Get the skinny on 5 meal delivery services

man and woman chopping vegetables cooking following recipe from iPad
May 02, 2019 | Maggie Tomasek

Meal delivery services are all the rage these days, for a whole host of reasons — but how do you figure out which is the best food delivery service for you? Most of them can help you eat healthier, save money by eating out less, and of course, save time, but with so many options out there, it can be hard to decide which meal delivery service is right for you.

Let’s take a look at five popular options.

Best food delivery service for bargain hunters: Blue Apron

How it works: Each week, Blue Apron sends you ingredients in pre-measured quantities. They select the recipes for you based on your pre-set food preferences out of six possible recipes. No contract required, with the option to skip weeks or cancel at any time, and they have a mobile app.

How much Blue Apron costs: 2-person plan, 3 recipes per week, $9.99 per serving; Family plan (serves 4), 2 or 4 recipes per week, $8.99 per serving. Free shipping.

Dietary restrictions: Blue Apron accommodates dietary preferences (e.g. vegetarians, pescetarians). All foods are assembled in the same facility, so they don't recommend ordering Blue Apron if you have a serious food allergy.

Also of note: You also can subscribe to Blue Apron Wine, and each month they’ll send you six bottles -- specially sized for two -- at a cost of $10 per bottle.

Discounts: Listen to podcasts? Blue Apron sponsors a lot of podcasts and provides special offer codes to receive your first week free. We’re confident you can find a good one.

Bottom line: Blue Apron is the best food delivery service in terms of budget -- their Family Plan is the cheapest per serving of all the meal delivery services we looked at – but you roll the dice a bit by not getting to choose exactly which recipes you’ll get each week.

Best food delivery service for option-lovers: Plated

How it works: Plated sends pre-measured ingredients and recipes for the meals you select each week out of their 20 options (plus desserts). There’s no contract required, with options to change your delivery days, skip weeks, swap recipes or switch up servings at any time. It’s pretty flexible, and they have a mobile app.

How much Plated costs: 2-, 3- or 4-serving options and 2, 3 or 4 meals per week options. $11.95 per serving for 2-serving options, $9.95 per serving for 3- and 4-serving options. Shipping is free for plans over $60.

Dietary restrictions:  All ingredients are handled in the same facility, so they recommend using your best judgment when considering dietary restrictions.

Discounts: Get 25% off your first four weeks when you sign up.

Bottom line: Plated is more expensive than Blue Apron per serving, but their array of options – meals, servings, frequency – make this the best meal delivery service for you to get exactly what you want, when you want it.

Best food delivery service for food allergies: Freshly

How it works: You can choose from 30+ ready-to-eat single-serving meals (shipped fresh and not frozen), including breakfast and entrees. Pick your weekly delivery day, skip weeks and cancel at any time.

How much Freshly costs: 4, 6, 9 or 12 meals per week. 4 meals $12.50/meal, 6 or 9 meals $9.99/meal, 12 meals $8.99/meal. Free shipping.

Dietary restrictions: The entire menu and facility are free of gluten and peanuts.

Discounts: Get $30 off your first two weeks when you order 6 meals per week.

Bottom line: Need to be gluten- and/or peanut-free and don’t have time to cook? Here you go!

Best food delivery service for thrifty option-lovers: Home Chef

How it works: When you sign up for Home Chef, you complete a “taste profile.” They match you up with recipes based on that profile, but you can still edit your selections – swapping recipes, upgrading or doubling protein -- from their 26 weekly options. Those options include entrees, 5-minute lunches, smoothies and fruit baskets. Skip weeks, change delivery dates or cancel at any time, either via their website or mobile app. Home Chef sends you pre-portioned ingredients and recipes that take about 30 minutes to prepare.

How much Home Chef costs: 3 meals per week, 2 or 4 servings per meal; 2-6 meals per week, 2, 4 or 6 servings per meal. $9.95 per serving for all plans. $10 shipping for orders less than $45, free shipping on orders over $45.

Dietary restrictions: All ingredients are produced in facilities that also process eggs, milk, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy.

Discounts: Get $20 off your first four boxes.

Also of note: Home Chef offers “premium meals” that are sold at a higher price, like holiday specials with multiple side dishes and a dessert.

Bottom line: So many choices! (And at a better price point than Plated.)

Best food delivery service for kids: Sun Basket

How it works: Sun Basket has 18 recipes to choose from each week and sends you pre-measured ingredients for each 30-minute recipe. Their “Family Plan” features more kid-friendly meals, like Sloppy Joes or tacos. Skip any week and cancel anytime.

How much Sun Basket costs: Classic Plan, 3 meals per week, 2 or 4 servings, $11.99 per serving; Family Plan, 2 or 4 meals per week, 4 servings, $10.99 per serving. $5.99 shipping.

Dietary restrictions: Sun Basket offers paleo, gluten-free, soy-free, vegetarian options and vegan. However, the gluten-free meals are prepared in the same facility as the rest of their food, so there’s a risk of cross contamination.

Discounts: Your first week’s shipping is free.

Bottom line: The kid-friendly meal options at a competitive price make Sun Basket the standout pick for families with youngsters -- or picky eaters of any age.

Maggie Tomasek is the PR & Content Strategist at Alliant. She began her career as a journalist for newspapers in Utica, N.Y., Des Moines and Cincinnati before moving to Chicago in 2009. Maggie is an eight-time Chicago Marathon finisher and a lifelong creative writer with a passion for comedy. Her mom instilled in her a great sense of fiscal responsibility, and her big sister told her to throw that responsibility out the window every once in a while in the name of life experience. So far, that combination of financial advice has worked out pretty well for her.

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