I Tried All the Meal Delivery Services So You Don't Have To

(plus Restaurant Delivery Services Too!) [Updated 2/2017]

The proliferation and competition of meal delivery services has really made it a golden age for savvy consumers.  It's a simple idea - deliver ingredients and seasonings, all perfectly portioned, and pair them with easy-to-make recipes -- that has taken fire in recent years.

It's easy to understand why.  With most families strapped for time, the idea of an affordable and convenient way to solve the meal time problem is something that appeals to almost everyone.

But which meal service is the best?  Which offers the most value?  Which are the easiest to make? Most importantly, which ones taste the best?

To answer these questions for my own family, I signed up for the most popular meal delivery services out there and attempted to find which we liked best.

A few caveats: One, my opinions are obviously subjective but after trying more than a handful of meal services, I quickly learned what I liked....and what I didn't like.  Hopefully, it's helpful to you.

Two, while pricing plans can vary, the most popular options are meals 3x a week and for 2 people (ie: 6 portions).  I list prices for this meal plan, although for some meal delivery services, if you order more frequently or for more people, the price can go lower.  Also, if you order this popular plan, shipping is almost always free.

Finally, with all this competition, there are an amazing amount of promotional offers out there.  I signed up for them all and included links to the best promotional offers I could find.  Some sites even let you refer friends for additional discounts and I've listed my referral code when applicable but try to not let that influence my opinion.

Now on to the contenders!

Blue Apron

Blue Apron is probably the most well known and recognized of the meal delivery services.  With a strong marketing budget and word of mouth, the majority of first time users have tried Blue Apron.



Cost Per Meal: $9.99 (2 person plan), $8.74 (4 person plan)

Promotional Offer: 3 Meals Free = $30 Savings

Marketing: "Discover a Better Way to Cook"

Seared Steak and Spicy Snap Peas

Synopsis: As expected, Blue Apron was a strong contender.  The packaging was compact and efficient and the recipe cards looked glossy and beautiful.  The food was actually very tasty and easy to make mainly because most dishes are basic in nature.  That being said, most meals still take over 45 minutes to prepare and cook as Blue Apron tends to have a lot of steps.  Portion sizes were fair.

If I had one knock on Blue Apron, it was that I didn't love minor things with the user interface.  They restrict you to choosing certain meal combinations (instead of picking any choice among the menu) and also had a cancellation and activation process that was hard for me to figure out on my own.  I had to call a phone representative and then email to get my subscription paused.

Too Long;Didn't Read (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★
Packaging/Recipes: ★★★★
Meals: ★★★★
Value: ★★★★

Freshly

Freshly is a newer service and offers meals that are largely prepared and extremely quick to reheat (2 minutes in a microwave).  With zero prep, Freshly is different from most meal delivery services here, but solves the same daily dinner dilemma.


Cost Per Meal: $12

Promotional Offer: Try Freshly and Get 6 Meals for $36 = $36 Savings

Marketing: "Chef-Prepared, Healthy Meals Delivered Weekly"

Home-Style Meat Loaf

Synopsis: As expected, Freshly was very convenient.  The flavors were great since you aren't making anything from scratch yourself and after a long workday, it's extremely nice to pop these in the microwave and have something healthier than take out or a frozen microwave dinner.  The packaging is absolutely the best as you can eat out of the package.  That being said, you will learn zero cooking skills here and the portion sizes are small.  I was able to eat two portions (meant for two days) by myself in one sitting.

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★★★
Packaging/Recipes: ★★★★★
Meals: ★★★★
Value: ★★

Gobble

Gobble is one of the older companies on this list and is actually one of the first meal delivery services we gifted to friends who had a newborn.  Their unique spin is that they prep and portion all ingredients so you save time from cutting and chopping.


Cost Per Meal: $11.95

Promotional Offer: Get Up to $30 Off First Week = $30 Savings

Marketing: "Easy Home Made Dinners in 10 minutes"

Spinach Stuffed Gnocchi

Synopsis: When I did my first meal delivery service, I was shocked ingredients weren't pre-cut and portioned but I quickly learned to not mind.  While it's nice Gobble does all that, in reality, I didn't find it saved as much time as expected and I'm not sure it's worth the extra cost.

