Meals by Mail 

Which Meal Kit Delivery Service is right for you?

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Suzanne Pacey/Staff
PEACHDISH: Flatbread with Smoked Salmon, Artichokes and Arugula
Suzanne Pacey/Staff
MARTHA & MARLEY SPOON: Broiled Chicken and Tomatoes with Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes and Pesto
Suzanne Pacey/Staff
HOME CHEF: Chicken Quesadillas with Homemade Guacamole and Pico de Gallo
Suzanne Pacey/Staff
BLUE APRON: Hoisin Chicken Steam Buns with Miso-Sesame Slaw, Cucumber & Cilantro
Suzanne Pacey/Staff
HELLO FRESH: Crispy Spiced Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries and Garden Salad
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By SUZANNE PACEY
Posted

Cooking dinner at least four times a week is standard procedure in my home, but I’m getting bored with the same old recipes and so is my family. We end up eating the same thing over and over.  That is why a Meal Kit Delivery Service seemed intriguing to me…but are they worth the price? An investigation was needed.

A Meal Kit Delivery Service promises to deliver fresh ingredients to your door each week, saving you the time and hassle of meal planning and grocery shopping.  The service does the grocery shopping for you and ships you everything you need to cook the meal: including meats, veggies,
seasonings, etc. Most dishes take 30 minutes or less with step-by-step visual instructions.

The first question that came to my mind before ordering was cost.
I found the pricing similar across the board, ranging from about $9 per person per meal to about $12 including shipping. Depending on where you live, the average $10 per person price did not seem too much to pay. A fast food meal in this area can easily cost around $8, and home delivered meals are significantly tastier and better for you.

I reached out to five services in the metro area: Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, PeachDish and Martha & Marley Spoon. All services were similar. The chefs create delicious, healthy, balanced recipes.

Here is a look at how these services work and my opinion of each kit I received.

Hello Fresh provides farm-fresh ingredients and focuses on healthy recipes.

I SELECTED THE FOLLOWING THREE MEALS:
French Onion Soup Burger, with Béchamel, Caramelized Onions, and Kale Chips.
Crispy Spiced Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries and Garden Salad.
Blackened Tilapia with Crispy Potatoes and Blistered Veggies.

French Onion Soup Burger, was yummy. I would of never thought of putting nutmeg in the béchamel or fresh thyme in the caramelized onions…it was a treat. Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries was much easier to prepare then the burger kit. The chicken was excellent, nice and tender and crispy.  The salad was fresh and perfect accompaniment. Precooking the panko mixture was a nice variation on cooking the chicken breasts.

The Tilapia with Crispy Potatoes, unfortunately, was not a family favorite. The fish lacked flavor and would have benefitted from little more blackening. No one in my family is a big fan of peppers, and they overwhelmed the other vegetables.  The potatoes, on the other hand,  were excellent. They  were very crispy on the outside and nice and tender in the middle.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:  4 stars
Ingredients were fresh, easy to prepare, but I had to use several pans for dinner preparation, so there was more clean up than anticipated . (Use NORTHSIDE35 to receive $35 off their first box at HelloFresh.com at check out)

Blue Apron focuses on seasonal ingredients, as well as unique ingredients and easy to follow recipes.

I SELECTED THE FOLLOWING TWO MEALS:
Hoisin Chicken Steam Buns with Miso-Sesame Slaw, Cucumber & Cilantro.
Seared Pork Chops with Two-Cheese Mashed Potatoes & Sautéed Spinach.

I was very happy with the Hoisin Chicken meal. The ingredients were fresh,  it was easy to prepare and everything was measured out. It would of been hard for me to put this meal together on my own since Chinese buns, hoisin, and miso paste are not on my normal grocery list. It was nice to serve something a little different and work with ingredients I normally don’t buy. Again, ingredients were fresh and everything was measured out with the Pork Chop meal. The mashed potatoes were a big hit, the cheese in them was an added treat. I loved the spinach as it was sautéed perfectly with just the right amount of garlic. The pork came out a little tough, apparently overcooked or not an optimal piece of meat.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:  3 stars
Ingredients were fresh, easy to prepare, but there was a limited selection on the website. The packaging was a bit cumbersome, and I was unaware that item in the “Knick Knack” bags needed to go in the refrigerator. (Receive two feee meals when using www.blueapron.com/northside at check out)

PeachDish features Southern-inspired meals, plus a  surprise snack and two fresh peaches.

