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I don’t know about you but meal boxes are trending hugely right now!   And honestly, because of that I avoided them.   I didn’t want to jump on a bandwagon, and I already love to cook and grocery shopping is like vacation for me most days.    I didn’t expect to like them.

My introduction to meal boxes was a little unexpected.   I recently was helping support a friend through the loss of her husband, and had been spending some time at her house.  She had been getting meal boxes for a few months and was about to go out of town and had some meals in her fridge she wouldn’t be able to cook before she left.   Because she knows how much I love to cook she gifted me some meals from SunBasket and Green Chef.

And that’s all it took.   I was in love!

So what was it about these meal boxes that got me hooked?

I loved the gentle nudge outside of my normal recipes to try something new.   I loved that I didn’t have to shop for the ingredients and they were ready to go (even though I actually like grocery shopping).  And the food was good.   Really good.

This made me think, though, what are the other meal boxes like?  Are they all good?   Would I like some more than others?

And since all of the major meal box companies offer pretty generous promos to try them out, I decided to jump in and do an experiment.

Over the last two months we tested out meal boxes from five different companies:

We ordered multiple boxes from each company and overall cooked between 6-10 meals per meal box company.

I’d say that was a pretty thorough comparison, wouldn’t you?

But before I give you our opinions, I should probably tell you what things are important to us so you understand our perspective on each of these options.

What we like and what we don’t

What is available where we live

We live in a town that has about 3,300 residents and is over 70 miles from the nearest WalMart.   Costco delivers here, but only dry goods.   Our town has one single Safeway store and a mom and pop grocer.

If it were up to me (and my budget) we would buy exclusively organic produce and meats, but good quality options are hard to source in our area and my budget isn’t quite there yet.

Food restrictions

Our kids are pretty easy going about most foods, but my six year old doesn’t like things that are creamy.   I don’t like seafood, my husband likes salmon but not shellfish.

We avoid quinoa because it gives my husband some digestive discomfort, and peanuts because I am allergic to them.

Price sensitivity and value

I am not adverse to spending for quality food as long as we get a good value for it.   Value to me is either: a delicious meal that I would be unlikely or unable to make without the meal box, a restaurant style/quality meal, or a meal that is made of high quality ingredients that I would have a difficult time sourcing locally.

Price is attractive, but I am willing to spend a few more dollars per serving if the experience is superior to the alternative.

Cooking skill and time to spend

I would consider myself a fairly skilled cook, understanding cooking terminology, being able to follow reasonable directions even if I’ve never done a particular cooking method before, and able to do complicated prep-work.

I prefer high quality meals that don’t take a long time (over an hour of active time) and don’t make a significant amount of dishes.

So that’s where we come from.

Ready to dive into the meal box company comparisons?   Let’s go!

Blue Apron meal boxes

Blue Apron

Pricing:   $7.49-$9.99 per serving

What we liked:

I thought the food was just adventurous that it was fun, but not so adventurous that we didn’t like the meals.  The meals were tasty and we enjoyed the Master Chef inspired recipes that we could pick.

In general they don’t use too many specialized spice and sauce mixes, so I could make some of the recipes at home with my own ingredients if I wanted to.

The meals were pretty kid friendly, and my kids enjoyed them.  They have tons and tons of recipes to choose from, including Master Chef unspired recipes, so you will never lack for variety.

What we didn’t:

We had a really big mix up with one box and had two meals where we had partial ingredients and the wrong menu cards.   Customer service was great and credited our account for the mistakes.  We were able to pick up some of the missing ingredients from the store to make up for what had not been included and it worked out.

The way they package their meals makes some ingredients prone to damage (broken zucchinis, etc).   It also makes them difficult to organize in the fridge.   Some items are packed loosely, some in bags, and the meats are all separate.   They do provide a helpful checklist on each recipe card, though, to help you organize.

Interesting extras:

They offer wine pairing suggestions on each recipe card and also offer a wine box subscription that you can order along with your meal box.

Who it’s best for (in my opinion):

Families, wine drinkers who enjoy good food paired with selected wines, people who enjoy Master Chef, and people who enjoy solidly good food, but are not hung up on organic.

Coupon/Give it a Try:  $50 Off Your First 2 Boxes of Blue Apron! (Save $25 Week 1 – Save $25 Week 2)

Green Chef Meal Boxes

Green Chef

Pricing:   $8.99-$9.99 per serving

What we liked:

The food was organic and everything was very fresh when it came.   We even had a meal where the recipe called for fresh tuna steaks and amazingly the tuna was so fresh that I actually enjoyed it. I typically don’t enjoy fish, but this fish was outstanding!

