By Susan Lanier-Graham
Meal kit delivery services are all the rage. But which ones are good, and are there healthy options? There are dozens of meal-in-a-box concepts on the market. Here are a few to consider. All arrived in the heat of an Arizona August, on time, still cold in refrigerated boxes.
Sun Basket, based out of San Francisco, delivers organic, non-GMO ingredients and was clearly the winner for healthy options. They use fresh, sustainably sourced ingredients (for example, wild-caught Alaska salmon) and have family meal menus — recently co-developed by founder Chef Justine Kelly with Food Network’s Chef Tyler Florence — along with gluten-free, Paleo and vegetarian options. The website is also easy to navigate. The Classic Menu is $11.49 per serving, and you receive three recipes each week. The Family Menu, which serves four, is available in two, three or four recipes each week for $9.99 per serving.
The packaging is the most eco-friendly of all the meal-in-a-box options reviewed. As with all meals-in-a-box, everything is premeasured, but Sun Basket’s packaging is 100 percent compostable and recyclable. Instead of recipe cards, they send out a nice recipe booklet.
The website includes information about the chefs on the Pacific Coast who supply Chef Kelly with ingredients she sources for every Sun Basket box. For example, Oaktown Spice Shop in Oakland; Fishpeople Seafood in Portland; the Peixoto family farming California’s Imperial Valley; and Durst Organic Growers in Esparto. www.sunbasket.com
Hello Fresh is a German company with offices and distribution in New York. The individual meals — a classic plan or a veggie plan for two or four people, and a family plan for four — are packaged in clearly marked brown paper bags inside the refrigerated box. The first two plans, designed for two or four adults, is $9.99 per serving, while the Family Plan is $8.74 per serving.
Hello Fresh ships quality ingredients — organic proteins, fresh produce. The company has a formal partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, only sourcing seafood caught or farmed in ocean-friendly ways. The recipe cards are easy to read and understand and can walk even the most amateur cook through easy directions. The nutritional info card lists the place of origin of each ingredient.
Hello Fresh recently launched a monthly wine box program — six bottles for $89.00. You can pick a delivery date, and the meal cards suggest wine pairings. Recent wines ranged from an Australia blend to a South African Pinotage — not something you routinely pick up at the grocery store. www.hellofresh.com
A woman-owned Palo Alto, California, company, Gobble creates one-pan meals that take about 10 minutes to cook. Each meal costs $11.95, and every box includes three meal kits (six meals). It is a subscription service, and you will receive a box with three meal kits each week.
Gobble sources high-quality local ingredients in Northern California, but produce arrived a bit rumpled. This was possibly due to one major negative: everything came packaged in individual plastic bags inside the refrigerated box.
Recipes from Gobble were some of the more creative, featuring options ranging from Korean Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi (included in a little container) to Chicken Provençal. The weekly menu marks certain options as “Certified Gobble Kid Friendly,” such as Chickpea and Freekeh Fritters with Mediterranean Fattoush Salad. www.gobble.com
Home Chef is a Chicago-based service offering 10 weekly menu options for $9.95 per serving. Unfortunately, they also use plastic bags for individual meals, and there was no information about where the ingredients were sourced. They do offer weekly add-ons for a seasonal fruit basket or a smoothie at $4.95 per serving.
The meals seem to range from 20 to 40 minutes, and recipes are on large cards, making them easy to read while cooking. The sirloin steak with garlic-chive butter was good, and the recipe card indicated it needed to be prepared within six days of arrival. However, the grape tomatoes and zucchini would only have lasted a couple of days. That recipe included buttermilk biscuit mix, so probably not organic. It contained milk, wheat and soy and was processed in a plant that also processes peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish. www.homechef.com
LOVE WITH FOOD
Love with Food is a subscription snack box service. For each purchase you make, the company donates to a food bank. There are a— number of fun options. You can get small boxes for $7.99 a month ranging up to $19.99 a month. Office plans are also available.
No matter which box you choose, everything included is organic or all-natural. Snacks are made without high fructose or corn syrups, hydrogenated oils or trans fats. A gluten-free box is available. This is a great way to discover new snacks. Each box includes coupons to get more of the items you enjoyed. These make great gifts and can be ordered without a subscription and canceled at any time. www. lovewithfood.com
HOW MEAL DELIVERY SERVICES WORK
- Subscription based.
- Specifically portioned to feed either two or four people; you choose when you order, and payment is based meal size.
- Select menus online each week; order the week ahead.
- Average cost for meals, which includes exactly proportioned ingredients for the entire meal, ranges from $10.00 to $15.00 per meal, per person.
Susan Lanier-Graham is a Phoenix-based freelance food, wine and travel writer. You can follow her adventures looking for “wow moments” online at wanderwithwonder.com.
Read more food/nutrition articles at greenlivingaz.com/nutrition