Last updated: Feb 04, 2014
meal-kit-service
Lisa Shin
Meal-kit services promise to take the guesswork and drudgery out of dinnertime—but do they really deliver? Health editors put them to the test.


How we rated them

Twelve testers tried the kits—four per service. They rated the services on a scale of 1 (Terrible!) to 10 (Amazing!) for the meals' appearance, aroma, flavor and ease. Then we averaged the numbers for an overall score.







Plated

How it works: Monthly membership is $10 a month (no minimum orders or number of months); pay $12 a serving, with a four-serving minimum per order. Annual membership is $8 a month. Or forgo membership and pay $15 a serving (minimum of four per order). Ingredients are premeasured, but some prep is required; e.g., you'll get the right amount of parsley, but you'll have to chop it yourself.

Nutritional info provided? Calorie counts per serving for every dish are online. Full nutrition labels are available by request.

mushroom-flatiron-steak
Plated.com
Tester average prep time: 49 minutes

Portion size: Just right, according to all our testers.

Tester comments: Overall, it's a little pricey. But you're paying for the experience, convenience and quality.—Camille Chatterjee, deputy editor

It wasn't that complicated, but it definitely took longer than I expected.—Hannah Campbell, editorial assistant

Worth signing up for? No judge would subscribe; two would order once in a while. Some said it was too expensive; others didn't see the added convenience.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Sample recipe: Mushroom-Crusted Flat Iron Steak with Cauliflower Mash



hellofresh
Hellofresh.com
HelloFresh

How it works: It's free to join; every week, you get a box (Classic, with meat, poultry or fish; or Vegetarian) containing the ingredients for three meals. With Classic, you choose from among five recipe options. Order for two or four people—the per-serving price ranges from $9 to $11.50. Ingredients are premeasured, but some prep is required.

Nutritional info provided? Each recipe card lists calories, carbohydrates, protein, fiber and fat per serving.

Tester average prep time: 35 minutes

Portion size: The consensus was that the portions are generous.

Tester comments: I loved the food, but needing three pots was a bit much. I hate washing dishes, and this left a pileup.—Rozalynn S. Frazier, fitness editor

I definitely couldn't have prepared the meal without the well-written directions.—Holly Dawsey, assistant beauty editor

Worth signing up for?Split. One tester gave an emphatic yes, another said no. Two replied maybe—one disliked the cost; another had a delivery glitch.

Overall score: 8 out of 10

Sample recipe: Couscous and Lentil Salad with Roasted Eggplant and Peppers



shrimp-sspaghettini
Blueapron.com
Blue Apron

How it works:Sign up for a free membership, and each week you'll get a Regular or Vegetarian box with three recipes and all the ingredients, premeasured (some prep is required). You can choose a box for two, four or six people; it costs $10 per serving per person. There is no minimum subscription length, and you can put the service on hold.

Nutritional info provided? Each recipe card contains a calorie count per serving.

Tester average prep time: 38 minutes

Portion size: Two found the portions ample; one, just right; the other, on the small side.

Tester comments: The single best thing was not having to think about what to cook that night.—Lisa Lombardi, executive editor

It was delicious but kind of fussy. The food is a bit too complicated.—Clare McHugh, editor

Worth signing up for?Evenly split—two editors would sign up, two others no. Some loved the convenience; one cited cost as a deterrent.

Overall score: 8 out of 10

Sample recipe:Shrimp Spaghettini with Chilis, Mint and Lemon