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Last Updated on February 22, 2021

Tired of spending time at the grocery store and doing meal prep on the weekends?

You’ve probably noticed meal delivery service options appearing everywhere in the past couple of years. Some offer packages of ingredients with recipes to follow, others give you ready-made meals. Both options have their pros and cons and are suited for different situations.

So between meal kits and prepared meals, which should you pick? We’ll walk you through everything you need to take into account so you can make an informed decision. Either way, you'll spend less time planning meals and more time eating delicious meals, it's win-win!

Why Meal Kits?

Meal kits are basically boxes with fresh ingredients, together with recipes to turn them into delicious meals. You order the meals you want to be delivered every week, and they arrive at your door. Usually, you’ll also be able to review and pick the meal kits you want.

Most companies offer several options each week for different diets, from low-carb to paleo or vegan. And if you’re worried about a temper tantrum over an exotic recipe, you can often also find easy meal options for kids’ delicate palates.

Check out the most popular meal kit delivery programs.

Who Are Meal Kits For?

Not sure whether you should go for meal kits? If you find yourself reflected here, they just might be for you.

Chefs-in-Training

Meal kits are the ideal option if you have a bit of a foodie gene but are not an experienced cook. With the step-by-step instructions, you’ll learn how to cook a new meal often. You can keep the beautifully illustrated and easy-to-use recipe cards for later, and impress friends and family with your new skills.

A meal delivery service is also great if you’re just bored with cooking and need some new inspiration to get out of the rut. New spices, sauces, and plants can help wake up your taste buds and your creativity.

Dieters

Meal kit delivery is also a great option for those who want to learn how to cook healthier food, but don’t have the experience. Not sure how to deal with an artichoke? The recipe cards will walk you through it.

Also, if you’re trying to introduce yourself to a new diet, this kind of meal delivery service will ease you into it. After a couple of weeks or months of a paleo or vegetarian diet with a meal kit, you might feel better prepared to manage it on your own.

Picky Eaters

A meal kit service with heathy family-friendly options can be a lifesaver for busy families. You’ll make sure to provide nutritious home cooking that your kids are also happy with.

You’ll also be able to tweak the recipes on the meal kit to your taste and replace any ingredients you don’t want to eat. Not a fan of rosemary? Leave it out when cooking or replace it with another herb. Do your kids hate broccoli? Cook it separately to give everybody the dish they want. The taste will be a  bit different from the original recipe on the kit, but it’s tailored to your taste.

Food Hoarders

When you’re learning how to cook, you might also accidentally buy too much food. When you don’t handle the quantities well, you can erroneously stock up too much on fresh ingredients like produce, meat, and fish.  This means it’s more likely you’ll end up wasting a part of your food. Even if you want to freeze and store it, you’ll likely have to go through the extra work of slicing and dicing beforehand.

Meal kit delivery companies, on the other hand, offer you exactly the amount you need. The ingredients arrive fresh and often also pre-portioned. If you do need to store something for longer, it’s as easy as opening the freezer door and popping it in.

Even so, meats and produce are better when eaten within a couple of days of the arrival of your delivery kit. Fish, especially, need to be cooked as quickly as possible to make sure it stays fresh.

Moderately Busy People

Meal kit delivery reduces your time in the kitchen and looking for new recipes. Most companies have recipes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, or even one-pot wonders to save dishwashing time. You also won’t have to spend time searching for ingredients in a grocery store. Everything you need is already in the meal kit delivery box, except for some kitchen staples like salt and pepper and cooking oils.

While you are doing most of the cooking, many sauces and even vegetables arrive pre-cut or even cooked. How quick and easy the cooking is may depend on the company and the menus. If speed is your priority, you can try a couple of different plans before you settle on one.

Health-Conscious Cooks

The only way to really know what’s on your plate is by cooking yourself. When you’re in charge, you can control the amount of salt and oil that goes into your food. This is why many health-conscious cooks will opt for a meal kit delivery.

Meal Kits Aren't For Everyone

Not everybody is the perfect type of client for a meal kit delivery. If you have doubts about where you fit, these are the types of people who may not enjoy them.

Extremely Busy People

The negative of meal kit delivery services is that you’ll have to do the cooking. You will save the time of having to develop recipes and hunt down ingredients, but the cooking itself takes some time.  If you don’t have a minute to spare, also note that your time in the kitchen is often longer than the recipes claim. This happens especially in the beginning, and if you’re a novice in the kitchen.

