I’m like you. As a full-time working parent with two boys, ages 4 and 7, one of my priorities has always been providing healthy meals for my children–but it’s also a challenge! (Can I get an amen?) Meal planning often falls by the wayside amidst busy weekends of laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning and family activities. And like you, I’ve always wondered about those meal services that I see ads and coupons for: Would these services make it easy for me to provide healthy meals without all the work? Are they worth the money?
So, when the opportunity came for me to try a few meal services, I jumped at the chance! I tried out five services and answered some of the questions we’ve all secretly wondered. Oh, and I starred our favorite meal from each service in case you want to try them too.
Honey Mustard Chicken with Roasted Winter Vegetables | Credit: Blue Apron
What delish food did we try? Honey Mustard Chicken with Roasted Winter Vegetables**, Fresh Cavatelli& Broccoli with Roasted Carrot& Arugula Salad
What did the grownups love? We loved the tasty food–and the new take on vegetables! Roasted veggies with added seasoning weren’t in my cooking repertoire before, and we loved the change.
What did our kids love? The kids were a big fan of the Honey Mustard Chicken. Yum-my.
How easy was the prep? It took me approximately 40 minutes to prepare. All of these meal services involved more chopping and prepping of produce than I’m used to, but the fresh fruits and veggies were ah-mazing.
What meal plans are available? The two-person plan offers six meal options, while the family meal plan offers four. The choices differ depending on the plan.
How much does this cost? Two family meals (for four people) per week costs $69.92; four family meals per week costs $139.84.
What else should you know?
Food is not separated by meal, except for the “Knick-knacks.” Speaking from experience, I’d say you’ll want to be sure to look through the bag and find the items that need to be refrigerated!
The portions seemed the smallest of the ones we tried. If my boys were any bigger, they would have needed more.
One-pot Tortelloni | Credit: Hello Fresh!
What delish food did we try? Shawarma Meatballs, One-Pot Tortelloni**, Sweet Apple Pork Chops
What did the grownups love? We loved the healthy foods HelloFresh snuck into the delicious recipes. My kids ate kale and cauliflower and barely even knew it! Brilliant.
What did the kids love? The kids were big fans of being able to help. Some recipes include a special time marked “Kids can help!” that allow for easy assistance by your little ones. My son loved mashing the cauliflower mash–and sneaking a taste or two.
How easy was the prep? It took me about 30-40 mins to prepare these meals. It was very reasonable and in line with the prep time printed on the recipe cards.
What meal plans are available? HelloFresh offers three meal plans: Classic, Veggie or Family. We chose the Family plan, but there were recipes on all three that looked yummy!
How much does this cost? Two meals for four people (two adults, two kids) cost $69.92; three meals for four people cost $104.88.
What else do you need to know?
Enclosed in my box was a HelloFresh apron. No laundry here!
These dishes were the favorites of my picky eater.
Chicago Parent readers can use Discount Code CHICAGOPARENT to receive $30 off their first box.
Hearty Minestrone with Beef, Kale& White Beans | Credit: Kate Blohm for PeachDish
What delish food did we try? Hearty Minestrone with Beef, Kale& White Beans, Herbed Chicken Breast with Mushroom Risotto**
What did the grownups love? In the box, PeachDish included a list of the companies that supplied the products. I love that they are promoting local business!
What did our kids love? My 4-year-old really found a favorite in the mushroom risotto.
How easy was the prep? To create these yummy meals, there was a lot more food prep and chopping of veggies than I’m used to. This took me longer than anticipated–over an hour. I think PeachDish would be ideal if you’re looking for more of a cooking experience, or even a fun date night of preparing dinner together.
What meal plans are available? PeachDish doesn’t offer different plans but gives you great variety of meals to choose from. Eight options are offered each week: four new and four seasonal. Plenty of options!
How much does this cost? Two servings cost $25; four servings cost $50; six servings cost $70.
What else should you know?
Standard meals are for two people, but you can increase up to 12 people. Be sure to check the prices first!
PeachDish food is more Southern-style.
