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Dinner at Your Door: 4 Meal Subscription Boxes to Try
When a crazy schedule leaves no room for a grocery trip, it's time to call in the pros. These services drop off fresh ingredients for fast, weekly meals so all you have to do is cook and eat.
Photo courtesy of Blue Apron
What's the deal? Arguably the best-known meal ingredient box service, Blue Apron didn't disappoint. Pre-portioned boxes containing three dishes (with two servings apiece) covered dinner for the week. Meats are naturally raised on an antibiotic- and hormone-free diet, and much of what comes in the box is organic and locally sourced. In 40 to 60 minutes you'll have a completed dish, with servings averaging between 500 and 700 calories.
What's inside: Our insulated box came with clearly labeled ingredients and recipes for that week's meals: a baked cod and squash dish, miso soba noodles, and an heirloom tomato and grilled fontina cheese sandwich. Bonus: Although recipe cards for that week's meals are included in the box, they're also available on the website (blueapron.com). You'll find an online archive of every single Blue Apron recipe, dishing up additional healthy eating ideas for your next shopping trip.
Delivery: Boxes are delivered once a week and currently ship to both coasts (sorry, Midwest!). Subscriptions can be paused at any time.
Cost: $59.99 for three meals per week.
Photo courtesy of PlateJoy
What's the deal? PlateJoy caters to the health-minded individual, with all meals heeding the Mayo Clinic dietary recommendations of 10-35% fat, 10-25% protein and 45-65% carbohydrates (unless you choose the Paleo plan -- yes, there's a Paleo plan -- which has lower carbs and higher protein and fat). PlateJoy's level of customization was the most personalized of any service we tried -- not only can customers work around dietary restrictions, but they can also choose their (organic) choice of milk and grocery provider.
What's inside: Our box contained everything needed for two servings each of vegetable chili, artichoke cheese melts, Mediterranean rice noodles, and mushroom polenta. Customers get to source their ingredients locally from the nearest Whole Foods or Peapod. We also received a pleasant surprise bouquet of flowers along with our reusable bags of groceries. Dinners were made in 30 to 40 minutes, perfect for busy nights.
Delivery: Deliveries are hand-delivered daily within 36 hours. The service is available almost nationwide; check your zip code on their website. (platejoy.com)
Cost: Varies, depending on the number of meals and servings requested. However, you must place a minimum $79 order.
What's the deal? HelloFresh is all about three meals' worth of pre-portioned, seasonal ingredients sourced from local areas arriving in an insulated box with step-by-step ingredients. Each meal comes with enough for two portions, and the company caters to vegetarians and omnivores, too.
What's inside: Our "Classic" box arrived with everything needed for lighter takes on shrimp lo mein, chicken garam masala and chiles rellenos. Meal cards listed in-depth recipe instructions, along with nutrition facts. Each meal clocks in between 500 and 700 calories. Of all the services we sampled, HelloFresh's recipes were the simplest to make. So if you're more of a one-pot kind of cook, or just don't like spending your free time in front of a stove, this is a good box for you.
Delivery: Get a box of three meals delivered weekly, with the option to pause orders at any time. HelloFresh currently delivers to 37 states across the East Coast and Midwest. (hellofresh.com)
Cost: Give it a trial run for $13.17, then hop on board with the most common order, the Classic box, for $69 ($59 for vegetarians). Got a bigger fam? Cough up $129 and you'll get enough to serve four ($109 for vegetarian).
Photo courtesy of PeachDish
What's the deal? Influenced by its Atlanta home base in both name and taste, PeachDish is all about delivering seasonal, Southern-influenced recipes to the nation at large. Think Southern Food 2.0 rather than Paula Deen. The company prides itself on taking advantage of the region's long growing season to provide whole food-based dishes that you can share with others -- an aspect accentuated by their addition of a "surprise treat" with every shipment (our box, for instance, contained a foursome of fresh figs).
The company is working to add more choice to the selection process (currently there's no option for those who have dietary or ingredient restrictions), as well as more organic fare. Unlike its competitors, PeachDish doesn't supply calorie counts, meaning you'll have to do some legwork to keep your nutrition count in check.
What's inside: Our box contained ingredients for soba noodles with beef sukiyaki, and spiced lemon chicken with rice and a cucumber peach salad. Both dishes were well-seasoned and generously portioned for two, although the recipes may have a few more steps than a simple cook might desire. But hey, all the more reason to have a cooking party, right?
Delivery: Weekly deliveries ship out on Tuesday and will arrive at your doorstep by Thursday, if not sooner. Pausing orders is also an option. (peachdish.com)
Cost: $50 per week, or $12.50 per person, per meal.