Here’s Which Meal-Kit Delivery Service is Best for Your Budget

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THERE’S ONE WAY TO cook fresh, delicious meals at home without doing all the planning, preparing and shopping: meal-kit delivery services. This relatively new service model delivers a box of ingredients to your door, and you do the cooking at home. Most kits offer the option to serve two, three or four people, and you can customize how many meals per week you would like.

Now that meal-kit delivery is a popular option for families across the country, there are tons of services from which to choose. Read on for a list of affordable meal-kit delivery services available in the continental United States and the pros and cons to selecting each. Meal-kit delivery services are listed from least to most expensive:

Hello Fresh
Blue Apron
Terra’s Kitchen
Plated
Read further for more information about each budget-friendly meal-kit delivery service.

Hello Fresh
Cost: Three meals for a family of four cost $95.87 per week, which breaks down to$7.87 per serving, plus $5.99 shipping. Of the four meal delivery services included in this article, Hello Fresh is tied for least expensive with Blue Apron.

Time to cook: Hello Fresh allows you to select meals categorized as “quick,” which take 30 minutes maximum to prepare.

Educational component: For those who want more of a challenge and education, Hello Fresh customers can choose recipes tagged as “variety” to try new ingredients and cooking techniques. A Hello Fresh app is available for those home chefs looking for help along the way.

Variety: The classic plan at Hello Fresh offers 15 recipes to choose from each week. The family plan has six choices available, and the vegetarian plan has three. Meal styles vary from traditional to Southwestern, Italian and Mediterranean.

Blue Apron
Cost: Three meals for a family of four cost $95.88 per week, which breaks down to $7.99 per serving, plus free shipping. Note that even for a family of two, shipping is free.

Out of the four meal kits assessed, Hello Fresh and Blue Apron are the two least expensive options.

Time to cook: Since there is more preparation involved, the time it takes to cook each recipe will vary based on your expertise. Novices may take more than an hour to prepare a meal listed as 45 minutes, but a seasoned chef will need less time. Fortunately, you can log into your account and choose recipes based on the time it will take, as well as other factors, including nutrition, ingredients and reviews.

Educational component: Blue Apron does not prepare ingredients ahead of time, so all the chopping, slicing and seasoning is done by you at home. For those looking to get firsthand cooking experience, this is a great introduction, especially with helpful tips and photos of each recipe step available on the website and app.

Variety: You can find a wide range of recipes available from Blue Apron, including dishes inspired by Asian, Indian and European cuisines. There are eight options to choose from each week.

Terra’s Kitchen
Cost: The cost varies based on the meals chosen. Although they do not have family plans, meals start at $9.99 per serving for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.

Time to cook: Terra’s Kitchen is a great option for those who want a quick and fresh meal, mostly because the ingredients come prepared. Vegetables are chopped or sliced, and sauces are already mixed and ready to pour. Some recipes are listed as taking only 15 minutes to complete. Also, their recipe cards are a very handy step-by-step guide to preparing the meal.

Educational component: Given the prepared nature of the ingredients, this option is less educational for those who want to learn new cooking techniques.

Variety: Terra’s Kitchen stands out for its variety because, in addition to dinner options, it offers lunch, snacks, desserts and beverages.

Plated
Cost: Three meals for a family of four cost $119.40 per week, which breaks down to $9.95 per serving, plus free shipping. Discounts are sometimes available for introductory rates. But make sure to read the terms and conditions to find out how long a discount will last.

Time to cook: While Plated will appeal to foodies and those looking for a surplus of options, its recipes often include a lot of preparation and skill. For someone looking for a quick weeknight meal, Plated may not be the best option.

Educational component: Aspiring chefs can certainly learn a lot from Plated’s recipes, which include a lot of flexibility and the ability to try cooking with lesser-known ingredients inspired by countries near and far.

Variety: Plated’s most-discussed feature is the variety the service offers, with a whopping 20 recipes for subscribers to choose from each week. For those with a sweet tooth, dessert is also an option.

There may be other factors important to you when deciding on a meal-kit subscription. Choice and flexibility vary across services, including the number of meals you can choose from and whether you can “skip” a week here and there.

If you are following a weight-loss regimen or have certain dietary restrictions, you may find some services to be better fits than others. Terra’s Kitchen and Green Chef offer options for those who follow the Paleo, Keto or gluten-free diets, and Purple Carrot is a popular choice for vegans and vegetarians. You may value sustainability practices and locally sourced ingredients, which Plated emphasizes, or you may find that a regional company in your area is the best fit. For someone looking to minimize packaging waste, Terra’s Kitchen ships its ingredients in a refrigerated vessel that you return the next day.

No matter which service you choose, make sure to adjust your grocery shopping budget accordingly. Supplement your meal kit with low-cost, low-maintenance meals for the remainder of the week, or use leftovers from your creations for lunch the next day. Finding the right meal kit for you can save time and stress, and if you plan properly, it can fit into your budget as well.

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