Boxed Meal Kits: Ready, Set, Cook

In Eat, June 2016 by Alexandra Drosu

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You may have heard of Blue Apron, one of the first boxed meal kits to address a common complaint: Not enough time to plan, shop, and prepare a home-cooked meal. In four years, the company transformed from a tiny start up to a $2 billion giant. Since then, many new companies with different culinary philosophies have joined the market. In fact, Amazon announced this month that they too will enter the game.

Though there are plenty of diverse menu options to choose from, most meal kit companies work in the same way. A week before your scheduled delivery, you choose a meal plan. Most give you the options of two, three or four meals weekly with the flexibility to skip weeks or cancel at any time. (Chef’d allows you to order individual meals that are shipped immediately.) You receive all the ingredients on Monday with easy-to-read recipe cards, and discard the packaging. The majority of the companies try to use sustainable and recyclable materials. You choose what you want to cook on what day of the week. It’s that simple. We tested some of our favorites.

Hello Fresh

Hello FreshHello Fresh

Lemon Grass Beef Stir-Fry

$69 for three meals serving two

Hellofresh.com

Difficulty: 3 out of 4

Box Basics:

Hello Fresh joined forces with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to come up with delicious and easy recipes. They offer three different box options—vegetarian, classic and family friendly—and source from independent suppliers. The menu changes weekly.  Bonus: Proceeds from each box are donated to Jamie’s Food Foundation.

Review:

Instructions were easy to follow. Prep time took a little longer than expected since it involved quite a bit of chopping, but the tasty meal was well worth the wait.


Terra's Kitchen

Terra's KitchenTerra’s Kitchen

Southwestern Steak and Sweet Potato Bowl

$74.99 for three meals serving two

terraskitchen.com

Difficulty: 1 out of 4

Box Basics:

Choose from 32 meals that include vegetarian, paleo and gluten-free options. They choose your meals but you can swap them.  The meals arrive by FedEx in a reusable, eco-friendly vessel; it looks like and acts like a mini-fridge. After removing the ingredients, you leave it outside and it’s picked up the next day. Bonus: You can also order Grab and Go meals, which are pre-assembled, ready–to-enjoy salads.

Review:

The dish was delicious and really easy to cook; the directions were clear and easy to understand. But the best part—everything was pre-cut even the jalapenos—big time saver!


Plated

PlatedPlated

Spring Minestrone with Parmesan Crisps

$72 for three meals serving two

plated.com

Difficulty: 2 out of 4

Box Basics:

Choose from the regular menu, including vegetarian and meat selections, or the chef’s table that features premium cuts and market-priced seafood. Ingredients are pre-portioned to save time, and menus include many ethnic options. Bonus: You can add a dessert recipe to your order.

Review:

This one pot dish was easy to cook but the soup lacked seasoning. At first we were intimidated by the Parmesan crisps but they were simple to make and delicious.


Peach Dish

Peach DishPeach Dish

Wild-Caught Salmon with Peas, Fregola &Ricotta

$70 for three

meals serving two

peachdish.com

Difficulty: 2 out of 4

Box Basics:

PeachDish features southern-inspired and seasonal dishes, while also focused on sustainable and local sourcing. Each box comes with a list of small farmers and suppliers. (Our salmon came from The Wild Salmon Company in Asheville!) Bonus: You can shop for artisanal products such as hot sauce to ship with your order.

Review:

The step-by-step instructions were easy to follow, even for a novice chef. Though the dish was simple, it was balanced and flavorful.


Chef'd

Chef'dChef’d

Ahi Tuna Bruschetta with Kale Salad and Basil Aoli

$113 for three meals serving two

chefd.com

Difficulty: 3 out of 4

Box Basics:

Chef’d offers hundreds of recipes from top chefs, and you can order tonight and get your box in two days. But you pay for gourmet. One of the best websites functionally, click on the kind of dishes you want—vegan, gourmet, lamb—and get a varied list of meals. You can also browse by chef. Bonus: Each recipe offers pairing suggestions for drinks.

Review:

More advanced knife skills come in handy to slice the tuna, and there were several components to make. But the result was fantastic: hearty portions that left us wanting more!


Drink Boxes

vine box

Tasting Notes

The world’s first wine-by-the-glass delivery service, VineBox sends you three, 10 oz. pours of wine from around the world in vials. If you like the wine, you can buy more glasses or even a full bottle. Memberships are limited and range from $30 to $35 per month, based on your commitment. For those who are new to wine or just enjoy exploring different vintages, it’s the perfect way to turn your living room into a tasting room. getvinebox.com

Brewpublik

Doorstep Beer

Started by two self-proclaimed beer nerds in 2014, Brewpublik is a craft beer home delivery service. You start by answering a few questions about your beer preference and palate, then you choose the 6 pack, 12 pack or 24 pack. Their Brewgorithm uses your taste profile to pick selections that you’ll find appealing. The company distributes within 30 minutes of downtown Raleigh. If you follow them on Instagram, you can be the first to know about hard-to-find beers and comment whether you want to add the item to your order. To sign up visit brewpublik.com

 

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