Out of the Box

Appears in the January 2018 issue.

I did not inherit my grandmother’s love for cooking. While I cook all the time, it’s out of necessity, not passion. And since I frequently find myself in a recipe rut, I’ve been curious about meal kit delivery services.

Selecting a subscription plan can take a bit of research, but here’s how it works: Most companies allow you to choose how many meals you’d like each week and the number of people you want to feed. You can automatically receive pre-selected meals or log in weekly to make your selection. On the designated date, a box arrives at your door full of fresh, pre-measured ingredients, photo-filled recipe cards and detailed cooking instructions.

All the meals from the companies I tested were fantastic—it was amazing to cook like that on a weeknight. Because I was looking for family-friendly options, my meal choices weren’t as adventurous as they could have been. All the companies made it easy to skip or change the frequency of deliveries, but I really liked that SunBasket allowed you to forward your box to someone else or donate it to a needy family through Feeding America. While the meals took more prep time than I’m used to, I found these kits an easy way to add variety to our meals and expand my culinary expertise.

Blue Apron

Two-Person Plan
Two ($47.95) or three ($59.94) recipes per week

Family Plan (serves four)
Two ($71.92), three ($107.88) or four ($143.84) recipes per week

Blue Apron was one of the first to introduce the meal kit concept and has the largest customer base. While Blue Apron’s streamlined ordering process is simple, it offers limited meal choices. The box arrived with most of the fresh ingredients mixed together and a few items separated into different meal bags. I made Baked Chicken and Mafalda Pasta with Honey and Balsamic Vinegar Dressing, Carrots and Kale. Although the meal was easy to make, it took 35 minutes to chop, mix and prepare. The chicken took a bit longer to cook than the recipe stated, but it was moist and delicious. The balsamic vinegar dressing (which I made from scratch!) added a great flavor to the chicken, and it was the best tasting kale I’ve ever had. The detailed recipe card enabled me to skillfully complete each step. The only downside is that we would have liked more pasta.


Veggie Plan
Three recipes per week with two ($59.94) or four ($119.88) servings

Classic Plan
Three recipes per week with two ($59.94) or four ($119.88) servings

Family Plan
Three recipes per week with four ($104.88) servings

HelloFresh is the second largest national meal kit provider. I ordered from the four-person family plan, which gave me eight meals from which to choose. (Note: They also offer multiple options for allergy-conscious consumers.) The box arrived chilled with the ingredients in separate meal bags. I made Cherry Balsamic Pork with Thyme-Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli. While the instruction card was easy to follow, it took 45 minutes for me to complete all the chopping, searing, and sautéing, versus the 30 minutes the recipe stated. When I took everything out of the box, I was concerned the portions wouldn’t be enough to feed two adults and two teenagers, but we were all quite satisfied. The flavorful cherry balsamic pork made this my favorite meal.

Sun Basket

Classic Menu
Three recipes per week with two ($71.94) or four ($143.88) servings

Family Menu (serves four)
Two ($79.92), three ($119.88) or four ($159.84) recipes per week

Sun Basket focuses on providing meals with organic and sustainable ingredients. Their meal plans include paleo, “Lean & Clean,” gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegetarian and family options. You can order from any category, regardless of your meal plan; I ordered from the Chef’s Choice family menu. The recipes were definitely healthier, and I liked being able to select from six options. The box arrived chilled with the ingredients in separate meal bags. I made Paprika-Spiced Chicken with Spinach Salad and Roasted Sweet Potatoes. Some of the ingredients arrived already sliced, which was a great timesaver (even though it still took me 35 minutes to prepare). The produce was extremely fresh—even better than what I find at the grocery store—and the flavor was amazing. There was enough salad and potato wedges for leftovers, but we definitely needed more chicken. While it wasn’t enough meat to feed a family of four, it was delicious and would make a fabulous lunch or dinner for three.