Ever wonder if all of those meal delivery services really live up to the pretty social media ad hype and promises of fresh healthy food that is quick and simple to make?
Well wonder no longer, because I tried them. Well, three of them. Here’s the scoop, in my opinion. To be clear, this post is not sponsored. These are my completely honest opinions.
This one is based near me, in Boulder Colorado, so I felt all warm and fuzzy supporting a local player.
- Options: Green Chef gives you the option to pick your diet preference, from Paleo, gluten-free, omnivore, carnivore, vegetarian, or vegan. I opted for Paleo, since those options all had high quality proteins with lots of veggies (note: I do not follow a Paleo diet).
- Packaging: Very eco-friendly. The meals arrive in a recyclable or reusable cardboard box and the insulation is made from 85% recycled material that is commercially compostable (we have a composting service that comes with our weekly trash pick-up in Denver, which is super-convenient). The ice packs are reusable and recyclable. All ingredients are thrown together into one box. Each ingredient is color-coded by meal, but it’s a little annoying to dig around the fridge for the right color bag.
- Food quality: Excellent. I mean really excellent. Ingredients are organic, mostly local (they source from suppliers around you, so my produce likely comes from a different supplier than someone across the country), and arrived fresh. Certain ingredients, like sauces (e.g., parsley chimichurri) were prepped ahead of time, which saved time. The recipes for those sauces are available on the Green Chef site so that you know what you’re eating and so that you can recreate them if you want. I love that.
- Nutrition: Excellent—very well-balanced and nutritious. Calories are reported on each recipe and full nutrition content is available online.
- Food taste: In a word, awesome. Super fresh and flavorful. My husband and I both loved all 3 dishes and will likely recreate all of them.
- Price: Price ranges from $10.49 per plate for vegetarian (“diverse, nutrient-rich dishes”) to $14.99 for Paleo (“grain-free dishes packed with protein and veggies”). They also charge $9 shipping per order. Yep, you pay for that quality. It isn’t cheap.
- Ordering experience: You have until one week before your meal delivery date to skip, which is pretty generous. One annoying thing about choosing your options is that you have to go to your profile and change your diet preference (and commit to getting all of that type of meal) and then go back to your menu options to see how they change. I like variety. I’m not strictly vegan or strictly Paleo. Both can be healthy and delicious, so I’d rather just pick the 3 most appealing options available. I’d prefer for all of the options to be laid out rather than committing to a diet type and then have to take extra steps to view different options.
Conclusion: I loved the meals. I love the flavor, quality, and transparency of ingredients and recipes. But it’s pricey, and I wish the ordering process were more flexible.
Try it: Four meals free with this link
Hello Fresh has the vibe of being super simple and very approachable with crowd-pleasing recipes.
- Options: Hello Fresh gives you at least 7 meal options each week. They are all laid out for your choosing and identify characteristics of each recipe—stuff like gluten-free, nut-free, and “spicy”. You can pick any of the options there. Unfortunately, even of the 7 options I was given for my first box, none of them had me too excited.
- Packaging: Well, I came home to my Hello Fresh box on my porch with a soaked bottom and raw meat juice oozing out of it. Ew. The good thing is that the meat was on the bottom of the box covered by ice and then topped with 3 individual kits containing the non-meat ingredients for the rest of the meals. Great organization, but still, ew. Raw meat really grosses me out.
- Food quality: Meh. Everything did seem fresh, but there was no focus on local or organic produce or meat, and there was less transparency about ingredients. Two of the recipes had a small packet that just said “vegetable” —apparently some kind of stock concentrate. I reluctantly looked inside to find a thin brown liquid. No ingredients or description was listed. Just “vegetable”. I didn’t use it.
- Nutrition: With Hello Fresh, you’re cooking with whole, real foods. Could they be more nutritious (like using brown rice, not white), absolutely. But are they better than hitting the drive through or heating up a frozen pizza? Absolutely.
- Food taste: Not great, but definitely not bad. The recipes are available online, but I won’t be saving any of them to make again. The recipes were simple and basic, so for a person new to cooking or with a family of varied tastes, I think these could be solid choices.