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★★
Packaging/Recipes: ★★★★
Meals: ★★★
Value: ★★★

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh is another big name like Blue Apron and has been very successful in the UK due to their association with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.



Cost Per Meal: $11.50 (as low as $8.50 with Family Plans)

Promotional Offer: Get $40 Off = $40 Savings  Use Promo Code: TD4K6

Marketing: "Discover a Healthy Meal Plan"

Porsciutto Pizza with Hand Made Dough

Synopsis: Hello Fresh comes with the most minimal packaging which is nice that you aren't throwing away so much packaging each week.  However, it's not as durable as the contenders, some of which guarantee your box will be fresh even if you travel and can't pick it up for a few days.

The website and meal prep was similar to the other services, but I liked the food the least.  Making the dough from scratch was tedious and, more importantly, didn't taste that good.  It's too bad as I like Jamie Oliver.  They do have one of the most generous promotional offers though if you want to try a new service.

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★★
Packaging/Recipes: ★★★
Meals: ★★
Value: ★★★

Home Chef

Home Chef is a meal delivery service that is not as well known as big names like Blue Apron, Plated, or Hello Fresh.  In reality though, it is actually used by a lot of people I know so I decided to try.


Cost Per Meal: $9.95

Promotional Offer: Get $30 for Meals = $30 Savings

Marketing: "Fresh Ingredients, Simple Recipes, Convenient Deliveries"

Coffee Rub Steak and Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

Synopsis: Home Chef is the less fancy version of the more well known competitors.  It offers great value in portion size and with flavor and with a very user-friendly website (almost any option can be chosen and it's easy to skip/cancel).  Packaging is a bit wasteful, but improved for smaller meal plans.  The meals are often simpler (protein + vegetables), but flavors are good.  Home Chef is actually the service I used most.

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★★★
Packaging/Recipes: ★★★
Meals: ★★★★
Value: ★★★★★

Munchery

Munchery is a meal delivery service where the meal is entirely prepared and that you only need to reheat, typically in a microwave.  It's a healthier option than a frozen dinner but just as convenient.  They have delivery in numerous metropolitan cities, particularly on the West Coast, but also have delivery in Utah, Colorado, New Jersey and New York.

In late 2015, Munchery also began delivering ready to cook meal kit as an option for the area that they didn't cover with their more perishable prepared meals.  Since my city is covered by their prepared meal model, I have not had a chance to try their cooking kit model.

Cost Per Meal: $7.95 (with $85/year Membership)

Promotional Offer: 50% Off  Your First Order

Marketing: "Deliciousness Delivered"

Pasta with Lamb Bolognese

Synopsis: Similar to other ready meal delivery services, it's hard not to like a meal you can just pop into the microwave after a long and tiring workday.  The convenience does come with a downside though: you learn no cooking or prep skills and the portion sizes are smaller than the standard meal delivery services which ship you fresh produce and meats.

I will say that Munchery can be affordable with their yearly subscription model and while I found the flavors a bit more bland and muted than competitor Freshly, the prices are also much lower.  My first order had a handwritten note and a complimentary cookies -- nice touches that made me appreciate the company model.

If you really don't want to learn how to cook and just don't have time to cut and slice your own meals, Munchery is definitely a contender in the "ready to heat" category.  If Munchery does not delivery to your area, their newer cooking kit is now an option.

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★
Packaging/Recipes: ★★★★
Meals: ★★
Value: ★★★

Plated

Plated is one of the big three along with Blue Apron and Hello Fresh.  Plated has great marketing, packaging, and superb recipes.  Their website is minimal until you sign up, but more functional once you agree to a recurring subscription.



Cost Per Meal: $12.00

Promotional Offer: Free Dinner for 2 = $24

Marketing: "Dinner That Perfectly Fits Your Life"

Grilled Sausage Hoagies

Synopsis: Plated is actually one of the meal services I liked the most.  The packaging is nice and very environmental friendly and the food is probably the best of all the services.  Even with the most basic recipes, I was surprised at how delicious everything I made was.  Little touches like sauces or spices made a world of difference.  However, given the price difference per meal and how close one or two contenders were, I loved Plated but didn't stick with it.

