the way, and I ended up not using or forgetting about at least one ingredient. And suddenly it’s become a mystery liquid in the vegetable crisper.
With a meal kit delivery service, yes, I’m paying for the convenience of someone else getting me my ingredients. However, I’m also avoiding wasting money on ingredients that, well, go to waste. To me that’s a smart way to spend my time and money. It makes me a smart shopper and feel like a sophisticated consumer. I’m confident you will feel the same way, too.