Meal Delivery Services: Pros, Cons, and Comparisons

Sometimes a simple idea can really take off, leading others to put their own twist on it and flood the market. That’s pretty much exactly what’s happened with meal delivery services — also known as meal kit subscriptions. These plans allow you to select from a list of recipe options each week and then have all of the ingredients delivered to your door along with instructions for making that meal.

To say that these services have exploded in popularity would be an understatement. As a result, there are now several different options to choose from. So what makes each of these services unique? Let’s take a look at a few meal kit options — but first, let’s discuss a few benefits and drawbacks these subscriptions hold.

beautifully prepared salad
beautifully prepared salad

Pros and Cons of Meal Delivery Subscriptions

Benefits

Could be cheaper than eating out

A big reason why meal delivery kits have made their way into the personal finance community is because they typically serve as an alternative to eating out. In that aspect, these services could help you save money by keeping you home and cooking instead of heading to pricey restaurants. Of course, if you don’t dine out with much frequency, this might not be the case. But, for those who do make a habit of ordering take-out or even getting fast food often, these services could be more affordable and probably a bit healthier.

Try new things!

As a picky eater, I might not seem like the prime target for these types of services. And yet, the idea of being able to selectively choose my eating adventures is actually what excites me most. Thus, for those who are more open to trying new things, I can imagine that trying and learning to cook new recipes is the main reason why meal kits appeal to them.

Makes meal planning easy

Whether you meal plan just to make your life a bit simpler or to save money at the store, meal kits can help with the process. Since a number of your weekly meals are already accounted for, you’ll have less to buy and fewer question marks in your schedule.

Less potential food waste

Since meal delivery services pre-portion their ingredients, the odds of you leaving items in your refrigerator to rot are greatly reduced. Similarly, you don’t need to worry about using fresh fruits or vegetables before they expire since they’ll be used right away. Therefore, you can potentially reduce your food waste by subscribing to meal services — assuming you eat all of your leftovers, of course.

Drawbacks

Expensive compared buying groceries

Meal kits may be convenient but they do come at a price. In most cases, the amount you spend on these services — with shipping and everything else considered — is more than you’d likey spend if you shopped for the items yourself. Then again, depending on where you shop and how often you use the ingredients utilized by meal kit services, the spread might not be so big. Still, it’s worth considering the extra the expense.

More potential trash

Environmentalists have noted that the popularity of meal kit deliveries could be having a negative impact on the amount of waste we produce thanks to the packaging certain services employ. Although many meal delivery companies have grown mindful of this and have worked to make their packaging more sustainable, it’s still a lot. Plus, the extra components mean more trips to the curb and trash/recycling bins for you.

You need to manage your shipments and meals

As simple as meal services can make your life, they’re not without some effort on your part. For example, depending on which option you choose, you may need to select your meals each week or run the risk of getting items you don’t care for. Furthermore, if you’re heading out of town, you’ll need to remember to put a freeze on your deliveries before the service’s deadline. Otherwise, you might come home to a smelly box filled with wasted money.

Still take time/effort to cook

A major difference between meal kits and, say, Uber Eats is that the food doesn’t come ready to eat. Instead, you’ll need to prepare and cook each meal for yourself (presumably). That also means you’ll need some skills in the kitchen — although some services do offer more beginner-minded menus. In other words, don’t expect these services to be a magical dinner savior or in-house chef.

Comparing Some Popular Meal Kit Services

EveryPlate logo
EveryPlate logo

EveryPlate

Meal portion options: 2 people, 4 people

Meals per week options: 3, 4, or 5

Per serving price: $4.99

Shipping: $8.99

EveryPlate offers plans with up to five meals per week, which you can select from eight different recipe options. However, one of these eight meals is a Premium option with upgraded “premium proteins and ingredients.” As a result, selecting these recipes will add $3 per serving to your bill. On a per-serving basis, EveryPlate is competitively priced at $4.99 — a price that stays the same regardless of which plan you choose. However, the service does charge for shipping.

