You know the story. You want to be healthy. You want to eat a good homecooked dinner. But, if you are like any working adult I know, you also have 5,000 things to do. You get stuck late at work. You have to choose between a fitness class and having time to cook. Let alone standing in line at the grocery store to get ingredients. But what if the meals were planned and ingredients delivered to your door? And the idea for subscription food boxes was born.
As an alternative could always plan and prep your own meals. But takes time and skill (one that I haven’t mastered yet). The benefit of a subscription meal kit is that what you get in the box was designed by a team of chefs and nutritionists. It’s a little extra help to ensure you are putting a healthy meal on the dinner table. And most of these services offer locally sourced and non-GMO ingredients. Trying to do all this yourself is a huge effort if you are only cooking for one or two adults. So, given the benefits, I decided to take a look at all the meal delivery options to see if there were any that met my expectations for both healthy and flexible.
Meal kits & subscription food boxes
What I didn’t know was that there were so many subscription food boxes out there. It’s an ever-expanding industry, and not all services are created equal. If you have dietary requirements, don’t fear, there services that offer gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, soy-free, and dairy-free options. After combing through options and trying a fair number of these meal kits myself, I came up with a list that checks the boxes for nutrition, taste, and convenience. Let’s eat!
Cost: $13.99 for an 8 snack box
Special Diets: Paleo, Vegan
Offer: First box free
Pre-portioned snacks perfect for the 3 pm blues. This was the first-ever subscription I had for food. It’s great for people who like to much and can turn any size snack bag into a single-serving. They have a huge variety of snacks that range from savory to sweet and options for just about any need. And while they don’t have official filters for all dietary restrictions, the snacks are well-labeled so that you can choose snacks to fit just about any diet.
Special Diets: Vegan, Gluten-Free (High-Performance)
Offer: $20 off signup bonus
Similar to Plated or Hello Fresh, Purple Carrot is a meal delivery service that sends you prepped ingredients to cook with. Everything is vegan and they have a performance meals option. They can’t guarantee complete avoidance of allergens. I recommend this one over other services because of their dedication to nutrition and plant-based meals. The rotating menu provides a plethora of options.
Special Diets: Certified Gluten-Free, Paleo, Vegan, Keto
Offer: $25-$50 off your first box
A certified gluten-free meal kit service, similar to Plated and Purple Carrot, Green Chef sends you the ingredients you need to cook a variety of meals each week. It’s all organic and non-GMO with sustainable food sources. Plus, it’s tasty. I’m not sure it gets much better than that. The only downside is that you get what you get. You can choose a gluten-free plan and opt out of any proteins you can’t eat (such as fish, shellfish or pork) but there isn’t a way to order a gluten-free and vegetarian option at the moment.
Cost: $49.99 – $107.99
Special Diets: Gluten-free, vegetarian, soy-free, low calorie
Offer: $40/off your first week
Let’s start with the basics, every Freshly meal is free of gluten, wheat, refined sugars, peanuts, artificial colors & artificial flavors. The meals are pre-made and just need to be reheated which is perfect for a person on the go, or someone who lives alone and hates to cook. Or who has the kind of job that makes cooking on a Tuesday night something that isn’t a possibility. Every meal I’ve had so far is tasty and the price is better than UberEats (and healthier than just about any takeout).
Cost: $48-$167/week or $167/mo
Special Diets: Gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, vegetarian
Offer: 3 Free Cups with a referral link
At first, I thought that this was a ridiculous subscription. A weekly delivery of smoothie ingredients when you can throw one together so easily. Well, I found my favorite subscription. The smoothies are delicious and can be mixed with whatever I have on hand — although they do come with recommendations. The lattes are the best bargain — you get 3 for the price of 1. You can even get soups, harvest bowls, and parfaits. At $48 per week, it might seem a little steep for smoothies or breakfast food, but cutting out my mid-morning smoothie stop has saved me more than the cost of the box each week. I recommend the Lemongrass Matcha Latte.
Special Diets: Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian
Offer: There are friend referral codes, but not one for general first-time customers.
Produce that isn’t beautiful enough for store shelves is sent to you at a drastically reduced price. You can choose your box size based on servings as well what type of box you would like. You can choose Organic, Mixed Fruit & Veggie, All Fruit or All Veggie. Each week you are prompted to log on and choose your produce, so the early bird gets the worm. This subscription is popular amongst my friends who love to cook and those who are concerned with food waste, as this is produce that would normally be thrown away.
These are my current favorite options, but as the landscape is ever-changing, I’m sure the list of my favorites will continue to grow. What’s the latest meal kit or subscription food box you’ve tried?
DIY meal kit ideas
Trying subscription food boxes are a great way to learn new techniques and recipes that you can try on your own. And as we swing into summer, you may also be inspired to make a meal from the in-season fresh produce and meats found at your local farmers market. Try one of these fool-proof recipe ideas:
Mary Fran Wiley is a well known gluten-free and positive living blogger from Chicago where she writes Curiouser and Curiouser, maintains the Chronic Positivity Project, and has been featured in Allergic Living Magazine, Care2.com and Today.com.