Who hates grocery shopping? I do, I do!
I really like being in the kitchen cooking and sharing a lovingly prepared meal with my family, but gracious how I loathe going to the grocery store! I hate all the options and the thinking involved, and “oh, did I get everything” and “crap I have to go back in for lemons.” I know. Real heavy problems here, but we all have our pet peeves.
Meal delivery boxes aren’t a new thing, and I realize I’m a little late to the meal delivery party here, but I was excited to finally test some out and see what I thought…and NOT GO TO THE STORE. Best part.
Because I’m a little late to the game here, I had many options from which to choose when it came to trying out these boxes. I tried five different brands and was able to compare each in price, quality of recipes, quality of food and packaging. I tried out Hello Fresh, Acme Farms, Plated, Blue Apron and Sun Basket. Let’s check out the findings:
For Hello Fresh we did the family of 4, 2 meals a week ($69 but had a shopping code for $39.92). They have the same packaging problem as Blue Apron (below), though. We liked the meals just fine. But the Blue Apron sauces were more interesting. The regular, non-coupon prices for Hello Fresh seem expensive and our tomatoes came damaged. Overall, it was just OK.
Acme Farms was one of my favorites, but sadly it’s local only to the Northwest. They assume you have some of the more common spices and condiments so they eliminate packaging that way and, of course, they don’t have to ship this one across the country. They source local ingredients to the Pacific Northwest major cities of Portland, Seattle and the Bellingham area. But if you’re in these areas, the meals are delicious. The Asian Pork burger recipe we tried was so good.
We only did the trial box of 1 meal for 4 at $25.00, but they offer a Locavore box with options like Surf, Turf, Vegan, Grain-Free, Quick Meals and more. My friends who had a busy winter and are super-picky foodies love it and started using Acme Farms regularly over the last few months. They did say you have to be prepared for a little more intense cooking knowledge with this box, but they offer some great add-ons with extra proteins and veggies, and pantry items like eggs and bread. I’ll definitely be trying them out again.
Plated had delicious recipes and the amount of packaging was mid-level, I’d say. It’s probably my favorite of the nationally available boxes. One reason is because they offer a 3 servings/meal option. Everyone else only offers 2 or 4 servings per meal…annoying for a family of 3! We tried the Browned Butter Sausage Orecchiette, Avocado Chicken Burgers, the Za’atar Chicken Flatbread, and Seared Steak and Papas Bravas. YUM. All the recipes we made were amazing, and due to a weird email error, I wound up getting an extra box one week. Their customer service was pretty great to work with on that, and they credited my account for another box, so needless to say we tried a lot of Plated meals and were happy each time. Watch the salt levels though; I’d suggest mostly salting dishes at the end (see my notes below).
(Image source: Blue Apron)
Blue Apron‘s meals were delicious, but there was way too much packaging, and I thought it was fairly pricey for what you got. Granted, Sun Basket is more per serving, but you get high quality/organic ingredients. I don’t think Blue Apron focuses on organic items since I didn’t see any mention of it.
We did 2 meals/week for 2 people (not a family box) and it was almost enough food for the 3 of us, but not quite. I had to supplement some for Sienna since she’s a pretty good eater. I also love having leftovers for lunch and that didn’t happen here. I had a coupon for the first month off Blue Apron, too. Definitely search for those if you want to try it out. The sauces in this one were amazing, but I won’t try them again because of the insane packaging.
I loved Sun Basket’s recyclable packaging — even the insulation in the box was fully recyclable. We did the 3 meals for 2 people with the Mediterranean diet and loved the food, but the portions are a little small to divide among 3. I would definitely order again if they offered a 3-serving option. If you’re trying to eat a certain limited diet, this one is probably the way to go for you. They have great healthy options like Paleo, Gluten-Free, Pescatarian, Vegan, etc.
I believe most all of their food is organic, which is a big plus for me, too, but it does make the servings pricier at $12.99/person if you only do 2 meals a week. They have a handy app, too, for editing your deliveries and sending reminders. A few of my friends really love Sun Basket best! They do have great options, especially if you’re set on organic eating like we are.
Overall Pros of Meal Delivery Boxes
Convenience. The convenience here is by far the best reason to try these out.
No grocery shopping extras. Having these meal boxes with everything you need for dinners keeps you out of the stores buying all those extra things you don’t need…like snacks. Haha.
Less food waste. You only get what you need for the recipes, so you don’t have extra cilantro or lettuce wasting in the fridge.
Adds variety to your menu. I love cooking but tend to make a lot of the same things again and again, so this is really great for mixing it up. Some of the recipes and sauces in particular I would have never thought to make. I love them for that reason. I plan to try some of these every few months to help our variety, or order them during weeks I know will be busy.
Overall Cons of Meal Delivery Boxes
PACKAGING and shipping/delivery impact on the environment. The packaging you guys. For most of the boxes, it’s just too much to keep me from doing this more regularly. Yes, our typical food has packaging, too, but because they divide these out by number of servings, we’re talking mini plastic bottles for soy sauce, multiple pats of butter wrapped individually, etc., OMG. Too much. It made it SUPER-easy, but the Portlander in me Just. Can’t.
Cost. It wound up being at least $10/serving for most of these meals. I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable, but it’s also about the same as going out to eat, but without someone else cleaning up and cooking and whatnot. If this was your plan to keep you from going out to eat as often, I could see it saving you a little per meal. Otherwise, don’t count on this for a huge break in savings, unless you’re a true over-shopper when you go to the store or you typically have a lot of food waste because it goes bad in the fridge. I could see these being a great option for people who may spend part of their time in a second home, like my parents who travel between Florida and Arkansas regularly. My mom is excited to try these during shorter trips in one location, so that she doesn’t have to buy a ton of groceries to have some great at-home meals.
Cooking learning curve. I love to cook and do so often. Most of these had good instructions, but you still need to know how to cook, so I wouldn’t rely on these as instructional or to actually teach you how to cook. There are great ideas though, and I’m saving all the recipes to make on my own again. I’ve already reused one of the oven potato recipes because it’s so good!
Salt. The majority of our dishes turned out far too salty. In only one of the early ones, I didn’t follow the instructions very specifically and just added my typical amount of salt…hence, that one was my bad. But the rest I followed to a T and whoa, so salty! Some of the sauces and whatnot that are already prepared seem to have a lot of salt. Taste as you go with these, and beware you may need to use much less salt along the way and/or just add it at the end.
My Conclusion About Meal Delivery Boxes
So, I said it above, but my overall takeaway from trying all these meal boxes is…they’re great for every once in a while.
If you know you have a busy week or if you want to try something new in the kitchen, check them out. If you want to send a gift to a busy family who likes to cook or if you want to fix a nice meal for visiting family, but don’t want the pressure of shopping and figuring out all the details, this may be for you.
Definitely search for a coupon or ask a friend for a referral when trying out any of these. Most all of them offer deals on your first box, and your friend will get a credit, as well. With Plated, when you’ve ordered a certain number of meals, they allow you to send a free box to a friend. Pretty cool.
If you do any of these meals regularly, I’d love to hear what works for you! I really enjoyed this little test and now have some great new recipes to make again on my own. If you’re in a cooking rut like I was, this is a fun, yummy way to break out of that.
Be sure to follow me on Instagram @elletrain to see daily outfits, what I’m currently whipping up in the kitchen, and of course, Sienna’s dance moves.