Generally speaking, people who like meal kits — both the subscriptions and the ones you can buy a la carte — say they save time on choosing recipes and shopping for groceries, while also avoiding food waste. Critics say that most of the dishes take longer to prepare than the amount of time they would prefer to spend in the kitchen.
Some critics also argue that the prices don’t justify the time savings: Most turn out to have hidden fees and minimum order sizes that contribute to people questioning whether these offerings make sense.
But whether you arrive at that conclusion — or become a fan — depends on your lifestyle, tastes and budget.
Long story short, the type of person who might find enjoy one or more of the meal delivery services tends to enjoy trying different foods and doesn’t mind spending some time in the kitchen.
Another factor: people who live anywhere that requires a car to get to restaurants — or the supermarket — find both a-la-carte meal kits and subscriptions to be downright convenient.
That said, here comes a comparison of 13 meal kits and subscription services, including details on the 11 that offer discounts on your first order.
Meal Kits and Subscription Services
Price per plate: $8.99 per serving (and there’s no discount to try to entice people to try them — but you don’t have to subscribe either).
Hidden fees: You need to be a member of Amazon Prime, which now costs $99 per year, and Amazon Fresh, which costs $14.99 a month. However, each order is truly a one-off and not a subscription — which is a refreshing contrast to at least one competitor’s claim that deliveries don’t require commitments when in fact they’re subscriptions.
Number of people: You can only order for two people — and any multiple of two.
Delivery timing: Since this offering is part of Amazon Fresh — and the company owns Whole Foods — you can receive a meal kit the same day you order it. This is the fastest turnaround time of any other offering listed here.
Geographical limitations: This service first became available in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle but has since branched out across the U.S.
Size of menu and rotation: About 24, and it looks like the selection doesn’t change much.
Special diets: There are options for every type of dietary concern listed.
Customer service: Amazon tries to steer people toward automated customer service options on the site before giving you the chance to talk to a live human being. However, once you jump through the hoops intended to get you to look for written or automated answers to your questions, the people who you eventually reach can be extremely helpful. Find them faster by scrolling to the bottom of Amazon’s website, clicking “help” on the bottom right-hand portion of the screen, then click “need more help,” and finally “contact us.”
Price per plate: $8.99 to $10.99, depending on the number of meals you have delivered per week (as of this writing, the company is offering three meals free when you sign up for a bulk package).
Hidden fees: You might find the need to add your own salt, pepper or cooking oil to the recipes — so you should consider whatever you pay for these ingredients a type of hidden fee, especially if you prefer to use premium versions of these ingredients.
Number of people: Order for two people and then you get to choose between two to three meals per week; order for four people, and you can choose between two, three or four meals per week.
Delivery timing: While the company delivers seven days a week — so you can choose a day when you’ll be home to receive the shipment — some people have complained about shipments being left outside; know, however, that the boxes include extra ice packs to keep perishables from going bad.
Geographical limitations: The company delivers to mainland U.S., meaning excluding Alaska and Hawaii are out of luck.
Size of menu and rotation: Three and the selection updates weekly.
Special diets: There are gluten-free, vegetarian, and Mediterranean diet options available for individual meals but you need to check each week’s menu to see how many choices you have of each (on weeks there aren’t enough, then you’d want to pause your subscription those weeks).
Customer service: The company offers both phone and email-based customer service, with contact information listed on the site. If you email, expect a 48-hour turnaround time.
Price per plate: The large size of the menu enables one of widest range of prices per plate of any offering in this space, starting at $6.50 per plate on the plan marketed for younger people to more like $17.50 per serving for the other plans.
Hidden fees: Orders less than $40 have a delivery fee of $10. If you commit to one meal a week, you get 5% off the price but still pay for shipping. If you commit to at least two meals a week you also get free shipping. Commit to three or more meals a week, and you get 10% off the price in addition to free shipping.
Number of people: Primarily two to four people — although the plan marketed for college students says you can get six single-serving meals plus five snacks, that’s more than double the size of the number of meals you need to order to get free shipping on any of the other plans. There’s also at least one item listed as only available for six people.
Delivery timing: The site says it makes deliveries Tuesdays through Saturdays, often within two days of your placing the order.
Geographical limitations: The company delivers to all 48 states on the U.S. mainland — not Alaska nor Hawaii, in other words.
