Meal Delivery Services: Pros, Cons, and Comparisons

Sometimes a simple idea can really take off, leading others to put their own twist on it and flood the market. That’s pretty much exactly what’s happened with meal delivery services — also known as meal kit subscriptions. These plans allow you to select from a list of recipe options each week and then have all of the ingredients delivered to your door along with instructions for making that meal.

To say that these services have exploded in popularity would be an understatement. As a result, there are now several different options to choose from. So what makes each of these services unique? Let’s take a look at a few meal kit options — but first, let’s discuss a few benefits and drawbacks these subscriptions hold.

Pros and Cons of Meal Delivery Subscriptions

Benefits

Could be cheaper than eating out

A big reason why meal delivery kits have made their way into the personal finance community is because they typically serve as an alternative to eating out. In that aspect, these services could help you save money by keeping you home and cooking instead of heading to pricey restaurants. Of course, if you don’t dine out with much frequency, this might not be the case. But, for those who do make a habit of ordering take-out or even getting fast food often, these services could be more affordable and probably a bit healthier.

Try new things!

As a picky eater, I might not seem like the prime target for these types of services. And yet, the idea of being able to selectively choose my eating adventures is actually what excites me most. Thus, for those who are more open to trying new things, I can imagine that trying and learning to cook new recipes is the main reason why meal kits appeal to them.

Makes meal planning easy

Whether you meal plan just to make your life a bit simpler or to save money at the store, meal kits can help with the process. Since a number of your weekly meals are already accounted for, you’ll have less to buy and fewer question marks in your schedule.

Less potential food waste

Since meal delivery services pre-portion their ingredients, the odds of you leaving items in your refrigerator to rot are greatly reduced. Similarly, you don’t need to worry about using fresh fruits or vegetables before they expire since they’ll be used right away. Therefore, you can potentially reduce your food waste by subscribing to meal services — assuming you eat all of your leftovers, of course.

Drawbacks

Expensive compared buying groceries

Meal kits may be convenient but they do come at a price. In most cases, the amount you spend on these services — with shipping and everything else considered — is more than you’d likely spend if you shopped for the items yourself. Then again, depending on where you shop and how often you use the ingredients utilized by meal kit services, the spread might not be so big. Still, it’s worth considering the extra expense.

More potential trash

Environmentalists have noted that the popularity of meal kit deliveries could be having a negative impact on the amount of waste we produce thanks to the packaging certain services employ. Although many meal delivery companies have grown mindful of this and have worked to make their packaging more sustainable, it’s still a lot. Plus, the extra components mean more trips to the curb and trash/recycling bins for you.

You need to manage your shipments and meals

As simple as meal services can make your life, they’re not without some effort on your part. For example, depending on which option you choose, you may need to select your meals each week or run the risk of getting items you don’t care for. Furthermore, if you’re heading out of town, you’ll need to remember to put a freeze on your deliveries before the service’s deadline. Otherwise, you might come home to a smelly box filled with wasted money.

Still take time/effort to cook

A major difference between meal kits and, say, Uber Eats is that the food doesn’t come ready to eat. Instead, you’ll need to prepare and cook each meal for yourself (presumably). That also means you’ll need some skills in the kitchen  — although some services do offer more beginner-minded menus. In other words, don’t expect these services to be a magical dinner savior or in-house chef. If you do have the kitchen skills and want to skip the cost of meal prep services you can always go the DIY route and prep your own meals.

Comparing Some Popular Meal Kit Services

EveryPlate

Meal portion options: 2 people, 4 people

Meals per week options: 3, 4, or 5

Per serving price: $4.99-$5.89

Shipping: $9.99

EveryPlate offers plans with up to five meals per week, which you can select from 16 or so different recipe options. However, some of these picks are Premium options with upgraded “premium proteins and ingredients.” As a result, selecting these recipes will add $5 per serving to your bill. Speaking of extra, EveryPlate also now gives customers the ability to swap out certain sides or proteins for varying prices, add on desserts, and more. On a per-serving basis, EveryPlate is competitively priced, with per-serving rates as low as $4.99 while shipping costs are in line with other options.

Full disclosure: EveryPlate is the only option on this list that I have personal experience with. For the past few months, my wife and I have been subscribers and have come to really enjoy the service. That said, I get the impression that the menu options EveryPlate offers are a bit more simplistic than some other options. So, while they work well for us, those who are more “foodie” inclined might prefer something else.

HelloFresh

Meal portion options: 2 people, 4 people

Meals per week options: 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6

Per serving price: $7.49 – $11.99

Shipping: $9.99

Billing itself as “America’s Most Popular Meal Kit,” HelloFresh also offers subscribers a number of options. This includes selecting vegetarian, “Fit & Wholesome,” or family-friendly plans. Not only does HelloFresh allow customers to choose from more than 30 weekly options but also features Premium Picks. Choosing these recipes will tack an extra fee. By the way, HelloFresh is actually the parent company of EveryPlate.