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★
Packaging/Recipes: ★★★★
Meals: ★★★★★
Value: ★★★

Sun Basket

Sun Basket is one of the newer meal delivery services and is a frequent recommendation on social media.  Their distinguishing feature is that they offer paleo, vegetarian, and even gluten-free meals among their many options.  Perfect for those with more restrictive diets.


Cost Per Meal: $11.49

Promotional Offer: First 3 Meals Free = $34.47 Savings

Marketing: "Healthy Cooking Made Easy"

Pappardelle with Butternut Squash and Baby Kale

Synopsis: I was impressed with the variety of meals offered by Sun Basket, most likely because they are trying to cater to very different demographics that require very different meal types (i.e.: paleo and vegetarian).  I'm not vegetarian but decided to sample a vegetarian dish.

The packaging is well organized and the entire Sun Basket delivery box is very environmental friendly with only one large re-freezable ice pack that is recyclable.  Recipes and ingredients are top-notch with everything organic and a perfect match for a Williams-Sonoma catalog.

If there's one caveat, it's that the recipes clearly assume cooking experience.  There are no photos of the actual prep and the instructions are quite concise whereas beginning cooks may need more detailed instructions.

Given the moderate price point, I was happy with Sun Basket and enjoyed my meals, even the vegetarian one!  This is a great choice for those with more cooking experience or those with more restrictive diets.

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★
Packaging/Recipes: ★★★★★
Meals: ★★★★★
Value: ★★★★

BONUS: Restaurant Delivery Services


Amazon is well known in the online shopping world, but fewer people are aware that Amazon actually offers a Prime Now service where they guarantee food deliveries in 1 hour (2 hours for groceries).

The number of cities that Amazon Prime Now is offered is limited, but include many metropolitan areas.  Seattle (Amazon's home base), San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland are among the notable cities with the restaurant service while the greater Bay Area has the grocery service only for now.  Of note, the service is exclusively for Amazon Prime members.

Delivery Cost: $7.99 (Free for 2 hour grocery delivery)

Promotional Offer: $10 off first delivery Click on link to sign up for Amazon Prime

Marketing: "Skip the Trip.  Exclusively for Amazon Prime Members"

Amazon Prime Now Delivery: Pok Pok

Synopsis: While I was disappointed Prime Now Restaurants was not offered in my town, it is offered in a lot of great cities.  During a trip to Portland, we wanted to watch the NBA Finals, but still have food from the famous, but notoriously crowded, Pok Pok, which can have wait times over an hour during dinner.  Enter Amazon Prime Now.  They delivered the meal from Pok Pok during the NBA Finals and watching the Warriors win that game was just icing on the cake.

Delivery Time = 51 minutes

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★★★
Restaurant Selection: ★★★★
Value: ★★★★

DoorDash

DoorDash is perhaps the best known restaurant delivery service and changed the game compared to all previous services when they offered restaurant delivery from a wide variety of places that had never been able to offer delivery on their own or usually stuck with pick-up orders only.  It's been a boon for restaurants and an especially nice that some of my favorite restaurants are on the app.

Delivery Cost: $3.99 - $7.99.  A service fee will also be charged for certain restaurants.

Promotional Offer: $7 Off Your First Door Dash Delivery

Marketing: "Delivering Now, From Restaurants Near You"

DoorDash Delivery: Spice Kit

Synopsis: While I love being able to order from restaurants that haven't been able to offer delivery on their own, the truth is that DoorDash can be expensive.  When you add delivery fee and the "new" final bill service fee (they used to incorporate it into menu prices), prices can add up, but at least are now transparent.  I was looking at $20 additional cost  for one restaurant order of $60 and decided to just go pick it up myself.

That being said, DoorDash customer service is awesome and they offer promotional offers like the one above to new and returning customers on a regular basis.

Delivery Time ~ 1 hour, but can be longer during peak times (longest was 1 1/2 hours)

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★★★
Restaurant Selection: ★★★★★
Value: ★★★


Eat24

Eat24 is owned by Yelp and just like the popular restaurant review site, Eat24 covers and lists a wide variety of restaurants.  They organize listings into restaurants that deliver and those that do pick-up only.  It's nicely integrated into Yelp so if you use that app frequently, you won't need to use another app.