Menu size and rotation: The company boasts as many as 700 different meal kits to choose from (and the listings include ratings of how difficult the recipes are to complete, unlike what any competitor does). It looks like most things that are added to the menu stay on the menu.
Special diets: The site’s five subscription plans include a low carbohydrate version developed with and branded as Atkins; a low-calorie meal plan developed in combination with Weight Watchers; a sugar-free plan developed in conjunction with the American Diabetes Association (the only such choice among any of the meal kit companies); a low-calorie plan developed in conjunction with Weight Watchers; a classic meal plan branded as New York Times Cooking; and a plan marketed toward college students called Spoon University (which also seems unique in the space). The site continues to curate different-themed collections of meals — click here to see them all. The site also has a selection of wines.
Customer service: The company offers both phone and email based support, with contact information listed on the site.
Price per plate: $10.49 to $14.99, depending on which type of cuisine you choose (plus you get $25 to $50 off your first order)
Hidden fees: On top of what you pay per plate, you have to pay delivery fees of $9 to $18 per shipment. Note that the website tries to make it look like the minimum number of people you can order for is one, but then each meal for the one-person option has two servings — but if you sign up for two people, you don’t get four servings per meal. If you choose three people, you are sent four servings per meal. Choose four people and you still get those four servings.
Number of people: Technically, it’s two, three or four people.
Delivery timing: Depending on the volume of business Green Chef has where you live, you may get to choose from a limited number of days of the week on which you want to receive your delivery. Deliveries can arrive anytime between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm, local time, on your designated delivery day.
Geographical limitations: As of this writing, Green Chef does not deliver to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and parts of Louisiana — but delivers everywhere else in the U.S.
Size of menu and rotation: Up to 18 items at a time, and most of the menu refreshes weekly.
Special diets available: The entire service is organic food, and you can select between carnivorous, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and keto options — note that vegetarian and vegan have the lowest price per plate while keto has the highest.
Customer service: Both phone and email based support are available Mondays through Fridays from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm Pacific Standard Time.
Price per plate: $9.99 apiece for two-person plans, and $8.74 for four-person plans (plus you can get $15 off your first order when you provide an email address).
Hidden fees: You need to order at least $50 a week worth of food to get free delivery.
Number of people you can order for: At least two people, between two to four meals per week a piece.
Delivery timing: You get to choose a day of the week that your meals are delivered, and they will arrive between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm local time, that day. In some locations, you can choose any day of the week, while others limit you to Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Geographical limitations: The company delivers to the U.S. except for Alaska, Hawaii and island territories.
Size of menu and rotation: Up to nine items, refreshing weekly.
Special diets: Outside of offering a vegetarian meal option, there aren’t a wide array of special diets available.
Customer service: The company directs people to use email for customer service, and responds to inquiries within 48 hours.
Price per plate: $9.95 for main courses, premium meals are $19.95 and side dishes are $4.95 to $7.95 (plus the site offers $30 off your first order).
Hidden fees: Orders under $45 require a $10 delivery fee. Some people have complained that the company posts charges to your credit card before any of your food arrives.
Number of people: Two and multiples thereof.
Delivery timing: Whether you get to choose which day of the week you receive deliveries may depend on the volume of business the company has in your market — but if you do have to make such a selection, you have the option of changing it from one week to the next to suit your schedule.
Geographical limitations: The company delivers to mainland U.S. but does not go to Alaska, Hawaii and Louisiana.
Size of menu and rotation: There are 11 different dishes on the menu, which updates weekly.
Special diets available: There are enough options that are low calorie and low-carbohydrates for you to be able to get the minimum subscription size of three meals in either. The same goes for vegetarian meals, although only a subset of these are also vegan. You can also specify whether you have food allergies or specific taste preferences and the company says it can accommodate them. Customer service: The company lists phone and email support options on its website and fields calls from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Central Standard Time from Mondays through Fridays and 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on Saturdays.
Price per plate: Main dishes cost $10.50 to nearly $21 per plate; desserts and sides cost $4 to $9.25 per serving.
Hidden fees: This one may have more complexity in hidden fees than many others do. If your order is below $45, you pay delivery fees of $12 to $27, depending on your location. Commit to ordering at least $45 per week and you get free shipping in some parts of the country — otherwise, even at that minimum order size, it’s $15 per delivery in 18 different states in the U.S. You also have to provide your own salt, pepper and cooking oil.
