April 6 2018
Bonus: Discover five of the best foods to keep frozen year-round at the bottom of this page.
At $1.5 billion in annual sales, meal kits are big business—and market experts only expect this trend to grow. But with all of the options at your fingertips, what box will please your taste buds while fueling your running body? We put 14 food subscription services to the test so we could bring you the dish on what’s good. Here are our top seven meal prep kits …
This is one of the best-known, widespread subscription services with regular delivery of meals and menu options.
Tester’s favorite meal: Cumin-crusted pork with fig and blood orange pan sauce—“All of those ingredients really came together to bring out this smoky (due to the cumin), yet slightly tangy/sweet flavor.”
Who would love this? Our tester: “I would recommend it for someone who doesn’t like to cook or shop in bulk, or for someone who wants to expand their cooking and doesn’t know where to start. The dishes may sound complicated, but the recipes are easy to follow and usually take about 30 to 45 minutes.”
What might annoy you? The portions might leave you satisfied rather than full and might be small for a big workout day or hungry night.
What might surprise you? Our tester: “I loved the recipe sheets—they were easy to read (not complicated), had plenty of step-by-step photos and were nice to keep for future reference if I wanted to make the dish again.”
Cost per serving: $9–$10 for 2-person or family plan
You don’t have to subscribe to a meal plan with this service, which allows you to shop and choose the specific meals you want (each serves two or four).
Tester’s favorite meal: Chicken pad thai—“It was the most interesting thing we’ve made with so much flavor and made the perfect amount for the both of us.”
Who would love this? As someone who has tried a few meal kits but isn’t a big cook, our tester said: “This one was the easiest to put together! The instructions were perfect. We followed everything exactly, and things came out great. I would recommend it, because they definitely have convenient meal options, but it doesn’t sacrifice creativity or quality.”
What might annoy you? The ratio of certain meals: For example, one salmon dish came with a lot of asparagus—too much for our tester—and not enough fish.
What might surprise you? Our gluten-free tester was happy with how easy it was to order according to a prescribed diet.
Cost per serving: Averages $10–$20, but varies based on chosen meals
For those who like to stay in and cook dinner, this subscription service allows you to see the cooking time and the level of difficulty in advance.
Tester’s favorite meal: Sirloin steak paired with parsnip wedges and creamed spinach—“This dish was exciting enough to be something that I would order in a restaurant, but I was so impressed when I was able to cook it myself! I will absolutely be replicating this.”
Who would love this? Our tester’s take: “I think this was a cool way to shake up our dinner routine for the week, learn new recipes and avoid the grocery store. Since the ingredients are refrigerated, you are committing to cooking three times that week.”
What might annoy you? The portions may be small when you’re hungry, and our tester never had leftovers for lunch.
What might surprise you? Our tester appreciated the instruction cards for simplifying the cooking, and the paper quality ensured spills wouldn’t ruin them.
Cost per serving: $9–$10 with classic, veggie and family plans
You can choose between a package of multiple meals or pick whatever sounds good to you. Everything serves one (though our tester found ordering two servings would feed three people). Most items require minimal cooking or preparation, and some are ready to eat.
Tester’s favorite meal: Carrot noodle pad thai. “Great flavor and texture; I added an egg for a pop of protein.”
Who would love this? Our tester said, “I gravitated toward it because it was gluten-free and vegetarian, plus meals promised to be ready in 10 minutes—perfect for our family with one vegetarian, one celiac and all with busy schedules. While all meals are vegan, you may also order tofu or chicken to boost the protein [for $3 each].”
What might annoy you? The dishes don’t come with recipe cards like with many other services, since they require such simple prep, so you can’t DIY if you really like a dish.
What might surprise you? Our tester said, “Cooking was super easy. All you really need is a skillet and some tongs and you are good to go. These were an absolute lifesaver at the end of a long day.”
Cost per serving: $9 for main dishes, but there are sides, sweets and breakfast options for less
Martha Stewart has joined this team to deliver six-step recipes with large portions that will leave you with leftovers for lunch the next day.
Tester’s favorite meal: Barley and Brussels stir-fry with pickled radish and shallots—“I love veggies, but had never cooked with barley before. It was a unique paring of barley, edamame, spinach, radishes and Brussels sprouts. It sounds very bland, but surprisingly, it was very tasty and filling. It took us two days to finish this off. I have to say, the golden balsamic vinegar was the perfect dressing to this meal.”
Who would love this? Our tester’s take: “The quality of the food was organic, and looked better than some of the stuff I see at our local grocery store. The recipes are very easy to follow and understand (even if you don’t cook) and they don’t take very long to make—20 minutes was the norm.”
What might annoy you? There’s a lot of packaging to make sure everything comes through perfectly.
What might surprise you? Our tester loved the prep step. “It was nice not having to read through the entire recipe and figure out how much of what and which way to slice something.”
Cost per serving: $9–$12, for 2-person or family plans
This vegan subscription service is ideal for those who eschew animal products as well as those looking to go beyond “meatless Mondays.”
Tester’s favorite meal: Whole-wheat pasta with a cauliflower cream sauce and shredded Brussels sprouts—“It made me use two vegetables in a totally new way. A whole head of cauliflower was cooked twice (boiled until mushy and then sautéed/mashed) to create a convincing alfredo-esque sauce. The sprouts were simply shredded raw and added to the pasta for crunch. I’ve repeated the recipe two more times since for friends!”
Who would love this? Our tester is a regular customer and said, “While I’m not even a vegetarian, I like how the meals force me to think creatively about plant-sourced foods, and I’ve learned a lot about how to make things tasty without dairy.”
What might annoy you? The recipes sometimes try to make non-vegan dishes work without key ingredients. Kimchi quesadillas, for instance, subbed mashed beans for cheese and pickled cabbage for shredded chicken—“sort of gross,” said our tester.
What might surprise you? You’ll likely learn about ingredients new to you, such as textured vegetable protein or nutritional yeast.
Cost per serving: $9–$11, for plans feeding up to 4
Choose between a classic or family plan of farm-to-table meals that take about 30 minutes to prepare and will often leave you with leftovers—if you can stop yourself from eating everything at once.
Tester’s favorite meal: Pan-seared salmon with orange-jicama salad—“This was so fresh and surprising how it all came together with the salmon on top of a bed of cauliflower ‘couscous.’”
Who would love this? Our tester said, “I try and buy as much organic as possible, so I love that this company shares that commitment. The packaging was almost all recyclable or compostable too, which was a big bonus. The quality of the dishes was my favorite part, and I appreciated the creativity with ingredients.”
What might annoy you? To feed four people one night, our tester made two meals, but they both had a lot of sautéed onions—way too many when paired together.
What might surprise you? Instead of one dinner, you can get two breakfasts. Our tester didn’t expect much from an eggs and chard dish, but it was one of her favorites.
Cost per serving: $12