Food Delivery Showdown: Simple Meal Planning Kits
Before I even start, you should know that I am not a fan of meal planning and cooking dinner for my family. It’s the one task that mentally and physically drains me. But, if I don’t prep and plan meals, we end up eating less healthy and less delicious meals. My last-minute meal ideas usually take a lot of work and are not rewarding.
Since becoming a SAHM, I’ve developed the Sunday Scaries… and not because I worry about raising my kids all week. But because I hate the process of planning healthy, delicious meals that my kids will actually eat. I used to enjoy it. I loved trying new recipes and exploring food from different cultures. Bah, that is no longer the case.
My aversion to cooking dinner has grown because I have picky eaters. And it’s exhausting–mentally, physically, + emotionally. I’ve tried all the tricks…some I am embarrassed to admit:
- Making separate meals
- Not making separate meals
- Controlling what’s on the plate but not controlling how much they eat
- Bribing with snacks and treats
- Praising them for what they eat
- Not discussing what they’ve chosen to eat or not eat
You get the picture…
The fix for meal planning burn out: Meal Planning Kits
To help ease the meal planning, prepping, and cooking burden during this season of life, I have been sampling different food + meal delivery services. Here is an honest but comprehensive review of each meal delivery service I’ve tried over the last few years.
I have tried other meal delivery services I did not include in this blog, like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. But it’s been years since I sampled them, and my opinion is not fresh enough to judge their current service.
Please note that some links in this blog are affiliate links, where I make a commission off of purchases at no extra cost to you.
Meal Type: prepared, plant-based meals requiring little to no cooking
Delivery Area: San Francisco Bay Area, Napa & Sonoma, Sacramento, Davis, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Orange County, Inland Empire, Ventura County, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle-Tacoma, New York City, Philadelphia, and parts of New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. They also ship across California and to parts of Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
Cost per serving: $11.50 per serving
Pros: Fresh, vegan dishes. Opened up my palate to many dishes I had not tried before. The variety of plant-based options was flavorful and diverse. As one who follows a typical diet with meat + plant-based options, I was surprised at how many nutritious, yummy options Thistle provided. Meals were also delivered in reusable, sustainable bags that could be swapped out at future deliveries, meaning much less waste than typical meal kit delivery companies. Each meal or snack comes assembled in sustainable containers which cuts out most of the prep work with cooking. I saved so much time not having to make meals.
Cons: if you’re looking for hearty meat dishes, look elsewhere. My toddlers weren’t impressed with the Thistle options. They are picky, and trying to get them on board with only plant-based options was tough.
Overall opinion: Thistle was perfect for me, but not my family. I love the nutritious meals + snacks, but my picky toddlers had difficulty adapting. I couldn’t get the kids to enjoy the food like I did. This meal-delivery kit would be great for 2-3 meals a week to keep exposing our kiddos to delicious options, hoping they would eventually try and enjoy the meals as much as I did. If I didn’t have kids, this would be my go-to meal delivery service without question.
Meal Type: groceries + meal kits
Delivery Area: most zip codes in the Continental US
Cost per serving: $8.50 per plate
Pros: Healthy, simple recipes often take less than 30 minutes. I can create a profile specific to my needs by choosing different nutritional preferences, dietary needs, favorite cuisines, and other preferences like flavors + types of recipes. Of all programs, Hungryroot was the easiest to hone in on my specific needs and wants. My kiddos also liked most of the meals I made from Hungryroot, which is always a win. The recipe cards are small and direct.
Cons: The coin system for choosing what goes in my box could be clearer. I prefer to know what items cost in dollar amounts instead of the coin system. Sometimes I would get a pre-packaged meal that I could have picked up at the grocery store, like Kevin’s Thai Coconut Chicken. Because many items came pre-packaged and mixed together, I couldn’t pull out an ingredient that someone in my family didn’t like, such as cilantro. There are no pictures of the food on the recipe cards, which sometimes makes it hard for me to know what I am making.
Overall opinion: Hungryroot offered more kid friendly-options than Thistle. But it was also quite costly. I was easily spending $180+ weekly on three dinners, one lunch, and one breakfast. In the future, I will use Hungryroot for my lunch options to be more budget-friendly for our family.
Meal Type: Meal kit delivery, cooking required
Delivery Area: The majority of the Continental United States
Cost per serving: $4.99
Pros: Every Plate is the most affordable meal kit delivery program I’ve used. The meal options are kid-friendly, with more modified and traditional omnivore meals. There are plenty of vegetarian options too. The recipe cards come with detailed instructions and pictures so I am more confident with cooking.
Cons: The variety is limited, meaning I can usually choose from chicken dishes, burgers, pasta, flatbreads, and bowls. It starts to feel redundant, so I have to take a break now and then from the kits. The options are less healthy than I’ve seen in other meal delivery kits. Sour cream and ranch dressing are common ingredients. I would love to see more Greek yogurt used in place of these items.
Overall opinion: Every Plate has worked really well for our family. It’s the most budget-friendly, and our picky kids approve of my meals from Every Plate. Depending on our schedule, these boxes are delivered 1-2 weeks per month.
Meal Type: grocery delivery
Delivery Area: West Coast, East Coast, Midwest, Western South:
Cost per serving: Varies depending on what was purchased—orders over $60 receive free shipping.
Pros: a large variety of products allowed my creativity to flow with meal planning. Their packaged snacks were healthier than typical store shelves, and the boys loved the snack options.
Cons: I could occasionally order a pre-packaged meal kit like Kevin’s meals, but this was rare. So, I had to put mental work into meal planning based on groceries I could buy from imperfect foods. Also, some of the produce is genuinely imperfect, which made it less appetizing for my picky eaters.
Overall opinion: The mental work required to meal plan with Imperfect Foods overwhelmed me. While it was nice to avoid the grocery store, piecing together meals was still needed, and I’m just not loving that during this season of life. This will be my go-to when I get my mojo back for meal planning and cooking. I do like the grocery options for small meals and snacks, though.
Each Meal Planning Kit has its unique attributes. Each of these services has served an essential need in our home during a specific season. My favorite thing about these programs is that I can pause each one and restart them when the time is right. I appreciate the flexibility, as this season of life is often unpredictable and chaotic.