Freshly

Meal portion options: 1 person

Meals per week options: Between 4 and 12

Per serving price: $8.99-$11.79

Shipping: $9.99-$11.99

Not to be confused with HelloFresh or Dinnerly (which we’ll cover later), Freshly has an identity of its own. First, while most services offer portions for two to four people, Freshly deals only in single-serve meals — although you can order multiples if you do want to feed a family. Another huge difference is that Freshly’s meals are already cooked, meaning they just need to be heated. In short, they could also be called fancier TV dinners. If that sounds good to you, the service does have an extensive weekly menu and options ranging from four to a dozen meals a week.

Blue Apron

Meal portion options: 2 people, 4 people

Meals per week options: 2, 3, or 4 

Per serving price: $7.99 to $11.99

Shipping: $9.99

Perhaps the most well-known meal kit service is Blue Apron. That’s allowed them to make some big partnerships, allowing them to offer WW (Weight Watchers) recommended meals as well as recipes featuring the much-hyped Beyond Meat. While the company’s line-up of weekly options is a bit shorter than some competitors, there is still a fair amount to choose from — including some Heat & Eat options. As for shipping, while the service previously waived the fee for orders over a certain amount, that ended in summer 2021. Now, all orders are subject to a $9.99 flat rate shipping fee, which really curbs one of the big advantages Blue Apron had over some of its competitors. 

Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon

Meal portion options: 2 or 4 people

Meals per week options: 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6

Per serving price: $9.10-$15.50

Shipping: $9.99

Hospitality guru Martha Stewart has partnered with Marley Spoon to offer a meal delivery kit called, you guessed it, Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon. According to the site, this service features 45 options every week, with meals falling into five categories: Health & Diet, Vegetarian & Vegan, Meat & Fish, Under 30 Minutes, and Family-Friendly. Currently, customers can choose plans for two or four people receiving between two and six meals per week. In terms of price, Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon’s cost per service is a bit higher than some other services, but the recipes do seem to reflect that premium. So, whether you’re a fan of Stewart or just want to try some unique recipes, this one could be a good choice.

Sun Basket

Meal portion options: 2 people or 4 people

Meals per week options: 2, 3, or 4

Per serving price: $10.99 to $12.99

Shipping: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

If you’re looking for a meal plan that will meet your specific diet, Sun Basket may be the easiest option. The service includes recipes that are Paleo, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Diabetes-Friendly, Soy-Free, and Vegan. In all, there are more than a dozen menu options to choose from each week. What’s more, in addition to their Meal Kit plans, they also offer Fresh & Ready options, which come in single servings.

Something to note about Sun Basket is that, unlike others on this list, I found it difficult to get full pricing details — including the cost of shipping — without starting the sign-up process. I found this to be a bit annoying, but at least they do allow you to view sample recipes ahead of time. So, if they look good to you, then perhaps you won’t mind going further along in the process than I did.

Dinnerly

Meal portion options: 2 people, 4 people

Meals per week options: 3, 4, 5, or 6

Per serving price: $4.99-$6.39

Shipping: $9.99

Compared to some of the other options on this list, it seems Dinnerly is aimed at a slightly different type of customer. The recipes featured do appear to be a bit simpler than others — even EveryPlate. Adding to that notion, their site claims their meals are “Picky-eater proof.” In any case, the service does offer a fairly sizeable selection, currently boasting dozens of options per week, including some tasty-looking desserts.

Given the convenience that meal delivery services offer, it’s no wonder why they’ve grown in popularity and prominence in recent years. While many of these services might seem similar, there are some interesting differences to be noted that could also impact whether or not they’re right for you. 

Additionally, as attractive as meal kits might seem, there may a few reasons to reconsider. Ultimately, with new customer deals almost always available, perhaps the best plan is to whittle down your list to two or three potential options, sampling their services, and then deciding whether or not to continue your meal plan subscription.

Per FTC guidelines, this website may be compensated by companies mentioned through advertising, affiliate programs or otherwise. (Note: advertising relationships do not have any influence on editorial content. Advertising compensation allows Money@30 to provide quality content for free. All editorial opinions are those of Kyle Burbank.)


Also published on Medium.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com.

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This can be a good option for those busy people who still wants to cook their own meals. Though it can get a bit expensive but food waste can also be minimized.

This is actually a clever idea, i can cook my own food which means healthier option and less food wastage since it is already pre-portioned.

I like buying from farmer’s market where its much more affordable and fresher. You can also help local producers.

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