What To Look For In a Meal Delivery Service

So, you’re doing all you can to keep your New Year’s resolutions on track, and a big part of that is eating better – especially at home. But going to the grocery store has now become a hassle (thanks, COVID-19). Add to that a job, training, and all your other obligations, and who has time for shopping and prepping meals? Still, you know you need well thought-out nutritious meals if you’re going to be successful in your quest for a lean body. Enter meal kits – boxes of pre-portioned ingredients and recipes delivered to your door.

Meal kits interest and sales have skyrocketed since the pandemic began. Such kits became trendy when the first ones, Blue Apron and HelloFresh, came onto the scene almost a decade ago. Now, however, there are so many to choose from. Here are important questions to ask when deciding on a meal kit delivery service and my favorites depending on your needs.

Can I Choose the Food?

Make sure you can preview the menu for the upcoming week and future weeks. This is highly important, especially if you have specific tastes or needs. Looking at the weekly menus for a few services and comparing them tells you a lot about what makes each one unique.

Are there enough menu options each week?

Do the options you have available meet your dietary requirements, including allergy concerns? Some meal kits focus on particular styles of food. If that style is simply not to your liking it may be that the other options are not as attractive as well. For instance, some services tend to use a lot of curry and Eastern spices, but if you don’t like Eastern spices your options – should you want to make a change – may be limited.

Can you see the recipes and instructions?

You’ll want to check out sample recipes and instructions. Do they line up with how much work you’re willing to do? In addition, the recipes indicate what equipment and ingredients you’ll need. It might be nothing more than a skillet, wooden spoon, and salt and pepper. Or it could be that you’ll use a slow cooker on a regular basis. Good information to know, so check that out.

Do they allow substitutions or offer add-ons and upgrades?

Some services will let you substitute, say, chicken for pork, or pay a small nominal fee for organic or antibiotic-free meat. Others sell snacks and other standalone groceries that you can add to your order. A few even act as a kind of online grocery store, letting you choose both kits and groceries in every order.

How Many Meals Do I Get?

Even service is different, but most meal kit delivery services require a subscription. So, when you sign up, you’ll agree to receive a shipment of meal kits regularly, usually weekly. For the most part, you will need to commit to a minimum of three meals per week that serve two people each, or six servings total.

Can I skip a week at any time or pause my subscription?

Typically, yes, but you will want to check this out. Nothing makes these services more expensive than boxes of good ingredients going bad at your front doorstep while you’re out of town. The best companies will give you the option of skipping multiple weeks at a time.

How Much Do Meal Kit Services Cost?

The most popular meal kit delivery services range between $8 and $13 per serving, although some are lower. Delivery fees typically hang in the range of $7.99 per shipment. Of course, the more you buy, the cheaper it is per serving.

My Top Meal (Kit) Delivery Services

Meal Kit For Vegetarians

  • Purple Carrot – Perfect for anyone who wants to explore more plant-based meals. You get a detailed recipe book with a lot of unique dishes. Interesting spices are used with rice, noodle, and quinoa bases, to name a few. There is an Asian theme to many of their dishes. It’s easy to make substitutions and everything is managed online.

Cost: About $10/serving.


Meal Kit For Meal Flexibility

  • HelloFresh – You can choose from 20 recipes per week, and you can skip weeks, swap recipes, and cancel anytime without any commitment. Choose from a variety of recipes like 20-minute meals, taste tours, and one-pot wonders, as well as dietary restrictions like veggie or low-carb.

Cost: About $8 per serving.


Meal Kit For Meal Variety

  • Home Chef – This company offers a great deal of variety for the customer. You create a “taste profile” and select your dietary preferences, as well as foods to exclude (such as allergens). Home Chef appears to offer more recipe and meal variety than most other meal kits. There’s an option to add on breakfasts and quick lunches for a small additional charge per meal.

Cost: $10 per serving, but free shipping on orders over $45.


Meal Kit For Parents

  • Gobble – What I love about this company is that all their meal kits take 15 minutes to prepare. Boxed ingredients come to you peeled, chopped, and marinated, so all that’s left to do is actually cook the meal. And that is why Gobble was voted the number one meal delivery kit by Parents Magazine, no doubt due to its quick prep time.

Cos: About $9 per meal.


Prepared Meals, Because You Hate to Cook

  • Freshly – This company is great at meeting your needs and preferences, from gluten-free to peanut-free, with a wide selection of low-calorie, low-carb, dairy-free, vegetarian and paleo-friendly options to choose from. All meals are freshly prepared, refrigerated for shipment; all you do is reheat and enjoy.

Cost: About $10.50 per serving.


Prepared Meals, Because Money Doesn’t Matter Much

  • Sakara Life – Consider this luxurious good eating. While it is also plant-based, Sakara offers fresh, organic, ready-to-eat meals filled with superfoods for optimal nutrition. You also get supplements to maximize results, as well as, guidance from certified health coaches.

Cost: You’re looking at about $60 per day, but people do love them!

About the Author: Bob LeFavi

Bob LeFavi, PhD, is a professor of sports medicine and Dean of the Beaufort Campus at the University of South Carolina, Beaufort. He has been department head of health sciences and sports medicine at Armstrong State University and Georgia Southern University, Savannah, GA. Bob won the bantamweight class at the IFBB NorthAmerican Bodybuilding Championship and was runner-up at both the USA and National Championships. He also competed in the CrossFit Games as a Master’s athlete and has written over 750 articles in the popular press on training, diet, and fitness.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.