I like to eat. I sometimes like to cook. But above all, I love convenience, as I try to squeeze more and more activity into each day. Marrying convenience with freshly-prepared, home-cooked meals, while picking up some new skills along the way, is a slam dunk to me. So I tried out several meal kit delivery services to see what they are all about.
Green Chef is one of my favorite services in terms of the originality of the meals provided. They also offer menus suited to varying dietary preferences, including vegetarian and Paleo. I chose the
Paleo menu, as it was the closest to my normal diet. While you can select the dietary type, you can’t restrict the meals that you get within that menu, which is good and bad. On one hand, their menu led me to try things that I would not have tried on my own. My favorite dish was a yellow tuna steak that was insanely good. On the other hand, there are things I don’t try on my own for very good reason. For example, I am not a fan of seafood. Fish is okay, great even, depending on the style. But seafood. . . just not my bag. When I bite into shrimp, all I can think of is the texture reminds me of what I think biting someone’s fingers would feel like. Yes, it’s oddly specific, and I can’t shake it. I never want to bite someone’s fingers, and I’d be a happy man if I never have to eat shrimp.
Another issue for me is that Green Chef is almost too convenient. There are plenty of sauces that are prepared for you, and you just spread it into your dish. Certainly convenient, but it also doesn’t support learning. If there’s a really good sauce or ingredient, I want to know how it’s made so that I can replicate it on my own. But aside from that, Green Chef offers an entirely organic, responsibly-farmed and harvested menu, along with the most eco-friendly packaging of any of these services, and that’s something that I can get behind. You pay for that social responsibility, as my Paleo meals are 50% expensive at Green Chef than at other services.
It all started here. A friend of mine is a long-time Blue Apron subscriber, and a pretty big fan of theirs. He would occasionally share pictures of meals that he cooked, and it piqued my curiosity. During a vacation when he forgot to cancel his delivery, I stepped in to take it off his hands for a week. Win-win.
My favorite aspect of Blue Apron is the completeness of their meal experience. Of the services I tried, Blue Apron focused the most on education and technique. Each meal came with a recipe card, nutritional information, detailed information about a highlighted ingredient, and usually, a description of a technique used in the dishes. They also offer some step-by-step videos on their web site that are a nice touch. I learned the most from this service, and if you know me, that’s something that warms the cockles of my heart.
Blue Apron states that they set very high standards for their ingredients, including deals with small and local farmers, responsibly-farmed and harvested products, some sustainable farming ties, and so on. I have no doubt that these statements are accurate, but they also hit the news in 2015/2016 due to a large number of issues at their packaging plant. There will always be issues when ramping up a supply chain as quickly as they did, and while they handled the issues responsibly, I can’t completely let them off the hook because they let those conditions develop in the first place. If this is a concern to you, Google some recent news to see if there are any developments; I assume they’re sorted out by this time.
Blue Apron’s meals were fresh and tasty, but they offer little variety as compared to some of the other services. I tend to eat a low-carb / high-fat diet, and most of their meals tend to be carb-heavy, so while good, they didn’t fit my dietary preferences as much as I would have liked.
I spent more time sampling Home Chef’s menu than any other service. Some of the meals were hit or miss, but Home Chef offers more flexibility than any other service. You can select your meals
and number of servings from a large menu each week, and they have some nice add-on ingredients as well, e.g. a smoothie recipe or a premium ingredient recipe.
Home Chef strikes a balance somewhere in between Blue Apron and Green Chef. Their dishes aren’t as unique or adventurous, but they do require you to prepare the vast majority of items from scratch. My biggest complaint with their menu is that many dishes are very formulaic, so it doesn’t feel as “new” each week. That also has much to do with my dietary preferences, as I stuck to the low-carb menu with Home Chef. That was a big advantage in my book: it was the only meal delivery service where each meal met my dietary restrictions, which is primarily high-fat, low carb, and moderate protein. Many of the meals were a simple formula of protein plus sauce, with roasted vegetables on the side. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE me some vegetables. There are very few I don’t like, and I can eat legumes like they’re going out of style; but they often aren’t creatively incorporated in Home Chef’s recipes.
The Best Meal Delivery Service
What I found is that each service provided something of value, but none provided everything that I wanted. What’s nice about each of these services is that you can tailor the delivery service within the week (e.g. food delivered on Wednesday, Thursday, and so on), and you can also tailor them week-to-week. What I found myself doing is logging into each account on a weekly basis, ordering from whichever service had my favorite menu for the week, while pausing the others. So while I can’t say that one is clearly better than the others, I gained a lot from them as a whole:
- I learned much more about technique and ingredients than I expected
- Delivery to my doorstep was painfully convenient
- They allowed me to sample many ingredients I wouldn’t try on my own due to economies of scale
- I found plenty of new favorite foods: English peas, curry in general, shallots, fingerling potatoes, Bahn Mi, pickled veggies, and on and on
- I eat out much less often when meals are delivered
- It’s a heck of a lot of fun to play chef in the evenings
Each service also offers introductory offers, so it’s in your best interest to try them all at a discounted rate before deciding to stick with one over the others. Try it!