For time-crunched parents who could use help getting healthy, home-cooked dinners on the table, a freshly prepped meal-from-a-box may be the answer. We tried out nine services to find out which kits truly deliver.

By Suzy Scherr
Martha & Marley Spoon

Meal kits are taking over dinner. We ordered, cooked, and tasted our way through nine different services to give you the scoop on which ones might make your famiy dinners a breeze.

Martha & Marley Spoon 

This service delivers all the ingredients necessary to prepare a full meal according to lifestyle guru Martha Stewart’s recipes, including proteins, produce, and spices. Meals are designed to be ready in under 40 minutes.  Each week, customers choose the number of people they want to feed, the number of meals (2, 3 or 4) they want delivered, and then choose from seven different recipe options. 

Food editor Jenna Helwig enjoyed the meals offered by Martha & Marley Spoon. Her take on the food:

“Unfailingly delicious,” like the kid-pleasing Taco Pasta. Portions were generous and the recipe cards were clearly written and beautifully photographed. On the downside, many of the meals were a bit too fussy for busy weeknights, which is when she says she would rely on a meal kit. 

“Grating carrots and pickling radishes are steps I would like a meal kit service to do for me or just skip altogether,” she said. "But you can easily just omit some of the extra flourishes." Jenna found that the online process to choose recipes was simple and the pricing seemed reasonable to her, considering the quality of ingredients.

Popular meals include: Beef Lettuce Cups with Sesame and Rice, Vietnamese Pork Tacos with Pickled Carrots and Mint, and Crispy Chicken Sandwiches with Carrot & Parsnip Fries

Check out Martha & Marley Spoon for pricing

One Potato

​One Potato 

Started by Catherine McCord, cookbook writer and Weelicious founder, One Potato offers fully-prepped meal kits of fresh, organic food for busy families. Subscribers choose three tasty, nutritious, kid-and-parent-approved meals per week with ingredients and easy to follow recipes that can be prepared in around 30 minutes.

Mom-of-two Allison Graham found that One Potato came through on its promise to appeal to everyone in her four-person household, even in the presence of unfamiliar ingredients. “I liked that it included ingredients I don't often try, like persimmon, while keeping the menus interesting and young-eater friendly,” she said. 

The downside? There were some shipping quirks. “I wish I could send back the cold packs. I know they are necessary, but it is such a waste. And there were a few ingredients we had to throw away because they did not survive the ship time well.” All told, she liked the meals and found that it was indeed a family-focused meal kit service. Bonus points for pre-chopped ingredients and the free slice-and-bake cookie dough that's delivered with each box.

Popular meals include: Crispy Salmon Tofu Bowls (pictured), Herb Roasted Chicken with Brussel Sprouts and Polenta Fries, and Butternut Squash Ravioli with Persimmon Salad

Check out One Potato for pricing

Sun Basket

Sun Basket

Sun Basket has rolled out a Family Plan with recipes co-developed by celebrity chef (and dad) Tyler Florence. Families receive a box with either two or four recipes each week (chosen from a selection of five recipes); each meal feeds four people. The Family Plan boxes also come with tips on how kids can help with each meal, and there are weekly themes like pasta night or taco night. In its Classic Plan, Sun Basket offers paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian, and breakfast options.

Digital Executive Editor Julia Dennison loved the dishes she made using Sun Basket. They impressed her as restaurant-quality meals and, given that the ingredients are organic and sustainable, she says, “It made me feel like I was doing something good for the planet and myself.” Overall, she found the convenience and quality to be top notch and worth the price.

Popular meals include: Pan-Roasted Salmon with Orange-Jicama Salad, Chicken Teriyaki with Broccoli and Coconut Brown Rice, and Fully-Loaded Ground Beef Tacos (pictured)

Check out Sun Basket for pricing

Terra’s Kitchen

This service delivers a unique, "climate-controlled, eco-friendly vessel" to your doorstep, full of pre-cut farm-picked produce, antibiotic- and hormone-free meat, and sustainably-raised fish. Recipes (vegan, vegetarian, low calorie, paleo, and gluten-free options) come with step-by-step recipe cards, and promise a prep time of no more than 30 minutes. Terra's Kitchen recently launched Family Meals, four-serving meals with pre-prepped and portioned ingredients. 

