Smart Cooking: 2020 Meal Kit Options
We summarize our four favorite meal kits, for easy shopping, planning and eating at home.
If you’re stuck at home and looking for more interesting dinner options, now is a great time to try a meal kit service. You can avoid the crowds and shopping and have delicious dining options delivered straight to you.
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We’ve tried many different services over the years and we still get excited when a box shows up at our door – that means we don’t have to plan, shop or cook for at least a few nights worth of meals.
If you are ready to try one for yourself, here are the four services we recommend.
Blue Apron – gourmet and healthy selections, with matching wine
Blue Apron was the first meal kit we tried and still the one we get most often. We love the variety, the high-quality ingredients and the diversity of recipes we see in every box. Blue Apron has expanded our home cooking horizons to include Vietnamese and Korean flavors as well as gourmet recipes from celebrity chefs. We love it when they give us a spice and say, “use as much you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be.” Put it all in!
For a while, we had stopped eating Blue Apron because it seemed like their meals, while delicious, were really creeping up in the calorie count. But over the last year, they have partnered with Weight Watchers to create WW-approved meals that win the best compliment – “I didn’t know this was a diet meal.” The WW meals started as a separate offering, but now are available every week in their standard signature menu.
Blue Apron offers vegetarian plans and meal choices that include BeyondMeat plant-based products. We don’t eat beef, so we are big fans of BeyondBurger and love the option to get some creative plant-based recipes from Blue Apron in our regular box.
If you are looking for a special dinner, Blue Apron has recently added a premium option every week. Some of the upcoming options are Chicken Saltimbocca for $14.99 per serving, Provencal-Style Salmon and Shrimp for $17.99 per serving, and Grass-Fed NY Strip Steaks for $19.99 per serving. We haven’t tried any of these yet, but they look like fine dining options, for lower prices than you’d typically find in a nice restaurant.
If you want to complement your meals with the perfect wine pairing, Blue Apron also offers bottles delivered monthly. For around $10 a bottle, you get smaller bottles (500 mL) designed just for two, with tasting notes and pairings. Blue Apron works directly with the vineyards to source the wine and match it up to their meals. We are lucky to live in California with lots of great wineries, but if we didn’t we’d love this easy way to try and learn about new wines.
Blue Apron offers 12 weekly dinner options, with portions for two or four people. We generally order three meals per week for two people, which costs $59.94 with free shipping. This price has been virtually the same since we started Blue Apron a few years ago, so we have been impressed how they have been able to keep the quality up and the price consistent.
Blue Apron is great for us, two adults who love spicy and adventurous food. While not all the recipes are fancy, we can imagine it might not be the best choice for families with young children or fussy eaters.
Blue Apron Summary:
- Average cost per week (3 meals for 2): $59.94
- Dinner only – 12 options every week
- Portion options: For 2 people, 2 or 3 meals per week; for 4 people, 2, 3 or 4 meals per week
- Plans: Signature, Vegetarian, including BeyondMeat products
- Blue Apron Wine, ~$10 per 500 ML bottle, 6 bottles shipped monthly
Read More: SmartPoints with Blue Apron (2019 Review)
Martha & Marley Spoon – family-friendly comfort food
Martha & Marley Spoon is another great meal kit, with chef-designed recipes including many from Martha Stewart. The meals are tasty and easy-to-prepare with generous portions. They have many weekly options for dinner – 22 in all – that you can sort by Vegetarian & Vegan, Meat & Fish, Health & Diet, Under 30 minutes, and Family-Friendly.
With all the options and the large portion size, Martha & Marley Spoon is ideal for families looking to make dinner time easier. Sample recipes like Cheese Ravioli & 10-minute Marinara, Baked Cheddar & Veggie Quesadillas and Skillet French Onion Meatballs look like yummy options for both parents and kids.
We love the taste of the Martha & Marley Spoon meals and you can definitely tell the difference in style from Blue Apron. Martha Stewart makes the delicious homey comfort-food just right. When we make a Marley Spoon meal we want to gobble it all down.
Our only hesitation with Martha & Marley Spoon is on the calorie counts. There are some meals classified as “healthy,” such as Filipino Chicken Adobo with Veggie Fried Rice, that hit 1140 calories per portion. There is probably enough so we could have leftovers, but we don’t have that much self-control. If you’re watching your diet, make sure you look closely at the calorie counts when you order, and look for low-calorie choices as there are plenty to choose from every week.
Unlike Blue Apron, Martha & Marley Spoon charges shipping separately. But even with shipping, three meals per week for two people is $62.93, very comparable to Blue Apron.
Martha & Marley Spoon Summary:
- Average cost per week (3 meals for 2): $62.93
- Dinner only – 22 options every week
- Portion options: For 2 people or 4 people, 2, 3 or 4 meals per week
- Vegetarian, Vegan, Family-Friendly Options
Read More: Smart Home Cooking with Martha & Marley Spoon (2018 Review)
Sun Basket – flexibility for organic foodies
If you are committed to healthy eating and organic ingredients, you will love the meals from Sun Basket. Sun Basket is a USDA-certified organic handler, and they strive to deliver organic produce 100 percent of the time. They also focus on responsibly-raised meat and poultry and sustainable seafood.
