There’s nothing quite like a home-cooked meal, but as anyone who’s ever made one can tell you: there’s a lot more prep involved than just slicing and dicing. You need to dedicate a surprising amount of time to thinking about what you want to make, the ingredients you’ll need to ensure you already have or need to procure, when and where to shop for said items, and that’s just the beginning. 

Cooking at home is even more difficult if you have a food allergy, a diet regimen you must follow, or if you’re only cooking for one. (Why is it so difficult to cook in smaller portions, I ask you?)

All of these obstacles can be surmounted — easily — with a subscription to a delivery meal service.

What is a Meal Delivery Service?

Hand holding a phone with images on the screen depicting a menu for a meal delivery serviceA meal service ships meals to your home on a regular basis. Some services deliver an already-prepared meal, and some have kits with pre-measured ingredients for you to assemble and cook. Typically, you choose from an array of meal plans and serving sizes online, and select how many meals you want to receive per week. Services usually offer a range of meals or recipes to choose from depending on dietary needs, schedule, and personal taste. Many cater to people trying to be gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, or adhere to other specific diets.

Advantages of Meal Delivery Services:

Meal delivery services don’t just eliminate the daily dilemma of what to cook (although that’s definitely one of their biggest perks.) Some of their benefits include:

  • Many kits can be tailored to accommodate dietary restrictions or preferences, which is a major boon for people who need to adhere to such things.Different pre-made meals in tin containers are scattered across a yellow background
  • Subscribers often remark that meal kits helped them learn how to cook or exposed them to unfamiliar ingredients.
  • Most kits end up being a lot cheaper than eating at a restaurant (and there’s less Covid, too!)
  • By including only the amounts needed for each recipe, meal kits create less food waste.
  • If you’re smart about which subscription you choose, you can also save money on groceries.
  • The fact that they’re delivered straight to your home saves you from grocery stores and schlepping all of your purchases home, which is particularly helpful for those with physical limitations, the immunocompromised, and those who rely on public transport.

How to Choose a Meal Delivery Service:

woman opening a package on a countertop that is marked OrganicWhen it comes to choosing which service works best for you — pre-made meals that just require heating or kits with ingredients and a recipe for you to follow and cook — it comes down to preference and your lifestyle, because the prices are pretty comparable. Once you’ve decided which option you prefer, you’ll need to consider price, the level of customization (if you need it), and the quality of ingredients. With a slew of companies to choose from, it’s easy to read reviews online before picking a service to maximize your satisfaction. 

For example, MoneyUnder30 created a table to help analyze the differences between five of the top providers: Home Chef, EveryPlate, Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Sunbasket. (Note: They included Freshly in their analysis, but they have since ceased operations, so don’t waste your time.) They even include a category listing current promotions, which can save you a pretty penny if you’re savvy. Simply Recipes has a list of the top meal delivery services by price, so you could just pick the cheapest one if you’re not too fussy. (This wouldn’t be a terrible idea; the cheaper delivery services usually cut costs by generalizing what they offer, reducing packaging, relying on digital recipes versus printed, or spending less on marketing.)

Another method is to simply ask your friends if they use a meal delivery service. Most of these companies highly incentivize current users by giving out free meal coupons to distribute, so you could try a few different ones before committing.

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