Family Dinner Night Made Easy: Meal Kit Subscriptions You Should Know About

Meal-planning services are popular for a simple reason: They make life easier.

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You’ve got a lot on your plate, metaphorically speaking, and meal delivery services simplify your routine by taking dinner worries out of the equation. They’re also great for exploring new recipes and refining your cooking skills.

With the success of Blue Apron, a number of new meal delivery services have staked a claim in the rapidly growing market. Of course, they’re not all exactly the same—they offer noticeably different meal options, delivery schedules, and pricing structures.

To that end, we decided to review a few of the most popular meal delivery services. Here’s what you need to know.

Home Chef

Home Chef’s meals are somewhat less adventurous than what you’d get from the other services we reviewed. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since you can recreate many Home Chef recipes with a quick trip to the grocery store (good luck trying that with something like Blue Apron’s “roasted chickpea and freekeh salad with harissa-glazed carrots and dates”).

The service also offers excellent options for families, as you can order up to six meals for two, four, or six people. Home Chef also offers low-calorie and low-carb options, and users can elect to avoid certain ingredients (soy, red meat, nuts, wheat, milk, and more).

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Home Chef

The bottom line: If you’ve got picky young eaters, Home Chef’s simple recipes are a good thing. If you’re cooking for yourself, however, you’ll probably want to keep looking.

Price: $9.95 per serving, plus shipping for orders less than $40.

HelloFresh

Billed as “your weeknight dinner solution,” HelloFresh offers an excellent variety of seasonal recipes at an affordable rate of $9.99 per meal. Their family plan provides servings for four people at $8.74 per serving.

While the company doesn’t offer the same extensive instructional tools as Blue Apron, you can still follow recipes with the HelloFresh Android and iOS apps. Users can select “fit” and “quick” options from HelloFresh’s menu, which helps accommodate the different lifestyles and needs of diverse home cooks.

The service also offers vegetarian, dairy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free menu options (note that these aren’t distinct plans, but rather optional recipes, which are clearly identified on the company’s website).

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Hello Fresh

The bottom line: HelloFresh is affordable, and it certainly makes meal planning more efficient. It’s an excellent option for creating healthy, delicious meals, but you’ll need to bring some basic cooking skills to the table to get the most out of your weekly order.

Price: $8.74 to $9.99 per serving.

Blue Apron

With delicious, fresh ingredients, Blue Apron is easily the best-known meal delivery service. Our deliveries arrived on time, and every recipe used unusual ingredients that you might not normally find in your kitchen.

Their Family Plan offers eight servings, but Blue Apron is more geared toward couples and individuals. While their recipes are delicious, picky kids might not find them quite so satisfying.

Recently, Blue Apron substantially expanded its available menu options. Users can select from eight recipes with plenty of great vegetarian options, but people with special dietary considerations will have to alter many recipes to enjoy them (Blue Apron offers substitution resources on its website).

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Blue Apron

The bottom line: Blue Apron provides an exquisite selection of recipes, and its instructional materials are top-notch. It’s still better for individuals and couples than it is for larger families, but it provides the best overall experience.

Price: $8.74 to $9.99 per serving.

Plated

The most expensive of the services we reviewed, Plated also offers the most versatile delivery options for larger families. Users can order up to four servings per night for up to four nights per week (a whopping 16 servings for a not-too-unreasonable $159.20). The service also offers desserts for an additional $4 per serving, along with a “Chef’s Table” option with specialty meats and seafoods. Shipping is free for boxes over $50.

Plated has restaurant-quality recipes, but it’s difficult to justify the high cost of the service when other meal delivery options provide similar quality.

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Plated

The bottom line: If you want a fairly versatile delivery service with desserts and other add-ons, Plated is worth a try, but be prepared to pay for the convenience.

Price: $9.95 to $11.95 per serving.

Sun Basket

Sun Basket offers “inspired farm-to-table recipes” with organic, non-GMO produce and sustainably farmed meats. It’s the only service we tested with distinct gluten-free and paleo delivery options. You’ll also find a “lean and clean” option for weight management and a “rise and shine” option with easy-to-prepare breakfasts.

Families can select from two to four recipes per week (at four servings per recipe). Sun Basket is fairly expensive, but it accommodates different dietary requirements while staying eco-friendly, so we can understand the extra expense.

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Sun Basket

The bottom line: Sun Basket is quite versatile, and their recipes are innovative. You’ll pay more, but if you have special dietary considerations, this is the service for you.

Price: $9.99 to $11.49 per serving.

Before you start using one of these services, make sure to prep your kitchen. Here are a few must-have items for every home chef:

Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless Steel 7 or 12-Piece Cookware Set, $179.10 (7-Piece) or $236.99 (12-Piece)

Sure, you could use non-stick cookware, but you’ll eventually need to replace it. Stainless steel offers better heat control, and this Cuisinart set is actually quite affordable.

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Shun VB0706 Sora 8-Inch Chef’s Knife, $79.95

Never skimp on your most important tool. A good, sharp chef’s knife allows you to prep dinner quickly and safely. The Shun VB0706 lets you refine your cutting skills with an insanely sharp VG10 blade.

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Joseph Joseph 5-Piece Chopping Board Set, $29.99

Worried about mixing up your cutting boards? This cutting board set comes in a chic stand, and the little icons on each tab show you what you’re supposed to be cutting on it.

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OXO Good Grips® 15-Piece Kitchen Tool Set, $99.99

This set comes in a nice stainless-steel holder, which fits well into narrow spaces. The tools are exceptional, and every utensil is machine washable with the exception of the can opener.

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Amazon

Joseph Joseph 9-Piece Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls, $87.64

As long as you’re outfitting your kitchen with stainless steel, you might as well pick up this mixing bowl and measuring cup set. Each item is easy to clean and you’ll stay organized thanks to the brilliant nesting design.

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Amazon

OXO Good Grips 16-Piece Glass Food Storage Set, $59.99

If you’re ordering any of these meal plans, you’ll eventually have leftovers. Keep them tasting fresh with this shatterproof glass storage set. They’re easy to care for, and you’ll never experience the unpleasant taste of plastic again.

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Bed Bath & Beyond

OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler, $8.99

Peeling during prep? No problem. This swivel peeler gets the job done quickly without wasting much food.

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Amazon

Müeller Vegetable Chopper, $19.99

Let’s say that you’re not so keen on refining your knife skills. No worries—this vegetable chopper can handle that annoying task for you. (Bonus: fewer tears while chopping onions.)

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Amazon

Kitchen Gizmo The Original Snap N’ Strain, $12.99

Using a strainer can be a pain, especially if you’re shorthanded in the kitchen. This strainer snaps onto your pot to allow for one-handed draining. It’s excellent if you’re looking to reserve some starchy liquid to add back into certain recipes (mashed potatoes, for instance).

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Amazon
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