What we didn’t:

There was a mix up with them sending a second box so quickly that I hadn’t received my first one before I was charged for a second one.   When I called about it, they were very helpful about fixing the mistake.   Also, recipe cards were forgotten in my box, but they quickly emailed me the recipes.  Even though there were problems with one of our boxes they were very helpful about making everything right.

There were only six different meals to choose from each week. While you could mix and match them for an impressive array of different food needs, I liked having more than six options to choose between.

Who it’s best for (in my opinion):

People with specialized food needs (food allergies, gluten free, paleo, keto).  People who value organic ingredients and are looking to learn healthy recipes.

Coupon/Give it a Try: Get Four Free Meals from Green Chef

 

Hello Fresh meal boxes

Hello Fresh

Pricing:   $8.99-$9.99 per serving

What we liked:

The food was stellar.   We loved everything we had from them.  The portions are great, the meals were easy to prepare, and it was almost  a tie with our first pick.   The only drawback I mention below was the reason it wasn’t first.

I also really appreciated that when we liked a meal, it was not too hard to purchase our own ingredients at the store to make it again.   My husband was at a meeting one night when we made a delicious mushroom ravioli dish that he was bummed to miss out on.   But since the recipe didn’t call for any proprietary spice blends I was easily able to grab the ingredients and make our own version of it for him.

What we didn’t:

The only downside I found with Hello Fresh is that while they have very high quality ingredients, they are not organic.

Interesting extras:

They also do wine pairing on each recipe card, and you can subscribe to their wine club, too if you want.

Who it’s best for (in my opinion):

Families looking for delicious food, not hung up on organic, and a good value.  This one would have been my favorite if they offered organic ingredients.

Coupon/Give it a Try:  Get $40 off your first Hello Fresh Box

Home Chef meal boxes

Home Chef

Pricing:   $8.99-$9.99 per serving

What we liked:

There were some meals that my kids really liked!  In fact there was a lemon chicken pasta that was one of the meals they raved about the most.  The recipes were really straight forward and didn’t take a ton of time to prepare which was very nice.  The food was comforting and familiar, so you should be able to find something for those who are not adventurous eaters.

What we didn’t:

Many of the meals were light on sides or veggies, which we tend to really like as part of a complete meal.

Interesting extras:

You get a really cool binder in your first order that you can store all of your recipe cards in that they send.  That really came in handy.

Who it’s best for (in my opinion):

This is great if you have somewhat particular tastes and prefer really good American-style food.   This is the meal box service that I thought would be the easiest to find comforting and familiar foods that you may already know you like.

Coupon/Give it a Try: Get $30 off your first order with Home Chef PLUS $10 off your second

Sunbasket meal boxes

SunBasket

Pricing:  $8.99-$9.99 per serving

What we liked about SunBasket:

The food from SunBasket was the best of all of the meal box companies that we tried.   Out of the ten meals we had, only one didn’t absolutely knock it out of the park, and that one was still pretty good.

The portions are generous.   For some of the meals there was enough for four modest servings (for two adults and two young children) instead of the advertised two portions.

I loved that the ingredients were Organic.  Since we are not able to reliably source most organic products locally this was a big draw for me.

What we didn’t like about SunBasket:

Honestly, I can’t really think of much we didn’t care for.   Maybe my only dislike is that many of the recipes include specialty spice blends and sauces, so they’d be harder to duplicate on my own.

But I don’t want to duplicate their meals, I just would like to buy them.   I like them that much.

Interesting extras:

If you do bento boxes or pack lunches for family members, the plastic condiment and extras containers are easy to wash and re-use several times before recycling.

They also send you a little booklet with all of the recipes for that time frame, not just the ones you picked.

Since we tried them (they were our second company we ordered from) they have also added a wine club, so if wine’s your thing, they have it, too!

Who it’s best for (in my opinion):

Busy people who like trying new foods and appreciate organic and sustainably sourced food, people who like cooking and learning new recipes.

Coupon/Give it a Try: Get $40 off your first order with SunBasket

Meal Box Companies Ranked

So of these five meal box options, how did we rank them as a family?

We liked them all, and would gladly order any of them again, but we did have a definite order of preference.  So here they are ranked, with the things that stood out to us about them most.

  1.  SunBasket: Generous portions, organic produce and clean meats, delicious food.  Fun recipes that taught me something and tested amazing.
  2.   Hello Fresh:  Delicious food (we found these recipes to be really fun and everyone agreed they wanted to eat them again), and we could take many of the recipes and make them at home with our own ingredients if we wanted to.
  3.  Blue Apron: Fun recipes and MasterChef exlusive meals
  4.  Green Chef: Healthy meals full of veggies and they’re organic!  Most modern diets have options with this company.
  5.  Home Chef: Some of my kids’ favorite meals, familiar comforting fare.

We will definitely be meal boxing again!

How about you?

Have you ever tried a meal box service?  If not, which one do you plan to try?

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