Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the meal delivery kit industry is booming. Several companies are currently competing for your business by way of free starter weeks, half-off deals, and "please come back from the other company" promotional e-mails.
I, for one, am totally cool with this. I imagine the market will eventually wind down and only a couple big dogs will survive. But for now, bring on the competition!
Because of all these competitive sign-up deals, Joe and I tried pretty much all the meal delivery services currently on the market and have finally settled on our favorite.
But before I tell you which one we fancy the most, let's start from the beginning.
My sister and her husband use Blue Apron. About a year ago, she sent us one of their half-off your first week deals, which admittedly, we ignored for a while. But then we got into a Dinner Rut.
Let's talk about the Dinner Rut for a second.
Joe and I like cooking healthy dinners at home most nights of the week and we're also both really fucking busy. Because of this, we had gotten to a place of eating the same meals over and over, and texting each other on an almost daily basis, going:
"What do you want for dinner tonight?"
"I don't know. What do you want for dinner tonight?"
"Wanna make that same rice dish again?"
"Can you record Rachel Maddow?"
"K, love you."
Then we'd both start explaining how busy and tired we were and why the other person should stop by the store on their way home to pick up whatever ingredients we didn't have on hand. And I don't know about you, but to me, there is nothing I want to do less on a weeknight than stop by the store on my way home from work.
(I do realize that being in a Dinner Rut and having to stop by the grocery store on my way home from work are very privileged problems to have.)
So amidst this Dinner Rut, we talked about the option of signing up for a meal delivery service. Joe was not initially into it. He started doing a bunch of calculations that illustrated how we could eat for cheaper than 10 bucks a meal. And he was correct. Of course we can eat for cheaper than 10 bucks per meal. But after receiving out first meal kit, we realized that cheap dinners is not really the point here.
We got our first delivery from Blue Apron and were very pleased. We were ecstatic about not having to go to the grocery store, we loved being able to choose our meals ahead of time on the nifty app, and we appreciated getting our first week for only 30 bucks.
Then we got greedy and looked up all the other meal delivery services that were offering deals for first-timers. And there are LOTS of them. So we paused Blue Apron and tried out Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Green Chef, Marley Spoon, Gobble, Plated, and Sun Basket.
As I mentioned above, you can totally eat healthy dinners for less than $10 a person per meal. Yes, you definitely can. But beyond that, meal delivery kits just work really well for our current lifestyle. We're both super busy, we like to cook dinner most nights, we like to eat healthy, we hate going to the grocery store, and we like to take turns cooking dinner or making a meal together. Plus, now we never have leftovers, which is something that I really appreciate, but to each her own, of course.
To me, a lot of what we're paying for is the variety. It's kind of the best part. Now we're excited about the new recipe we get to try each night and are never bored with the same meals. Eating a variety of different foods is also super important for feeling good, losing weight, and staying healthy. What?! It's true!
Honestly, not having to stop by the grocery store on my way home from work is worth a couple extra bucks. Plus, I know this sounds cheesy, but with each dinner, you also get a mini cooking lesson. Like, now we are privy to the fact that scallions can and should be added to almost every recipe and that shallots can be breaded and fried for a nice crispy-crunchy touch to a chicken & rice dish.
Each meal kit includes the exact amount of ingredients you need for that specific recipe. If you need one egg, they send you one egg. If you need one teaspoon of paprika, that's how much you get. You no longer have to buy a full bag of flour, 8 burger buns, or a jar of garlic powder for a single dinner recipe. No excess, no leftovers, no problem.
For a few months, we really played the system.
I would sign up for one company that offered a half-off first week. Then I'd refer Joe from my account so that he could get a discounted week. Then I'd get credit for referring him, resulting in 3 weeks of half-off dinners from one company.
Typically, they won't let you have two active accounts with same delivery address, but since we live in an apartment building, one of us would just leave off our apartment number when signing up. We have to get all of our packages from our concierge anyway, so this worked out perfectly.
When we had exhausted our discounted weeks at one company, we'd move onto the next, taking advantage of their first-timer discount and passing it back and forth for a few weeks.
We got a lot of cheap dinners by playing the field this way, and started to feel pretty smug about it. I would definitely recommend doing this, as long as you're savvy enough to keep your story straight, remember to pause any account you're not using, and be sure to cancel once you're ready to move on.
A few of the companies we tried were definitely better than others, but mostly, they were pretty similar. Some of them didn't have apps or let you choose what meals you'd get, which to me, are the biggest indicators of their destined failure.
Eventually, we settled on Sun Basket. Here's why:
- Their produce is organic
- They offer lots of paleo options (I don't eat a completely paleo diet, but meat & veggie dinners 3 times a week won't hurt my fitness goals)
- They have a lot of dairy-free options
- If you really like one of the dinners, it might be offered again in the coming weeks
- The more meals you order per week, they cheaper they are
- Most meals include at least one green vegetable
- The noodle dishes they offer come with whole grain pasta or glass noodles
- The meals sometimes include fancy low-cal substitutes like cauliflower rice
- They use hella sweet potatoes in their recipes
- Their recipes are actually the MOST bomb of all the meal delivery services, IMO
If you must know, I do not work for them, but you can get $35 off your first week if you sign up through my very special link. Trust me, you'll like it.
Now days, Joe and I like to snuggle up on the couch, hop on the Sun Basket app, and choose our meals for the upcoming weeks. Romantic, huh? I'm not even kidding, though....it is delightful.
We hardly ever go to the grocery store anymore and mostly order supplemental groceries from Amazon Prime or Prime Now. I do still stop by Trader Joe's from time to time to pick up smoothie ingredients and also because they have those really cheap bags of sweet potatoes and adorable little avocados.
A couple other general notes about meal kits:
- You go through a TON of dishes
- You'll find out what little kitchen tools you need but don't have, like a zester or a potato masher, which we've since added to our wedding registry
- You need a lot of little bowls for chopped ingredients, just like on a cooking show
- Most of the companies have pretty similar pricing & nutritional content in their recipes, with the exception of Sun Basket
- You go through a ton of olive oil (or avocado oil, which we've been using more of because of its low smoke point), fresh-ground pepper, & flake salt, which most companies do not provide
Also, one part that I don't love about the whole meal delivery kit thing is that the packaging is pretty wasteful. However, a lot of the companies are catching on to this and have updated their boxes with recyclable components that are a little better for the environment, as long as you do your part at home.
Making dinner with Joe really is my favorite part of the day. On weeknights, we start cooking dinner as soon as we're home from work to avoid any hanger-fueled tiffs.
Nevertheless, I am happy to report that we are officially out of our Dinner Rut.
Also, I can't help but think that if Joe had signed up for one of these meal delivery services when we first started dating, he could have totally fooled me into thinking he was a super-skilled chef with tons of yummy 35-minutes-or-less dinner recipes. So for all you single dudes, Sun Basket & Chill might be the name of the game for weeknight sleepovers in the early stages of your budding romance.
But you don't even need to be in a romantic relationship to reap the benefits! A gal pal of mine gets hers with a friend. They have Sunday dinners together and then split up the rest for the week.
Well, I'm off to go make seared steaks with romesco and kale-artichoke salad with my fiancé to eat while we watch our weekly movie!