The meals come beautifully packaged in green and pink bags, giving off a more “Southern” impression.
Cheesy Baked Potatoes with Mushroom Marsala Sauce& Arugula | Credit: Plated
What delish food did we try? Barbecue Turkey Meatloaf with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Broccoli**, Cheesy Baked Potatoes
What did the grown-ups love? I love that Plated takes into consideration how different types of families affect meal size. They share what size meals will work for one parent with two kids, two parents and two kids, or two parents and one teenager. Anticipating the appetites of my boys in future years, I appreciate that they acknowledge that small kids have different appetites than teenagers.
What did our kids love? They loved being able to help. Plated suggested specific ways that kids could be involved–my youngest loved shaping the individual meatloafs!
How easy was the prep? It took about 30-40 minutes to make the meals. The instructions were some of the least complicated and easy to follow.
What meal plans are available? Plated offers more options as far as the number of meals each week, and it has variety in servings. It offers anywhere from two to four meals a week, with up to four servings each.
How much does this cost? Since there are so many options, pricing varies greatly. Two servings (one adult and two kids; two adults) start at two meals for $48 per week. Three servings (three adults; two adults and two kids; two adults and one teen) start at two meals for $72 per week. Four servings (two adults and three kids; two adults and two teens) start at two meals for $96 per week.
What else should you know?
Plated was packaged in environmentally friendly materials (coffee bags and raw cotton) along with directions on how to recycle and compost the packaging.
Spinach& Artichoke Pasta | Credit: Home Chef
What delish food did we try? Butter Roasted Chicken with cacao e pepe mashed potatoes and roasted Brussel sprouts, Spinach& Artichoke Pasta**
What did the grown-ups love? I loved that the simplicity of the meals was mixed with a few new twists and just enough flare to make it feel “gourmet.”
What did our kids love? They kids liked that the food wasn’t too fancy and was similar to what we typically eat at home. They’ve requested I make the gravy that was served with the Butter Roasted Chicken again. Success!
How easy was the prep? The prep was one of the easiest of the services I tried, and it only took about 30-40 minutes. The recipe was easy to follow, and there wasn’t too much chopping of produce.
What meal plans are available? Home Chef offers just one meal plan and you can choose from ten meals each week. There are some additional add-ons available–desserts, breakfast, etc. You can order up to six meals each week for two, four or six people.
How much does this cost? It is $9.95 per serving, unless noted otherwise.
What else should you know?
You can order meals five weeks in advance. Talk about meal planning!
Home Chef is a Chicago-based company.
Other questions you might have:
Can I cancel my order at any time? Most of these food services make it easy to make changes to your meals. If you want to skip a week or change the amount of food, it’s no problem!
Can I re-create the meals? Yes! These companies give you the recipe cards with all the ingredients and the amount, although occasionally there are spice blends that can’t be re-created. Even if you don’t re-order a meal, you can make it again if you really love it!
Are nutrition facts included? Every company included the nutritional facts so you can keep track of what your body (and your kids’ bodies!) is taking in.
Is this good to give as a gift? I think this would be a fabulous gift for newly married couples. Many of these meal services are all about the experience and I think it would be great to give that to those just starting out in marriage. I don’t think it’s a great gift for parents of newborns. These meals require time and focus, which we all know are luxuries with a new baby at home.
Is it worth it? While this didn’t magically solve all my meal problems, it definitely did help with the meal planning. It was a weight off my mind not to have to answer that question of “What are we going to have for dinner?” every night. My kids weren’t always open to change and didn’t always like the food (especially my picky eater). It also did take more time to prepare meals than I’m used to, and it didn’t really allow the opportunity to help my kids with homework or even set the table. (That’s my husband’s job, though … right?)
I also thought it might be good for families who are vacationing, yet want some home-cooked meals. For example, if renting a house for a week, families could have their meals delivered–making meal planning easy and eliminating some of that tedious grocery shopping.
So… which one should I try? Well, I can’t say for everyone, but based on prep time, kid friendliness, food tastes and price point, Hello Fresh seems to be the best fit for my family. Did I mention my kids ate cauliflower???