The market for meal kits is predicted to rise to approximately $20 billion in 2027 according to Grand View Research Inc. This growth is in part due to COVID-19 which saw the industry pick up some traction with people avoiding grocery stores. Meal delivery kits allow you to cook healthy meals at home without the hassle of grocery shopping for each ingredient.
Some dietitians and nutrition experts even say that the right meal kit could help you to reach health and fitness goals. To find the best meal kit for your needs and preferences, browse our table with ten of the most popular meal delivery services, what they have to offer and how much they cost.
What is a meal kit delivery service?
A meal delivery service offers fresh, wholesome produce prepared, packaged and delivered to your door in ready-made meal form. Some services deliver premade meals that you just need to heat up and enjoy, while others give you all the ingredients you need to cook and eat. But the idea behind all these services is the same: You don’t have to grocery shop or worry about meal prep. All you have to do is enjoy.
Most meal kit delivery services use a subscription-based platform. You’ll start by picking your plan, including what types of food you do and don’t want, how many meals you need and how frequently you’d like them delivered. Most services also give you the option of skipping or pausing shipments. And you can usually cancel at any time without penalty.
Save time. Can’t find time to get to the grocery store, chop veggies and cook meals for you and your family? Let a meal delivery service do the shopping and prep work for you. All you have to do is enjoy the art of cooking, then sit down and eat!
Eat healthier. Most meal kit services take the guesswork out of putting together healthy, nutritious meals — plus, lots of vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, low-carb and other special dietary options are now available from many brands.
Waste less food. Your meal kit will provide the perfect amount of food needed to cook for the number of people in your family. You don’t have to worry about unused produce spoiling in your fridge.
Learn to cook. Most meal kit services provide easy-to-follow cooking instructions with every meal, giving you the opportunity to cook new dishes or learn basic cooking techniques for the first time.
Customize to your dietary needs. Many meal kits offer a variety of dietary options for vegetarians, low-carb diets, paleo diets and others.
Takes up fridge space. Not everyone has extra room in their refrigerator or freezer to store a week’s worth of meals. Your available storage space will dictate which service you pick and how much you can order.
Cost. While meal kit pricing varies, some people may find that even the most affordable options don’t fit within their grocery budget.
Feeding large families. Some services may not send enough food to feed large families on a weekly basis — or if they do, this option can be pricey.
Packaging waste. Many meal kits come with convenient pre-packaged portions to make cooking easier, but the downside to this is plastic and other packaging that needs to be discarded.
What to consider when choosing a meal kit
To help you narrow down your search for the best meal kit option for you and your family, consider these important factors:
Dietary restrictions. While many meal kit delivery services now cater to a growing number of special dietary needs, make sure the one you choose has options for your specific needs.
Expense. Does this particular meal kit fit within your budget? Do you still need to spend money on regular groceries to supplement meals? Are there shipping or delivery fees? Factor in all of these variables to figure out the realistic cost per week or month and make sure it’s manageable.
How many people you’re cooking for. Although convenient, meal kits for large families can be pricey. Make sure the one you choose offers cost-effective subscriptions for your family.
The fine print. No matter which service you choose, read the fine print before committing to your first box. Some meal delivery services might have a minimum spend amount or ask that you sign up for at least one month. Make sure you understand the cancellation policy and other important information before signing up.
Meal kit tips from nutrition experts
Jessica Shapiro Associate Wellness Nutrition Manager Montefiore Medical Center
Be on the lookout for food allergies. If you have severe allergies or intolerances, make sure all the recipes being offered in the meal kit are free of those ingredients. Look at every ingredient carefully, because even if one recipe doesn’t have an ingredient, there is always a chance there could be cross-contamination. I would suggest calling the company if uncertain.
Choose a meal kit based on your skill level. If you are looking for a meal kit that will help you stick to a resolution to cook healthier foods at home rather than ordering take out, help yourself succeed by choosing a kit that’s a match for your skill level in the kitchen. Some meal kits are more advanced than others. Be aware that if you are a novice and a recipe is supposed to take 45 minutes, it may take much longer from start to finish.
Dr Diane M DellaValle Associate Professor, Nutrition Science Program Kings University
Add your own spices and creative touch. If you find yourself missing the creative aspect of cooking with your meal kit add your own flare to the proportioned dishes. I am always able to add spice/more flavor, beans or frozen veggies to many of these meals to ‘stretch’ them out a bit or customize the recipe to our taste.
Look for kits with lots of fruits and veggies.From a health and nutrition perspective, look for kits with fewer prepared ingredients (e.g. ready-made sauces, flavored/seasoned rise or pasta mixes, cured meats, etc.) and more fruits and veggies with separate spice packets. You can always add more salt or seasoning later if your need it. Salt-free seasonings include lemon juice or other acids (vinegar), salt-free herbs (dried or fresh), and essential oils.
Alissa Rumsey Founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness Author of Unapologetic Eating: Make Peace with Food and Transform Your Life
Choose a meal kit with foods you’re excited to eat. Find one that has meals you’re excited about eating, because it will taste good and be satisfying rather than looking for what you “should” be eating because it promise certain health benefits.
If you enjoy what you are eating, you are much more likely to eat it in a way that best supports your body’s wellbeing
Frequently asked questions
Do I get to choose which meals I receive each week?
Usually, yes. Most meal kits offer a selection of recipes that you can choose from for each delivery period, though the variety of options differs depending on the service. For example, Hungry Root stocks your fridge with groceries — which you can customize — and sends two or four recipes along with the food, while Dinnerly has 14 specific recipes to choose from and will only send you the necessary ingredients for those meals.
If you want to be able to pick exactly which recipes you make each week, be sure to choose a meal kit that has a plethora of options for your dining pleasure. Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are known for having a great selection of meals to choose from.
Are meal kits cheaper than buying groceries?
It depends on the specific meal kit you’re looking at and what your regular grocery bill is. Sit down and crunch the numbers to figure out if you’ll be saving or spending more. Many people are surprised to find out that meal kits don’t necessarily cost more than their regular trip to the grocery store.
What’s the best cheap meal kit delivery service?
Every Plate, Home Chef and Blue Apron are among the most affordably-priced meal kit options out there. Compare individual pricing once you’ve selected your food preferences and delivery frequency to accurately compare pricing.
Are meal kits worth it?
It depends on what you’re looking for. If your priorities are to save time on shopping, meal prep and cleanup, meal kits could be an excellent solution. But if you’re most interested in saving money, compare your grocery bill with the cost of meal kit services to see which is ultimately best for you.
Gabrielle Pastorek is a staff writer at Finder, helping readers to round up the best deals, coupons, retailers, products and services to make sound financial decisions. She's written more than 800 articles on the site and is a quoted expert in Best Company and DealNews. She earned an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh, with essays and short stories published in The Collagist, Blue Monday Review, Blotterature and others. When she’s not writing, Gabrielle can be found out in the barn with her horse, Lucy.
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