Meal Kit Subscriptions: Comparing the Best Dinner Delivery Services
Putting dinner on the table is no easy feat. Between long working hours, juggling your family's many schedules and finding the time to cook (let alone grocery shop or meal plan), it's amazing we don't all eat fast food or fast casual every night. Of course, we've all been warned of the evils of McDonald's and fake taco meat.
Fortunately, a slew of Atlanta companies are solving our dinner dilemmas with meal kit subscriptions. In short, you sign up with a company, choose your meals online and all the ingredients you need to make dinner are delivered to your doorstep in the exact proportions your meal requires (read: no more waste because you bought that obscure bottle of vinegar only to use once). It's up to you to actually cook the meal, but everything is pre-measured, the recipes are provided in easy-to-follow instructions and there's no grocery shopping to be done.
To see if these dinner delivery services are really worth the hype, I tried out six recipe subscription boxes that are available to Atlanta residents: Garnish & Gather, HelloFresh, Home Chef, Plated, PeachDish and Blue Apron. The verdict: there isn't one service that's "the best"; rather each service provides its own unique set of benefits (and pitfalls). Choose the one that's best for you. Here's the short list of what we found:
- Least Expensive: Home Chef (followed closely by Blue Apron)
- Most Basic Recipes: HelloFresh
- Most Impressive Recipes: Garnish & Gather and Plated
- Largest Portions: Home Chef
- Best Service and Perks: Garnish & Gather and PeachDish
- Lowest Calorie: Blue Apron
- Most Variety: Home Chef and Blue Apron
- Most Convenient: Blue Apron
- Best For Locavores: Garnish & Gather and PeachDish
- Best for Foodies and Adventurous Cooks: Garnish & Gather and Plated
- Best for Busy Families and Picky Eaters: HelloFresh and Blue Apron
A Brief Background on Each Meal Kit Delivery Subscription
- Headquartered in Atlanta, GA (available only in Atlanta)
- Emily Golub, the daughter of Atlanta entrepreneur Susan Nethero of Intimacy fame, is an adventurous home cook who found it difficult to get a local, home-cooked meal on the table every night. So she created Garnish & Gather.
- Launched in Germany with operations in seven markets: Germany, The UK, Austria, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands and The U.S. (offices in New York, New Jersey, Dallas and San Francisco)
- HelloFresh was founded by Jessica Nilsson, Thomas Griesel and Dominik Richter. Seth Goldman, who hails from Quidsi (an Amazon company), is the CEO of the U.S. division.
- Headquartered in Chicago, where its office and central distribution facility is located
- An avid cook with no time to shop, Pat Vihtelic, a former investment banker, founded Home Chef.
- Headquartered in NYC with four regional fulfillment centers throughout the country in New York, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco)
- Tired of relying on take-out every weeknight, Nick Taranto, a former Marine and Fullbright scholar, Dartmouth and Harvard grad, co-founded Plated with fellow Harvard business school alum Josh Hix, a Georgia Tech grad who founded ZeeWise, in an attempt to use tech and data-driven operations to fix the broken American food supply chain.
- Headquartered in the Georgia Farmer’s Market (available nationwide except Alaska and Hawaii)
- Hadi Irvani created PeachDish by combining his love for e-commerce with his love for cooking and entertaining. President Judith Winfrey, who owns and operates Love is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens, is an advocate with Georgia Organics, Slow Food Atlanta, Wholesome Wave Georgia and Community Farmers Markets.
- Headquartered in NYC with fulfillment centers in Jersey City, NJ, Richmond, CA and Arlington, TX
- Matt Salzberg (a venture capital investor at Bessemer Venture Partners), Matthew Wadiak (a chef and founder of Cook’s Venture catering company) and Ilia Papas (a director and technical architect at Optaros) founded Blue Apron.
Comparing Costs: Meal Kit Delivery Services
Home Chef (least expensive per serving): Meals are fixed cost and always priced at $9.95 per serving, no matter how many servings you order.
