So Many “Meal Box” Options, But Are They Any Different From Each Other?

Making a nice dinner isn’t always easy: Finding the right recipe, checking your pantry, going to the store, all before you get around to finally cooking. So it’s understandable why subscription “meal boxes” are trend with a growing number of companies delivering ready-to-cook dinners to your door. Yet, many of the plans seem to be going after the same customer with the same types of food.

A look at some of the most popular subscription boxes — including Blue Apron, Plated, Hello Fresh, Chef’d, and Martha Stewart’s recently announced entry into the field — turned up a lot of boxes that are targeting well-heeled folks who like good food but probably don’t have the time to do the shopping.

Some try to set themselves apart by attaching a famous face to their menu. Some boxes offer more flexibility for fickle eaters, while others seem to cater to those who don’t mind being told what they are going to eat. There are those that push dessert as a selling point, while others are angling for subscribers with specific dietary desires.

Brand-name partnerships also appear to be de rigeur. First, Martha Stewart joins forces with Marley Spoon, now Chef’d — which already has plans tied to Weight Watchers and the New York Times — has announced a partnership with the American Diabetes Association.

Regardless, they all appear to be targeting consumers who want to be able to impress their friends, family (and themselves) — and probably post a photo or 40 on Instagram.

The following is a comparison of what each subscription service offers. We have not tried or tested these boxes, so we’re not making any comments about the quality of the menus, food, or customer service.

Chef’d


Website

Available plans:
• Weight Watchers
• The New York Times
• Tone It Up Fresh
• American Diabetes Association
Plans for two to four people can be customized to provide meals up to seven days a week.

Cost:
• Each plan is individualized, but meals range from $6 to $17 per serving.

What You Get: Unlike other meal kit services, Chef’d allows users to order individual meals whenever they want without subscribing to a pre-set number of meals each week.

More than perhaps any other meal kit service, Chef’d has looked to outside sources for its recipes. The company’s partners include Weight Watchers, The New York Times, fitness experts, and now the American Diabetes Association.

Each plan offers a different unique aspect: Weight Watchers includes recipes friendly to the weight-loss program, while the NY Times box features recipes highlighted in the publication.

Subscribers can also choose from recipes created by well-known chefs, fitness experts and food manufacturers.

Cancellation/Hold Policy: Because Chef’d does not offer subscriptions, meal plans — like those partnered with Weight Watchers — can be canceled at anytime through the “my account” page.

What Makes It Different: Meal kit customers can choose from individual meals anytime they want. They don’t have to participate in a weekly subscription. Additionally, the service provides 100s of curated meals from celebrity chefs, health experts, and other organizations.

Blue Apron

Website
Available plans: 
• Two-person plan: 3 meals per week
• Four-person family plan: 2 OR 4 meals per week

Cost:
• Two-person plan: $59.94/week
• Four-person plan: $69.92/week for 2 meals or $139.84/week for 4 meals

What You Get: Each week users receive a refrigerated box that contains all of the fresh, pre-portioned meats that are naturally raised on an antibiotic- and hormone-free diet, and much of the boxes’ other ingredients are organic and locally sourced.

Choose from six preselected recipes each week for the two-person plan; four recipes for the four-person plan. Most meals are designed to be cooked in 40 to 60 minutes, and average between 500 to 700 calories.

Cancellation/Hold Policy: You can skip a delivery or cancel your subscription at any time by making the change by the “Changeable By” date.

The “Changeable By” date is reflected both in your “Delivery Schedule” page as well as in your “Account Settings.”

What Makes It Different: Blue Apron claims that each of its recipes can be created from start to finish in under 60 minutes.

Additionally, the company has a six wine/month delivery option for about $70 plus shipping. That service includes 500ml bottles — about two-thirds the size of a standard wine bottle — which Blue Apron seems to think is the perfect amount for two diners to share.

Hello Fresh


Website
Available plans:
• Two-person plan: 3, 4, or 5 meals per week
• Four-person family plan: 3 meals per week

Cost:
• Two-person plan: $69/week for 3 meals, OR $84.90/week for 4 meals, OR $99/week for 5 meals
• Four-person plan: $129/week for 3 meals

What You Get:  Subscribers will get one special recipe from chef Jamie Oliver in their boxes each week. The meals range from 500 to 800 calories.

