Here’s the deal. I wanted to start using a meal subscription box in 2017, but I couldn’t decide which option would work best for me. I decided to try a few popular boxes, and I thought to myself, “Hey, you should write about this to help other people who have the same dilemma.” Alas, the Camryn Compares series was born. Away we go!
What I’m Looking For in a Meal Box
Before you read my reviews, I figure it’s important to lay out who I am and what I’m looking for in a meal box. My needs are relatively specific, and if, for instance, you’re a mother of three or a vegetarian, this review may not be helpful.
- I live alone, so one of my main struggles is trying to cook meals for one person without having huge amounts of leftovers, both in terms of servings and ingredients.
- I’m trying to be healthier (read: not eat pasta every night), so I want options that are nutritious but still tasty.
- I’m not fussy when it comes to food. I’ll try just about anything and have no dietary restrictions.
- I generally spend $80–$100 a week on groceries, so I’m OK with spending $60 or more if I get dinner for an entire week.
- Finally, I work from home and don’t have too many extracurricular activities, so I have ample time to prep and cook meals. Do I want to spend three hours making dinner? No, but I could technically do it if I needed to.
IMPORTANT: This post is not sponsored. I paid for all these boxes myself!
$61.50 for 3 two-person meals
7 recipes per week
Overall Quality: Medium
Marley Spoon, which is from Martha Stewart, was recommended to me by a family member. They offer a variety of box plans, both two-person and family, and the prices are comparable to other popular services.
- The meals are packaged well. Ingredients are separated into bags by meal so you don’t have to sort though everything to find what you need.
- The meals come with nice recipe cards, complete with nutrition facts.
- Most meals can be prepped and cooked within an hour.
- There aren’t restrictions on which meals you can order together..
- The instructions were a little confusing at times. I’m pretty comfortable in the kitchen, and I made a couple missteps that decreased the quality of the meals.
- Ingredient portions were off. For example, they sent me several ounces of ginger when the recipe called for just one ounce. Similarly, they sent a bottle of rice vinegar that contained twice as much as needed, so I had to measure it out.
- One of my recipes came with double ingredients, so I had a bunch of extra I had to throw away.
- The food is good, but not crazy delicious. I wouldn’t make any of these three recipes again.
- The leftovers were mediocre, at best.
- This is a personal preference, but two of my three recipes came with white rice as a side. I try to steer clear of simple carbs as much as I can, so I didn’t want to have rice two days in a row.
The meal pictured here is the Glazed Sesame Drumsticks with Miso-Butter Turnips and Greens—it was supposed to be made with rice, but I went without since this was enough food for me. It was the second meal I made from the box, and overall, it was OK. Probably a 6 out of 10. The only change I made to the recipe was not broiling the chicken once I put the glaze on—honestly, my smoke detector kept going off, and I knew the broiler would only make things worse. Instead, I put them back in the oven for 5 minutes at the initial temp. I do think the chicken would have been tastier if it had crispy skin, though.
$59.94 for 3 two-person meals
6 recipes per week
Overall Quality: Medium-High
I’d wager that Blue Apron is the most popular meal subscription service—when I posted on Facebook to see if anyone had tried these boxes, mostly everyone talked about Blue Apron. It’s the least expensive option, but only marginally. Again, this service offers two-person plans or family plans, but there are fewer options all around (more below!).
- The recipes are easy to follow, relatively quick and, most importantly, delicious. I will qualify and say some of my friends complain prep takes too long. Like I said earlier though, I’m not strapped for time, so I don’t mind spending an hour cooking.
- Blue Apron makes it easy to recycle all the packaging. Just save everything from two or more boxes and ship it all back to them for free.
- These meals made for pretty good leftovers.
- Fewest number of recipes to choose from per week, and there are restrictions on which meals you can get in one box. For instance, if you choose recipe A, you can’t also get recipe D. When there are only six recipes to choose from, this makes a big difference.
- If you’re going the two-person route, you have to get three meals per week. The other services let you get two or four meals.
- All the ingredients come mixed together, so you have to sort through them. Big deal? Nope. But it’s the little things.
- No recipe cards. I hate working off a digital recipe because the screen goes to sleep.*
- Ingredients that need to be refrigerated could be labeled more clearly. I didn’t notice the fettuccine needed to be in the fridge, and by the time I went to use it, there was mold growing. (Yes, this is technically my oversight, but the other boxes packaged refrigerated items together.)
*I found this to be odd, so I asked a friend about it. Apparently they do send recipe cards. I must have missed them somehow.
This beautiful meal was the first Blue Apron recipe I made: Seared Chicken and Mashed Potatoes with Mushrooms, Verjus and Kale. It was quick and easy to make—it probably took me a total of 40 minutes—and it was delicious. I’d give it an 8.5 out of 10. I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms, but the way these were prepared was really tasty. I did add a little milk to the mashed potatoes (not pictured here) to make them a little creamier, but I followed all the other directions to a T. Long story short, I would definitely make this recipe again.
$72 for 3 two-person meals
11 recipes per week + 2 optional desserts
Overall Quality: High
- By far the most choices out of any box, both in terms of plans and recipes. You can choose to receive 2, 3 or 4 meals per week, and they can serve 2, 3 or 4 people. Plus, there are 11 recipes to choose from every week—7 new options and 4 “encore” recipes, which are user favorites. Plus, you can add on dessert for a few extra bucks if you want.
- Easy-to-follow instructions, perfectly portioned ingredients, and amazing food!
- Probably the quickest meals to make with the least amount of prep. However, this could just be the recipes I chose.
- The recipes from Plated were the most “common,” for lack of a better word. None of them were weird, abstract meals that I’ve never heard of, and for me, that’s a pro.
- The best leftovers!
- By far the most expensive option.
- Recycling isn’t the easiest. Plated boxes come lined with recycled jute insulation that can be commercially composted, but I honestly don’t know where I would go to do that.
For my final recipe spotlight, I’ve chosen Plated’s Turkey Spinach Burgers with Creamy Aioli and Carrot Fries. To put it succinctly, I’m obsessed with this dish. In fact, I’ve already made it again. It’s super easy, pretty darned healthy and oh so delicious—I’d give it a 9 out of 10. What more could you want?! I followed the recipe exactly this time, and it came out impeccably. I’m not a huge fan of carrots, but these spicy carrot fries really impressed me—they may be entered into my rotation of go-to side dishes. I don’t know what more to say except you should try this dish, even if you don’t try Plated.
The Winner Is…
Ultimately, I decided to keep receiving meal boxes from Plated. The meals were the most in line with my tastes, and I like that there are lots of options in terms of how many meals/servings you can get. Yes, it’s more expensive, but I’d rather pay an extra $10 for meals that I’m really enthusiastic about making. I’ve received two boxes since my first one, and I’ve loved every recipe.
Ultimately, I decided to keep receiving meal boxes from Plated.
Do you subscribe to a meal box? Is there another option you think I should try? Let me know in the comments! I’m still open to testing out other options—there are plenty more to choose from.