- Price: I opted for the classic plan of 3 meals per week for 2 people at a cost of 9.99 per meal. Delivery is free/included in the price of the food.
- Ordering experience: Ordering and skipping is easy and quick. You have until midnight, 5 days before meal delivery to change or skip. Pretty generous and flexible, I think.
Conclusion: I don’t plan to use Hello Fresh again. I was underwhelmed with the quality and taste of the food. Again, it isn’t bad, just doesn’t suit me. I think that I could make healthier, tastier meals at home for the same price, in just about the same amount of time. But the bigger reason I will likely not use Hello Fresh again is the customer service. I have yet to hear back from them about the raw meat mess that the leaking box left on my porch (I reached out, was promised a response within 24 hours, got no response, got a survey about my customer service experience, gave negative feedback, still nothing.) I didn’t know if I could safely use the leaking meat, and I get annoyed every time my dog stops to sniff that spot. (We cleaned the porch, but you know, dogs.)
- Options: Sun Basket gives you at least 10 meal options each week. They are all laid out for your choosing and identify diet types for each (Paleo, vegetarian, etc.). There is also always a breakfast item to choose if you want to do a weekend brunch or BFD (that’s what we call breakfast-for-dinner around my house)
- Packaging: 100% compostable and recyclable. Nuff said. Meals are sorted into individual paper bags for easy organization. Meat is kept separately.
- Food quality: Excellent; ingredients are mostly organic, local, and arrived fresh. Certain ingredients were prepped ahead of time (like a lemongrass paste), which saved time. The ingredients for those pre-prepped items are available on the Sun Basket website, but the exact recipes for them are not. All of the ingredients are whole, clean, real ingredients, so I love the transparency, but I wish they were actual recipes so that I could recreate them.
- Nutrition: Excellent. Sun Basket has an in-house nutritionist who approves the content of each meal. I’m obviously particular and Sun Basket is legit. Full nutritional information is available for each recipe.
- Food taste: Delicious. We’ve now gotten three Sun Basket boxes and have both really enjoyed all of the meals.
- Price: $11.49 per serving (for the 2-person plan). Shipping is $5.99 per box (first delivery is free).
- Ordering experience: All changes to your menu must be made by noon on the Thursday prior to your meal delivery. (Sun Basket will default you 3 popular items if you do nothing). I also like that rather than skipping a week, you can choose to donate your meal and Sun Basket will send your meal to a family in your area as identified by Feeding America.
Conclusion: Sun Basket was my favorite: it offers the best price to quality ratio (that’s my nerd way of saying that I think Sun Basket is the best value). The quality of ingredients, variety of options, taste of the meals, and ease of ordering and skipping makes it a huge win for me.
And in conclusion…
Overall, I liked the meal delivery from Green Chef and Sun Basket more than I thought I would. Actually, a lot more. They forced me to try new recipes and my husband and I definitely cooked together more than we typically do. And by that I mean…we actually cooked together!
I also saved more time picking recipes and shopping than I expected. I always say “constraints are liberating,” and it is a lot easier to pick from 3 dinner options than a million that I’ve late-night pinned to my “recipes to try” pinterest board.
I won’t order from Sun Basket every week, but it’s a nice option to have in case I know it will be a busy week, or if I’m out of town over the weekend and can’t get to the grocery store. I’ll leave my Green Chef account open, too. I’d like to try some of the other options.
In general, the packaging does seem like a bit of a waste, even if recyclable or reusable. I wish that these meal delivery companies would allow you to leave a cooler with ice packs out on your porch so that they could just drop the meals in without having to transfer so much material and ice. To be fair, I’ve seen the packaging waste (SO much cardboard) in the storage and receiving areas of grocery stores, so the packaging of food I buy at the grocery store is likely just as wasteful, it is just out of sight when shopping at a grocery store.
Have questions? Have you tried any of these? What was your experience? Is there another meal delivery service you recommend I try? Drop me a note below, I’d love to hear from you!