More and more, you’re seeing ads and hearing the “office buzz” about home-delivered gourmet meals. Some like the convenience of not having to plan a meal or shop for groceries to make one. Others like the variety of menu items for which they’d never have the time to search out recipes while still others believe these home-delivered meals can actually save money!
What’s the real story? Are these new meal deals everything AND a bag of chips? Are they that convenient?
I had to find out.
Obviously, being a chef, I’m not lost in the kitchen, so creating delicious meals from whatever I choose to buy (or am given) is what I do for a living. And while I use recipes for some things, I really am not wanting for a recipe to make dinner from food ingredients any more than I need a calculator to add and subtract numbers.
But something about these meals interested me. Are they fresh? Do they taste good? Do they give you everything you need to make each recipe just like the photos? And how easy are the recipes to follow?
There are a number of popular (or should I say WELL advertised) national companies offering home-delivered meals to cook, and each has its following, depending on your level of cooking expertise or special food interests, like organic foods or following the recipes from well-known food experts or celebrity chefs. You just knew they weren’t going to miss out on a slice of this profitable pie!
The list is ever-growing, but here are some of your current options with approximate starting prices per person, per meal:
- Blue Apron $9.99 pp/pm
- Low-priced. Most meals take at least 45 minutes to prepare, so if your goal is quick and easy, this may not be for you. They also have a new wine-pairing option for their menu options, and those can be delivered to you too!
- Home Chef $9.95 pp/pm
- Easy-to-follow recipes and one of the more-least-expensive pricing plans.
- Sun Basket $12.00 pp/pm
- Want to feel good about what you’re eating? Sun Basket offers organic and non-GMO produce, responsibly raised meats (I still struggle with that phrase), sustainably sourced seafood, and 100% recyclable and compostable packaging. All this care comes at a premium as they are at the upper end of the cost range per meal.
- PeachDish $12.50 pp/pm
- Rather pricy but simple-to-follow recipes.
- Chef’D $12.00 pp/pm
- Like Plated, Chef’D is a more expensive “gourmet” option with more complicated techniques that take a bit longer to prepare.
- Plated $13.50 pp/pm
- More elaborate “gourmet” meals occasionally requiring more extensive prep time. They are also a more expensive option.
- HelloFresh $11.50 pp/pm
- Simple step-by-step recipes for mainstream family tastes. Moderately priced. Affiliated with Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver, so some of his recipes are offered.
- Terra’s Kitchen $9.99 pp/pm
- Low-priced, simple-to-prepare meals, many of which offer you the convenience of pre-cut vegetable and pre-prepared sauces.
- PurpleCarrot $11.50 pp/pm
- An ALL VEGAN meal program by NY Times Food Columnist Mark Bittman. You want to learn to cook great vegetarian/vegan meals? This may be your ticket! Mid-Priced… Then again, they’re grains and vegetables.
- Green Chef $14.99 pp/pm
- Want ONLY USDA Certified Organic everything? Here’s your choice. Green Chef offers a huge variety of dietary categories. It’s pricy, but hey! It’s all organic! You were expecting…?
- Takeout Kit $10.00 pp/pm
- If you’re looking for a Pantry Stable meal option, Takeout Kit delivers non-perishable meals requiring no refrigeration. Dehydrated this and that may not be your idea of a home-delivered meal program (unless you live in the woods or a bomb shelter), but it was a category you knew someone had to jump in and address, so here you are. Prices are moderate.
With so many choices, I decided to jump into the fray with Blue Apron, a well-known company in the low-priced category. I selected a 3-meal plan, which cost me $59.94 (or about $9.99 per meal), and the shipping was free, so my end cost per meal was actually $9.99. Not too bad.
Here’s what I found.
My box arrived on time, and everything was properly chilled. Each ingredient was seemingly pristine, pre-portioned and carefully packaged. Everything was very fresh and appealing!
The recipes were easy to follow for a person with average cooking skills and included color photos and step-by-step instructions.
Generally, you won’t gain any weight with their portion sizes, because overall, most proteins are about 6 ounces. In 2 cases, I prepared each recipe for 2 and basically ate both portions myself. Having said that, I followed (as best I could) each recipe, and the results were quite good. As for (the best I could), well, you can imagine a professional chef will just “cheat” some. It’s just too tempting not to take a few shortcuts for some better results.
The take away…
So, would I recommend Blue Apron? Absolutely! I actually enjoyed not thinking about what I needed to buy or if I had everything I needed before I began the preparation of each dish. Blue Apron did all the thinking for me; it was all right there in the box. Everything except salt, pepper and water. And I didn’t even have to measure anything; that was all taken care of too.
Who are the Blue Apron’s customers?
Well, I suppose anyone who enjoys cooking, really. But more than that, I think this type of meal option gives you the opportunity to get out of the rut of making the same meals week after week, over and over, that you’ve memorized and gotten used to all these years. Even better, you won’t have to worry about all the extra ingredients you’d have left over in your fridge or pantry if you tried some new recipes. With all these home-delivered meal plans, you won’t have leftover ingredients.
I’d suspect that their largest customer base for these home-delivered meals are working couples, active singles and people who just love to cook (or would like to learn to cook better), who enjoy preparing freshly cooked foods. I also think these meals are a great idea for a date night!
Will they save you money? That’s an interesting debate.
My guess would be if you only cook a few times a week at home then, yes, they might actually save you money because you’re likely throwing away your leftover perishables from making so few home-cooked meals. However, if you’re a good cook who prepares home-cooked meals often and is conscientious about fully utilizing what you purchase, there’s no doubt you can shop for groceries cheaper than $9.99 per person per meal.
But it was fun while it lasted.