HelloFresh logo
HelloFresh logo

HelloFresh

Meal portion options: 2 people, 4 people

Meals per week options: 3, 4, or 5

Per serving price: $7.49 — $9.99

Shipping: $6.99

Billing itself as “America’s Most Popular Meal Kit,” HelloFresh also offers subscribers a number of options. This includes selecting vegetarian, calorie smart, or family-friendly plans. Not only does HelloFresh allow customers to choose from more than a dozen weekly options but also features premium Gourmet options. Choosing these recipes will tack an $11.98 (or $23.96 for four portions) fee.

Freshly logo
Freshly logo

Freshly

Meal portion options: 1 person

Meals per week options: 4, 6, 9, or 12

Per serving price: $8.99-$12.50

Shipping: Included

Not to be confused with HelloFresh or Dinnerly (which we’ll cover later), Freshly has an identity of its own. First, while most services offer portions for two to four people, Freshly deals only in single-serve meals. Another huge difference is that Freshly’s meals are already cooked, meaning they just need to be heated. In short, they could also be called fancier TV dinners. If that sounds good to you, the service does have an extensive weekly menu and options ranging from four to a dozen meals a week.

Blue Apron logo
Blue Apron logo

Blue Apron

Meal portion options: 2 people, 4 people

Meals per week options: 2, 3, or 4 (4 per week only available for 4 portion option)

Per serving price: $7.49 to $9.99

Shipping: Included for orders over $59.94 ($7.99 otherwise)

Perhaps the most well-known meal kit service is Blue Apron. That’s allowed them to make some big partnerships, allowing them to offer a Weight Watchers Freestyle plan and now the much-hyped Beyond Burger. While the company’s line-up of weekly options is a bit shorter than some competitors, there are still a fair amount to choose from. As for shipping, if you’re selecting either a plan with either three recipes per week or four servings per shipment, you won’t have to pay an extra fee.

P

Plated logo
Plated logo

lated

Meal portion options: 2, 3, or 4 people

Meals per week options: 2, 3, or 4

Per serving price: $9.95 — $11.95

Shipping: Included for orders over $60 ($7.95 otherwise)

You may have heard of Plated from their appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank. While that may be the company’s real claim to fame, they’d probably prefer you to know that they have one of the most extensive weekly options menu of any service on this list. This not only includes 20 meal recipes you can choose from but also throws in a couple of dessert choices if you have a sweet tooth. Like Blue Apron, shipping is included with your Plated subscription, provided that your plan is above a certain amount ($60). With vegetarian, gluten-free, low-calorie, and low-carb diet options also available, there’s certainly a lot explore with Plated.

Sun Basket logo
Sun Basket logo

Sun Basket

Meal portion options: 2 people or 4 people

Meals per week options: 2, 3, or 4

Per serving price: $10.99 to $12.99

Shipping: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (potentially $6.99)

If you’re looking for a meal plan that will meet your specific diet, Sun Basket may be a good option. The service includes recipes that are Carb-Conscious, Paleo, Pescatarian, Gluten-Free, Diabetes-Friendly, and more. In all, there are more than a dozen menu options to choose from each week. Something I should note about Sun Basket is that, based on my research, I can’t find anywhere on their site where they disclose how much shipping is. This would lead me to believe it’s included, however other reviews say it costs $6.99 a week. This obviously a sizeable discrepancy so keep this in mind when looking at plans.

Dinnerly logo
Dinnerly logo

Dinnerly

Meal portion options: 2 people, 4 people

Meals per week options: 3, 4, or 5

Per serving price: $4.49-$4.99

Shipping: $8.99

Compared to some of the other options on this list, it seems Dinnerly is aimed at a slightly different type of customer. The recipes featured do appear to be a bit simpler than those of Plated. Adding to that notion, their site claims their meals are “Picky-eater proof.” In any case, the service does offer a fairly sizeable selection, currently boasting 14 options per week.

Given the convenience that meal delivery services offer, it’s no wonder why they’ve grown in popularity and prominence in recent years. While many of these services might seem similar, there are some interesting difference to be noted that could also impact whether or not they’re right for you. Additionally, as attractive as meal kits might seem, there may a few reasons to reconsider. Ultimately, with new customer deals almost always available, perhaps the best plan is whittle down your list to two or three potential options, sampling their services, and then deciding whether or not to continue your meal plan subscription.


Originally published at Money@30.