The Best Meal Subscription Service, According to Your Eating Habits
Whether you want to flex your culinary skills or need to stick to a budget, there’s a meal delivery service for you.
Published Oct 13, 2017 5:00 PM
For the Chef Who Is Skeptical of Meal Delivery Services: Blue Apron
The OG of meal subscription boxes, Blue Apron was founded in 2012 and is still arguably the most recognizable delivery service out there, and with good reason. The food and the portion sizes are good, and you get enough variation so that your weekly meals don’t feel too repetitive.
Blue Apron’s meals may take a bit longer to prepare than other services and aren’t always beginner-level, but the detailed instructions (plus a super-extensive website, where you can find step-by-step picture guides for each recipe and even videos like “How To: Dice a Potato”) take a lot of the guesswork out. There’s a market where you can stock up on kitchen essentials and a monthly wine membership that comes out to $10/bottle. In other words, it’s a pretty risk-free service if you’re a newbie to the meal subscription box world and are looking for a one-stop shop for all your culinary-related needs.
Pricing Info: $8.74- $9.99 per serving
- 2-person meal plan: $59.94, 2-3 recipes weekly
- 4-person family plan: $69.92, 2-4 recipes weekly
For the Vegan (or just health-conscious) Chef: Purple Carrot
Purple Carrot is decidedly vegan, and it won’t let you forget it. Statistics and information encompassing everything from the environmental impact of a black bean burger vs. a beef burger to health facts likely to scare you into veganism (if they haven’t already) are all over this service’s website; but despite all that, Purple Carrot’s health-conscious offerings are sure to be a hit with even non-vegans.
Menu items (prepped with seasonal ingredients that are always fresh) range from autumnal staples like winter squash flatbread with caramelized apples and rosemary to more innovative takes on classics (“wicked healthy beetroot tacos”, anyone?), and most meals can be made in 40-minutes or less. Former New York Times food writer and cookbook author Mark Bittman is Purple Carrot’s Chief Innovation Officer, so you can be sure that someone with culinary credentials is behind this service.
Pricing Info: $10-$13 per serving
- 1-2 person meal plan: $72, 3 recipes weekly
- 3-4 person meal plan: $80, 2 recipes weekly
- 1-2 person “TB12” meal plan (developed in partnership with Tom Brady and geared towards athletes): $78, 3 recipes weekly
For the Beginner Chef: Hello Fresh
For super simple recipes with a slight twist—an example menu includes recipes vegetarian quesadillas and monterey jack burgers—go with Hello Fresh. Created in partnership with chefs and dietcians, this service offers 15 new recipes weekly. You get boxes based on your food preferences, but you can always go rogue and choose your own meals from the weekly menu. It’s also great for students in search of a better alternative to the dining hall, as they get 15% off every box and the recipes are easy to follow.
Pricing Info: $8.74-$9.99 per serving
- 4 person family plan: $8.74/serving, 2-3 recipes weekly
- 2 or 4 person classic plan: $9.99/serving, 3-4 recipes weekly
- 2 or 4 person veggie plan: $9.99/serving, 3 recipes weekly
For the Could-Be-Legitimate Chef: Chef’d
Chopped fans, this one’s for you. Chef’d is undoubtedly one of the more (if not the most) involved meal delivery services out there, but for those who want to get experimental with their cuisine it’s perfect. Partnering with celebrity chefs and culinary companies, Chef’d offers customizable weekly plans; and whereas most subscription sites are strictly dinner-based, this one also has breakfast, lunch, and dessert options.
Learn about each chef collaborator (a list which currently includes 12-year-old Masterchef Junior winner Logan Guleff, for when you want to feel bad about your culinary prowess) to see what to expect from this varied—seriously, there are over 400 recipes—menu. The almost overwhelming amount of choices includes specific meal plans made in partnership with brands ranging from the American Diabetes Association to the New York Times cooking team.
Pricing Info: Varied
Chef’d doesn’t offer a set-price subscription service, so pricing differs for each dish according to serving size and food item. Most dinners for two people range between $25-$30.
