4 That Do Everything Except Cook Dinner

4 Meal Planning Services That Do Everything Except Cook

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I’ve spent countless nights this winter just staring into my fridge, letting the cold air escape and wondering, “What in the world am I going to make for dinner?”

I have a few go-to recipes but rarely have the time or energy to research and think up new meals. Instead, I find myself reaching into the freezer for a pizza more often than I’d care to admit, or cooking the same two or three meals every week. That deprives me of the joy I get from cooking and preparing a new meal, and those frozen dinners are definitely a less healthy option.

However, a new trend in home cooking is solving many of my quandaries: home delivery services that ship fresh, perfectly portioned ingredients right to your door. You’ve probably seen them on Facebook or noticed your friends’ gourmet meals photographed on Instagram and wondered, “How do they do it?”

These meal planning services deliver pre-portioned ingredients right to your door, complete with a clear recipe card – and sometimes instructional videos – so that you can still feel the joy and accomplishment that comes with home cooking, without the stress and planning. Here is a look at some of the top home delivery services.

1. Plated

Every week, Plated offers a choice of meat and seafood dinners, as well as vegetarian options. The meat is antibiotic and hormone free; the fish is typically wild-caught, unless farm-raised is the more environmentally friendly option.

The pre-portioned delivery ensures that you won’t waste ingredients. Ever bought an entire bunch of parsley when you only needed enough to sprinkle a bit on top? Plated and the other services get rid of that waste by only sending you exactly what you need. However, the prep time for Plated’s meals can be longer than some of the other services.

The meals at Plated start at $12 per serving, with free shipping on orders over $50. Becoming a subscriber means committing to weekly or biweekly shipments, but you can order a la carte if you can stomach the upcharge.

2. Blue Apron

Named after the accessory worn by apprentice chefs in France, Blue Apron is one of the leaders in food home delivery. Its average meal takes 35 minutes of prep work and each meal averages a healthy 500 to 700 calories. Unlike some of the other services, you don’t pick exactly which meal you’d like, but you can set preferences. Blue Apron offers a variety of meals, including vegetarian options.

Depending on the meal plan you choose, prices can get as low as $8.74 per person. If you are only cooking for two, the price goes up to $9.99 per person, with a minimum of $59.94 per week.

3. Hello Fresh

It’s right there in the name, so you can count on Hello Fresh to deliver you fresh food that has been reviewed by a dietitian for balance and healthfulness.

If you opt for vegetarian meals, you can eat for as low as $9.08 per person, and meals with meat start at $10.75 per person. Hello Fresh will allow you to change recipes from each week’s standards, if you notify them with enough time to spare.

4. Appetites

Perhaps a lesser-known food delivery program, Appetites is known for providing same-day delivery, so no need to plan days or weeks ahead. Of course, its shipping area is limited because of this, but if you travel a lot or often have evening meetings and happen to live in the right place, this could be the service for you. The cost ranges from $8 to $12 per serving per meal.

It offers easy-to-follow videos for its recipes, all run through its app – another difference from the other services. If you’ve ever struggled with a recipe and wished you could actually see the dish being made, this is the service for you.

Become a Top Chef

No matter which service you choose, you’ll have to be open to trying new recipes and dishes. Even those with recipe selection flexibility still have a set number of options from which to choose, so you’ll end up trying something you never thought you would.

As far as cost-effectiveness, you’d have to look at a couple of things in your own household. How often do you eat out? How much do you spend on groceries each week, and how much would that decrease if you had two full dinners coming from a delivery service? Finally, how much do you throw out? I think this is the biggest selling point for our family. I hate to waste, and often I find myself throwing out half of a leek or an expired bottle of fish sauce I only used once.

Still not sure about these services? Every single one offers a new customer discount, allowing you to experience each service for yourself without paying full price. Be sure to read the fine print; some of the free offers set you up to receive future shipments at the regular price, so manage your accounts wisely.

Why not give it a try? Your new favorite dish may be waiting for you.