Contributor Suzy Scherr found that the coolest thing about Terra’s Kitchen is the mini-fridge-like "vessel" the ingredients arrived in. It kept everything cold for hours and was picked up the next morning after Suzy simply left it on her front step with a pre-attached shipping label. She liked that there were so many recipes to choose from, making it easy to find something everyone in her household would eat.

“I liked that ingredients were mostly pre-prepared, making for lightening quick meal prep, but I found some of the recipes to be confusing when it came to ingredients sent vs. measurements listed.” Overall, she says the meals were tasty, but the servings could be more generous to justify the price.

Popular meals in the family plan include: Chipotle Chicken and Mango Tacos, Cheeseburger Pizzas, and Lebanese Meatball Wraps.

Check out Terra's Kitchen for pricing 

Plated

Plated

A flexible meal-delivery service, Plated offers a variety of recipe combinations, plus dessert! The meals are designed by chefs and include sustainable and locally-sourced products. Kits contain recipes and pre-measured ingredients, minus staples, such as eggs, salt, pepper, olive oil, etc. Subscribers choose meals from a weekly menu of 11 dinners and two desserts, each of which can serve 2, 3 or 4 people.

Erika Janes used the service to feed her family of four. The meals were tasty and fairly family-friendly, but it was the convenience of not having to shop for groceries and the quality of ingredients sent by Plated that appealed to her the most. Among the recipes Erika’s family tried were Fish Tacos, Tuscan Ribollita Soup (pictured above), Baked Penne, and No-Churn Ice Cream.

The verdict? Overall, it was a hit. The recipes were tasty, and one of her sons was inspired to help cook. That said, it took longer to cook than Erika would like for weeknights.

“I’m not going to chop and roast mushrooms for baked penne on a weeknight. The idea of adding a dessert is a nice touch, but home-churned ice cream, and cookies [which was an option she didn’t choose] aren’t exactly weeknight-friendly.” Nonetheless, Erika says she would consider using the service again in the future, thanks to the versatility and array of choices offered.

Popular meals include: Chicken Shawarma with Tomato, Cucumber, and Tahini; Trout Piccata with Herbed Orzo and Sauteed Green Beans; and Saucy Meatball Sliders with Classic Caesar Salad

Check out Plated for pricing

HelloFresh

HelloFresh

HelloFresh offers farm-fresh ingredients, menus designed by acclaimed chefs, and fun recipe cards that teach you to cook as you go. Subscribers for the Family Box choose two or three meals per box, feeding four people. Also available is a Classic Box (feeding two or four people), and a Veggie Box (for two or four people). Subscribers receive deliveries of pre-measured ingredients and straightforward recipes.

Kathleen Krems says, “The ingredients were high quality and the recipes were tasty, if a bit complicated and time-consuming for weeknights.”  Tracy Odell, found that there were a few recipes that really elevated her cooking game, particularly those where she got to try out new techniques (like making sauce), but said, “I would’ve liked to have some leftovers after putting in the effort to make these dinners.” 

Overall, our testers found the price fair for what they got.

Popular meals include: Pork and Apple Burgers, Perfect Penne Bake, and Mustard Breaded Chicken

Check out HelloFresh for pricing

Blue Apron

Blue Apron

Blue Apron sends pre-measured ingredients and step-by-step recipes for three meals that feed two, four, or six people. Kits can be customized according to dietary preferences so you don’t receive anything you don’t eat, like red meat, fish, or shellfish. With Blue Apron, you’ll choose from six possible recipes each week and cook with and eat ingredients you might find at your local grocery store. 

Testers Cristina Cianci and Marisa LaScala appreciated Blue Apron’s frustration-free ordering process, organized packaging, and family-friendly, easy-enough-for-a-novice recipes. As Cristina put it, “After a long day of work, the last thing I wanted was to be confused, frazzled, or frustrated. Blue Apron was none of that.”

But, there was more prep and planning involved than they expected, as some of the ingredients they received were intended for use in multiple recipes and needed to be divided up in advance. “I felt like I was doing a lot of work,” said Marisa, though admittedly less than if she’d planned and shopped herself. Pricing seems fair for what you get and, overall, a straightforward service.

