Maintaining Weight by the Crate: A Review of Home Delivery Meal Kits

As someone that loves to cook, I could spend hours looking through cookbooks for new things to try during the week, or digging through Pinterest looking for some wild concoctions. I am one of those people that take a lot of time out of my Sundays to plan my meals for the entire week. I fill out an entire chart with my breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for each day. I know it may sound crazy, but writing your meals down can help you stick to a plan. With that being said, you can imagine my excitement when I started using home delivery meal kits where everything is planned out.

I admit that when I first heard of home delivery meal kits, I thought they were for people that are “terrible cooks;” ones who might need some help in the kitchen, or people that have difficulty shopping for groceries on a budget. Since I didn’t feel I fit into either of these categories, I had automatically assumed that they weren’t for me.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I was drawn to these companies because of the initial sign up deals. My original plan was to try a whole bunch of different companies just once and cancel the subscription. Instead, I actually decided to stick with them. I’ve found that these meal kits make my life so much easier and keep me on track during the week. I have tried three of these companies: Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and Home Chef.  Each has its own perks and styles so it’s easy to find one that’s perfect for you.

Here are my reviews:

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh is one of my favorite meal kits. They offer a variety of options to choose from and you can customize your meals to fit your dietary needs, or the amount of time you want to spend in the kitchen. You can choose from “Variety” (which is a mixture of meals), “Fit” (which offers meals under or around 650 calories), “Quick” (which are obviously the meals that take minimal time to make), as well as “Seafood Free,” “Pork Free,” “Beef Free,” or “No Preference.” Each week, you are given six meals to choose from, and there are a variety of cultures represented within these choices.

When you receive your delivery it all comes neatly packed in a box. All of the meats are on the bottom of the box with a thick bag of ice on top.  Each meal is separated into a smaller labeled box, which makes it really easy to locate all of the perfectly portioned ingredients when it’s time to cook them.

On top of the food is a booklet with all of the recipes you’re about to make. All of their recipes are also available on their website and app for free. The recipes contain the nutritional information and pictures for each step to guide you. I have liked every single meal I’ve made from Hello Fresh and have recreated some of my favorites on my own, including their Butternut and Brussels Sprout Risotto and their Pistachio-Crusted Chicken.

 
 Hello Fresh's Pistachio-Crusted Chicken

Hello Fresh's Pistachio-Crusted Chicken

 

Hello Fresh has a continuous $40 off your first box promotion, which makes your first box cost $29 if you choose the “classic” meal kit.  The classic meal kit is 3 meals for 2 people, which makes your meals come out to $4.83 each!  There are also a lot of promotions for 50% off that appear from time to time. All subsequent boxes after your first one are $69.  You can also earn a $20 credit for each person you invite to sign up, and shipping is free.

Blue Apron

I like to think of Blue Apron as the "gourmet" version of home delivery meal kits. Their recipes are either made with a few ingredients I’ve never heard of or seen in the supermarket, or they’re very simple and basic, but still delicious. When you sign up for Blue Apron, you set up a “Taste Profile” and check off the things you like and don’t like. You are then given six meals to choose from, however, sometimes you are limited in combinations. Blue Apron offers a wine selection to pair with your meals for $10 per bottle. If you find that you’re missing some equipment while you’re cooking, you can order anything from measuring cups to baking pans from their Market.

When you get your Blue Apron box, you will find a thick bag of ice to keep your food from spoiling. Your food will be packaged in a variety of containers including plastic bags, paper bags, and plastic containers. Each is labeled with the name of the item and the corresponding recipe name. You may need to do some sorting to organize your ingredients (I keep bins in my refrigerator to separate them).

You will find your recipe cards on the top of the food. These cards contain pictures that guide you through each step making it very easy to follow, so most of their meals are very easy to make. The nutritional information for each can be viewed on the website.  My absolute favorite recipe from Blue Apron so far was their Sautéed Beef & Potato Latkes.  I shared this one with a friend at work and we both agreed it was awesome!