- Cost per serving for standard order for 2 people: $9.95
- Delivery Fees and Days: Free delivery is included on orders over $40; the cost is $10 for deliveries under $40. Meals are delivered to the Atlanta area every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Blue Apron: Meals are fixed cost and available in 2 sizes: $9.99 per serving for the 2-Person Plan or $7.49 per serving for the Family Plan (4-person).
- Cost per serving for standard order for 2 people: $9.99
- Delivery Fees and Days: Free delivery is included in the cost. Meals are delivered to the Atlanta area every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
HelloFresh: Meals are fixed cost and available in 2 genres and 2 sizes: The Classic Box is $69 for 2 people and $129 for 4 people, while the Vegetarian Box is $59 for 2 people and $109 for 4 people. Note price per serving decreases the more servings you order.
- Cost per serving for standard order for 2 people: $11.50
- Delivery Fees and Days: Free delivery is included in the cost. Meals are delivered to the Atlanta area every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Plated: Meals are priced per serving at $12 for all standard recipes and between $16 and $30 per serving for Chef's Table recipes.
- Cost per serving for standard order for 2 people: $12
- Delivery Fees and Days: Free delivery is included on orders over $50; the cost is $6 for deliveries under $50.
PeachDish: Meals are fixed cost at $50 per box. The price per serving decreases the more servings you add, up to eight per delivery max, reducing the price to $11.25 per serving.
- Cost per serving for standard order for 2 people: $12.50
- Delivery Fees and Days: There's a $7 shipping fee unless you're a member, in which case shipping is free. Meals are delivered to the Atlanta area every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Garnish & Gather (most expensive per serving): Meals are fixed cost and available in 2 sizes: $28 for 2 people and $50 for 4 people
- Cost per serving for standard order for 2 people: $12.50-14.00
- Delivery Fees and Days: Delivery starts at $7 and is free for orders over $75. There's also free pick-up at over 35 locations throughout Atlanta. Ask about group deliveries, which are also free. Meals are available for delivery on Sunday, Monday and Thursday and free pick-up on Monday.
Comparing Recipe Style: Creators, Prep, Portion Size, Timing and Nutrition
- Recipe Creators: G&G has an in-house group of chefs, plus they also get recipes from top Atlanta restaurant chefs, like Linton Hopkins (Restaurant Eugene), George Yu (Makan) and Kevin Gillespie (Gunshow, Revival), nearly every week.
- Recipes We Tried: Spiced Lamb Steak Pita with Arugula Salad and Minted Yogurt; Aria’s Pan Seared Trout in Green Garlic Broth with Butter Beans and Potatoes; Baked Coconut Shrimp with Noodle Salad and Tahini Dressing; Chai Pani’s Sloppy Jai with Spiced Lamb and Salad.
- Recipe Style: We found G&G’s recipes to be a bit more in-depth than others on the list. While they're easy to make, they do require a bit more cooking skill and knowledge. Adventurous eaters who appreciate unique flavors will enjoy these recipes most, as they all feel very special and high-end, as will avid home cooks who just don't have the time to shop and meal plan. Photos are not provided on the recipe cards, which can make plating slightly more difficult.
- Portion Size: The portions are generally just large enough for two people, and tend to be on the small side when it comes to proteins. Rarely will you have any leftovers.
- Recipe Prep: Most recipes can be completed in 30 minutes or less, with most averaging around 15-20 minutes. The “Sous Chef” meals are done in as little 10 minutes.
- Nutrition Info: G&G does not provide nutritional information for any of their meals, however, they do focus on a holistic diet that is heavy on lean meats, whole fruits and vegetables and healthy grains.
- Extra Perks: Don't miss their local market selling a curated selection of pantry staples, artisanal goods and sustainable meats from local purveyors like Atlanta Fresh Greek Yogurt, Carlton Farms eggs, Pine Street Market bacon, One Screw Loose Jams, Pure Bliss Granola, H&F Bread Co. and pre-made items from Souper Jenny and Garlic Clove & Mana. One of our other favorite perks is the wine pairings: at wine shop pick up locations, wine experts often recommend wines to pair with each meal that you can buy right there with your pickup order.