Freshness Enthusiasts

While the ingredients are fresh and usually arrive chilled, you don’t have as much control as you would if you shopped for them yourself. Top-tier companies do deliver amazingly fresh food that arrives in chilled boxes, ready to store in your fridge.

Still, you can never be sure of the freshness of the ingredients when they’re being delivered to you — or sitting on your doorstep! A piece of meat that’s been out in the sunshine for a couple of hours is not safe to eat (1).

No-Equipment Kitchens

Cooking, even with meal delivery companies, will require a previous purchase of some basic kitchen equipment. If you don’t have access to pots, pans, knives, an oven, and a blender, you won’t be able to cook all the recipes. For beginning chefs, it can be a steep investment all at once.

Pros and Cons of Meal Delivery Kits

Still not sure if meal kits are the right option for you? Here’s a list of their pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Learning new, interesting recipes and becoming a better cook
  • Opportunity to quickstart a healthy lifestyle
  • Cheaper than pre-cooked meals
  • Saving time not going to the grocery store
  • You’ll see exactly what goes into your food
  • Easy to customize on the fly if you don’t enjoy some ingredients
  • Better for feeding groups and families

Cons:

  • You’ll have to do the cooking yourself
  • Not everybody enjoys cooking from recipes
  • Recipes can take longer to prepare than you’d expect

Why Prepared Meal Delivery?

Prepared meal delivery services are a good way of incorporating healthy food into your life without effort. You can make your pick between numerous companies that cater to different diets and tastes. Just pop a ready-made meal into the microwave or a pan, and the food is ready in a matter of minutes.

Some companies offer flash-frozen meals, so they maintain their vitamins for longer (2). Others are delivered fresh and chilled, so you’ll need to store them in the fridge.

Who Are Prepared Meal Services For?

If you want to know if you’re the right type of person for a prepared meal service, read on to see if you find yourself in any of the groups below.

Dieters

Prepared meal services offer an easy way to control portion sizes. You can find single-serving meals that range from 300 to 700 calories, with the nutritional information clearly stated on the packages. 

These packaged meals also offer a good opportunity to easily add more fruits and vegetables to your day. Start your day with a smoothie, or have a bowl of brown rice with different veggies without thinking about it. 

Ready meals can be perfectly compatible with any diet plan, so you can stock your fridge or freezer with low-calorie options for the week ahead. There’s no need to worry about whether you’ll hit your calorie or macronutrient goals when everything is calculated for you.

Ready-made meals also take willpower out of the equation. You don’t have to find the energy to stick to your diet goals when everything is ready to eat.

People With Special Diets

You can often make your pick between numerous options for different dietary restrictions, from gluten-free to vegetarian. The recipes can be delicious, ranging from nutrient-packed smoothies to elaborate dinners and lunches. Some companies offer protein-packed muscle meals, as well as keto or paleo options. You might also find a nut-free menu.

Extremely Busy Professionals

The good thing about these kinds of meals is that they truly are convenient for busy people who can’t spend time on cooking. They’re excellent for busy professionals who don’t have a minute to spare during the week. You’ll save a lot of time not going to the grocery store and cooking, since these meals are on the table in less than 15 minutes.

People Who Hate Cooking

Some of us know home cooking is healthy, but just can’t make ourselves interested in a new diet plan. Maybe you try to make yourself learn new skills, but you end up losing interest after a couple of days and resorting to takeout. If you know you don’t love spending time in the kitchen, a prepared meal is a great alternative. You have much healthier options than with regular restaurant meals, and it can all be prepared simply by heating or mixing.

No-Equipment Kitchens

Sometimes you’re just not in the place to be investing in kitchen utensils. Maybe you’re between houses or temporarily in a different city, so you don’t want to waste money on things you won’t need. It’s the perfect time to try prepared meal delivery companies that will allow you to eat healthily with minimal equipment.

Who Are Prepared Meal Services Not For?

Not sure if you’ll like a ready-made meal service? If you fall into one of the groups below, prepared meals might not suit.

Health Freaks

One negative of a prepared meal is that you can’t control the amount of fat, sodium, or other additives in it. Some of these offer healthy meals that are heavy in vegetables, so if health is important to you there are ways to make the most out your buy. Still, it’s not the same as a home-cooked meal.

People on a Tight Budget

The extra work that has been put into making these meals does mean that they tend to be more expensive. If you’re feeding a family, the price can get high very fast. You can often bring the cost per meal down a bit by buying more meals per week or month. Still, they’re more expensive than shopping for ingredients or ordering meal kits.

