Julie from Frugally Blonde put together a great list of what to buy (and skip) in October.
(Note: This post was sponsored by Blue Apron. All opinions are my own. Read our disclosure policy here.)
Food subscription boxes have become very popular in the past few years and, as I have worked with Blue Apron over the past year and shared my honest thoughts on this service, many of you have asked me if I could do a comparison post on some of the other most popular meal kit delivery services.
So when Blue Apron approached me about doing a detailed comparison post of the top five food subscription boxes, I was excited about the opportunity and have spent the last few weeks going through the ordering process, researching the different companies, and photographing and trying out the meals from these services.
While this post is sponsored by Blue Apron, they have graciously agreed to allow me to bring you what I always do: my very honest thoughts on all of the companies listed in this post — in my own words. However, they are offering something special for those of you who are interested in trying out Blue Apron. The first 50 readers to sign up through this link will get three free meals with their first Blue Apron order. Just click here to sign up!
Now, let’s dive into a detailed comparison of five of the most popular meal kit delivery services:
- The ingredients are very, very fresh. The ingredients are delivered in a refrigerated box and I’m always impressed with how fresh they are for being sent by UPS!
- The packaging is fantastic. Compared to the other services, Blue Apron’s packaging is by far superior and keeps the food cold longer than any of the other services did. In fact, while I don’t recommend it, you can keep the box on your countertop for two days after you get it and the food will still be cold when you open the box. I tested it and this is not the case with the other services.
- The ingredients are high quality. Blue Apron works very hard to provide the freshest and highest quality ingredients possible. This is very evident in every box that they send. (They are working to develop a sustainable food system and use high quality ingredients. Check out their vision page here.)
- There’s a fun variety of recipes and an opportunity to try new foods. We have yet to have made a recipe from Blue Apron that we didn’t enjoy. The recipes are flavorful, colorful, healthful, and delicious!
- There is a LOT of packaging. Blue Apron’s packaging is far superior (as I mentioned above), but that means that there is a lot of packaging. Gratefully, however, they do offer a recycling program and you can return your packaging for free to Blue Apron via USPS.
- The meals are more time-intensive. Blue Apron specializes in more creative recipes that are geared toward foodies and those who love to spend time in the kitchen. However, they are beginning to roll out more 30-minute meal options, which I’m happy to see!
- There are only 4 dinner choices each week. Compared to some of the other services, this is a very limited selection.
Blue Apron is one of the forerunners of the meal kit delivery services and it shines in their website, the delivery box, and their recipes. I found the Blue Apron site to be much easier to navigate than many of the other sites, it’s much simpler to switch dates or recipes, and the meals are consistently very flavorful and delicious.
- They offer allergen-friendly options. All of their recipes clearly state on them what allergens they have in them or whether or not they are gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free. And most of their recipes are very allergen-friendly!
- You can see the recipe and the nutritional facts before you pick your meals. I loved that they let you see the actual recipe + the nutritional facts before you picked which meals you wanted delivered.
- They offer a Veggie Plan. If you’re a vegetarian, they have a plan specifically for you!
- They assume you’ll have salt, pepper, butter, sugar, and oil on hand. Unlike some of the other meal services, they assume that you will have a few basic ingredients on hand — and they don’t send these in your box.
- The packaging wasn’t very sturdy and the contents of the box were a little crushed as a result. While their box was really easy to recycle, I also felt like the lack of packaging hurt the contents of the box while it was shipped as it arrived not in as great of shape as say the ingredients and box from Blue Apron always does. Also, I would suggest removing the contents as soon as the box arrives as it felt like the packaging wouldn’t keep the contents cold for much longer than the actual shipping time.
- The recipe instructions weren’t as step-by-step as they should have been. We noticed that the recipes — while they had pictures and detailed steps — weren’t as easy to follow and you had to re-read them a few times to figure out what you were supposed to do.
I felt like Hello Fresh specializes in allergen-friendly options and would be excellent for any family who is vegetarian or deals with significant allergies. They make it easy to choose recipes that are in line with whatever allergies you have at your house — plus, you can see all of the ingredients and nutritional facts while you are picking the recipes.
- They offer Paleo, Gluten-Free, and Vegetarian options. Of all the services, I felt like Sun Basket had the most options when it came to allergies and food preferences.
- You can choose kid-friendly menu plans and/or quick, 20-minute recipes. I was super impressed with how many really quick and easy recipe options they offered. And making the recipes was truly as quick and easy as they said — especially since they already pre-chopped the chicken to make it quicker.
- They make it easy to change or add recipes. You can even double or triple up on one recipe instead of getting different recipes (great option if you are hosting an event!)
- They are more pricey than some of the other services. Their prices are about $1 more per serving than most of the other services. That little bit can add up over time!
