Guide to Meal Kit Delivery Services

Meal Kit Delivery GuideIn a perfect world, we would have more than enough time to plan home cooked meals, shop for fresh ingredients, and then lovingly prepare healthy, wholesome meals for our families every night. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world and all too often, we find ourselves in need of food fast, but don’t want to feed our family fast food.

There was a time when take-out or delivery were the only options for fast family dinners at home. When places like Ukrop’s started offering family-style “Meals-To-Go,” many busy families in the Greater Richmond Area thought they had died and gone to heaven. Finally, they could offer wholesome, home-cooked food (or close enough to it) that didn’t take hours to prepare, cook and clean up after. It was a revolution in dinner, to be sure.

These days, meals-to-go are more and more available, and many of our favorite restaurants, even those who don’t offer traditional delivery, will deliver through services like OrderUp or GrubHub. But, as convenient as pre-cooked food is, nothing quite replaces a home cooked meal that you’ve prepared yourself. Which brings us right back to the stress of needing wholesome food fast for our hungry families. Thankfully, progress never stops and the next generation of easy-access dinners is here in the form of meal kits that are delivered straight to your door.

Meal kits, in cases you’re not familiar with them, include everything you need to make fresh, home-cooked meals, including pre-measured ingredients, spices, instructions and more. All you have to do is go online, select the specific meals and/or types of meals you want, then wait for the fresh, ready-to-cook ingredients to show up at your door.

Meal kits are an increasingly popular solution to the family dinner dilemma for a number of reasons. First of all, they are often a cost-effective solution to buying the same ingredients at a local grocery store. Secondly, because all ingredients are carefully measured to suit a specific recipe, there’s little to no waste. Likewise, many services work directly with their meat and produce farmers and suppliers to deliver food to your doorstep in less time than it would take if you purchased it at a grocery store.

Last, but definitely not least, meal kits provide variety and excitement. With hundreds of meal options to choose from across a wide array of services, you can access recipes that range from gourmet to simple comfort food. Even the kids will get excited to see “what’s in the box” and, who knows, they might even want to get involved in meal prep themselves.

If you’ve been thinking about trying a meal kit delivery service, it’s important to know that not all services are created equally. Each provider offers something just a little different, whether it’s lower costs, specialty foods, or a range of buying options. To help you to decide which one might be right for you, we’ve looked at the leading meal kit providers available in the Richmond area.

The following list will walk you through the basics of each program, the associated costs, current specials and anything else you might need to know. In the meantime, if you’ve already tried a meal kit delivery service, we would love to hear about your experience or recommendations. Be sure to send us an email at cs@richmondmom.com.

Blue Apron

Blue Apron is one of the most well known names in the meal kit delivery game because their model is simple: provide fresh ingredients for meals that you can feel good about feeding your family, while saving time and money. They achieve this goal by partnering with farmers and growers around the country for direct access to the highest quality ingredients, including sustainable seafood, hormone-free meats, and non-GMO produce. Because of these relationships, they are able to cut out the middle man, and offer you prices that are often lower than local grocery stores. With simple, handcrafted recipes that take 40 minutes or less to make, Blue Apron consistently provides easy, convenient, and delicious home-cooked meals.

What sets them apart:
Without skimping on quality or flavor, Blue Apron offers unique savings that make them one of the most consistently affordable meal kit delivery programs we’ve seen.

Menu Sample: See the current weekly menu here.

Cost:
Two-Person Plan: $9.99/meal
Three meals/week for $59.94

Four-Person (Family) Plan: $8.99/meal
Two meals/week for $71.92

*Menus are available for specific dietary needs and preferences, including vegetarian, gluten-free and more.

Wine: $10/ 500ml bottle (2/3 size of a regular bottle of wine)
Six bottles monthly = $60/month + $5.99 shipping

Monthly wine deliveries include six bottles of premium red or white wine, hand picked to pair with Blue Apron recipes. Please note that bottles are smaller than standard 750ml bottles and designed to be perfectly portioned for two people.

