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What’s for Dinner? (AGAIN?!) :: Exploring Meal Kit Options

What’s for Dinner? (AGAIN?!) :: Exploring Meal Kit Options | Columbia SC Moms BlogWe eat dinner at home most nights of the week. I am the cook of the family and each day my husband will ask, “What’s for dinner?” Sometimes it feels like I am stuck in Groundhog Day, making the same things again and again. Sure, I could search Pinterest for ideas or make a recipe from one of the many cookbooks and cooking magazines I own, but that’s just too much trouble (apparently).

I grocery shop with a list each week and while I do “menu plan,” I do not “research” before I go. Therefore I never seem to have the ingredients I need for a new recipe. I just buy the same stuff every week. So I decided to try a meal kit, hoping it would help add some variety to our dinner time routine.

There are a TON of those meal kits out there – making it hard to choose what might work best for my family. I did a very informal survey of my Facebook friends and found that the same kits were mentioned again and again. I decided to try them all (well, 4 of them).

What You Can Expect With Each Meal Kit

Note – all meals I chose were whatever option was offered for vegetarians. 

Some things are the same for each meal kit – they all come with step-by-step recipes that you can keep and use another time. They all come with most of the ingredients you need for the meal. They assume you have basic things like olive oil, butter, etc.

Each comes in a large box with lots of packaging, including a large ice bag so that your food stays cool on your porch if you are not home to receive it. They all have websites/apps/Facebook pages that allow you to get a sneak peek of the upcoming meals. You can also skip weeks, if needed, for vacations, or weeks you know you have lots of events and will be eating out.

Most of them have a variety of options in terms of special diets, number of servings, and delivery frequency. All of the kits I received were correct and fresh. Depending on your kids, most meals will be fine for them. However, you might just find yourself making a separate meal for more picky eaters. 

Blue Apron

$60 a week/3 meals/serves 2 people

Blue Apron Meal Kit | Columbia SC Moms Blog

From their Facebook page: “Blue Apron makes cooking fun and easy. We’ll provide you with all the ingredients that you need to make a delicious meal in exactly the right proportions.”

Blue Apron had the best tasting meals, in my opinion, and meals that I would attempt to make again (with less cheese, however – so much cheese in these recipes). These meals were fairly kid-friendly. Blue Apron was the only meal kit that did not package ingredients by meal, so I felt like I was putting groceries away from my weekly grocery store trip when I was un-boxing. This also made it a little more time consuming when it came time to cook the meals. I had to look for everything. There is a lot of packaging with Blue Apron.

My husband and I disagree here, but I did not feel like there was enough food with every meal. I needed to add from our pantry for some meals. For example, one night there was an olive and pepper grilled cheese sandwich with a small salad. For lunch, that’s fine, but for dinner I needed to add soup to that meal. Another night was a coconut rice bowl with an egg. I added chicken for my husband and tofu for myself.

Purple Carrot

$72 a week/3 meals/serves 2 people

Purple Carrot Meal Kit | Columbia SC Moms Blog

From their Facebook page: “Purple Carrot is the plant-based meal kit company. We deliver fresh, pre-portioned ingredients and simple step-by-step guidance for people to cook distinctive, healthy, plant-based meals at home. Eating plant-based meals — even if only a few times a week — has a positive impact on people’s health, the environment and animal welfare.” 

Purple Carrot appealed to me the most because it is all plant-based. The other meal kits I tried offer vegetarian options, but you get mostly regular vegetarian fare (cheese based dishes, sandwiches, pasta dishes). Purple Carrot offers more inventive dishes. Unless you have pretty adventurous eaters (or eat like this on a regular basis already), you will probably have to make separate meals for your children (and perhaps your spouse). I did feel like we got enough food and I will make a few of these recipes again. Corn and “Crab” Dumplings with Ginger Fried Rice was one of my favorites. Not a meal I would have ever attempted on my own, but it was so yummy. So I will be making it again. 

HelloFresh

$60 a week/3 meals/serves 2 people

HelloFresh Meal Kit | Columbia SC Moms Blog

From their Facebook page: “Designed by our team of trained chefs, each HelloFresh recipe is delivered with the exact farm-fresh ingredients needed to make a delicious and nutritious home-cooked meal in under 30 minutes. Every week HelloFresh members choose three meals from a selection of award-winning, constantly-changing recipes (say goodbye to recipe boredom!). HelloFresh then utilizes its network of local, family-owned purveyors to source the freshest ingredients possible for each of those recipes and ships the exact amounts straight to your door, for around $10 per person per meal.” 

HelloFresh was our least favorite. However, I will say that I have several friends who are meat-eaters, who enjoy HelloFresh very much. So, I think that for vegetarians, this one is not the best, but meat eaters may have a different opinion! I had plenty to eat with HelloFresh, because my fairly adventurous husband did not dig most of the meals. One meal was sweet potato “steaks,” (which I turned into a hamburger and sweet potato fries for him). With the main ingredient in the other meals being things like barley and farrow, it was a hard sell to my pizza and pasta loving guy. 

Sun Basket

$80 a week/2 meals/serves 4 people

Sun Basket Meal Kit | Columbia SC Moms Blog

From their Facebook page: “Organic and sustainably sourced produce and responsibly-sourced meats and seafoods. Easy recipes from a top San Francisco chef. Paleo, Lean & Clean, Gluten-free, and Vegetarian options. Recyclable packaging. Skip a week or cancel any time.”

Sun Basket was the most kid-friendly. The recipes come in an actual booklet that you can save for later (the rest of the boxes had recipes on separate sheets of paper). Each recipe had ideas for encouraging kids to help in the kitchen. The meal portions were large enough and easy to prepare. The week I tried Sun Basket, we had sweet potato, black bean chili cheese fries and smoked-mozzarella polenta with ragu and pesto. THAT was kind of amazing. 

If you are in a rut, I think a subscription to a meal kit will kick start your creativity. You will long for days where you do just boil some water and have pasta with jarred pasta sauce, but it is kind of fun to experiment and try something new. All plans were easy and simple to cancel and they all allow you to “reactivate” at any time. 

What are your family’s favorite meal kits?

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