(Note: This post was sponsored by Blue Apron and contains affiliate links. 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.)
- 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
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!
(After your first Blue Apron order, there’s no long-term commitment. You can cancel your subscription or skip weeks at any time!)
Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!