We get it, dinnertime during the week can be crazy and stressful for parents. That’s probably why meal kit delivery services have exploded in popularity over the last few years. They deliver fresh, wholesome ingredients so you can make a home cooked meal for your family with less stress. But this convenience comes at a price.

So, we’ve tried all of the major ones that deliver nationally (or at least all of them to date!) to help you figure out which one is the best fit for your family, if the cost is worth it to you in the first place. If you’ve been curious about these services, but don’t know where to start, read on. I also include a tip that might help make these services more manageable on a budget.

Related: 15 (truly) 30-minute meals to save dinner on frazzled back-to-school nights.

Meal kit delivery services for families: A few quick notes

Before we jump into the meal kit details, I want to note that, for me, the services that actually prep ingredients — they deliver what I need already chopped and diced — are the better value for your dollar. But others cater to specific diets or are designed just for kids. It all just depends on your needs and wants.

Also, waste is one of our biggest concerns with all of these services (so many individually wrapped items!). Of course, you can recycle or reuse the packaging for school lunches or your own meal prep. You can also check with your service to see if they’ll allow you to return containers after use. All that said, you may also want to weigh in the fact that you may be avoiding some food waste by purchasing only what you need for dinner. As in, no more half-bunches of cilantro or partial jars of yogurt in the trash.

 

Meal kit delivery services compared: Terra's Kitchen | Cool Mom Eats

Terra’s Kitchen

My favorite of all the meal kits tested was Terra’s Kitchen, which delivers completely prepped, fresh ingredients in a tiny refrigerator. Each item is coded with the recipe number, which you can find on the printed cards included. When it came time to cook, I just opened the packages and added them to my pan. Even the meat was pre-cut. So easy.

Taste, is of course, one of the most important aspects of all this. My family and I thought that the food from Terra’s Kitchen was delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed meals like Wagyu steak with roasted red pepper sauce and grilled tacos with avocado goat cheese sauce. They also offer the option to add desserts, smoothies, appetizers, bento lunches, and even just upscale cuts of meat to your box.

But, all that goodness and convenience comes at a price. Their more expensive meals can run over $100 for my family of six. Whoa. I plan to save this for special meals for my husband and I…while I heat up a pizza or chicken tenders for the kids. ($9.99-$15.99 per serving for family meals)

 

Every meal kit delivery service compared: Blue Apron's delivery box | Cool Mom Eats

Blue Apron

Blue Apron has become the standard bearer for dinner kit delivery, with ads running on nearly every podcast I listen to. Each meal comes with pre-portioned ingredients, recipe cards, and even how-to videos to help you up your cooking game.

Kristen did a thorough review of Blue Apron, with notes on everything from whether or not the meals were easy for her to cook and what her four kids thought of the dinners, so I didn’t give them a try this time. I did look at their family plan meals, though, and found that they looked healthy and appealing — mostly.  Some of the dinners gave me pause: while the Sweet Corn and Ricotta Cannelloni looks delicious, there’s no way my picky eaters would touch it.

Also, if you’re following a particular diet, you may have a hard time with Blue Apron. Currently none of the family meal options will work with my Paleo lifestyle. On the other hand, you can add wine to your order. So . . . ($8.99 per serving for family plan)

 

Meal kit delivery services compared: Martha & Marley Spoon | Cool Mom Eats

Marley Spoon

Martha and Marley Spoon is the meal delivery service created by a Martha Stewart alum who did such a fantastic job of putting her meals together, that Martha herself signed on as a partner. And, if you ask me, this service lives up to the Martha Stewart reputation.

The recipe cards are beautifully printed on card stock and the ingredients are fresh and totally delicious. You get to pick from a choice of recipes every week — which do include vegetarian and gluten-free options — but unfortunately, nothing comes pre-cut or prepped, which is a big thumbs-down from me. One of the meals I received was homemade mac & cheese and a green salad, which was delicious, but a bit outrageous at these prices. It seems to me that this service is all about reliable, gourmet recipes for people who maybe enjoy to cook, but don’t have as much time to plan or shop. ($76 for two meals that will feed 4 people each) 

Related: The best grocery store coupon apps to save time and money.