- They send all of the recipes for the week in one booklet versus sending recipe cards. You might prefer the recipe book, but I personally found it a little clunkier to have to look through the book and find the recipe I was supposed to make versus having recipe cards.
- Their packaging wasn’t as sturdy as Blue Apron. Again, you would not want to have your box sitting out at all once it arrives because they didn’t have enough cold packaging to keep it fresh for longer than just the shipping time.
If you are looking for quick and easy + allergen-friendly when it comes to your food subscription box service, Sun Basket definitely has you covered. However, keep in mind that you might pay more for the convenience of quick and easier meals plus the meals probably aren’t going to be as varied or flavorful as other services since they are quicker to prepare.
- You get to choose from 11 different meal options every week. They send you an email on Monday and you have until Friday to choose your recipes for the following week.
- They tell the allergens right on the recipes + the difficulty level and the spicy-ness level.
- They send you a recipe binder and their recipe cards are hole-punched so you can easily save them to make again in the future if you liked them. I thought this was a fantastic idea and something some of the other services should consider doing.
- Their packaging wasn’t as environmentally-friendly. There was a lot of plastic.
- Even though you get to choose from 11 different recipes, I honestly had trouble coming up with 2-3 meals our family would love. Maybe their recipes are just geared more for foodies?
- I found their website difficult to use — especially when it came to changing what recipes I wanted them to send. It seemed cumbersome to use and it took me longer to place my order than any of the other sites did.
Overall, I think Home Chef was my least favorite of the food subscription box services. Not only was the website more difficult to use, but I also wasn’t a fan of most of their recipe selections. Plus, the price point is one of the highest of any of the services.
- Their sign-up process is very simple and streamlined. Choose your number of servings and nights, then mix and match your dishes in any combination.
- They also offer you the fun option to add ingredients for a dessert to your box for $8 per dessert.
- They offer you a LOT of recipe choices — I had 17 different choices on the week I ordered! When you are swapping recipes for your box, you can filter out the recipes by what kind of recipes they are.
- They don’t notify you before they get your next box ready. I was planning to cancel my order after one week, but I got the dates mixed up and didn’t get it canceled in time. Because they didn’t send me an email to let me know that they were preparing my next order, I ended up having to pay for an extra week that I wasn’t planning to.
- I noticed that a lot of the recipes they offer are Encore Recipes — which means they have already offered them before. If you like a lot of variety, this might be something that would be frustrating to you.
- A lot of the recipes weren’t things our family would personally like or eat. They seemed a little too adventurous for us.
I felt like the Plated recipes were very healthful and colorful and their site is super easy to use. However, even though they offered so many choices, I wasn’t over-the-top impressed with the choices. But maybe that’s just our family and our eating preferences! 🙂
My Final Thoughts + A Special Offer
Thank you, again, to Blue Apron for sponsoring this post. As you can tell from my honest thoughts above, I’m a big fan of them and feel like they are a fantastic choice when it comes to the price point, the flavor factor, and the packaging and freshness factor!
Don’t forget that the first 50 readers to sign up through this link will get three free meals with their first Blue Apron order. Just click here to sign up! (After your first Blue Apron order, there’s no long-term commitment. You can cancel your subscription or skip weeks at any time!)
If you’re always on the lookout for ways to stretch your grocery budget, then be sure to check out Fetch Rewards!
Fetch Rewards is a brand new app that rewards you in points when you make grocery purchases on select products at any store.
Here’s how it works:
- Sign up for Fetch Rewards.
- Use referral code B7WRT when signing up to get 1500 bonus points after your first completed redemption.
- Shop at any store for grocery and household products as you normally would.
- Scan your receipt to get points back on participating brands. (The list is being added to and changed regularly!)
- As long as you’ve purchased a participating brand, the points will be added automatically to your account! It’s that easy!
- You can also take advantage of rotating special offers and scan bonuses to earn even more points.
- Trade in your points for gift cards such as Visa, Target, Amazon, and more!
This seems like a super easy way to earn a little extra on your grocery purchases! Just remember to scan your receipt after your grocery trip each week, and your points will be automatically added to your account if you purchased any of the participating brands.
And don’t forget to use code B7WRT at sign-up so that you can get a BONUS 1500 points after your first completed receipt scan!
Have you tried Fetch Rewards yet? Let us know your thoughts, if so!
FOR MORE COUPONS, search our comprehensive Coupon Database for manufacturer coupons, printable coupons, eCoupons, and more!
(Note: This post was sponsored by Kroger. Read our disclosure policy here.)
Frustrated by rising gas prices? Kroger just rolled out a great Fuel Points campaign and promotion! From now through October 18, 2017, you can get 2X fuel points when purchasing Private Selection products at participating Kroger stores (excludes Jay C and Ralphs).
