Trends: 5 Services that Deliver Complete, Prepped Meal Kits

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Among the many trends in healthy dining is the advent of services that deliver meal kits right to your door — complete with all of the ingredients needed to prepare a lunch or dinner entree. The individual ingredients themselves are pre-measured, and the packages literally include everything down to the spices.

There is a degree of variability in the different plans, but the underlying goals of the services include providing a wide selection of healthy meals, which are partially prepped to save time. They are portioned in serving sizes that help minimize wasted food. And depending on the service, the pricing is very competitive. In fact, most services claim the meals cost less than buying the same ingredients at the store, and since they are conveniently brought to your door, no trip to the is store needed.

As the literature in one site points out, food you buy in a typical grocery store goes from farm, to a wholesaler, then to a grocer’s warehouse, to the store, and finally winds up on your plate.

The collective buying power of the larger services allows them to buy meat, fish, dairy, and produce directly from the farmers. Not as fresh as going to the farmer’s market maybe, but a convenient compromise between that and going to your local supermarket.

These are website based service — you go online, sign up for one of their plans, and choose what items from the menu you’d like that week. Your delivery arrives in a specially packed, refrigerated box — the plans are usually set up for weekly delivery, with the ability to skip a week or two with sufficient advance notice. I’ve included five below but there are many more and please note; the DDBham team has not tried all of these yet so this is not an endorsement, we will be reviewing them in the future.

1. Blue Apron

One of Blue Apron’s goals is to “Help Build a Better Food System”. Claiming that our current (in the US) food distribution system is “complicated”, they are working to change that by “partnering with farmers to raise the highest-quality ingredients, by creating a distribution system that delivers ingredients at a better value, and by investing in the things that matter most—our environment and our communities. This will be a decades-long effort, but with each Blue Apron home chef, together we can build a better food system.”

They offer two meal plans; the two person plan gets you three meals per week and runs $59.94 which is $9.99 per serving, and a family plan which gets you two meals per week and includes four servings coming in at $8.74 per serving.

The week this article was written the menu included such tempting offerings as Fontina Stuffed Pork Chops (pictured above), Mushroom and Broccoli Casserole (below), and Seared Salmon and Lemon Labneh just to name a few.

In addition to offering food, Blue Apron has a monthly wine plan, and a nicely laid out, informative website. The kits come with clear preparation information included in the boxes, but the website also has preparation directions with large, colorful photographs.

It also features an easy to use, interactive calendar that lets you schedule optimum delivery dates and an online store with cookbooks, various kitchenware, nifty kitchen utensils, and other cooking related items. Find them at https://www.blueapron.com/.

2. HelloFresh

HelloFresh is another major entry into the market. According to their website, “HelloFresh founders Dominik and Thomas, and a merry band of HelloFreshers set out to change the way we eat. It was a pretty big dream, but they believed that everyone should have access to the best ingredients and the knowledge to cook them. Not just the experts and the enthusiasts. And so they spent a whole afternoon packing shopping bags and delivering them by hand to their first 10 customers…their families and friends!”

It goes on to say, “Everything required for weeknight meals, carefully planned, locally sourced and delivered to your door at the most convenient time for each subscriber. Behind the scenes, a huge data driven technology platform puts us in the prime position for disrupting the food supply chain and for fundamentally changing the way consumers shop for food.”

Echoed in these words is the premise that our current food distribution system is ineffective and wasteful, and the underlying goal of some of these services is to fundamnetally improve the way we shop for, and prepare food.

In my recent trip to the HelloFresh website, the menu included Chicken Gone Nuts (a walnut encrusted chicken), Sizzling Beef Stir Fry, and Sweet Potato Sunshine Salad (pictured left).

Their “Classic Plan” includes meat and fish entrees for a cost of $9.99 per meal, the meal price for the veggie plan is the same, and the family plan works out to $8.74 per meal. They also have an excellent website but it a takes a little bit of work to navigate to the area that discusses the company itself. You can find HelloFresh at https://www.hellofresh.com/tasty/. Company site http://www.hellofreshgroup.com/.
3. Sun Basket

We chose Sun Basket because it features an entirely organic menu. In the company “Values” they state, “We believe food should taste good first, and do good always. From our 100% recyclable box to the pristine organic food inside it, we create each Sun Basket with unbelievable care. Because good food makes life better.”

Their food is “Organic and non-GMO produced, harvested at the peak of freshness; Humanely raised, antibiotic and hormone-free meat, and seafood approved by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Watch List (with) nutritionist-approved recipes including Omnivore, Paleo, Gluten Free, and Vegetarian options.”

One of the unique feature of Sun Basket is their recent move to %100 compostable and recyclable packaging. A recent article in the Mother Nature network suggested that while food-kit delivery services may cut down on food waste, and save energy by eliminating some transportation needs related to transportation and storage, they increase waste through excessive packaging. The article’s author points out that, “One of the reasons (she) had no interest in these oh-so-convenient services was the amount of packaging that gets thrown away when each ingredient comes in an individual toss-able container.” At the time of writing, that made Sun Basket a bit unique. The other vendors in this article did not specifically state they used 100% recyclable or compostable packaging. My guess is they all will move in that direction.