Shipping:
Shipping (except for wine) is free. Meals arrive in insulated boxes, which means that you do not have to be home to receive deliveries, because your items will stay fresh and cool until you’re ready to use them.

Extras and/or Current Specials:
Sign up for Blue Apron now and receive $30 off your first order. To redeem this offer, sign up here.

 

Chef’D

Chef’D calls themselves the “Meal Kit Marketplace” – and that’s exactly what they are. No subscriptions, no pre-set menus. Just your tastes, your schedules and your preferences every step of the way. Order as much as you’d like whenever you’d like and choose from over 500 recipes. Granted, 500 recipes can be a bit overwhelming, which Chef’d has taken into account with filters, meal plan options (based on dietary requests or requirements) and categories from “quick” to “around the world.” You can even take a quiz to customize your preferences and get suggestions for meals that suit your cooking style and tastes. With no obligations or subscriptions, you have the power to make weekly meal plans or only use Chef’D for those times you really need it.

What sets them apart:
Chef’D works with some of the biggest names in the food and diet industry, which means that you can have complete confidence in what you order. If you need a specific meal plan based on diabetic needs, choose a plan endorsed by the American Diabetes Association. Trying to lose weight? Try an Atkins or Weight Watchers kit. Or simply browse recipes provided by your favorite celebrity chefs. Whatever you want, chances are Chef’D has it.

Sample Menu: See a sampling of curated meal kits here.

Cost:
Prices depend entirely upon the meals chosen. However, all prices are broken down by 2 servings or 4 servings and range from the mid-$20s for two servings up into the $60 range for four servings, but with plenty of options in between.

Shipping:
Shipping is free on orders over $40, and $10 for orders less than $40. All ingredients arrive in an insulated box to help them stay fresh until you unpack them.

Extras and/or Current Specials:
Refer a friend and they will receive $10 off of their first order, and you’ll receive a $10 credit.

 

Fresh Realm

Imagine if many of the industry’s top food critics, magazines, bloggers and chefs joined forces with a meal kit delivery system. Then imagine that the meal kit delivery combined some of the best features of their competitors into a single program. We’re pretty sure the end result would look exactly like Fresh Realm. Unlike many of its competitors who rely on house chefs (as talented as they are), Fresh Realm draws from the “TasteMakers” in today’s foodie circles to create meal categories for everyone – from Cooking Light magazine recipes to the meals featured on the popular cooking blogs around the country.

Here’s how it works. Fresh Realm uses a climate-controlled, reusable cold storage “vessel” with drawers. For your order to be complete, you must fill 60% of the vessel. Fill it any way you want – they’ll let you know when you’ve reached your minimum order. Top your vessel up to 90% and you’ll get free shipping (that’s a $10 savings). There are no subscriptions required, so order what you want any time you want it, including fully prepped gourmet meals, simple soups, ready-to-eat snacks, and even things like Cooking Light’s 3-Day Detox Kit. It’s all here – seriously. Best of all, before you choose your meal, you’ll know how long it will take to prepare and how much it cost per two servings (bump up the servings at will) so that you can pre-plan your meals as far as three weeks out. It’s really that easy.

What sets it apart:
It’s hard to say any thing more about what sets Fresh Realm apart than what we’ve already said. They stand out for many reasons, our favorite being the variety of recipes that they offer, all from trusted sources. Then there’s the reusable, cold storage delivery system. And last but not least, the subscription-free ordering process that truly puts you in control of your meal planning – without the stress of shopping lists and food prep. Like we said from the start, Fresh Realm brings the best of everything into one, simple system.

Sample Menu: See some of the dinner options that are currently available here.

Cost:
Fresh Realm meals vary quite significantly, with some soups starting in the $7/serving range and other meals edging up into the $18/serving range. All portions start at 2 servings, with the option to add more at checkout. With each meal you select, you can view the cost per serving, the cost for two servings and the complete recipe, with the option to reduce your per serving cost by $.25 if you choose not to have a recipe card shipped with your meal.

Shipping:
Shipping is free once you fill your vessel to 90% or more. All other orders are $10 for shipping. However, a word of caution: if you fill one vessel completely and have to start a second, that one must also be filled to 90% capacity or the $10 shipping charge applies.