Number of people: Most items on the menu call for two people but some meal kits have four servings.
Timing of deliveries: If you choose to subscribe, you designate a day of the week, and how many choices you have, along with which days are available, depend on your location. Orders typically arrive between 11:00 am and 8:00 pm local time. Subscriptions default to the same day of the week and number of people served unless you manually change it.
Geographical limitations: The service appears to be limited to mainland U.S. — so people in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are out of luck.
Size of menu and rotation: At any given time, there are at least nine meals on the menu and at least six of them are new for the week. At the time of this writing, there were 19 different items listed, including sides and desserts.
Special diets: The menu includes gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options. The company tries to source organic ingredients first but doesn’t do so exclusively and thus isn’t certified as such.
Customer service: The company provides email customer service and lists a phone number on its site that’s staffed from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern Standard Time on Mondays through Fridays.
Price per plate: It starts at $12 per person per dish, and desserts are $4 apiece per person (right now, the company is offering 25% off your first three weeks).
Hidden fees: Deliveries cost about $6 apiece unless you order at least $60 per week — the exact numerical thresholds may vary depending on where you live, as some markets are more expensive than others.
Number of people you can order for: Two, three or four people per meal.
Delivery timing: Choose your preferred day of the week for deliveries and you can change it from one week to the next — as long as you make those changes at least six days before the delivery time. Most deliveries arrive between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm local time.
Any geographical limitations: The company delivers to most of the continuous U.S. mainland, but apparently can’t do so to parts of Texas (San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Laredo, and Midland).
Size of menu and rotation: 20 menu items plus dessert, and it changes weekly.
Special diets: The site says it can accommodate people’s food allergies if you notify them about these issues — however you might need to check the ingredients list in each week’s menus as soon as they go up. That said, the site notes that it also strives to include organic produce, locally sourced ingredients, and sustainably sourced fish whenever possible.
Customer service: Get help via phone, text chat and email from 8:00 am to midnight, Eastern Standard Time, every day of the week.
Price per plate: $12 to $13 (plus $20 off the first order).
Hidden fees: The company packages deliveries into boxes of three meals for two people, so they all come out the same amount every week, $72 and $78.
Number of people: You can only order for two people, and you get three meals a week.
Delivery timing: You don’t get to choose which day of the week your delivery arrives — it’s determined by your location in relation to Purple Carrot’s facilities — but it will come on either a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
Geographical limitations: The company currently ships to all 48 states in mainland U.S.
Size of menu and rotation: There are only three items per menu per week, and the menu refreshes weekly.
Special diets available: The company only offers plant-based ingredients and menus — so, carnivores, this is not the choice for you. However, if you’re looking for higher-protein vegetarian options try, Purple Carrot’s so-called performance plan — that’s the $13-a-plate option. It’s also gluten free.
Customer service: The company offers phone-based customer service from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern Standard Time, and also replies to emails.
Price per plate: $10.99 to $11.99 (the company is currently offering $45 off your first order, plus free delivery for the first week).
Hidden fees: Shipping is $6.99 per order; plus, you have to supply your own cooking oil, salt, pepper and even butter.
Number of people you can order for: two or four.
Delivery timing: You might not be able to choose which day of the week your delivery arrives yet, but it will come weekly on either a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm local time. If you want to modify your order, you have to do it mid-day Wednesday before your order is expected.
Geographical limitations: Although it delivers to most of the U.S. mainland, it doesn’t go to Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and parts of New Mexico.
Size of menu and rotation: up to 18 dishes at a time and the menu updates weekly.
Special diets available: All meal plans include organic and sustainably-sourced items; meal plans include paleo, gluten free, low calorie, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian and a Mediterranean diet; for some reason, vegetarian options are only available for two people per week. The company says it cannot accommodate food allergies.
Customer service: The company fields queries seven days a week via both phone and email, staffing its customer service department from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm Pacific Standard Time Mondays through Fridays and 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Saturdays and Sundays.
Price per plate: $7.50 to $8.25.
Hidden fees: While you can order on a month-to-month basis, you get a better deal if you commit to three, six, or twelve months a time. Or you can save money if you buy a sampler kit that includes multiple meals for four people.