Popular meals include: Hoisin Shiitake Burgers with Miso Mayonnaise & Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges, Pork Ramen with Fresh Ramen Noodles & Summer Vegetables, and Hoisin Chicken Steam Buns with Broccolini and Marinated Carrots

Check out Blue Apron for pricing

Purple Carrot

Purple Carrot

Purple Carrot helps subscribers "cook plant-based meals at home." Kits include recipes that are predetermined by the company itself (no pick-and-choose). Subscribers can choose the number of meals they make—2 or 3, depending on which plan they select —along with pre-measured ingredients for all-vegan meals. The service assumes you have a few basic ingredients like olive oil, salt, and pepper. All the ingredients used by Purple Carrot are GMO-free, ethically sourced, and mostly organic.

Lifestyle Director Laura Fenton cooked with Purple Carrot and definitely felt like she was taken out of her comfort zone, but in a good way. “The recipes were things I wouldn’t normally make; it genuinely expanded my horizons. If someone aspires to do more vegetarian or vegan cooking, this meal kit service [is] a fantastic motivator. I felt inspired.” 

She tried Fab Cakes (faux crab cakes) and a Berber Platter. But as far as the actual cooking process went, Laura found the meals to be time-consuming to put together. “In both instances it took me longer to prepare the meals than indicated. It’s not a time saver.” Though she enjoyed the food itself, Laura thinks it’s an expensive service, given the work involved in making the meals.

Popular meals include: Butternut Mac 'n' Cheese with Swiss Chard and Garlicky Breadcrumbs (pictured), Mustard Green and Edamame Dumplings with Ginger Fried Rice, and Tortialla Espanola with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Spinach Salad

Check out Purple Carrot for pricing

Green Chef

Green Chef

The first USDA-certified organic meal kit (which covers synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, and GMOs)Green Chef sends health-conscious recipes and organic ingredients to subscribers, who choose from five different menu types—vegetarian, omnivore, carnivore, gluten-free, or paleo. Each kit includes three recipes and ingredients (in color-coded packaging) for two or four people.

Julia Edelstein, Parents executive editor, tried Green Chef. They delivered what she describes as “high-quality ingredients and delicious recipes” that allowed her to cook healthy meals she could feel good about. The ingredients she received were largely prepped, with vegetables chopped and marinades mixed. “I got to cook, but it was much less messy and time-consuming!”

Though she opted for family recipes, Julia didn’t find the meals particularly well-suited to very young children and the portions seemed small. All told, she found the service to be quite expensive, even given the convenience and quality of ingredients.

Popular meals include: Thyme-Roasted Chicken, Greek Veggie Pitas, and Lemon Pesto Fusilli (pictured above)

Check out Green Chef for pricing

Courtesy Red Velvet

Red Velvet

Red Velvet is the answer to those times you want to have a baking day but really don’t want to fill your fridge and cabinets with leftover ultra-specific ingredients or equipment. So once you pick your treat, Red Velvet mails you exactly the amount of flour, sugar, etc that you’ll need for the recipe and the kit also includes tools like cupcake holders that can go right into the oven.

“I baked the Celebration Cupcakes with my 2-year-old daughter, which speaks volumes about how easy these are,” Dennison said. “They look incredibly professional: no one would know you used a kit for these at the next bake sale. I wouldn’t be surprised if they thought you were launching your own catering business after trying these! Blows boxed cakes out of the water.”

Popular baking kits include: Celebration Cupcakes, Strawberry Shortcakes, Oatmeal Cookie Bars, and Cheesecake Minis.

Check out Red Velvet for pricing.

Courtesy Urban Roots

Urban Roots

Urban Roots’ veggie-based side dishes can be delivered to you on FreshDirect or you can pick them up at grocery stores around New York City, Philadelphia and New Haven. The dishes are created to be a healthy addition to your meal or be paired with your choice of protein. Think: Adding chicken, shrimp or tofu to rice or noodles—except in an Urban Roots dish, it would be cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles.

“I paired these up with protein and they easily made dinner for myself, my boyfriend and my almost 3-year-old daughter. They’re really easy, take minutes and if you have your protein ready, might be the fastest dinner you’ll ever get on your family table,” said Dennison. “You won’t miss the rice or pasta, plus you get your vegetable quotient way, way up. Oh and my toddler even ate the zucchini noodles, thinking they were pasta. Winning!”

Popular side dishes include: Broccoli Fried Cauliflower Rice, Risotto Style Cauliflower Rice, and Zucchini Pomodoro Veggie Noodles

Check out Urban Roots for pricing.

Advertisement

Comments

Be the first to comment!