Grocery and Meal Kit Home Delivery: Your Path to Stress-Free Food Prep

You probably know one of the best ways to save money is to cook at home — but who has time to go to the grocery store? Well, there’s good news: You don’t have to.

Groceries at Your Doorstep

A number of companies offer home delivery of groceries. The two biggies are Amazon Fresh and Peapod (of which I’ve been a customer for years and even reviewed on my blog). Both allow you to grocery-shop digitally, free from crowds, cranky children (unless you have any of your own at home, that is) and checkout lines. Plus, with Peapod, there are coupons.

The drawback? Limited availability. Peapod delivers in the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic and select Midwest states. Amazon Fresh is only available in Seattle, Northern and Southern California, New York City and Philadelphia. Both have delivery or subscription fees, ranging from $6.95 to $15.

That said, even if you’re buying groceries with the best of intentions, how many times have you had a science experiment grow in your vegetable crisper or had to dump your leftovers in the trash? What a waste of time and money.

Meal Kits, Home-Delivered

Having tossed out liquefied celery one too many times, our family decided to try meal kits. These deliver the right amount of ingredients, along with recipes, so you can cook from-scratch meals for your family. The money-saving comes from not wasting groceries.

Right now, the big players include Blue Apron, Chef’d, Plated, Sun Basket and Hello Fresh. We tried all five — and apparently, lots of other people are trying them, too. Meal kit services are projected to become a $3 to $5 billion industry in the next decade.

During registration, we were able to highlight allergies (soy, egg, nut, etc.) and meat preferences (no lamb or shellfish). None required a long-term commitment, though we did have to provide credit card information. With each service, a whole week’s worth of meals arrived at once. That meant making sure there was room in our refrigerator and on our calendar to cook the meals before anything spoiled. All together, we spent about two weeks cooking from meal kit companies with fresh, seasonal produce and farm-raised fish and meats. Here’s a rundown of the companies we tried:

  • Blue Apron: Blue Apron costs range from $8.74 to $9.99 per serving. Delivery is free, and you can upgrade your meal kit to include wine pairings. We ended up eating meals we never would have cooked for ourselves, with ingredients I never would have thought my picky-eater husband would eat (hello, Brussels sprouts). We’ll be continuing with Blue Apron.
  • Chef’d: With Chef’d, cost per serving ranges from $9 to $17. Weekly meal plans costing under $40 incur a $10 delivery charge. Additionally, the company has partnered with Weight Watchers, Atkins and the American Diabetes Association. We used Chef’d for a few days of healthy eating. The chicken dishes we made were the lowest-calorie of the meal kits we tried. This service is perfect if you’re watching your weight or on a restricted diet.
  • HelloFresh: Per-serving prices at HelloFresh vary from $8.75 to $11.50, and delivery is free. You get one recipe from chef Jamie Oliver (a Hello Fresh partner) each week. One of our recipes was a tomato bisque with bread and salad, which everyone predicted ahead of time wasn’t going to be enough food. Wrong! Not only were we stuffed, we talked about how good the bisque was the whole next day. We can’t wait for our next meal kit.
  • Plated: All Plated meals cost $12 per serving. Unless you order at least five servings per week, you’ll pay a $6 delivery charge. Plated also lets you add on desserts at $4 per serving. Note, however, that this service’s meals had some of the highest calorie counts. We modified one dish to save a few calories; we didn’t use the mayonnaise that Plated provided. Even without it, the meal was still delicious.
  • Sun Basket: Sun Basket meals all cost $11.49 per serving, and you pay a $5.99 delivery charge each week. Sun Basket promotes all-organic, non-GMO ingredients and offers a vegan recipe option. The meals we made were fine but not our favorites.

Each of these options offers its own unique flavor. Pick one or two, and see which one serves your family best (pun intended).

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