- Recipe Creators: HelloFresh uses a team of in-house chefs who've graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education and other esteemed culinary schools.
- Recipes We Tried: Argentine-Spiced Steak with Couscous Salad and Chimichurri; Pork al Mojo with Cuban Rice & Beans; Chipotle-Rubbed Chicken Salad with Pico da Gallo & Avocado; Warm Farro & Shrimp Bowl with Shallot Citronette
- Recipe Style: These recipes are great for novice home cooks and picky eaters as they’re easy to prepare and feel very basic compared to some of the other more exotic recipes here. However, each recipe we tried had tons of great flavor and there were some fun ethnic twists, albeit mild, to classic dishes. Photos are provided on the recipe cards, making plating a breeze.
- Portion Size: The portion sizes were some of the largest we tried, as we always had leftovers of the sides for each recipe, though never for the proteins.
- Recipe Prep: All meals can be prepared in around 30 minutes.
- Nutrition Info: HelloFresh provides nutrition information (calories, carbs, fat, protein and fiber) for all of their meals, which are carefully reviewed by their in-house dietician to ensure they are nutritionally balanced.
- Extra Perks: Every once and while, expect a special treat in your box, like mini pumpkins at Halloween and chocolates at Valentine's Day, alongside curated offers and discounts from partners.
- Recipe Creators: Home Chef’s recipes are created by a team of in-house chefs led by Culinary Director Justin Paruszkiewicz. Sometimes they use guest chefs, like Kit Graham (of The Kittchen), Jacqueline Fisch (of Barefoot Essence) and Carrie Madormo (of Diet Deep Dish).
- Recipes We Tried: Southern-Fried Chicken and Biscuits with Honey Butter; Coconut-Crusted Shrimp with Sweet Chili Slaw and Lime Crema; Roasted Pork Tenderloin and Soba Noodle Bowl
- Recipe Style: These recipes were extremely simple to make with very straightforward instructions. With the most meal options of all the services here, there was plenty to choose from, whether you like simple chicken and veggies or something more exotic and fun, like the soba noodle bowl. We found that sometimes with a few easy additions, like garlic or red pepper flakes, the recipes really came to life and burst with flavor. Some were a bit bland as is. Photos are provided on the recipe cards, making plating a breeze.
- Portion Size: The portion sizes here were the largest we tried, as nearly every meal served three people. There were usually more sides leftover than the main course, however.
- Recipe Prep: Most Home Chef meals can be cooked in 30 minutes or less, though some advanced recipes can take up to 45 minutes.
- Nutrition Info: Home Chef provides total calories for each meal, however, you won’t get a full nutrition panel like with HelloFresh.
- Extra Perks: Look for breakfast and smoothie add-ons every week.
- Recipe Creators: Plated’s in-house culinary team of professional chefs create and test every recipe.
- Recipes We Tried: Cuttlefish Ink Pasta with Jonah Crab Claws and Garlic Cream Sauce; Okinomiyaki with Sriracha Aioli; Za’atar Beef Koftas with Babaghanoush and Tomato Herb Salad
- Recipe Style: These recipes were definitely the most special, impressive recipes of the ones we tried, made with luxe ingredients and unique twists that will wow your family and friends. Plated offers many fun ethnic recipes for eaters who enjoy trying different flavors, though all the recipes are very easy to make. Photos are provided on the recipe cards, making plating a breeze.
- Portion Size: The portions from Plated were the smallest of all the meals we tried and often seemed like an incomplete meal. Most of the recipes felt like a single entrée that needed a side or something that might be better served as an appetizer or first course.
- Recipe Prep: Most meals take 30-40 minutes to complete and are listed with degree of difficulty.
- Nutrition Info: Recipes are marked as “low-calorie” when applicable and customers have access to the full nutritional info for each recipe online.
- Extra Perks: Look for dessert add-ons every week.
