Blue Apron, Sun Basket, Hello Fresh, Plated: I’ve Tried Them All and Here’s What I Think
I have tried many different dinner systems over the years — meal planning, once-a-month-cooking, The Fresh 20, Dream Dinners, you name it! I enjoy cooking and we eat at home nearly every night (except for maybe one weekend night). But gone are the days when I had the motivation to do extensive planning and meals.
That being said, it’s still very important to me that we eat healthy meals at home made with fresh ingredients that I prepare (for the most part). So I have given myself the gift of using boxed meal subscription services on a somewhat regular basis. I’ve tried all the big ones over the years — Blue Apron, Plated, Sun Basket and Hello Fresh. I still supplement our dinners with my own recipes, but these dinners are a nice way to have fresh ingredients sent to my door along with a recipe and a shot of motivation.
I’ve decided to share my thoughts about the meal boxes — their advantages and disadvantages — and which ones I continue to use.
Before I give you my impressions of each service, let me point out a few universal things:
- Most all of these services have an option where you can try the service for free, and then continue.
- All the companies allow you to skip weeks without any penalty, as long as it’s done in the time frame. So if you don’t like the meal choices for a given week, you just pause that week.
- There was a lot of criticism at one point about these services being environmentally wasteful with all the packaging. I believe all of them now offer recycling programs so you can easily donate the boxes and cooling material. But I have to admit, recycling was never an issue for me. We already recycle EVERYTHING. So all the little containers, bottles, cans, etc. went right into our blue recycle bin, along with the broken down cardboard box.
NOTE: This is NOT a sponsored post. None of these are affiliate links and I’m not getting free dinners for sharing this information.
And now, here are my thoughts on all these meal services.
I have been using Blue Apron the longest and most frequently, and we’ve loved nearly all the meals. Even Sophie — who is the pickiest of eaters — will eat a Blue Apron dinner without (or with minimal) complaint. The ingredients are fresh and the dinners are innovative (not ideas I would typically think of), yet they are not complicated recipes. Some of my favorite recipes have been Mexican spiced beef and rice casserole, Za’atar chicken souvlaki, and fresh linguine pasta and heirloom tomato sauce.
I will say that Blue Apron has a lot of extra steps that can be cut from the cooking process. For example, you can cut your prep time considerably by using your own pre-chopped garlic and ginger. They also have you use multiple bowls for prepping ingredients. I tend to eliminate some of those extra bowls by adding the chopped ingredients straight into the pots/pans when appropriate. Less dishes to clean is always good!
Since I’ve been a customer for a while, I have a few free Blue Apron meals I can give away. If you’d like to try a few free dinners, leave me your email address in a comment below and I’ll have a Blue Apron email sent your way!
I recently signed up for Plated and have been really impressed so far. The recipes have fewer steps than Blue Apron, and the prep work is considerably less. For example, the garlic is sent in pre-pealed cloves and the cheese is already shredded. I also think the amount of ingredients they send are larger than Blue Apron. One of the recipes called for Parmesan cheese and I didn’t even use all that Plated sent. Whereas with Blue Apron, I sometimes supplemented things like Parm with my own stash.
I also like that Plated packages all the ingredients for each recipe in separate bags, which makes it easier to grab what you need for one dinner. Another advantage to Plated is you can chose which recipes you want as opposed to Blue Apron where there are two options. For example, if there’s a dish with pork chops, I’ll exclude it for a dinner option with chicken, fish or beef instead.
Plated seems to be a bit pricier than Blue Apron, but you can also adjust the number of servings and dinners you want per week. That makes it easy to stick to a budget.
I would describe Sun Basket as the more organic, non-GMO, “crunchy” and sustainable option. Many of their meals are paleo or gluten free (even if you don’t select that option). While this is great for a lot of people, my family likes its dairy and carbs. We don’t consume a lot of it, but I do like some cheese with my dinner!
The recipes we sampled were Peruvian beef stir-fry, gingered turkey meatballs in lemongrass broth, and spicy chorizo and tomatillo chili with coconut and lime. The Peruvian beef was really good, and a hit with me and Bryan. The other two recipes had too many Thai-based and spicy foods that don’t agree with Bryan or Sophie. And at the time we tried Sun Basket (last fall), there weren’t many other non-exotic options. So unfortunately this one didn’t work for our family.
Sun Basket seems like a great option for adults, or families that want an easy way to eat organic, paleo, vegeterian or vegan options. Again, not bad, but we didn’t continue the subscription. That being said, I give Sun Basket the award for cutest packaging — I didn’t want to through the boxes away!
This was my least favorite meal box services. The Hello Fresh meals I tried were bland, had very few ingredients. They were also dishes I could have easily made with my own recipes and would have tasted better. We tried were shrimp with lemon orzo (a recipe that I have made myself and tasted better) and steak with mango salsa and rice. While the steak was good, the portion was small and fed both me and Sophie. Thank goodness Bryan was not at home for that dinner because had I split it three ways, we would have been looking for more food to supplement dinner.
The Hello Fresh dinners could have used a bit more flavor and/or ingredients. While some of Blue Apron’s recipes are simple too; what makes them stand out are the spice blends used to add flavor. That was lacking with Hello Fresh.
I was also very turned off by the fact that Hello Fresh customer service was constantly calling me after I cancelled the service to find out what happened and persuade me to resubscribe.
So those are my thoughts on Blue Apron, Plated, Sun Basket and Hello Fresh. I really want to try One Potato by Weelicious because I like their emphasis on family-friendly meals. But sadly, they don’t service Indiana … yet!
It’s a nice treat to be able to use a meal subscription service once or twice a month. If you’re at all curious, I encourage you to sign up for the free offering and see which ones you like.
Have you used any of these meal subscription services? Which is your favorite (or least favorite)? Is there another one I need to try?