Photo: yulkapopkova/iStock Images by Getty
I’ll admit that I’ve never been much of cook. Luckily, for the seven-some years that I lived in New York City, my culinary shortcomings really didn’t affect my day-to-day life. Between work dinners, evenings out with my friends, and delivery at the click of a finger, the time I spent in the kitchen was kept to a minimum. It wasn’t until I moved to Florida and got married that I realized just how bad I was at pulling together a cohesive meal. No matter how hard I tried to channel my inner Chrissy Teigen, I kept falling short and going back to the handful of dishes I could manage (aka the basics like pasta or chicken and rice).
Before long, I passed official chef duty onto my husband. Unlike me, he knew his way around the kitchen. Each night I would watch him effortlessly pull together dinner—freestyling ingredients and coming up with new ways to prepare meat and veggies. While it was nice to have the pressure off (and to eat a more robust menu), I still felt somewhat inadequate. That’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands and signed up for Blue Apron.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that a meal delivery service was exactly the type of instruction I needed. You choose the meals you would like to make and they send you the stuff needed. Not only did it save me time since I didn’t have to go to the store and scour the shelves for specific ingredients, but it also broke down every step for me in dummy terms. Plus, it was an easy way to try out recipes I’d never dream of attempting on my own. After a few weeks, my husband and I were hooked—and I was feeling much more confidant in the kitchen.
Additionally, it peaked my interest in the other home delivery options out there, so I decided to embark on my very own culinary road test. After weeks of cooking more than I had ever cooked before (and having only one incident with a smoke alarm), I concluded that these are the five meal delivery services that are worth trying—no matter what skill level you’re starting out at.
Photo: c/o Blue Apron
Claim to fame: Blue Apron is the OG of meal prep delivery services.
Difficulty level: While none of these meals will make you a viable Iron Chef contender, Blue Apron seems to be more labor-intensive than the others. It also tended to take a little bit longer to prepare.
Variety of menu options: You select three meals a week from a pool of eight options. Most boxes usually include one out-of-the-box ingredient that you’ve never heard of before (think: furikake), so it expands your taste buds’ horizons.
Favorite meal made: Spiced Chicken and Honeynut Squash Tostadas
Pros: Blue Apron never fails to take you out of your comfort zone. The most impressive thing was that out of the dozens of meals I made, there were only one or two dinners that I’d never make again. Another perk is that they love condiments as much as I do. Many of the recipes require you to whip up different sauces or au jus for dipping.
Cons: When you receive your delivery, all the ingredients for the week are mixed together, so you really need to focus while sorting through the veggies to ensure you grab the right ones. FYI: Persian cucumbers and summer squash can look eerily similar if you’re not paying attention. Another downside is that some meals left my husband feeling hungry afterwards, so we occasionally had to supplement by adding in another side.
Claim to fame: As its name suggests, it promises fresh ingredients straight to your doorstep.
Difficulty level: If you can follow a Pinterest recipe, you can follow Hello Fresh’s.
Variety of menu options: While it offers the same number of choices as Blue Apron, the recipes seem to be a little heartier and a little more mainstream. Very rarely did any of the dinners look too experimental for our palates.
Favorite meal made: Thai Spiced Pork Meatballs
Pros: All the recipes are straight-forward and rarely included unnecessary steps. Plus, the portions are bigger, so we always had leftovers for the next day.
Cons: For a few recipes, Hello Fresh instructs you not to use all the ingredients they provided, which seemed odd. The amount they’d ask you to save was so minimal (for example, a quarter of a can of corn), you’d likely end up tossing it out.
Photo: c/o Chef'd
Claim to fame: It offers recipes straight from celebrity chefs, diet programs, and household brands like Campbell’s.
Difficulty level: You can choose your own difficulty level when ordering.
Variety of menu options: Unlike its competitors, there are literally hundreds of meals to choose from. Plus, they offer breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert recipes.
Favorite meal made: Mac n’ Cheese with Chorizo and Poblanos
Pros: I was blown away by the variety Chef’d offered. You can look up famous chefs’ recipes (including the Mac n’ Cheese I tried from one of my favorite Chopped judge, Chris Santos), and they group certain offerings together in collections for easy browsing (such as Game Day, Date Night, and Ten Minute Meals). Another huge pro is that they cater to anyone with dietary restrictions through Atkins-approved meals to plans from the American Diabetes Association.
Cons: They offer so many choices, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole and spend a little too long choosing your menu for the week.
Claim to fame: All the dinners are curated by gourmet chefs.
Difficulty level: It requires focus, but not so much that you can’t carry on a conversation and sip wine as you prepare the food.
Variety of menu options: Each week you select between twenty different meal kits. Plus, you can add-on dessert if you want something sweet.
Favorite meal made: French Onion Soup Burger
Pros: There is a great range of recipes—from an elevated grilled cheese to stuffed roasted squash to pumpkin rigatoni—that reflect the current season. It’s also great they have a two meal a week option.
Cons: While it’s technically not a con for me, it doesn’t have many kid-friendly suppers for any of my mom friends looking for a way to simplify school nights.
Photo: c/o Marley Spoon
Claim to fame: Everyone’s favorite kitchen fairy godmother, Martha Stewart, is one of the partners.
Difficulty level: Surprisingly easy, coming from Martha’s vast cookbook.
Variety of menu options: Marley Spoon offers ten dinners to choose from.
Favorite meal made: Korean Chicken Lettuce Cups
Pros: With international cuisines and more interesting dishes, the selections encourage you to branch out. The brand isn’t afraid of throwing in some curveballs either like chili cheese fries as an entrée. Yum!
Cons: It seems silly, but I don’t like that you’re prompted to answer why you’re skipping a week of meals each time you update your plan.