- Recipe Creators: Chefs Robert Lupo and Seth Freedman create PeachDish’s recipes, with occasional collaborations with guest chefs throughout the Southeast, like Terry Koval (Wrecking Bar Brewpub) and Duane Nutter (formerly of One Flew South).
- Recipes We Tried: Filet Mignon with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Arugula Salad; Goose Egg Frittata with Sweet Peppers; Orecchiette Pasta Puttanesca with Pecorino Romano
- Recipe Style: These recipes were the most varied of the ones we tried, both in terms of how good they tasted (one was a total flop) and how easy the recipes were to follow. While the orecchiette was one of our favorite meals of all the boxes we tried (full of flavor and freshness), the steak recipe left off many important steps (like seasoning the mashed potatoes), missed cooking times by a large margin (the steak took three times as long to cook as the instructions indicated) and didn’t provide the right amount of ingredients (way to much salad dressing and not nearly enough arugula, for example). The recipes also felt a bit uninspired compared to some of the other offerings. Photos are provided on the recipe cards, making plating a breeze.
- Portion Size: The portions also varied greatly as some that were supposed to feed two people fed nearly six, and some were so lopsided with the entrée and side dish that the meal felt totally out of whack.
- Recipe Prep: Every recipe can be completed in less than an hour.
- Nutrition Info: PeachDish has an in-house registered dietician who provides complete nutrition information for every recipe.
- Extra Perks: Look for breakfast add-ons every week, plus special Southern-made items, like Belle Chevre cheese and Miss Ginny’s English Toffee. There's also a “daily dose” of chocolate from Cacao in Atlanta in each box.
- Recipe Creators: Blue Apron's in-house culinary team plans and tests the recipes and menus several months in advance.
- Recipes We Tried: Seared Steaks with Sauteed Radishes and Snap Peas; Hoisin-Glazed Chicken Meatballs with Zucchini; Seared Cod with Spring Vegetables and Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette
- Recipe Style: Blue Apron has a little bit of something for everybody: while some recipes leaned more toward the meat-and-potatoes crowd, others add fun global twists bursting with flavor for something a bit more off-the-beaten-path. All were easy to follow and turned out as promised. Photos are provided on the recipe cards, making plating a breeze.
- Portion Size: The portions were very well-balanced between entrée and side dishes and served two people very fully. Not many leftovers, but a very complete meal.
- Recipe Prep: The average prep time for all their recipes is 35 minutes.
- Nutrition Info: Blue Apron provides calorie information only for each of its recipes, listed under the ingredients on the step-by-step recipe cards. All servings are between 500 and 700 calories each.
- Extra Perks: Check out the Blue Apron Market, a curated e-commerce store full of kitchen gadgets and gear.
Note: Unanimously, all six meal kit delivery services only require users to have oil, salt and pepper on hand. They provide the remaining ingredients you need, save for the occasional egg, to cook your complete meal.
Comparing Ingredients: Sourcing Practices and Quality
TIED FOR #1 PICK, Garnish & Gather : “The core of our business is introducing folks to our amazing local farmers, chefs, and artisans,” says Golub. Expect produce from sustainable Georgia farms, like Red Earth Organic Farm, Crystal Organic Farm, Burge Organic Farm and Rise N Shine Organic Farm, seafood from the Southeast and meat from farmers who raise their animals with ethical and humane practices, like White Oak Pastures, Riverview Farms, and Darby Farms. Artisanal, local products are also available in the pantry section, like handmade pasta from Storico Fresco, fresh pizza dough from S&J Woodfire Pizza and slow-cooked meats from Pine Street Market. When G&G is unable to find certain produce (like onions or lemons) locally or regionally, they're almost always from domestic certified organic farms. Learn more here.