Extras and/or Current Specials:
After you sign up for Fresh Realm, you can send a special referral link to a friend and not only will they receive $20 off their first order, you’ll receive a $20 credit as soon as their order is placed.

 

Green Chef

If you’re looking for 100% USDA certified organic ingredients, then Green Chef is the meal kit service for you. In fact, they promise organic ingredients across the board, from start to finish. And with a range of meal plans, they can meet virtually any dietary need, including vegetarian, vegan, paleo and gluten-free. Plus, for meat lovers, the carnivore plan will include a meat or seafood (along with a side vegetable) in each dish; and for those who like a little bit of everything, the omnivore plan will mix it up with both meat and vegetarian meals. With these kinds of options, you can expect to pay more; however, the cost can easily be worth it when you consider that Green Chef hand picks and guarantees that their products are organic and sustainable – from wild caught salmon to organic olive oil.

What sets them apart:
Green Chef is the only meal kit delivery service, to our knowledge, that currently certifies all of their ingredients as organic. Yes, they’re a bit pricier, but you get what you pay for. And with recipes that usually take 30 minutes or less, Green Chef offers a fast, easy way to get healthy, hearty meals on the table night after night.

Sample Menu: See the current weekly menu here.

Costs:
Two-Person Plan: (all options include three meals per week for two people)
Omnivore: $11.99/meal or $71.94/week
Carnivore: $13.49/meal or $80.94
Gluten-Free: $13.49/meal or $80.94
Vegan: $11.99/meal or $71.94/week
Paleo: $14.99/meal or $89.94/week
Vegetarian: $10.49/meal or $62.94/week

Family Plan: (all options include two meals per week for four people)
Omnivore: $11.99/meal or $95.92/week
Carnivore: $12.99/meal or $103.92

Shipping:
Shipping on all orders is $9. Orders arrive in eco-friendly, insulated boxes that will keep your ingredients cool so that you don’t have to be home to receive your delivery.

Extras and/or Current Specials:
Sign up now to get your first meal free – that means you’ll only pay $9 shipping for a fully organic Green Chef meal. Choose from the Two-Person Plan or the Family Plan. Click here to learn more.

 

HelloFresh

HelloFresh is all about simplicity. Without losing any flavor or excitement, they keep their recipes simple and easy-to-follow, with fewer steps than some competitors. With the option to order up to five meals a week, HelloFresh strives to make your life less stressful with meals that are easy and quick to make – which is the whole point of a meal kit delivery in the first place. With plenty of variety, but nothing over the top, HelloFresh ensures that your whole family will appreciate the fresh, wholesome goodness of each meal.

What sets them apart:
HelloFresh offers easy-to-follow recipes, without sacrificing flavor. That kind of simplicity is hard to beat. If you’re looking for way to get your kids involved with food preparation, then Hello Fresh might just be the service for you.

Menu Sample: See the current weekly menu here.

Costs:
Classic Plan: $9.99/meal
Two people: three meals/week for $59.94
Four people: three meals/week for for $119.88

Veggie Plan: $9.99/meal
Two people: three meals/week for $59.94
Four People: three meals/week for $119.88

Family Plan: $8.74/meal
Four people (two adults, two children): three meals/week for $104.88

Wine: $14.83/bottle (red or white)
Six bottles monthly = $89/month
*Wines are selected by the house sommelier to pair with HelloFresh recipes.

Shipping:
Shipping is always free. Meals arrive in boxes with insulated liners and ice packs, which means that you do not have to be home to receive deliveries, because your items will stay fresh and cool until you’re ready to use them.

Extras and/or Current Specials:
Get free food with the HelloFresh Referral Plan. Refer a friend and they’ll receive $40 off their first order, and you’ll receive a $20 credit. Plus, you can earn “freebies” to send friends and family. Send up to four free HelloFresh boxes to select recipients, with the chance to earn more.