For the Home Cook Chef:
Martha Stewart curates the boxes drawing from her arsenal of 18,000+ recipes, so you know to expect quality and well-tested recipes from this subscription service. AllMarley Spoon recipes
have six steps with easy to follow accompanying photos. Subscribers pick their preferred delivery date and will automatically receive a box with new ingredients weekly, but they can skip and pause weeks as needed—allowing for plenty of flexibility depending on schedules. The menus are even visible up to three weeks in advance, making meal planning a cinch.
With dishes like warm grain and squash salad, chickpea and red pepper soup, and cheesy taco pasta, Marley Spoon provides filling and comforting dishes that will suit every dining requirement. There’s an option to make your box vegetarian, and price per serving decreases the more meals you order.
Pricing Info: $8.70-12 per serving
- 2-3 person meal plan: $48-$76, 2-4 recipes weekly
- Family meal plan: $76-$139.20, 2-4 recipes weekly
For the Chef on a Budget: Dinnerly
This new Marley Spoon-backed service launched in September 2017 as a more affordable spinoff of the service, and it’s already gaining traction for its price-conscious model. With 30-minute recipes that come out to $5 each, Dinnerly is a much more nutritious alternative to other quick and cheap meals like ramen.
So at almost half the price of other meal subscription services, how does Dinnerly keep prices so low? The answer is simplicity: Recipes are emailed rather than printed out on cards, packaging is kept to a minimum, and there are only six ingredients in each dish. A fixed weekly menu keeps food waste at a low and focuses on quality ingredients simply prepared, such as parmesan-crusted chicken on a bed of spaghetti and cheesy french bread pizza.
Pricing Info: $5/serving
- 2 person meal plan: $38.99, 3 recipes weekly
- 4 person meal plan: $68.99, 3 recipes weekly
For the Chef Who Likes Entertaining: Plated
Plated emphasizes the organic: artisanal products are used wherever possible, and seasonal dishes ensure a constantly-changing menu. You can choose recipes week to week in any combination, with 19 new recipes available weekly in a variety of cooking levels. All ingredients come in one bag to minimize waste—though as a caveat, you may sometimes need to procure your own egg—and you even get 50% off your first order.
But the thing that makes Plated so perfect for entertaining is the menu of elevated basics (such as braised chicken with grapes and roasted potatoes in a white wine cream sauce or crispy flounder with spinach orzo and a tomato-olive tapenade) that will impress your guests without forcing you to spend hours in the kitchen, as some meals are ready to serve in as little as 20 minutes. You can even add desserts to your entree—and with menu options like caramelized pear shortcakes with whipped cream, you definitely should.
Pricing Info: $9.95-$11.95/serving
- 2 person meal plan: $47.80-$95.60, 2-4 recipes weekly
- 3 person meal plan: $59.70-$119.40, 2-4 recipes weekly
- 4 person meal plan: $79.60-$159.20, 2-4 recipes weekly
For the Chef With Dietary Restrictions:
Being that it’s the first meal kit delivery service to obtain the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check certification, it’s no surprise that Sun Basket is the best subscription box choice for anyone with strict dietary requirements. Sun Basket uses all-organic, non-GMO ingredients, sourcing sustainable proteins and focusing on including detoxifying and anti-inflammatory ingredients. There are paleo, gluten-free, and vegetarian options available, and each recipe is nutritionist-approved. Even the packaging is sustainable: Where a big drawback to these types of services is the amount of plastic waste, Sun Basket uses 100% compostable and recyclable packaging and re-usable containers.
Choose from carefully-curated meal plans, including the Chef’s Choice, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, and Lean & Clean (no dairy or gluten, with each serving weighing in at about 550 calories). Each meal is ready in about 30 minutes, and with options like orecchiette with Italian sausage and broccoli rabe or sweet potato-black bean chili cheese fries, Sun Basket proves that healthy doesn’t have to be bland.
Pricing Info: $9.99-$11.99/serving
- 2-4 person classic meal plan: $11.99/serving, 3 recipes weekly
- 4 person family meal plan: $9.99/serving, 2-4 recipes weekly