Chef Aficionados

What you might miss with pre-cooked meals is the joy of cooking. If you like spending time in the kitchen or learning new cooking techniques, you’ll be missing out. You may still eat something new that inspires you and try to recreate the recipe later. Still, it’s not the same as following the recipes and learning new skills or flavors every week.

Voracious Eaters

Some of us, especially those who do sports, eat more than others. Pre-made meals come pre-packaged and separated into portions that aren’t necessarily big enough for those with a big appetite. Whenever you want to go for seconds you’ll have to open and heat up another meal, which also doubles the cost. 

Pros and Cons of a Prepared Meal Service

To sum it up, these are the pros and cons of prepared meal delivery services.

Pros:

  • Easy and tasty meals only a couple of minutes away
  • Usually customizable for different dietary restrictions
  • Frozen meals stay fresher in transport
  • Easy-to-control portion sizes for dieters
  • Require little to no equipment

Cons:

  • Pricier than cooking yourself
  • You’ll miss out on cooking and learning recipes
  • Not possible to control the amount of sodium or fat

Best Meal Kit Delivery Services

If you’re starting to make up your mind, these are some of our favorite meal kit delivery services to try.

Martha & Marley Spoon

Martha Stewart has her own healthy meal service that offers low-carb, vegan, and family-friendly options. The company also has a plan for meals that are ready in under 30 minutes.

Purple Carrot

Purple Carrot is a fully vegan, health-conscious meal kit service. They offer plant-based lunches, dinners, and even breakfast options that can be high-protein or gluten-free.

Green Chef

This company makes meal kits from 100 percent organic and non-GMO ingredients for vegetarians and vegans, as well as people who follow paleo and keto diets.

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh is one of the biggest players in the sector and very family-friendly. They offer kids’ menus, vegetarian, low-carb and low-calorie dishes, and 20-minute meals and one-pot wonders for busy homes.

Blue Apron

Blue Apron has high-quality, responsibly sourced ingredients and interesting chef-curated recipes across the board. For vegetarians, Blue Apron offers the popular plant-based meat options from Beyond Meat.

Best Prepared Meal Delivery Services

These are some of the best pre-made meals you can find on the market today.

Sun Basket

Sun basket also has a meal kit service you can try, but we included the company on this side of the divide because of its great prepared meals. They’re ready in as little as six minutes, and you can choose between numerous options.

Daily Harvest

Daily Harvest’s smoothies, harvest bowls, and soups are full of fresh, healthy vegetables. This plan is not cheap, but the ingredients are 100 percent plant-based, and healthier than many other options.

Fresh n’ Lean

Fresh n’ Lean has only completely fresh, organic, and gluten-free meals, from paleo to keto and vegan diets. Fresh n’ Lean also offers high-protein meals for bulking up at the gym, and their meals are not frozen.

Freshly

For those with allergies, Freshly has 100 percent gluten-free and peanut-free meals. The portions arrive chilled to your door, ready to eat or put in the freezer.

Kits or Meals FAQs

Your most pressing questions about today's convenient meal options:

What Is the Best Prepared Meal Delivery Service?

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Which Meal Delivery Is Already Cooked?

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Which Meal Delivery Service Is Cheapest?

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Are Meal Delivery Kits Worth It?

Meal delivery kits are cost-effective if you like spending time in the kitchen and want to learn new recipes. They’re a great way to spice up your family cooking and avoid the grocery store. Whether they’re the right option for you depends on your tastes, budget, and how much value you put on your time. 

One thing is for sure, subscribers frequently love their delivery kit services.

The Final Verdict

When it comes to making your pick between meal kits and prepared meal delivery services, you’ll have to think about which option suits your lifestyle best. The difference between meal kit and prepared meal delivery is mostly the time you’ll spend in the kitchen and your budget. 

Meal kits are an interesting option for cooking varied meals at home and saving time not going to the grocery store and doing meal prep. If you prioritize your time, ready meals might be the right way to go. If you’re still not sure give one of them a try for a week or two, and see for yourself if it’s useful.

References

  1. Fsis.usda.gov. (2020). Retrieved 30 September 2020, from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/PDF/How_Temperatures_Affect_Food.pdf.

  2. Bouzari, A., Holstege, D., & Barrett, D. (2015). Vitamin Retention in Eight Fruits and Vegetables: A Comparison of Refrigerated and Frozen Storage. Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry, 63(3), 957-962. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf5058793

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Hi, I'm Paul. Welcome to my website! I, along with my cronies, are leveraging our years of working in the food industry to review meal and drink delivery services. We review. You eat happily ever after.

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