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Blue Apron, Sun Basket, Hello Fresh, Plated: I’ve Tried Them All and Here’s What I Think

February 16, 2017

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.

Blue Apron fresh tomato linguini with Cesar salad

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.

Blue Apron Za’atar chicken souvlaki with oven baked fries

BLUE APRON

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!

PLATED

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.

SUN BASKET

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!

Sun Basket Peruvian beef

HELLO FRESH

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.

Blue Apron summer corn salad

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?

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2017 8:54 am

    How fun that you’ve tried all of these, Leah. I’ve been seeing more ‘press’ about them and wondered how they worked/if they were good. Helpful insight on which you preferred!

    • Leah permalink*
      February 16, 2017 3:46 pm

      Thanks, Melissa. As you can tell, some are better than others. But I think they’re worth trying if you’re remotely interested.

  2. tracie permalink
    February 16, 2017 10:28 am

    Me me me for the Blue Apron 🙂

  3. February 16, 2017 1:17 pm

    Thanks for the heads up girl! Always been curious, I haven’t tried any since becoming a Sous Chef 7 yrs ago. Hope you are well!

    • Leah permalink*
      February 16, 2017 3:46 pm

      Thanks, Katherine! So great to hear from you! Hope you’re well too.

  4. February 16, 2017 3:34 pm

    This is so helpful and interesting! I always here ads for these (especially on many podcasts I like). I really appreciate hearing a real review from someone I trust. And not sponsored!

    • Leah permalink*
      February 16, 2017 3:47 pm

      Oh yes, I hear that one brand on several of my favorite podcasts! Glad you found it helpful.

  5. Denise Stalcup permalink
    March 14, 2017 9:42 pm

    I would like to try. dptrink@gmail.com

  6. Jessica permalink
    April 13, 2017 12:12 pm

    I’m interested in trying Blue Apron out! 🙂

    • Leah permalink*
      April 13, 2017 12:23 pm

      I just submitted your name. Look for an email from Blue Apron. Thanks for reading!

  7. Josh permalink
    April 20, 2017 10:34 pm

    I’d love to try Blue Apron for free.

  8. Cailyne G permalink
    May 17, 2017 9:21 am

    Do you still have free trials for blue apron left?? I’d love to try it!

    • Leah permalink*
      May 18, 2017 12:27 pm

      I just submitted your email address for a free meal. Hope you enjoy it!

  9. Kerim Hanif permalink
    May 25, 2017 1:46 am

    Would like to try blue apron as well please

  10. Don Birkbeck permalink
    June 1, 2017 6:51 pm

    Me me me for blue apron to try please

  11. Stephanie R. permalink
    June 5, 2017 2:24 am

    Hello, I came across your site while researching reviews for all the different meal subscription services. It’s really hard to pick amongst all the options, but I think I’ve narrowed it down to Blue Apron or Sun Basket. Any recommendations? It’s just me and my husband, and he’s kind of a picky eater. I’d also love to try Blue Apron if you have any free trials left 🙂

  12. Joe permalink
    June 8, 2017 9:17 pm

    Great article. It explained everything I wanted to know about these 4 options. Am I too late for a free blue apron coupon? I have a sun basket gift card but would rather try blue apron first. Thanks again for taking the time to explain in detail the differences in each option.

  13. Rita Schoch permalink
    June 14, 2017 7:08 pm

    Hi Leah,
    Thanks for the reviews. I’d like to have one of your Blue Apron coupons if they are still available, and try SunBasket on my own. I’ll let you know my thoughts after I try it out.

  14. Carole permalink
    June 17, 2017 10:28 am

    Thank you for your research. I would love to try Blue Apron if still possible.
    Scheherazadewannabe@gmail.com

  15. Brett permalink
    July 2, 2017 10:25 pm

    Love how comprehensive this all is; thanks! Definitely would love a free trial if you have any available still, to Blue Apron or any of the others. Or all of them! ALL OF THEM MWAHAHAHA

  16. John permalink
    July 5, 2017 2:35 pm

    Just a note – none of these services, from my experience, allow you to try for free as you mentioned. You can get a few free meals, but since you need to order usually a batch of 3 for your first order, you still pay to get that first delivery. So the first week is cheaper, but not free, unfortunately.

  17. Sue Logsdon permalink
    July 17, 2017 9:46 am

    I would like to try a free meal with blue plated. Sue@ubdazzled.com. Thank you.

  18. wendy in NYC permalink
    July 23, 2017 4:26 pm

    honestly, We did BLue Apron for a several months.. but I grew tired of the fact that pretty much EVERY meal has oil and saute .. and then there were weeks upon weeks of Kale in everything! They make a deal w a local farmer I guess and them use it relentlessly.. I even called and asked them .. ever try String beans? Broccoli? I got tired of the redundancy and all that OIL. MY biggest complaint is that they say you can choose from several options.. but you really cannot. the minute you choose a meal w the protein you want, suddenly you can no longer choose any other w a good meat/fish – they force you to choose something uber cheap like a rice or pasta dish.. that I didn’t want at all. So thats an issue for me. Im supposed to be allowed to choose my combinations, but they force you to edit – prob so as to save themselves $$. I want to try one of the others.. any idea which one is most versatile? Any seem less fatty – less oil used all the time?

  19. Cal kapp permalink
    July 31, 2017 12:48 pm

    We would like to try blue apron, thanks. Nice site, attractive and easy to read.

  20. Bobbie permalink
    August 11, 2017 12:12 pm

    Thank you for your excellent comments. Yes, I’d love to try a Blue Apron!

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