I’m going to be honest: I love to cook, but dinner is a drag. I’m totally capable of scanning Pinterest for recipes. I know my way around the stove, but among figuring out what to eat, getting to the grocery store to pick out sauces I may never use again and having to put it all together, I lose my mojo. I’m guilty of throwing up my hands and heading to a restaurant in lieu of making my own meal.
Still, I was skeptical of meal kits: How much time could it really save? Isn’t it kind of expensive?
Well, call me converted. Beyond the fact that I no longer agonize over finding the best grain bowl recipe possible, the meal kits have also had another benefit: My husband cooks most nights now. Their no-brainer recipe directions have given him a new hobby and taken a load off my responsibility list.
Along the way, we’ve tried several different meal kits and found that each of them has pros and cons. If you’re just getting started, it can be hard to see which one is right for you, so I did the dirty work and broke it down.
Here are the top kits — all available nationwide — and the most important things to know before you choose one (or more!) to try.
Price: $9 to $11 per plate depending on your plan
Best for: Restaurant foodies
Benefits: If you’re a foodie, you’ll love Blue Apron‘s restaurant-quality meals that introduce you to new ingredients, flavors and cooking techniques. They’re made with organic and sustainable ingredients. You can order two or three recipes a week for two people or three or four recipes per week for four people. There’s also an option to have wine delivered with your kit.
Drawbacks: Like most plans, smaller plans require you to pay shipping. There are also few options if you have diet restrictions.
Price: $10 per meal
Best for: Families or simple recipe folks
Benefits: Families will likely love Home Chef. With a few options to choose from each week, many of them kid-approved, and the option to order between two and three meals a week for two or four people, you’ve got a variety of reliable, usually quick, meals to cook.
Drawbacks: Although they occasionally have some adventurous dishes, the food tends to keep ingredients and flavors pretty simple.
Price: $11 or $12 per plate depending on your plan
Best for: Organic eaters who need diet-specific meals
Benefits: If you’re concerned about having all-organic produce, sustainable seafood or antibiotic- and hormone-free meat and pasteurized organic eggs, Sun Basket has you covered. Their recipes focus on clean meats and vegetables, and you can choose from paleo, lean (550 calories per serving), gluten-free, Mediterranean, pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan meal plans.
Drawbacks: It’s one of the more expensive options, and only the family sizes (four people) allow you to choose between two, three or four meals per week.
Price: $10 to 12 per plate depending on your plan
Best for: People who need options
Benefits: It has super-customizable plans, with two, three or four servings and two, three or four meals per week. Plated lets you choose from 20 recipes a week and there are options to add on dessert for a small fee.
Drawbacks: Like most plans, if you do fewer meals/servings per week, you may be charged for shipping (weekly cost of $60 or less).
Price: $12 per plate
Best for: Plant-based foodies
Benefits: Whether you’re full vegan, dabbling vegetarian or someone who would like to have more plant-based meals in their life, Purple Carrot offers plentiful variety and goes way beyond pasta, for Instagram-worthy meals that will light up your taste buds.
Drawbacks: Currently, the only options are for two portions three times a week.
Price: $11 to $15 per plate depending on plan
Best for: Diet-conscious eaters
Benefits: If you’re on a gluten-free, paleo, keto or vegan diet, Green Chef is the place to be and has meal plans for each of these categories. Diet-specific plans are for two-person plans, but the subscription does have general family plan (four-person) meals. All of their ingredients are responsibly sourced and organic where possible.
Drawbacks: There’s not a ton of variety in options, and it’s one of the most expensive plans.
Price: $12 and up per plate
Best for: Commitment-phobes
Benefits: If you don’t want to commit to a subscription plan, you don’t have to. Chef’d lets you choose from kits that feed two or four people, including plans that follow popular diets, like Atkins and Weight Watchers.
Drawbacks: It’s definitely more expensive. There’s also the fact that there is nothing automatic about the process — you’ll have to scroll through the recipes to find what you want every time, though Chef’d will send you recommendations based on your preferences.
Most kits offer some kind of discount as an introductory offer, so trying them out is even cheaper. If you’re ready to make recipe stress a thing of the past, give a meal kit a chance.