 

Meal kit delivery services compared: Dinnerly's box | Cool Mom Eats

Dinnerly

If you simply hate to plan meals and shop at the grocery, then Dinnerly is an affordable meal-delivery service option. But it’s literally a box of groceries — that’s it. You have to go online for the recipes, and nothing is prepped for you. The meals are basic, but good: think spaghetti and meatballs and grass-fed ground beef tacos.

If your child has a typical kids’ palate, they’ll be totally happy with these meals. And it’s way cheaper than most other services. Plus, the lack of extra packaging cuts down on unnecessary waste. ($5 per person)

 

Meal kit delivery services compared: Yumble | Cool Mom Eats

Yumble

Yumble is a meal delivery service designed just for kids, with pre-cooked meals in Lean Cuisine-style packaging. You simply heat them up, if necessary, and serve.

Some Yumble meals were surprisingly big hits with my kids, like the teriyaki tofu and the turkey and gouda pinwheels. But others, like the chicken tenders, which I assumed they’d love, were a flop. They wouldn’t touch them because the pre-cooked/reheat method made them a bit unappetizing. However, each meal is nut-free, made with fresh, wholesome ingredients, and includes a veggie, which is a big upgrade from their Lunchables. But so is the price. Maybe try a few for lunch or date night and see if your kids are game? (As low as $6.99 per meal, but only if you order 24 per week)

 

Meal kit delivery services compared: Plated

Plated

I tried Plated a few years ago when they first started, and was impressed to see that they’re still going strong, with a few smart updates. They use less packaging now, and the ingredients are about 75% prepped for you. For example, I had to chop the onion in my taco kit, but everything else was ready to cook.

They offer lots of recipes that are familiar-sounding enough for my kids, but upscale and delicious-sounding enough for me and my husband. Even for a date night. Plus, Plated is one of the few services that offers desserts in their selections. ($9.95 per serving for their plan with 4 servings per night)

Related: 6 DIY freezer meals that save us on busy back-to-school nights.

 

Meal kit delivery services compared: Hello Fresh | Cool Mom Eats

Hello Fresh

After going paleo last month, I was excited to find there were plenty of meals for me to choose from at Hello Fresh. These are simple recipes with healthy ingredients, making it easy to eat better at home. That said, this doesn’t feel like the diet-option of meal delivery services. My whole family loved the food, and I was able to feed my family of 6 with two 2-person meals.

This service was one of my favorites, because they do the majority of the prep work for you, making dinner super quick on busy nights. Their options range from comfort food like meatloaf to family-favorites like turkey burritos, and they even offer a complete vegetarian menu. The meals we ate were so yummy, I’ve added the recipe cards to my regular cookbook rotation so that I can make them even if Hello Fresh doesn’t deliver the ingredients. ($8.74 per serving for family plan)

 

Meal kit delivery services compared: Sun Basket | Cool Mom Eats

Sun Basket

Sun Basket focuses on providing families with organic and sustainable ingredients, and they have meal options for paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian, and something they call “lean and clean.” If your default dinner on a busy weeknight is pizza or tacos, this might really turn your family’s health around.

That said, the meals are still very family friendly, with options like steak and veggies, North Carolina pulled pork sliders, and even more international flavors like falafel burgers and rice bowls. Kid- and adult-friendly, for the win! Each kit comes with menu cards, but you do have to do some of the prep work yourself when it comes time to cook. ($9.99 per serving for family menu meals)

 

Meal kit delivery services compared: DIY your own dinners, with Chicken Avocado Salad at How Sweet Eats

DIY meal kits: A money saving idea

If you can afford any of the services above and they sound good, by all means, go for it. The convenience is obviously worth it to many or these businesses wouldn’t be booming. But I do have a money saving ideas: put together DIY meal kits.

For the last three weeks, I’ve planned and shopped for my family’s meals on Saturday, and spent Sunday afternoon doing all of the chopping, slicing and dicing, and blending up dressings and marinades. I pack everything in reusable containers in the fridge with Post-It notes attached. Then, when it’s time to cook I just grab-and-go.

We did the math and it turns out that we spent $2 per person per meal (there are six of us) for the week, and we ate dishes like the Thai Meatball Lettuce Wraps at The Garlic Diaries and Rosemary Chicken, Bacon, and Avocado Salad at How Sweet Eats’s  (pictured). No Hamburger Helper in sight. ($2 per meal, or whatever you want to spend)

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