 

Home Chef

The emphasis at Home Chef is flexibility and variety. With up to 13 recipes available weekly (with an option to choose or have them chosen for you), Home Chef delivers everything you need to make gourmet meals in your own kitchen. But what they also do is provide high-end ingredients, often for less than what it would cost to buy the same ingredients at the grocery store. Home Chef pre-portions every oil, spice and condiment needed for each recipe, removing the guesswork, leftovers, and waste. In the end, you get stunning meals that match your favorite restaurants on quality – and probably beat them on price.

What sets them apart:
There are two unique feature of Home Chef that we like. First, they offer some special add-ons, including fresh fruit and smoothies. Next, they provide the option to pre-select your menu for up to five weeks – leaving you free to think about everything but dinner.

Menu Sample: See the current weekly menu here.

Cost:
About $9.95/ meal
Three meals/week for $59.70

Shipping:
Shipping is free on orders over $45. All items arrive in a refrigerated box so your ingredients will stay fresh until you’re ready to use them.

Extras and/or Current Specials:
Sign up now to receive $30 off your first order.

 

Martha and Marley Spoon

If it comes from Martha Stewart, it must be good, right? Well, for the most part, that holds true. Marley Spoon hails from Europe, but brought their operation stateside to team up with Martha Stewart who adds her signature “anyone can be a gourmet” flair to the recipes. Focused on seasonal ingredients and simple step-by-step guidance, Martha and Marley Spoon serve up just the kind of delicious, home-cooked gourmet meals you would expect from the queen of homemaking. Like all meal kit delivery systems, your ingredients will show up chilled and ready-to-use, but keep in mind that Martha and Marley Spoon very carefully portion everything, so you won’t have a lot of waste or leftovers to deal with. And with ten meal options every week, variety will never be lacking.

What sets them apart:
Martha and Marley Spoon is one of the only services we’ve reviewed that actually drops their “per meal” prices when you order more. With four-person meals starting at just $8.70/meal, they offer the best value proposition we’ve seen yet – assuming you’re shopping for the whole family. Prices go up in the same proportion when you buy fewer meals for fewer people, so less costs more in this case.

Menu Sample: See the current weekly menu here.

Costs:
Two-Person Plan:
Two meals/week: $12/meal or $48/week
Three meals/week: $10.25/meal or $61.50/week
Four meals/week: $9.50/meal or $76/week

Four-Person Plan (two adults, two children):
Two meals/week: $9.50/meal or $76/week
Three meals/week: $8.90/meal or $106.80/week
Four meals/week: 48.70/ meal or $139.20/week

Shipping:
Shipping is always free and ingredients arrive in a chilled, recyclable box so that they stay fresh, even when you’re not home to receive the delivery. In fact, Marley Spoon guarantees that your ingredients will be fresh for at least four days after delivery (except fish which should be used within 48 hours).

Extras and/or Current Specials:
Current Facebook special includes $25 off your first and second orders, for a total of $50 in free food. Click here to learn more.

 

Peach Dish

As self-proclaimed providers of “new global south” cuisine, Peach Dish often stays true to its southern roots. But even though many of the dishes on their extensive menus are inspired by classic southern recipes, you’ll also find plenty of variety with globally-inspired meals scattered throughout the weekly selection. With farm-fresh ingredients, Peach Dish prides themselves on offering simple, wholesome recipes that have been hand-crafted by award-winning chefs. With easy-to-follow instructions, quick prep and loads of flavor, Peach Dish is the next best thing to having your grandma cook for you.

What sets them apart:
Like most meal kit services, Peach Dish offers automatic weekly subscriptions. And like most, these subscriptions are obligation-free, offering you plenty of opportunity to change, skip or cancel upcoming orders. However, if you don’t want a subscription and just want to order on occasion, then Peach Dish offers a truly unique “guest” option, meaning that you can order one meal at a time, when and how you choose. There is a $12 delivery fee for guest orders, but no other strings, obligations or hidden fees.

Menu Sample: See the current weekly menu here.

Costs:
All meals are priced per 2 servings. Prices usually range between $25 and $40 for two servings, with the option to select up to 12 servings at a significant cost reduction. (Ex: $25 for 2 servings; $70 for 6 servings; or $130 for 12 servings).