In addition to the 14 weekly dinner options, Sun Basket also offers breakfast, lunch and snacks, as well as gourmet proteins and fresh pastas. Depending on your time available and comfort in the kitchen, you can choose from traditional cooking, pre-prepped or oven-ready meals.
Of all of our recommendations – Sun Basket offers the most flexibility. You don’t need to sign up for a subscription – you can order any time as long as you meet a $35 minimum. You aren’t limited to just dinners – you can buy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Browsing through Sun Basket is a little like shopping at Whole Foods – there are dozens of different healthy things to buy, from organic egg bites to yogurt, to chips, hummus and jerky.
If you are looking for weekly dinners – Sun Basket makes it easy to sort by time to prepare, special diet, calorie-count, gluten-free and more. If you want to build your own meals, pick through organic proteins like bacon-wrapped filets, baby-back ribs, or organic cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts and meat alternatives like plant-based “chicken” and five-spice tofu.
Of the meal kits we recommend, Sun Basket is a bit more expensive than others. As a subscriber, 3 dinners for two people starts at $10.79 per serving, plus $6.99 shipping, for a total of $71.73. And that’s before you upgrade your meats – you can spend between $.99 and $5.99 per serving upgrading to a higher quality of chicken, beef or seafood, such as organic pork loin chops or Alaskan halibut. Shipping is free if you spend more than $75.
If you are looking to plan your meals and fill your fridge and pantry with healthy, organic food, Sun Basket is definitely a great choice.
Sun Basket Summary:
- Average cost per week (3 meals for 2): $71.73
- 14 Dinner options every week – plus breakfast, lunch, snacks, etc
- Portion options: minimum order of $35 – free shipping after $75
- No subscription required
Read More: Organic Smart Home Cooking with Sun Basket (2019 Review)
Watch: Sun Basket Unboxing Video
Trifecta – for athletes and people who don’t want to cook
If you want to eat clean and healthy and don’t have the time, energy or interest to prepare and cook your meals, Trifecta may be the plan for you.
We’ve had a lot of friends who try meal kits and say, “wow – that tasted great – but it takes a lot of time to prep and cook those meals, can’t I just get something healthy that shows up at my door and I can pop in the microwave?” Trifecta Nutrition does just that.
Trifecta offers chef-prepared, fully-cooked meals for keto, paleo, vegan, vegetarian and clean-eating diets. You can get up to four meals a day – breakfast, lunch, dinner plus a third entree, for five or seven days per week. The meals are vacuum-sealed and stay fresh for 10 days or more in the fridge and up to three months in the freezer.
Trifecta meals are really easy to prepare – no chopping or cooking – just pop them in the microwave or reheat them on the stove or in the oven. If you have food allergies or dietary restrictions, you can save two restrictions in your profile and Trifecta will choose meals for you, or if you know exactly what you want you can buy pre-cooked proteins, veggies and carbs, perfectly portioned to help you keep your diet plan on track.
We’ve tried Trifecta and were impressed with the quality of the food and the ease to prepare. One thing we didn’t like was the lack of variety – looking ahead on the menus, a lot of meals are duplicated, maybe not every week, but every few weeks. The minimum meal plan is also at least seven meals per week – either lunch or dinner, and we prefer to have a bit more flexibility every week in our dinner schedule. We also really enjoy cooking fresh meals, we just don’t like the planning.
For a single person who doesn’t like to cook, especially someone who wants to stick to a particular diet, Trifecta Nutrition is a great option. Unlike the other plans, you can order just one portion of each meal, and you could get virtually all your food from Trifecta if you wanted. It takes all the hassle of shopping and cooking away and leaves you with tasty, balanced meals delivered every Friday. Trifecta’s website is filled with testimonials from people who have lost weight and built healthy muscle following their plans, as well as world-class athletes who use the program.
- Average cost per week: Fully-cooked, ready-to-eat plans start at $108.43 for 7 meals
- Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and 3rd Entree – chefs choice or choose from 10 with classic plan
- Keto, Clean, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian or Classic Plans
- Buy cooked Proteins, Veggies and Sides a la carte
Read More: Smart Meal Delivery from Trifecta Nutrition (2019 Review)
Watch: Trifecta Nutrition Unboxing
Now is a great time to try some of these meal kits for yourself and your family. We’d encourage you to try more than one to find what you like. Even if you sign up for a subscription, you have the flexibility to adjust your delivery or skip boxes for weeks you don’t need them.
If you do try a new plan, we’d encourage you to give it two weeks before you make a final decision. Just like restaurants, meal kits could have an off week or you may just not like a particular recipe. You get a much better idea of the food quality, the recipe taste and the customer service when you do two weeks or more.
What do you think? Do you have a favorite meal kit or one you think we missed? Please get in touch with us via Facebook or Twitter.