Number of people: All of the options are intended for groups of four people.
Delivery timing: Subscriptions ship the first week of the month from California; the ingredients are packed in such a way that the company says the meal kit has a shelf life of a couple months, longer than what any of the competitors can promise.
Geographical limitations: Since these meal kits have a two-month shelf life, Takeout Kit is the only company in this space that can deliver just about anywhere in the world.
Size of menu and rotation: Technically one meal is available per month — but some months have beverages. Actually, you can get three to menu items at once by purchasing one of the sampler packages on the site.
Special diets available: The company says it can accommodate people who follow vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian and whole eating diets — and even provides sampler kits for three of the four (they are linked above). However, the company says people with food allergies should know that everything is packaged in the same facility.
Customer service: It’s not too surprising that the company’s customer service is entirely email based since the frequency of deliveries isn’t as often as the others in this article.
Price per plate: $9.99 to $17.99, with some variation based on geography (plus you can get $35 off your first delivery).
Hidden fees: The site has numerous one-serving add-ons ranging from $3.99 to $9.99 apiece, all of which can raise the overall cost of your order. Although the menu ends up being more a-la-carte than many other meal subscription services, the site asks for a minimum dollar amount for your weekly order to qualify for free shipping– the more expensive the cost of living in your city, the higher that minimum might be.
Number of people: You can order for multiples of two, although the site claims you could order for one and have leftovers afterward (but it doesn’t work out that way).
Delivery timing: Choose one day of the week to receive deliveries — the number of choices depends on where you live, and right now no city has deliveries on Sundays or Mondays; deliveries arrive between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm local time. Interestingly, deliveries arrive in reusable containers that have pull-out drawers to store the food — the ingredients are also all prewashed.
Geographical limitations: The site isn’t as forthcoming about its geographical limitations as every other company listed in this article is (interpret that as you will) — so you have to click through to the site and key in your zip code to find out whether the company can deliver to you.
Size of menu and rotation: Up to 60, but the menu appears to be relatively static.
Special diets: Choices include a Mediterranean diet, gluten free, low calorie, vegetarian, and paleo.
Customer service: The company directs customer service inquiries toward email for now — just click on the “contact us” link on the website.
Price per plate: $8 to $10, depending on the cuisine (there doesn’t appear to be a discount to try to get you to try any of them).
Hidden fees: Walmart is notorious for negotiating the lowest possible prices with suppliers and since the meal kits are made possible by partnerships, so far the only hidden price that’s turned up with these meal kits is that some of list a price per plate that’s actually two servings instead of one — see below.
How many people you can order for: Some of the meal kits let you order for two people, and others actually have a four-person minimum that they try to make look like it’s two people, with two servings apiece.
Delivery timing: Deliveries have a direct impact on when your order will have a direct impact on when your items are delivered. Orders placed between Saturday 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and Monday 7:00 p.m. are delivered on the following Thursday or Friday.
Geographical limitations: By the end of 2018, deliveries will be available through 250 Walmart store locations; you might be able to get meal kits for pickup (that aren’t subscriptions); check the website link above to find out what’s available near you.
Size of menu and rotation: 30 items that refresh weekly, thanks to a growing number of partnerships with other meal kit companies. As of this writing, they include Home Chef, Sizzlefish and Takeout Kit — and you can order from them all separately if for some reason you don’t want to deal with Walmart.
Special diets available: Thanks to the aforementioned partnerships, Walmart caters to a wide range of diets.
Customer service: If you order a meal kit at one of Walmart’s physical stores, the customer service affiliated with the location would be your go-to — but if you order online and pick it up at a store, you might be directed back to the website for customer service.
Although meal kits and subscription services certainly aren’t for everyone, some people absolutely love them. There’s enough variation in the market to merit trying out at least one of them, assuming you have the time and budget to do so.
Have you tried any of these meal kits and subscription services, and if so, which ones and what was your experience? How did it stack up to what you’ve read here?
Read More About Meal Kits and Subscription Services
- Walmart Meal Subscriptions Debut with Big Menu
- Home Meal Delivery Services: Is Blue Apron All It’s Cracked Up To Be?
- Blue Apron Review: Comparing Blue Apron to Everyday Meals