Usually, when you shop at Kroger and use your Plus Card, you’ll earn 1 fuel point for every $1 you spend. However, through October 18, 2017, you’ll get DOUBLE Fuel Points when you purchase any Private Selection products.
How Kroger Fuel Points Work
For each increment of 100 points earned, you’ll be able to get $0.10 off per gallon of gas at any Kroger Fuel Center (up to 35 gallons in one purchase). You can also earn up to $1 off per gallon when you redeem up to 1,000 Fuel Points at any participating Shell gas station.
At Kroger Fuel Centers, you can choose how much of your discount you want to use — $0.10, $0.20, $0.30, up to $1 off per gallon! You can also redeem your fuel points at participating Shell fuel stations. To redeem your Fuel Points, just scan your Plus Card or enter your Alternate ID at the pump, then choose to redeem your available fuel discount.
I went to Kroger to see what deals I could find on Private Selection items and was really happy with what I found.
This Private Selection 100% Whole Wheat Bread is a great choice if you are looking for quality bread and don’t want to make your own.
If you typically buy Starbucks Energy Coffee Drinks, the Private Selection drinks are quite a bit less expensive!
I picked up some Private Selection Turbinado Cane Sugar Packets — for $1 less for the box than Sugar in the Raw packets.
The Private Selection Tea was on sale for $0.79 and $0.99 per box when you purchased 4. I’ve actually never tried this tea before, so I’m excited to try it out!
The Private Selection Crackers were $1.99 per box.
The Private Selection Maple Syrup was $4.89 on sale.
I ended up spending $16.48 — and since I had purchased only Private Selection products, I earned double Fuel Points (32) on everything!
Other Ways to Earn More Fuel Points:
- You can 50 additional Fuel points on qualifying prescriptions at the Kroger Pharmacy.
- Check your receipt for a survey you can take — you’ll earn 50 additional Fuel Points each time you take the survey!
- Look for the 4x gift card event that is running 9/20 – 9/27 and 10/11 – 10/18 where you can earn even more Fuel Points by purchasing gift cards from the Gift Card Mall.
As I was making them, so many memories flooded my mind and heart.
One of them was the memory of going to the grocery store and longingly looking at other food and wishing we could buy it. But no, I knew that I had to stick to the list of basics and things that I could get free or almost free with coupons.
I remember thinking, “I wonder if there will ever come a day when I could go to the grocery store and put whatever I wanted in my cart and we could afford it?” I couldn’t imagine that day ever happening, because money was so tight then that every penny had to be carefully accounted for.
I know some of you can relate — and maybe that’s where you are right now. Can I just encourage you? I know that it’s hard to live on a beans and rice budget.
I know it’s hard to make big sacrifices. I know that it’s discouraging when you have to pass by so many things because they just aren’t in the budget.
But I’m here to tell you that those short-term sacrifices WILL pay off! Don’t give up!
Reader Sara wrote in with this question:
“What advice can you offer for buying gym shoes for my quickly-growing daughter? I’m not comfortable buying used, and cheaper options from Target and Walmart seem to fall apart in a matter of weeks.”
I decided to post this question to the MoneySavingMom Facebook page so that everyone could chime in! All of you came up with some GREAT tips for saving on kids’ shoes, and I thought I’d combine and share them here in one place!
27 Secrets to Saving on Growing Kids’ Shoes:
1. Ask grandparents to buy shoes instead of more toys. If your kids have grandparents who can afford it and want to bless your children with lots of extras, politely ask them if they could opt to purchase shoes instead of an abundance of toys and extras.
2. Try online discounted shoe stores. You can often get steep discounts on brand-name shoes when you shop online at stores such as 6pm, Zappos, Shoes.com, and Shoeshow.com. You can even try the daily deal site Zulily, which often has deals on kids’ brand-name clothing and shoes.
3. Buy new brand-name shoes on eBay. Even if you want to stay away from used shoes, don’t rule out eBay! You can often find brand new pairs of shoes at majorly discounted prices on eBay if the timing is right.
4. Shop the outlet stores. You can score great savings at outlet stores for athletic shoe brands: Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Skechers, and more. Many outlet stores often have buy one, get one deals that make each pair half-price! Consider buying one size for now and a size up for later.
5. Be on the lookout for Amazon Athletic Shoes Sales. Amazon frequently has their Deal of the Day on athletic shoes where you can get at least 40% off regular prices on name brands. (We post these when we see them!)
6. Check out the Surprize by Stride Rite shoes at Target. Multiple readers said this Surprize brand holds up better than other name-brand shoes, and they’re only $30 a pair!
7. Kohl’s Kohl’s Kohl’s. If you’re a deal seeking mama, you know how deal-friendly Kohl’s is! You can frequently get killer deals on shoes at Kohl’s when you combine a sale with coupons — either online or in-store. Just keep an eye out for price drops and coupons. (And don’t forget about Kohl’s cash, too!)
