The 5 Meal Subscription Boxes Worth Tasting & Experiencing.
This post is sponsored by Blue Apron. Thanks for your continued support of Daily Garnish!
Hey guys, I’m super excited about this post! For many years now I’ve shared our experience cooking with Blue Apron, and highlighted some of the things we love about the service (and just a heads up, the first 50 readers to click here get $30 off their order!). But in recent years there are so many more meal subscription boxes available on the market – it’s hard to even keep track! So this month I did something fun – I ordered a bunch of different meal subscription boxes, and put myself to the task of comparing the services and finding all the unique differences. It’s a tough job, but someone had to do it!
Having only tried Blue Apron in the past, it was really interesting to try a bunch of different meal subscription kits to see all the differences in things like quality of ingredients, price, recipe appeal, and more. I’m going to tell you about each one of them in depth, but first here is a quick look at the different boxes I tried, and some of the things that set them apart.
Blue Apron Meal Subscription Box
Like I said above, we’ve been using Blue Apron on and off for almost three years now! One of the cool things about using a company since its early days is seeing all the ways it has grown and evolved as it has expanded and reached more customers. I tell my friends all the time that I’ve never made a Blue Apron meal I didn’t like. The three meals we cooked this time were: Fried Eggs and French Green Lentils, Fontina & Ricotta Calzones, and Vegetable Lo Mein.
My favorite thing about Blue Apron is the recipes – they are creative, they are easy to make, and they are almost always something I end up saying, “I never would have made that but it was SO good.” I get a lot of great ideas that I then make again for our family using our own ingredients, and it helps me expand our meal ideas each week. I also love the variety of ingredients used. One of my favorite restaurant dishes here in Seattle is a sticky rice cake dish at a place called Joule, that utilizes an ingredient called tteok. While I could probably go to our international market here and find it myself, I’m never realistically going to do that. But I’ve received at least three Blue Apron boxes that contain recipes with this ingredient, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it every time I see it on an upcoming menu.
Like any of the meal subscription boxes, it’s not something we (personally) can afford to do every week. While it’s still a much better deal than takeout or eating in a restaurant, it is still more per meal than I’d typically spend on something homemade. Of course, the tradeoff is that we get creative, chef-quality meals with unique ingredients, so for us it’s worth that splurge around once each month. Also I find that the vegetarian menus tend to be pretty carb-heavy, and I wish there was a bigger focus on veggie proteins. I’d also love to eventually see more dietary preferences considered beyond just meat, fish, and veggie options.
I’d highly recommend Blue Apron to anyone interested in a meal subscription service. In my opinion, compared to other boxes it has some of the most unique recipes and freshest ingredients. The quality of the food and service for the price can’t be beat.
Home Chef Meal Subscription Box
Home Chef was the second meal subscription kit I tried, and I couldn’t wait to open it up and see how it different from what we were used to. The sign-up process was super easy and I was impressed by all of the different dietary considerations that were available when making my selections. The three meals we cooked were: Tostadas Zanahorias, Pine Nut & Goat Cheese Bucatini Alfredo, and Crispy Mozzarella Fritters.
Of all the boxes I tried, this was the only one that offered low-calorie and low-carb options, which are really important to certain customers. It was also the least expensive, which is a big factor when choosing the right box for your family and your budget. I also liked that meals were packaged individually into bags so that all ingredients were kept together for easy access from the box and the fridge! Another cool feature – beyond the regular meals, you could add a smoothie or a seasonal fruit basket to your weekly deliveries too!
Unfortunately, once I started cooking I was not super impressed by Home Chef. The ingredients weren’t great – for example, one recipe involved breading some cheese in an egg wash and panko topping. Rather than providing whole fresh eggs, there was a generic small bottle of liquid egg instead – not something I’d buy or use in my regular cooking! I also didn’t find the recipes to be very appetizing or appealing. The meals were really heavy and the photography wasn’t as nice as some of the others.
As the least expensive option of all the boxes I tried, Home Chef certainly wins in the price category. Of course, the lower price comes with some concessions in ingredients and quality, but the convenience and availability are still on par with the rest of the services. As my least favorite meal subscription kit, I probably wouldn’t try this one again.
Hello Fresh Meal Subscription Box
I have heard about Hello Fresh for a long time now, so I was really excited to try it myself and check out the hype. The sign-up was really easy, and I appreciated that plans were really individualized, and that the family plan was slightly less expensive. The three meals we cooked were: One-Pot Tortellini with Parmesan Breadcrumbs and Kale, Chickpea-Powered Mediterranean Couscous, and Melty Eggplant Mozza Sandwiches.
I am a huge sucker for anything with eggplant, so I couldn’t wait to make the melty eggplant sandwiches. I ended up sharing these with the kids on a night when Casey was working, and they were messy but quite tasty. I really liked how the meals were all packaged together bags, for easy grab and cook right out of the fridge. The recipes were very simple and relatively quick to cook. Because the recipes were a little more basic, I found them to be a bit more kid-friendly as well.
