Meal kit subscriptions ship the exact ingredients you need to cook a home meal (plus instructions) directly to your front door. Home chefs can flex their culinary muscles without setting foot in a grocery store, and gain the opportunity to cook meals they might not otherwise have tried. No ingredients go to waste as the meal kit contains exactly what you need and no more.
If you want the health benefits and variety of home-cooked meals without the time-consuming process of shopping for ingredients and honing your own recipes, a meal kit subscription may be right for you. But there are a lot of options out there, and it’s hard to know which one to choose.
Here are five of the best meal kits for your money.
Best for: Trying out an old-school favorite. Where it delivers: The continental U.S. Cost: Price per serving ranges from $8.99 to $9.99, with several plans that vary in meals per week and servings per meal. Right now, Blue Apron offers $60 off for new customers.
Launched in 2012, Blue Apron is one of the original meal kit services. You can choose from eight menu items per week, and see the estimated cooking time before you choose. There are several vegetarian options, and there’s even an optional wine pairing program. Occasionally, Blue Apron highlights recipes offered by celebrity chefs or highlights specific international destinations.
Best for: Meal kits designed for affordability. Where it delivers: Most of the continental U.S. Cost: $4.99 per serving, plus shipping.
At $4.99 per serving, Everyplate is the most affordable option on this list. You can choose between three to five meals per week, and two or four servings per meal. There are nine weekly menu items to choose from. Because it focuses on keeping costs low, Everyplate doesn’t cater to dietary restrictions, vegetarian diets or special diets.
Learn whether a vegan diet can lower the cost of life insurance.
Best for: Eliminating prep work from the kitchen. Where it delivers: The continental U.S. excluding Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. Cost: Depending on how many weekly meals you want and how many servings per meal, price per serving ranges from $11.99 to $13.99, plus $6.99 for shipping. Right now, Gobble offers $30 off your first box plus free shipping.
Most meal kits still require prep work including chopping, measuring, peeling or marinating ingredients. Gobble removes the prep work. Everything is prechopped, premeasured and in some cases precooked. Their meals can be ready to eat within 15 minutes, which saves even more time for the busy home cook.
Best for: A huge variety of meal options. Where it delivers: Home Chef delivers to 98% of the U.S. Cost: Standard meal cost per serving ranges from $9.90 to $9.95. Lunches and smoothies are also available. Meal customization can affect the price. Right now, Home Chef is offering $20 off the first four boxes.
For sheer variety, Home Chef is a solid choice. It offers more than 15 weekly recipes and the Customize It feature lets you swap proteins for certain meals, for more than 38 possible weekly menu combinations. Each week there are at least three low-calorie and three low-carb meals, and there is one “Oven Ready” option for no-fuss cooking.
Best for: Vegetarian and vegan cooks Where it delivers: The continental U.S. Cost: Cost per serving ranges from $7.99 to $11.99. Right now, Purple Carrot is offering $20 off your first box.
Purple Carrot was created to serve vegetarian and vegan home cooks, and every meal is plant-based. These aren’t boring menus. Recent recipes include Korean tofu tacos and seitan pad thai. Whether you’re 100% vegan or you just want to eat less meat, Purple Carrot can help.
How to get the most out of your meal kit subscription
Meal kit subscriptions are an added weekly cost (though they’re generally cheaper than takeout or dine-in restaurants). There are several ways to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
First, you should commit to actually cooking the meals. While meal kits eliminate the grocery shopping, you still have to spend some time in the kitchen. If work schedules, family obligations and other obstacles prevent you from cooking, meal kits will be a bad investment. Be realistic and sign up for the number of meals you have the time to make.
Don’t be afraid to test multiple meal kits. Many meal kit companies offer discounts on their initial boxes, with the intent of getting you hooked. If you’re willing to try a few services, you can get good deals before landing on the one that’s right for you. Just make sure to check the cancellation policies and remember to cancel when the time comes.
Cooking is more engaging and easier with a partner, so enlist a friend, roommate or significant other to give you a hand in the kitchen. Most meal kits are designed to feed at least two people, after all.
If you find a recipe that knocks your socks off, save it. You can recreate it on your own or order it again the next time it becomes available.
Want more financial tips in your inbox? Sign up for the Easy Money newsletter.
Image: Rainier Ridao
Get essential money news & money moves with the Easy Money newsletter.
Free in your inbox each Friday.