8. Be aware of what material shoes are made of. Certain materials last longer than others when it comes to shoes. Supposedly, man-made materials fall apart more easily. It might be something to consider if you have a child who blows through shoes frequently.
9. Don’t forget to use Ebates when you shop online. Ebates offers a percentage back as a rebate on your purchase –usually between 3% and 10%. If you’re already going to be making the online purchase, you might as well get a little kickback, too!
10. Try Dick’s Sporting Goods for brand-name shoes. They often offer some of the lowest prices on brand names like Under Armour, Saucony, Nike, and more. One reader said she exclusively shops there and can almost always get her kids’ shoes for under $30 each!
11. Don’t forget about outdoor stores. Although REI can be overpriced, they often have clearance and garage sales (if you’re an REI member). They also offer great deals on holiday weekends and often send out coupons if you’re on their mailing list. You can get quality outdoor adventure brands at a steep discount if you know when to shop! Sierra Trading Post is also a fantastic option, as their prices are significantly lower than REI.
12. Try shopping at Academy Sports + Outdoors. One reader said that at her store, the shoes are organized by price. Start at the bottom where the prices are the lowest, and work your way up until you find a shoe that works!
13. Shop at Nordstrom Rack. This is the discounted, outlet version of Nordstrom. They have amazingly low prices on all kinds of brand name items, including shoes!
14. Let kids choose their shoes, within reason. Obviously this will come with a price cap and guidance from the parents, but allowing kids to have a say in the shoes they buy adds a degree of responsibility — which probably means they’ll be careful to take better care of them and make them last a little longer!
15. Buy a size up. Often times, shoes will fit just as well a half size up, which will make them last a bit longer. One reader even suggested using a shoe insert to make it fit better until the child grows fully into it.
16. Shop the shoe racks at Ross, TJMaxx, and Marshall’s. These discount stores are known for amazing prices on brand name items, including shoes! The best part is that they are organized by size, so you can find exactly what you’re looking for at a glance.
17. Shop at Meijer with rewards. Did you know that Meijer sells name brand shoes?! They sometimes even have buy one, get one for $1 sales! You can also use Meijer rewards to further sweeten your savings.
18. Think out of season. As with anything, you’ll often find the best deals on items when they are out of season. Buy shoes a size up for your children when they are on major out-of-season markdown, and put them away for later! Many readers said that department store clearance sections are great for this!
19. Try on styles and track prices. If you’re nervous to buy online, go shopping and have your child try on various sizes and styles. Write down the ones that fit best, and then start tracking the prices online. Wait for a good sale and buy when the price is right! (This works really well on Amazon with their price tracker!)
20. Don’t forget about classic shoe stores. Stores like Shoe Carnival, Rack Room Shoes, and Famous Footwear specialize in shoes and often run all kinds of amazing sales you can take advantage of — like buy one, get one half off! Many of these stores also have rewards programs and/or coupons.
21. Check shoe store growth policies. Some shoe stores will give you a free pair of shoes if your child outgrows the shoes in a certain time frame.
22. Shop the online Joe’s New Balance Outlet. If you prefer New Balance brand or you’re wanting to see if New Balance might be a great brand for your child, consider buying online at the Joe’s New Balance Outlet. They offer incredible markdowns, many of which are hard to believe! We frequently post these deals, because they are just SO good!
23. Shop at Burlington Coat Factory. Who knew that Burlington sold shoes? I certainly didn’t! Apparently you can get GREAT discounts on shoes there! Just another option to keep in mind.
24. Find the brand that lasts the longest for your child. No two brands of shoes are made exactly the same way, and different brands will work better for different feet. Your kid may blow through New Balance in a month, but be able to wear Adidas for a year. And another kid may have feet that fit best with Saucony. It’s important to figure out which brand lasts the longest for your child and stick with it.
25. Make shoes a priority and buy other things secondhand. Shoes need to fit well, because they support a child’s feet — and ultimately their hips, knees, ankles, and more. It’s important to find a pair of shoes that are comfortable and fit well, especially if they’re running around at recess or playing sports. If you have to increase the budget a little bit in order to not skimp in this area, maybe consider buying other things secondhand (like clothing, toys, electronics, and more).
26. Be on the lookout at Sam’s or Costco. We often think of these warehouse stores as only having bulk food and household items, but they also have all kinds of other items — including shoes! If you have a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco, be on the lookout for great deals on shoes.
27. Give off-brands a try. Many, many readers commented that they love some of the off-brand sneakers at Kmart, Payless, Target, and more. You never know how a brand will work for your child until you try it! It may pay off in the long run.
Thanks again to all of the MoneySavingMom Facebook followers for sharing these tips!