I SELECTED THE FOLLOWING TWO MEALS:
Herbed Hanger Steak with Green Beans, Red Onions and Grits.
Flatbread with Smoked Salmon, Artichokes and Arugula.

I loved both of these meals.  The Hanger Steak was a very good cut of meat and the herb rub was a unique way of coating the meat after cooking. The Smoked Salmon Flatbread was also a big hit. Instead of having it for a meal I made it for an appetizer when guests came over. They were very impressed with my culinary skills. The flavor combination of the smoked salmon, artichoke hearts and parmesan cheese was fantastic.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:  5 stars
All the items were packed very well, in cute organza bags (which I saved). But the bags were not labeled so it was a little confusing as to which bag contained what meal.  Everything inside each bag was clearly labeled with cute “peach labels”.  PeachDish also included a special treat that other meal kits did not.  (Recieve $10 off your first order when using Northside16 at check out)

Home Chef offers fresh ingredients, pre-portioned with a limited amount of prep and easy-to-follow recipes. Home Chef also offers meal items beyond dinners with breakfast or a spring fruit basket available.

I SELECTED THE FOLLOWING TWO MEALS:
Chicken Quesadillas with Homemade Guacamole and Pico de Gallo.
Flat Iron Steak and Bleu Cheese Salad with Honey-Caramelized Onions and Walnuts.

Chicken quesadillas were excellent, and big hit with the kids. They were easy to prepare and the ingredients were very fresh. The only issue I had was the seasoning package for the chicken was very spicy, so I was glad I didn’t use the entire amount. The flat iron steak was not a big hit. The quality of the meat was just adequate,  but the other ingredients again were fresh, and it was easy to prepare. The seasoning was very strong and the dressing for salad was very heavy on the mustard.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:  3 stars
Packaging was very good. Everything was labeled very well. I love the added recipe notebook that was provided for recipes. The seasoning packets need to be more specific on how much quantity to use. With the meal kits you are to include all ingredients at the amounts given but in this case I would adjust these depending on your taste. (Readers can receive $30 off their first order with the code: GOODEATS at check out)

A new comer to the area ...

Martha & Marley Spoon features Martha Stewart’s award winning recipes and smart cooking techniques.

I SELECTED THE FOLLOWING TWO MEALS:
Broiled Chicken and Tomatoes with Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes and Pesto.
Cumin Pork Tenderloin with Rice Pilaf Cilantro Salad.

The Broiled Chicken was a great combination of  everyday dinner items with a twist.  The broiled chicken breasts with tomatoes and pesto was a great alternative to the basic chicken dinner. Pork Tenderloin was fantastic. The rice pilaf had a nutty flavor and combined with the unique flavor of the cumin on the pork, made the dish a perfect combination.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:  4 stars
Packaging was not as cumbersome as some of the other kits. Ingredients were fresh and meat items were packed well. The recipe cards were very easy to follow. Recipes seemed easy enough to repeat on my own. There is just not a lot of variety on the website when ordering. (Readers can enter NORTHSIDE35 at check out to receive $35 off their first box, valid until July 31, 2016.)

In summary, the  services cost a bit more than doing your own meal planning and grocery shopping, and it is more work than just ordering takeout. But the combination of convenience and experimenting with new recipes and cooking methods makes the service very appealing.  Plus  there is no food waste since you never have to figure out how to use the rest of the kale you bought for that one recipe because they only send what you need! The step by step instructions were also a good way to get my family involved in the cooking. I will continue to use some of these services again, and rotate them in my meal plan.
Happy eating! ■

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