Everyone knows the top seeds in the meal delivery kit lineup. But take away Blue Apron and HelloFresh, and there’s a whole world of other services out there offering healthy options, minimal plastic waste and flat-out delicious meals. I took a brief hiatus from the misery that is grocery shopping in New York City and tried these five meal kits to see how they stack up.
① Daily Harvest
Price: $8 maximum per smoothie, cheaper in bulk
This smoothie service delivers premeasured cups of frozen ingredients, so you simply add the liquid of your choice, pour it all into a blender and drink up. Convenience aside, it allows you to try new and buzzy health food ingredients like camu camu and maca without committing to buying them in bulk. Compared to juice deliveries, the smoothie model is far superior—and fresher.
Pros: The box is an easily manageable size. Granted, it holds six cups rather than three full meals, but this also means there is little to no waste. I also can’t praise the Carrot + Chia flavor enough. Daily Harvest claims it tastes like carrot cake, which is true, but it also has notes of sweet potato pie, gingersnaps and (dare I say) pure happiness.
Cons: A few flavors fell flat and left me wanting to add flavor boosters of my own, which defeats the purpose of the blend-and-go theory. It’s also easy to succumb to the auto-renewal, so remember to pause your subscription as needed.
② Terra’s Kitchen
Price: $65 minimum for three meals, varies based on choices
Welcome to the future: These meals are delivered in a climate-controlled vessel, essentially a mini fridge with sliding trays of prepared ingredients. You return the vessel, then it’s reused up to 100 times. The menu caters to any special diets, and though it is hard to choose from the many great options, the vegan power bowl, sugar and spice salmon, and vegetarian rainbow kebabs are winners. I’ll be honest and say the pineapple was so ripe and looked so delicious that it somehow disappeared before I could finish preparing the kebabs.
Pros: These meals are the easiest to cook in terms of prep work, and the recipes are written logically—a blessing and a rarity in the delivery-kit world. I’d eat all the dishes again: I got an adrenaline rush from the salmon’s level of perfection, and I’ve already remade the power bowl.
Cons: Though you can order all the bison and steak bowls you want, it’ll cost you. The meaty dishes are far pricier, running up to $18 each. And though the delivery method is smart and green, the container weighs about the same as a robust fifth grader, which could be backbreaking on those living in sixth-floor walk-ups.
③ Purple Carrot
Price: $68 for three two-person meals
The all-vegan meal delivery service started by Mark Bittman switched to a summer of rotating guest chefs, like blogger Gena Hamshaw and Philadelphia chef Rich Landau. These menus read the most like Blue Apron, just with a plant-based twist.
Pros: The meals are all highly filling, and the quality of ingredients is right up there with an organic grocery store. Step-by-step photo instructions make even unfamiliar recipes easy to follow.
Cons: Even if you fall in love with a certain recipe, it’ll likely be a one-night stand. With just three meal choices each week, it’s rare that previous dishes pop up again. You’ll just have to (gasp!) seek out the ingredients on your own.
④ Sun Basket
Price: $69 for three two-person meals
With fully recyclable and compostable packaging, this one is all about minimal waste—but that doesn’t mean the recipes are lacking. The black-pepper tofu with coconut forbidden rice warmed every part of my soul, and proves that stir-fries don’t have to feel like a cop-out. The company partners with small businesses to source some ingredients, like beet powder from Oaktown Spice Shop, which spices up the marinade in its spin on tandoori chicken. Keep an eye on its Instagram account for profiles of its providers, which helps you feel even closer to the source.
Pros: Using 100-percent recycled products is a huge plus, considering how much waste these services can accumulate. Sun Basket is also the first kit to offer a breakfast option and lets you swap a dinner for two morning meals. Fingers crossed other services follow suit with this idea.
Cons: The recipes aren’t the easiest to read and are slightly more complicated than the one-pot approach of other services. But this allows you to learn new techniques, like how to cook fish in parchment.
⑤ Vegan Cuts
Price: $23 for a single month
Calling all the snackers out there. Every month, this service sends a box filled with chips, granola bars, healthy(ish) cookies and even beverages to help battle that 4 p.m. snack hour. And while there’s bound to be something you don’t love, you can always just swap snacks with coworkers.
Pros: It’s an extremely cost-efficient way to find out about new products, and it saves you from buying a boxful of something you might not like.
Cons: Some of the products I loved were tough to find out in the real world, so if I didn’t purposely seek them out online, they were out of my life forever.