Shipping:
Shipping is free for subscribers. There is a $12 delivery fee for one-time guest orders. Orders will arrive in an insulated box to keep ingredients fresh until you unpack them.

Extras and/or Current Specials:
Refer a friend and they will receive $10 off their first order and you’ll receive a $10 credit. Plus, be sure to visit the Peach Dish Online Market for gourmet goodies, kitchen wares, gifts and more.

 

Plated

If you appreciate fine food and don’t mind doing a little bit of work to make it, then Plated is going to be perfect for your palate and your lifestyle. However, don’t let that description scare you off, either. With plenty of simple, home style recipes available, as well as options for specific dietary needs, Plated offers an easy, relatively affordable solution for everyone. Plated builds their recipes around fresh, seasonal produce and meats that have been responsibly grown and raised. And with a weekly menu of 13 recipes ranging from elaborate to simple, plus the option to add dessert, you’ll have no shortage of variety to spice up your dinnertime routine.

What sets them apart:
Plated offers many of the same great benefits as their competitors, including convenience, freshness, time savings and more. But what sets that apart for us is the fact that they offer exceptional flexibility. As the only meal kit service on our list to offer a three-person option, Plated gives you more options when choosing the amount of food you receive. They state that each “serving” serves one adult or two children, so you can piece together the exact amount you need for your family, without having too much or too little.

Sample Menu: See the current weekly menu here.

Costs:
Two-Serving Plan:
Two nights/week: $11.95/serving or $47.80/week (+ $7.95 shipping)
Three nights/week: $11.95/serving or $71.70/week
Four nights/week: $11.95/serving or $95.60/week

Three-Serving Plan:
Two nights/week: $9.95/serving or $59.70/week (+ $7.95 shipping)
Three nights/week: $9.95/serving or $89.55/week
Four nights/week: $9.95/serving or $119.40/week

Four-Serving Plan:
Two nights/week: $9.95/serving or $79.60/week
Three nights/week: $9.95/serving or $119.40/week
Four nights/week: $9.95/serving or $159.20/week

Shipping:
Shipping is free for orders over $60, which includes most meal plan. For those under $60, there is a $7.95 shipping charge. Your ingredients arrive in an insulated box that will keep your ingredients cool and fresh until midnight on your delivery day.

Extras and/or Current Specials:
For a limited time, get your first Plated night free! Click here to learn more.

 

Purple Carrot

If you thought that vegan or vegetarian food had to be bland, Purple Carrot will make you think again. With an exclusively plant-based menu, this service has become the go-to meal kit for many vegans and vegetarians, but features a surprisingly broad variety of truly tasty dishes that everyone will love. Packed with flavor, not to mention health benefits, Purple Carrot ingredients come with easy-to-follow recipe cards that make even the more complex dishes manageable in 40 minutes or less. Best of all, out of the programs we’ve evaluated, Purple Carrot is one of the more reasonably priced, while still managing to offer some of the highest quality ingredients out there., No matter what Purple Carrot Plan you choose, you can feel good about what you’re feeding your family. In fact, Purple Carrot meals are so good that chances are, they won’t even know just how healthy it is. Now that’s a dinnertime win.

What sets them apart:
To state the obvious, Purple Carrot stands out as the only purely plant-based meal service we’ve reviewed. But, beyond that, they also stand apart from the competition for their incredible health benefits, including their latest offering: the TB12 Performance Meal Plan, featuring high-performance meals designed in collaboration with Tom Brady, Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the NFL’s New England Patriots. These meals provide athletes and/or highly active people with specific nutrients to support and enhance athletic lifestyles.

Sample Menu: See the current weekly menu here.

Cost:
1-2 Person Meal Plan: $11.33/meal
Three meals/week: $68/week

3-4 Person Meal Plan: $9.25/meal
Two meals/week: $74/week

TB12 Performance Meal Plan (1-2 People): $13/meal
Three meals/week: $78/week

Shipping:
Free shipping on all orders. All ingredients arrive in an insulated box to help them stay fresh until you unpack them.