When I visited the Sun Basket site, the menu included Masala Shrimp with Turmeric-roasted Cauliflower (top), North African Black Lentil pitas with Tangy Carrot-cranberry Salad (above), and Almond-crusted Trout with Chermoula and Cucumber-olive Salad (left). Prices are a bit more expensive the the two previously listed, but if organic food and recyclable containers are important, the expense is probably worth it. The 2 person plan ends up being $11.49 per serving and the family plan comes in at $11.49 per serving. The website was inviting, clearly laid out, and easy to navigate. Find them at: https://www.sunbasket.com.

4. PeachDish

I included PeachDish because of their emphasis on southern cooking. Founder and Atlanta native Hadi Irvani was selling shoes after graduating from the University of Virginia. In his spare time, he began to host unique dinner parties, where guests who often didn’t know one another, and would arrive to find the menu not specifically set. Hadi would suggest a recipe, and the guests would then work together to prepare it and then of course, sit down to eat together.

The bio on the website goes on to explain, “In today’s society, it’s rare for people to make time to cook together, to eat together, and to get to know a stranger. Hadi’s dinner guests—many who were novices in the kitchen—raved about the experience. They’d taken ownership of the dinner and realized they could create meals at home. Hadi realized something too; he could package his dinner party and deliver it to guests across the nation.”

“His first shipment in summer 2013 was to ten customers—nine friends and a woman in Lake Charles, Louisiana who’d stumbled across his business plan online. Ingredients came from the grocery store and deliveries didn’t include recipes. He named the company PeachDish as a nod to the sweet seasonal fruit of Georgia soil.” PeachDish has grown considerably since then, and now ships over 200,000 meals a year.

Menu items included, Hanger Steak with Creamy Egg Noodles & Mushrooms (top), Potato Encrusted Redfish (above), and a SuperFood Peanut Noodles with Pecan, Arugula & Roasted Radish Salad (left).

PeachDish is also different in that they don’t have specific weekly plans. Rather, you can shop from a wide selection of menu items. Each item (I say items because there are such options as desert as well) can be ordered in portions ranging from 2 person servings to 12 person servings. Pricing varies depending on the order and servings ordered. Orders that are placed by midnight Sunday are delivered the following week. The website is inviting, and has a lot of great information about the history and their core values. Find them at https://www.peachdish.com.

Chef’d

According to their website, “Flipping through a magazine one day, (Chef’d) founder and CEO came across a truly mouth-watering recipe, and wondered, “Why can’t I literally press a button and have this gourmet meal shipped to my door?” A year later, Chef’d was born, designed as a meal kit company like no other, where the choice is truly in the hands of the consumer. With no subscriptions, the ability to re-order your favorites, and a selection of over 300 meals, Chef’d is changing the meal kit landscape one delicious meal at a time.”

True to their claim, the meal selection at Chef’d is extensive. Another thing that makes Chef’d different is their preset diet meal plans, which is a great idea. Some of the plans include the Weight Watchers Diet, a Runner’s World Diet, and The American Diabetic Association Diet.

There is also a ten-minute meal menu , which is a great option. Most meals from Chef’d and the other plans seem to take about a half an hour, and often it is convenient to have a healthy meal in less time. Other meal categories include breakfasts, desserts, gourmet meals, and “family friendly” selections.

As you might guess from the name, Chef’d features and highlights the chefs that create the meals, and there are quite a few noteworthy and celebrity chefs included.

A quick visit to the sight quickly demonstrated the impressive array of choices. The “Recently Added” menu included Greek Style Chicken (top), Albondigas Soup (above), and Chicken Madeira (below). 

Perusing through the rest of the website with all of the choices took quite a while. It was a hard to find to find information about the philosophy of the company or how they sourced the food, so it was difficult to tell if they followed the farm-to-recipe process that the other providers featured, or if they included a desire to foster a decrease in food waste and a more efficient distribution system.

Other than that one item, the website was inviting, easy to navigate, and did a good job of organizing the considerable amount of food choices offered. Prices tend to vary greatly, depending on the food type and the amount of portions you order, but by in large this site is more expensive that the others — it costs a bit of a premium to enjoy the creations of well-known chefs.

I intend to try some of the items from the diabetic-friendly menu in the near future (this writer is unfortunately diabetic). I wonder if you can combine the diets, say maybe do the combination Runner’s World and The American Diabetic Association Diet? Maybe by doing that I could lower my blood sugar and get into shape as well.

You can find these diets and their other fine meal choices at: https://www.chefd.com/.

That is by no means all of the meal-kit delivery options out there. In fact, a Google search will find almost too many options, ranging from smaller local enterprises, to others that specialize in ethnic cuisine — and others such as the Purple Carrot that serve only vegan food. The team at DDBham is going to begin to try these out over the coming months and will report back. If you get to it before us and would like to let us know what you think, comment below or email editor@ddbham.com.