Choose from approximately six preselected recipes each week for each plan. Veggie boxes are also available, with the choice of six recipes.

Cancellation/Hold Policy:  Plans can be paused for any reason by logging into your account and choosing “manage your subscription.”

The cut-off for any pauses, order restarts, address and box type changes made online is 11:59PM EST on the Monday before Saturday delivery, and 11:59PM EST on Wednesday before Monday-Friday deliveries.

What Makes It Different: Hello Fresh tries to set itself apart by offering specific boxes designed for customers with special preferences, such as a veggie-only meal plan.

Plated


Website
Available plans:
• Two dinners for two people
• Three dinners for two people
• Four dinners for two people

Cost:
• Two dinners for two people: $48/week for + $6 shipping ($54/week total)
• Three dinners for two people: $72/week + free shipping
• Four dinners for two people: $96/week + free shipping
• Specialty meals can cost as much as $30/dish

What You Get:  Like other boxes, Plated subscribers will receive pre-portioned ingredients that are antibiotic free and sustainably raised.

Unlike other services, Plated offers the choice of nine preselected dinner options each week, in addition to two speciality meals.

Cancellation/Hold Policy: Users can terminate your account at any time for any reason by notifying the company. Termination will be effective the day the notice is received or on a later date if specified in the notice.

What Makes It Different: Who wants to miss out on dessert? Plated offers two dessert recipes each week.

Home Chef


Website
Available plans:
• 2-6 six meals for two, four, or six people

Cost:
• Starts at $9.95 per serving.
• Free shipping when you order three or more meals, otherwise shipping is $10.

What You Get:
Home Chef offer 10 dinner options, new breakfasts, a fruit basket, and a fresh smoothie on its menu every week.

The company also focuses on what it calls the three “R’s”: reducing, reusing, and recycling. Home Chef asks users to reuse or recycle the containers it provides each week.

Cancellation/Hold Policy:
Users can cancel your subscription at any time, provided that you do so within the applicable cancellation notice period — any time before Friday at 11:59 a.m. (CDT) the week before your next scheduled product delivery.

Orders can be skipped in the same timeframe through account settings. You can schedule or skip deliveries multiple weeks in advance.

What Makes It Different: Home Chef offers subscribers specially curated boxes for different dietary needs. For example, customers can choose from meat and seafood, as well as gluten-free and low-carb dishes.

Martha & Marley Spoon


Website
Available plans:
•Two-person box: 2, 3, or 4 meals/week
• Family box (two adults/two children): 2, 3, or 4 meals/week

Cost:
• Two-person box: $48/two meals; $61.40/three meals; $76/four meals
• Family box: $76/two meals; $106.80/three meals; $139.20/four meals

What You Get: A refrigerated box contains fresh, pre-measured ingredients, and instructions to create selected meals. Choose from seven preselected recipes each week for two-person plan; five meals for family box.

While the service doesn’t specifically cater to vegetarians, its weekly menu includes a “good mix of vegetarian, fish, and meat options.”

Cancellation/Hold Policy: Deliveries can be skipped if submitted through account settings up until five days before delivery. Skipped weeks can be scheduled up to seven weeks in advance.

What Makes It Different: Home Chef Marley Spoon, in addition to partnering with Martha Stewart, offers more than 18,000 recipes available for each week’s box.

The Purple Carrot


Website 
Available plans:
• Two-Person plan: 3 meals/week
• Family plan (four people): 2 meals/week

Cost:
•Two-Person plan: $68/week
• Family plan (four people): $74/week

What You Get: Each week you will receive a refrigerated box that contains all of the fresh, pre-measured ingredients and instructions to create plant-based meals that the site claims you can cook in 45 minutes or less.

Choose from three preselected recipes each week for the two-person plan; two recipes for family plan.

Cancellation/Hold Policy: Users can skip, pause or cancel their account before their next shipment, but must do so before each Thursday night at 11 p.m. ET.

What Makes It Different: Purple Carrot caters specifically to those looking for vegan meals.