These days ads for meal boxes are everywhere, offering the convenience of home delivery and restaurant-quality fare. There’s a mind-boggling variety of options out there, and depending upon your dietary preferences, dining habits, and budget, subscription costs can run the gamut from sensible to a splurge. So we put them to the test.
Every box we tried provided detailed instructions with just the right amount of ingredients necessary for making each meal, clearly identified with labels. Without exception, each one offered something we would probably never have bought in a large portion (lest we risk it expiring). For us, reason enough to go from box tester to paying subscriber. Here's what we found.
Ideal for: Novice and seasoned cooks craving variety with international and seasonal local ingredients
Types of plans: 2-person, family
Price per serving: $8.74 - 9.99
Minimum order: $59.94
How it works: Create a quick profile with your dietary preferences and choose a delivery day that best fits your schedule. A culinary team will assemble 500-700-calorie meals including ingredients aligned with your profile (including vegetarian options) assuring no repeat recipes within the same year. With six days’ notice you can pause or cancel deliveries.
Favorite dish we tried: Steak Tacos & Mole Verde. An upscale take on a taco dinner kit, this recipe may have rescued us from our Rotel rut for good. Whipping up a mole verde with tomatillos and toasted pepitas was quick and easy, giving us a confidence boost with foods we'd never cooked with before.
Ideal for: Cooking channel devotees and customers looking for maximum menu customization
Types of plans: Pick from a ‘meal store’ with hundreds of recipes and family meals; and Weight Watchers Points™ meal plans
Price per serving: $12 to $19.50
Minimum order: None, but $40+ earns you a credit for free shipping
How it works: Chef’d is indexed and searchable by chef or publication, and includes a growing database of recipes from Latin chef contributors like Louis Maldonado, Chris Santos, Angelo Sosa, and Ana Quincoces sandwiched amongst some of the most popular publications in food and fitness. Select your portion size and add the meal to your cart in a single click. Expecting a bigger crowd for a holiday or special event? Look for larger meal kits portioned for a party-sized meal.
Favorite dish we tried:We whipped up Beef Bourguignon like Julia Child thanks to a concise recipe with clear, step-by-step photos, and smart tips. Each recipe card includes a beer and wine pairing suggestion, too. Coming in close second was a recipe we prepared for Chicken Tinga Tostadas, which came together in about a half hour, were easy to assemble and exploding with flavor thanks to chipotle puree.
Ideal for: Vegans and anyone looking to reduce their animal product consumption
Types of plans: 5-, 10- and 15-meal
Price per serving: $13.93 - 21.80
Minimum order: $109
How it works: From the makers of the “Forks Over Knives” documentary and book, Forks Fresh Meals are meatless, chef-prepared dishes that require minimal effort - typically, just re-heat and eat. Eating to satiety rather than calorie-counting is paramount in this plan, meaning entree sizes that will satisfy every appetite.
Simply review the current menu on the Forks Fresh Meals website to see the available breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees and modify your shipment with alternate options before the cut-off date indicated. You can pause or cancel your subscription anytime. There’s a risk-free guarantee, so you’ll get a full refund if you don’t love your first week.
Favorite dish we tried: Caramelized Onion and Pepper Breakfast Quesadillas. The flavors in this savory dish made its whole wheat tortillas palatable - no sour cream or cheese necessary. Pureed cashews were a silent player in the puree that packed in meatless protein to provide staying power ‘til lunchtime.
Ideal for: Super food and seasonal vegetable-seekers and dieters looking to slim down by sipping their a.m. meal
Types of plans: Week-to-Week, Monthly, Annual
Price per serving: $3.90 - 4.90; save 10-20 percent when prepaying a month or year in advance
Minimum order: $49
How it works: Many experts agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, essential for revving up your metabolism and providing energy to fuel your day. Green Blender ships you five smoothie recipes weekly, along with the non-GMO, organic ingredients and super food boosters necessary to prepare a two-serving portion for each. It’s like having a smoothie shop in your home kitchen. You can pause your deliveries or cancel five days in advance of a shipment.
Favorite dish we tried: Pineapple Power Smoothie. Although each of the five smoothies we sampled contained fruits, they fill the role of flavor enhancers for all-star ingredients: greens and seasonal veggies.
Ideal for: Foodies who want flexibility and one-stop shopping for “clean” ingredients that are nearly 100 percent non-GMO and certified organic
Types of plans: Vegetarian, Omnivore, Carnivore, Gluten-Free, and Paleo
Price per serving: $10.49 - $14.99, plus $9 shipping and handling per box
Minimum order: 3 recipes (6 servings)
How it works: Each week, you’ll receive chef-curated recipes based on your dietary preferences, delivered to your doorstep in eco-friendly packaging. With a week’s notice, you can make modifications to your plan or skip a shipment. Gluten-free and Paleo plans are fixed, but the others allow for some customization, and you can alternate plans from week to week. Each recipe includes an online component where you can see full nutrition facts and learn how to recreate any sauces or spice blends you received ready-made in your kit. Recipe cards are color-coded and correspond with ingredient labels, making sorting and prep more efficient while reducing unnecessary packaging.