Extras and/or Current Specials:
Sign up now and receive a $25 discount on your first meal.

 

Sun Basket

For the family, or individuals, interested in clean eating or for those with dietary restrictions, Sun Basket could be the perfect fit. Even if you have picky palates, you’ll find something that works for everyone with meal plan options that include Chef’s Choice, Vegetarian, Paleo, Gluten-free, Family-Friendly and the “Rise and Shine” breakfast/dinner combo plan. All ingredients are hand-selected from certified organic, sustainable sources and represent the season’s freshest options. Best of all, all of Sun Basket’s recipes are designed to be simple, but with a test kitchen led by Chef Justine Kelley (former chef de cuisine at San Francisco’s famous Slanted Door restaurant), you can be sure that flavor and flair will never be lacking.

What sets them apart:
Sun Basket goes above and beyond when it comes to meal plan options, ensuring your peace of mind if you are committed to a certain type of cooking and/or eating. Plus, they are the only program we’ve found to date that offers a breakfast option, which, considering how mornings go in my house, is pure genius.

Menu Sample: See the current weekly menu here.

Costs:
(Please note that the pricing page indicates a different amount per meal than the final billing amount for for two- and four-person plans. Actual pricing is $11.99/meal.)

Two-Person Plan:
Three meals/week: $11.99/meal or $71.94/week

Four-Person Plan:
Three meals/week: $11.99/meal or $143.88/week

Family Plan (two adults, two children):
Two meals/week: $9.99/meal or $79.92
Four meals/week: $9.99/meal or $159.84

Shipping:
With the exception of your first order, which includes free shipping, shipping is $5.99 on all orders, regardless of quantity. Orders are shipped in fully insulated, recyclable, compostable packaging that will keep your ingredients fresh until you’re ready to use them.

Extras and/or Current Specials:
Sign up for Sun Basket now and receive $35 off your first purchase, plus free shipping. Click here to learn more.

 

Terra’s Kitchen

In addition to perfectly portioning your ingredients, Terra’s Kitchen washes, peels, and chops everything you need to make healthy, wholesome meals in 15-30 minutes. Their fresh, non-GMO ingredients are organic whenever possible and feature proteins that are antibiotic/hormone-free and sustainably sourced. Founded on principles of the Mediterranean lifestyle, Terra’s Kitchen offers more than 30 weekly recipes to choose from, including Paleo, low-calorie, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options. The Terra’s Kitchen team will create a custom menu for you each week, but you can change or customize your selections for each delivery, offering a virtually endless array of options and meal combinations.

What sets them apart:
Terra’s Kitchen offers several unique features. First off, they offer fantastic add-ons like salads and smoothies, ready-to-eat snacks and juices, and individually portioned proteins and sides that allow you to order a little extra if you want more or need more to feed a larger family. Next is their state-of-the-art delivery system. The Terra’s Kitchen reusable, climate-controlled “vessel” is basically a reusable, plastic mini-fridge (like the one used by Fresh Realm) that is delivered to your door and features built-in insulation, interior drawers and reusable ice blocks. Lastly, while their pricing isn’t necessarily cheap, Terra’s Kitchen prices meals individually based on the recipe. This mean that you can choose the meals you want at prices that suit your budget.

Sample Menu: See what meals and other options are currently available here.

Costs:
Each meal is individually priced per serving and each order has a minimum of $62.99. As you select your meals (or accept the ones that were selected for you by the Terra’s Kitchen team), your total will reflect your selections.

Two-Person Plan:
Meals range from $9.99/serving up to $18.99/serving

Family Plan: (four people)
Meals range from $9.99/serving up to $11.99/serving

Shipping:
Shipping is always free. Orders arrive in a reusable, refrigerated “vessel” that acts like a mini-fridge (complete with shelves to store your pre-packaged items) until you are ready to unpack them.

Extras and/or Current Specials:
Once you sign up for Terra’s Kitchen, refer a friend and they’ll receive $40 towards their first order and you’ll receive $25 towards your next order.