Delivery Cost: Varies (Eat24 charges a commission to restaurants and lets them decide delivery fee)

Promotional Offer: $2 Off Your Delivery Promo Code: 2k24s

Marketing: "Order Food Delivery From Your Favorite Restaurants"

Eat24 Delivery: Hangen Szechuan Restaurant
Synopsis: While their motto states that you can get food delivery from your favorite restaurants, Eat24 doesn't really help out for all the popular restaurants that don't do delivery.  It's essentially quite similar to GrubHub (reviewed below), except that it's paired with Yelp's review system and makes ordering online easier versus dialing by phone.

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★★
Restaurant Selection: ★★
Value: ★★★


GrubHub is one of the oldest restaurant delivery services and its claim to fame was finally figuring out if a restaurant delivered or not.  Unlike DoorDash, they don't take control of the delivery and they don't charge any fee to the customer.  But it's a convenient website and app to figure out if you can get food from where you want.

Delivery Cost: Varies (GrubHub charges a commission to restaurants and lets them decide delivery fee)

Promotional Offer: $7 Off Your First Delivery

Marketing: "Discover Who Delivers to Who"

GrubHub Delivery: Green Elephant Gourmet

Synopsis: The restaurants that offered delivery in the past were mainly pizza joints and other fast food type (ie: Chinese and Mexican) establishments and GrubHub does deserve some credit for consolidating where all these were listed.  That being said, my favorite restaurants were usually popular enough to avoid having to deal with the hassles of delivery so very few of them are on GrubHub.  It's an impressive total number of restaurants, just not the restaurants for me.

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★★
Restaurant Selection: ★★
Value: ★★★


Postmates has been around since 2011 but what makes them unique among all these restaurant and meal delivery services is that they deliver more than food.  While they deliver from a broad selection of restaurants, they also can deliver from drugstores, clothing stores, beauty stores, Walmart, liquor stores and more.  It's a great option when you need something but just can't get it yourself.

Delivery Cost: Fixed at $2.99 or $3.99 for their Postmates Plus partners with all other based upon distance of picking and delivery location.  One plus: all items are charged at cost with no hidden surcharges or additional costs.  You pay what you would pay if you bought it yourself at the store.

Promotional Offer: $10 Off Your Delivery with Promo Code: SYY8F

Marketing: "On Demand Delivery"

Postmates Delivery: Cooking Papa

Synopsis: Postmates has a solid selection of restaurants that competes well with DoorDash and UberEats.  Delivery fees are very reasonable with Postmates Plus partners and it does feel a bit like Amazon's Prime Delivery to have more available than restaurants.  For example, I placed an order during the NFL Championship game and it was nice to know I could just have easily ordered chips and beer if I was throwing a party and had run out.

Delivery Time = 48 min

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★★
Restaurant (and many other store) Selection: ★★★★
Value: ★★★★

UberEATS

UberEATS is the newest restaurant delivery service on the block.  Best known for the ultra convenient ride service, Uber made the smart decision to have their drivers also deliver food.  It started out at a handful of cities and limited restaurant items but has expanded greatly recently and they came out with a dedicated UberEATS app.

UberEATS Delivery: Mitsunobu

Delivery Cost: $4,99.  Menu prices may also be higher than in-restaurant prices.

Promotional Offer: Get $15 Off Your First Order.  Use Promo Code: eats-610kw

Marketing: "Food Delivery, Fast"

Mitsunobu KCO's Chirashi

Synopsis: Competition is always welcome and I think food delivery fits in well with the ride service Uber already offers.  Similar to how you can track your Uber driver coming to pick you up, you can also track your meal in real time as it is being delivered.  You can also either step outside to pick up your meal from the curb (quicker) or have it delivered normally (the default).

The number of restaurants is much more limited than DoorDash but the friendly delivery fee for the few cities that are offered is great for large orders.  Of note, I was able to find a favorite exclusive restaurant that only delivered via UberEATS and not via any of the other competitors, but also noticed that the listed UberEATS prices were slightly higher than the in-restaurant prices ($3 for my entree) which is how DoorDash used to also handle their extra service charge.

Delivery Time = 44 min

TL;DR (all out of 5 stars)
Ease of Use:   ★★★★★
Restaurant Selection: ★★★
Value: ★★★



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