Favorite dish we tried: Pink Peppercorn Salmon. This recipe was full of specialty ingredients like pink peppercorns, sweet rice vinegar, and purple fingerling potatoes. And the pre-made organic herb oil and a dill pink peppercorn sauce were bistro-quality.
Ideal for:Type-A organizers, beginners, busy moms, picky people and big eaters
Types of plans: Classic, Veggie and Family
Price per serving: $8.75 - 9.90
Minimum order: $69
How it works: Log into your account and select 3 to 5 recipes before the cut-off time indicated on the Hello Fresh website. Each week, chef Jamie Oliver will create a recipe for one of the meals offered in your box. You can make changes, pause, or cancel your plan with just a few days’ notice.
Favorite dish we tried: Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloin. With selections from the family plan, our box included approachable recipes with a universal appeal and a “level 1” difficulty. Without exception, the trio of meals were by far the biggest portion sizes of all the boxes, and the most organized, too, wrangling each recipe’s ingredients into its own rectangular box - perfectly sized to fit in threes across the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.
Ideal for: Time-crunched singles, gluten-free dieters, and easy meatless meal planning
Types of plans: Individual items, sampler pack and complete 3-day veggie refresh
Price per serving: $6 - 12
Minimum order: None; shipping charge is waived on orders over $50
How it works: No commitment or subscription is needed, simply browse the Hungry Root site and add items to your cart. Meals arrive in proprietary NatureFresh™ packaging, maintaining freshness from 5 to 8 days without any preservatives. Many items can be enjoyed raw, and nothing takes more than 7 minutes from package to plate whether it’s prepared on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Favorite dish we tried: Boniato Noodles with Fresh Bean Salsa. A batata doce (a magenta-skinned, white-fleshed sweet potato) was the star of this dish - a starchy spin on “vegetti” noodles topped with black beans, pico de gallo, and a punchy cashew lime cream sauce. Although adding chicken breast is an option, it was perfectly satisfying and vegan-friendly when omitted.
Ideal for: Comfort Food Cravers
Types of plans: Standard box contains two recipes with two servings each
Price per serving: $12.50
Minimum order: $50
How it works: Each week, choose among eight different “southern-infused, seasonally inspired meals” easily labeled to distinguish gluten-free and vegetarian options. You can increase the number of servings up to 8. Shop in the site’s “Goodies” section for extra condiments, meats, seasonings, and snacks to add to your weekly order. A few delivery dates are available to choose from and you’re free to pause or stop your subscription anytime.
Favorite dish we tried: Beef Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw, Radish & Lime. The base of this recipe was a simple pairing of flour tortillas topped with ground beef, quickly browned with a custom-blended taco seasoning. A variety of vibrant toppings included chopped red cabbage, thin discs of radish, dried cranberries, and a generous sprinkle of Cotija cheese, added elements of interest for both the eyes and the palate.
Ideal for: Couples looking to cook exotic meals at home each day for under $175 a week
Types of plans: 2, 3 and 4-meal plans
Price per serving: $12
Minimum order: $48, with $6 shipping (free shipping when you order 4 dinners)
How it works: Choose a plan for two with 2, 3, or 4 dinners with the flexibility to switch plans or pause shipments from week to week. Regular subscription meals are $12 per person, and Chef’s Table by Plated recipes offer specialty meats and market price seafood at an additional cost. Desserts are available for $4 per serving.
Favorite dish we tried: Chickpea Bowls with Quinoa, Apples and Creamy Yogurt. The quinoa and chickpeas created a perfect protein without meat and a squeeze of fresh lemon transformed dense yogurt into a skinny substitute for sour cream.
Ideal for: Parents of toddlers to tweens
Types of plans: 3 or 5 meals per week
Price per serving: $4.80 - 6.33
Minimum order: $19
How it works: Scrumpt is a weekly box subscription that comes with up to a school week’s worth of sandwich-bagged kits to help you add variety and panache to your child’s packed lunch. A small bookmark accompanies each subscription with a small shopping list of easy-to-find, perishable ingredients you’ll need to complete each meal like turkey slices, cheese cubes, and cherry tomatoes. Each quarter, you can choose from 24 lunches that come complete assembly instructions, utensils, and activities and accoutrements (like kabob kits) to amplify the fun factor. Pause, skip or cancel anytime.
Favorite dish we tried: Turkey Sliders, A pair of pillowy pretzel buns, fruit snacks, and crackers were included in this kit along with a punch card game to monitor your child’s fruit and veggie consumption over the week. We simply added a couple of slices of turkey breast and a handful of carrot sticks for a snappy, satisfying little lunch.