Blue Apron currently offers $30 off of your first box, making the cost $29.94. This makes the cost of each meal $4.99.  Their 2-Person Plan regularly costs $59.94 for 3 meals and makes enough for two.  After purchasing a few boxes, Blue Apron begins to give you free boxes that you can send to your friends and family to try (I found out the hard way that my alternate email address does not qualify as a “friend”, so don’t waste your time trying that loophole).

 
 Blue Apron's Beef & Potato Latkes

Blue Apron's Beef & Potato Latkes

 

To save even more money from Blue Apron you can sign up for Ebates, a website that gives you cash back for select companies when you order from them. Ebates currently has a deal with Blue Apron for $7.50 cash back, and like Hello Fresh, the shipping is free.

Home Chef

Home Chef is a little different from the others. They offer you $30 off your first box, but you create your own box by adding as many meals for two people as you’d like. Once you add three meals to your box, you qualify for free shipping. If you do choose 3 meals with your first box, your total will be $29.70, making each meal $4.95. All boxes after the first order cost $59.70 if you add just 3 meals. You can earn $30 for each referral you make, and they offer 10% cash back when you shop through Ebates. You’re also able to add more meals or other options to increase the cost, such as breakfast items, smoothies, or seasonal fruit. Just like with Blue Apron, Home Chef has a store on their website where you can order supplies to help you become a better chef.

The food arrives the same way as the other competitors; each meal will arrive in plastic bags that are labeled, the meat is kept separate, and the box will come with a large bag of ice to keep your food fresh. The one difference with Home Chef is that with the first box, they include a binder for you to store all of your new recipe cards.

One of the reasons I like this program so much is that they offer a lot of options. You can choose from ten different dinners each week, a breakfast, a smoothie, and a seasonal fruit medley. It’s hard to go wrong with options like these. I also like that I can change the amount of servings each week with ease. If I’m having company over and see something I want to make for them, I can easily change my order from two servings to six. Each meal that I’ve made from this company has wowed me.  My favorite recipe so far?  Their Korean Pork Medallions and their Salmon Crusted with “Everything Bagel” Seasoning.

 
 Home Chef's Everything Bagel-crusted Salmon

Home Chef's Everything Bagel-crusted Salmon

 

Overall Results

After trying each of these home delivery meal kits, my life has changed. I know that may sound dramatic, but these meals have really made a busy workweek a lot less crazy, and I look forward to making these when I come home. Not only have I found my life to be easier and less chaotic when I come home from work, but I also find that I’m trying things that I normally wouldn’t even think of trying to cook.

I’m now making Indian, Korean, Latin American, and steak (which I NEVER buy). I’ve also learned a lot of new cooking techniques such as using aromatics to flavor things like rice, blanching vegetables, and how to zest a fruit if I don’t own a zester (I recently purchased one since so many recipes require you to zest!). Many of these recipes come with tips and helpful hints to make cooking easier for you, too.

As a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, I need to weigh in once a month and be within two pounds of my goal weight if I want to continue using it for free. These home delivery meals have made it really easy to maintain my weight since I’ve always struggled with portion sizes. When I’m by myself, I make a meal and immediately put half in a container for lunch the next day. When my boyfriend is over, making these recipes has become a fun activity that we like doing together (although I usually end up sad that there are no leftovers).

Before these boxes, it was much easier for me to order takeout two or three times a week.  I’m now at the point where I only order out two or three times per month because I have this better food ready to go in my fridge. I know many people my age who order lunch every day, and a lot of them order out for dinner, too. This lifestyle can add up in cost really quickly, but these boxes encourage you to make the delicious food that you would normally order at home.  Not only can you save money, you can also end up eating a lot healthier because you’re in control of how healthy it is when you cook it.

Give it a try and see how it impacts your everyday life!

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© Copyright Whatismyhealth, February 5th, 2017