There was nothing I particularly disliked about Hello Fresh, but I didn’t feel like I loved it either. The recipes felt a bit less exciting than what I was used to, and didn’t really have any unusual or unique ingredients. While the meals were tasty, they also felt like things I could have put together myself.
Hello Fresh is super comparable on price with the other main leaders in meal subscription kits, and is a good value for the service. The meals are easy to cook and really simple, but almost a little too simple for my preference. The meals I tried were all a bit more traditional and had less focus on creative ethnic cooking that I tend to like. As mentioned before, I also felt like the vegetarian options lacked focus on proteins, and were very heavy on the carbohydrates.
Sunbasket Meal Subscription Box
Of all the new boxes I tried this month, I was most excited to order from Sunbasket! I had heard great things from friends, and I couldn’t wait to see if it met my expectations. On first glance at sign-up, the photography and packaging were beautiful and really visually appealing. The dietary preferences include a Chef’s Choice plan, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Lean & Clean, and Vegetarian – much more than any other service I’d tried. We tried the vegetarian box, and the three meals we cooked were: North African black lentil pitas with carrot-cranberry salad, Gluten-free penne with caponata and smoked mozzarella, and Spinach and quinoa-stuffed portobellos with white bean mash.
The recipes for Sunbasket were top notch – they were creative and diverse, and utilized techniques and ingredients that were refreshing and interesting. Another important feature for Sunbasket is that most of the ingredients are organic and sustainably sourced when possible. For those customers that prefer meat and seafood, they also provide, humanely raised, antibiotic and hormone-free meat, and seafood aligned with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Watch List. I see this as Sunbasket’s biggest distinguisher, as ingredient sourcing and quality is something that is really important to certain customers.
Of course, with higher quality ingredients comes a higher price tag. Sunbasket was also the most expensive service we tried! At $11.49 per person (per meal), it was significantly higher than most of the other boxes that came in right under $10. It was also the only service that charged an additional shipping fee of $5.99 on top of an already higher price tag.
I was really impressed by the quality of ingredients in the Sunbasket meals, and I found myself excited to cook the recipes (the lentils were amazing!). I personally prefer to eat organic when possible, so I appreciated that most of the ingredients were in line with what we’d typically buy ourselves.
Plated Meal Subscription Box
My next-door neighbors have been using Plated regularly for a long time now, so I was excited to finally try it myself. Signing up was easy and meal selection was available immediately. I liked that they included how servings would break out for adults vs. children, and offered a variety of plans for number of meals and number of servings. The meals we cooked this week were: Butternut Squash Tostadas with Crispy Mushrooms and Carrot-Cabbage Slaw, Okonomiyaki with Chinese Broccoli – Sriracha Mayo – and Sesame-Cabbage Slaw, and Spinach and Mushroom Calzones with Marinara Sauce.
My favorite thing about Plated was the creativity in the recipes. I know I’ve said this already, but I really appreciate unique cuisines that we don’t regularly cook. The Chinese Broccoli recipe was amazing, and like nothing I’ve made before. I also love that Plated offers to add-on dessert as well. Some of the upcoming options include things like Cinnamon Toast Grilled Cheese and Carmelized Pear Shortcakes – YUM.
The major drawback to Plated was that after my first order, my box never arrived! I was expecting it on a Saturday, and by Monday when I’d still not received anything, I reached out to customer service. I will say that customer service was excellent and a refund was issued immediately, but it was still very frustrating to not receive meals I was planning for that week. The box did eventually arrive almost a week later (due to a carrier issue), and Plated instructed me to throw away the contents, which felt very wasteful but was clearly necessary due to lack of refrigeration.
Overall, I felt like Plated had good recipes and nice ingredients for a competitive price. My hesitation in using them again would be the inconsistency with delivery, as we count on meal subscription boxes in our meal planning for the weeks when we place an order. It was really frustrating to not have the dinners we had planned on, and to have to improvise quickly at the last minute.
Final Thoughts: Best Meal Subscription Box
What a treat to get to try all these different services and eat so many delicious meals! This was a really fun project to work on. Overall, I felt excited that meal planning and convenience cooking has developed so much in the last few years, and that there are so many different ways to make getting dinner on the table that much easier. I like that there is a range of price points available to meet the needs of different budget and customers.
Overall, I still find Blue Apron to be the most appealing service for our family. The quality of ingredients, creativity in recipes, consistency in service, and price point are all very much in line with that we are looking for in a meal subscription service. For those who are looking for a more organic option and are comfortable with a higher price point, I’d recommend SunBasket as another good option. For us the price point of Blue Apron is more in line with what we tend to spend on our monthly food budget, and while the ingredients are only organic when possible, I appreciate that they are locally-sourced and always super fresh and long lasting.
For those of you who haven’t tried Blue Apron yet yourselves, don’t miss this offer for $30 off your first order (available for the first 50 customers!) when you click here. Thanks so much to Blue Apron for the opportunity to try some of the competitors, and for another great week of tasty dinners.