TIED FOR #1 PICK, PeachDish: Like Garnish & Gather, when you order from PeachDish, you can expect most of the ingredients that arrive in your box to be sourced from right here in Georgia. Meat from White Oak Pastures, organic produce from Love is Love Farm and Serenbe Farms, specialty salt from Beautiful Briny Sea, and there’s even a “daily dose” of local chocolate from Cacao Chocolatier in every box. They do source meats from NY-based Heritage Foods USA, but “they only sell heritage breed animals and are dedicated to supporting family farms, creating a completely traceable food system, and increasing genetic diversity while fostering land stewardship,” says a spokesperson for PeachDish. Learn more here.
Plated: Though very few of the ingredients in these boxes are from Georgia farmers, Plated uses their own strict ethics and quality standards when it comes to sourcing: all meats, from suppliers like Purely Meat Co (Chicago) and Weber Quality Meats (Alameda, CA), are 100 percent antibiotic-free with no added hormones, and all seafood is domestic and sustainably sourced from companies like Sea to Table and Quixotic Farms. “We do our best to get fresh, local ingredients closest to our four regional fulfillment centers,” says a spokesperson for Plated. Learn more here.
Home Chef: Though almost none of the ingredients in these boxes are from Georgia farmers, Home Chef does source fresh ingredients from Midwest farms and producers (mostly in Illinois), supporting organic and sustainable produce whenever possible. Recent partners include meat from Ruprecht Farms, seafood from Fortune Fish and produce from Goodness Greeness, Premier Produce and Get Fresh. Learn more here.
HelloFresh: The ingredients you receive depends on which coast you live on, but here in Atlanta (and in the rest of the East Coast), HelloFresh sources meat from various farmers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, like Mosner, Agostinos, USDA choice beef, humanely-raised chicken from Murray’s in New York and seafood suppliers like Scandia in New Jersey. Produce comes from a variety of suppliers, including Masser Potato Farms (Pennsylvania), Birrittella's Bakery (New York) and To-Jo Mushrooms (Pennsylvania). Learn more here.
Blue Apron: Though Blue Apron makes an effort to source fresh, seasonal ingredients from hard-working farmers, the boxes seem the least concerned with local, organic and sustainable sourcing of all the services available in Atlanta. It wasn’t always easy to tell where the products were from and some big-box brands appeared in the box. That being said, they do source some products from some reputable companies, like cheese from Vermont Creamery, ghee from Ancient Organics, stock from Bonewerks Culinarte and pasta from Severino. Learn more here.
Comparing Meal Options: Variety, Choice and Minimum Orders
Home Chef (most variety): Each week, a new menu with 8-12 options is posted for members to choose from. You must order a minimum of 4 servings every time you order, but you can put your subscription on hold as often as you like. Home Chef caters to a wide variety of tastes and dietary preferences, including omnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, low-calorie, low-carb, gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free. There are also smoothie and fruit basket add-on options available every week.
Blue Apron: Each week, a new menu with 10 options is posted for members to choose from. You must order a minimum of 3 meals every time you order, but you can put your subscription on hold as often as you like. Customers can specify certain dietary preferences including all meat and fish, vegetarian, pescetarian, no pork/shellfish, no red meat and no fish. Recipes are never repeated over the year, so you'll always try something new.
Plated: Each week, a new menu with 9 options (2 of which are Chef's Table recipes) is posted for members to choose from. You must order a minimum of 4 servings every time you order, but you can put your subscription on hold as often as you like. There are also 2 dessert add-on options available every week, with a 2 serving minimum.
PeachDish: Each week, a new menu with 6 options (4 of which rotate weekly, 2 of which are chosen by popularity and rotate seasonally) is posted for members to choose from. You must order a minimum of 4 servings every time you order, but there is no maximum order. You can put your subscription on hold as often as you like.
Garnish & Gather (best for people who only want 1 meal per week): Each week, a new menu with 8 options is posted for members to choose from. There is no minimum order, so you can order between 1 and 5 meals every week, and you can put your subscription on hold as often as you like.
HelloFresh (best for vegetarians): Each week, a new menu with 5 options (3 of which are vegetarian) is posted for members to choose from. You must order a minimum of 3 meals for either 2 or 4 people every time you order, but you can put your subscription on hold as often as you like.