While there’s nothing like home cooking, it demands frequent grocery store trips, and we all know grocery delivery services time slots are backed up. Thankfully, there are plenty of meal prep services that offer meal kits with all the ingredients and instructions you need to make your own lunches and dinners.
We're taking a look at Blue Apron vs Home Chef vs Dinnerly, among other smaller and niche meal prep services which focus on weight loss, vegetarian and vegan options, and feeding entire families. Best of all, these meal kits ship right to your front door.
This is a great option if you don’t have time to buy groceries or don’t have the space to store many goods (anyone sharing a refrigerator, for instance). But it’s also helpful for folks who want to expand their cooking skills, as the kits come with step-by-step recipe instructions for cooking each meal. If you’ve wanted to improve your dinner game, this could be a nice addition to your culinary toolbox.
The services are flexible to your needs, too, allowing you to choose not only which meals you want but how many and how much they serve – helpful if, say, you only need to cover a few nights a week, or on the other hand, if you need to feed the whole family.
Not all services cover all areas or dietary needs, so we’ve pointed that out in each entry.
- Blue Apron (gold standard + wine subscription option to pair)
- Home Chef
- Freshly (meals fully cooked/insulated)
- Purple Carrot (vegan only)
- Yumble (kids)
- Area: Nationwide
- Dietary needs: vegetarian, Weight Watchers
- Cost: starting at $48 per week (two meals, two servings each)
Blue Apron, the company that started the home-delivered meal prep, is still going strong with a variety of packages and menu options. Meals take between 25 and 55 minutes to cook, though most hover around the 30-minute mark, and there are options for vegetarian, Weight Watchers, diabetes-friendly, and Beyond Meat needs. The catalogue changes every week.
Plans are somewhat flexible: you can start with two meals, each with two servings, for $48 (including an $8 shipping fee) or bump that up to three meals with two services for $60 (with free shipping). If you want family-size four-serving meals, that option starts at $72 per week for two meals and goes up to $120 for four (shipping is free).
Meals come shipped in a refrigerated package to stay cold and you can select the time of day they arrive. If you want, Blue Apron can also pair a wine with your meals as a side service; this option delivers 6 bottles of wine for $66 per month, including shipping.
- Area: Nationwide (specifically, 98% of the US – check your ZIP here)
- Dietary needs: vegetarian, no-carb
- Cost: starting at $49.80 per week (two meals, two servings each)
Home Chef is another widely-available meal prep service with its own perks and quirks. While its menus ticks to more American-style meals (protein/veggie/carb plates), it’s a lot more flexible than other services. For instance, you can customize your meals to swap out proteins or increase portions.
Like other services, Home Chef’s meal menu changes every week, though it includes an assortment of vegetarian, low-carb, and low-calorie options. There are also specific meals that come pre-prepared in an oven-ready tray as well as similar slow cooker-ready options. Premium meals are occasionally offered in the weekly menu, though their higher-quality ingredients bump up the base price.
Home Chef also has finer serving and frequency controls: pick between two, four, or six servings and anywhere from two to six meals sent to your home every week. At the low end, that’s $39.80 plus a $10 shipping fee (every other option has free shipping) for two meals with two servings each; at the top end, six meals with six servings each will run you $358.20 per week.
- Area: Contiguous US (not Hawaii or Alaska)
- Dietary needs: vegetarian, beef/pork/seafood-free
- Cost: starting at $62 (three meals, two servings each)
HelloFresh is another well-known name in the meal prep delivery game. The service offers enough variety to cater to dietary preferences like avoiding beef/pork/seafood, vegetarian, or even meals geared toward appealing to kids.
Plans start with three meals with two servings each that start at $54, or bump this up to four meals with two servings for $70. Four-serving meals start at two a week for $72 or three a week with a slight discount for $90. All these options add on $8 for shipping per week.
- Area: Nationwide (though not necessarily all ZIP codes – check your ZIP here)
- Dietary needs: gluten-free, peanut-free, dairy-free
- Cost: starting at $46 + shipping per week (four single-serving meals)
Don’t need two servings with every meal? Freshly is your pick: each meal kit comes with one serving and arrives fully prepared in its package - just heat in the microwave or oven and eat. That means its menu selections are a bit more basic than other services, and you won’t get the pleasure of learning new recipes while you prepare meals.
The 30-odd meal menu changes weekly, and by design, every one is gluten-free – though Freshly doesn’t currently offer vegetarian or vegan options. Most of the meals are plated meat/veggie/carb plates, from low-calorie bowls to comfort food.
Given that the meals are all single-serving, Freshly’s plans are simply divvied up by how many meals per week, starting with four at $11.50 each (or $46 total). Per-meal cost decreases with more ordered per week, so increasing to six drops the cost to $9 each ($54 per week), nine servings for $9 each ($81 per week), and finally twelve for $8 each ($96 per week). Shipping fees are added at the end of checkout.
- Area: Contiguous US (not Hawaii)
- Dietary needs: exclusively vegetarian and vegan, gluten-free, soy-free
- Cost: starting at $51.94 per week (three meals, two servings)
Purple Carrot is the service for vegans and vegetarians, full stop. Its menus consist of high-protein, gluten-free, and soy-free options. And unlike other services, Purple Carrot offers breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, too, for an additional charge on top of meal fees.
At minimum, subscribers sign up for dinners. Prices start at three meals with two servings each per week for $72 plus $6 shipping or two meals with four servings each for $80. Then you can add Extras to you order for around $18 each: four breakfast servings or two lunch servings. You can also pack in snacks with a range of costs from $4 to $16.
If you aren’t sure about a menu item or want to make it again, Purple Carrot explains how to prepare each of its meals on its website – just click the ‘View Recipe’ button on the bottom right of any meal card.
Amid coronavirus concerns, Purple Carrot has assured customers that the boxes its meals are shipped in are safe to touch, its staff is handling ingredients safely, and its prep areas are disinfecting/sanitizing appropriately.
- Area: East Coast, Texas, and parts of the Midwest and West Coast.
- Dietary needs: vegetarian, gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, dairy-free
- Cost: starting at $48 per week for six meals
Yumble is a food service for kids, from toddler to preteen that caters to a variety of dietary preferences. If you’ve squared away meal deliveries for the adults in the family but want more age-appropriate dinners for the youngsters, this is a neat solution.
Yumble divvies its menu into age brackets: meals for 1-3 year olds have simpler toddler-friendly ingredients, 4-8 year olds get more complicated construction, and 9-13-year olds have meals with more recognizable complexity - bowls, burritos, and the like. There are various packages, too, of curated meals that might suit your kid - like Picky Eaters, for instance. All meals arrive pre-prepared and only need minutes in the microwave to eat.
Packages start at six meals per week for $48, but give discounts for larger orders of eight meals for $56 or 12 meals for $72 -- all of which come with free shipping. And, as a bonus for the kids, each shipment comes with stickers and activities.
In light of coronavirus concerns, Yumble “adheres to strict anti-microbial and anti-viral USDA standards” including face masks, gloves, hair nets, and cleaning practices, with daily health screenings in the production facility, per the company’s FAQ.
- After-dinner ideas: Things to do at home