5 On Your Side

Meal kit services deliver fresh, customizable dinners to doorstep

Posted September 22

The home delivery meal kit business is red hot right now as companies promise to deliver everything you need to make a fresh meal right to your door.

There are several different companies that offer the service. Blue Apron is probably the most well-known, but now even Martha Stewart is in on the act. Consumer Reports just checked out some of the most popular services.

Meal kits are changing the way many Americans make dinner: The pre-packed, chilled box arrives at your door with every ingredient you need to whip up dinner, except for staples, such as salt and pepper.

In most cases, you can pick the meals or have the company choose for you.

They are convenient, but are they fresh? Healthy? Affordable? Consumer Reports food experts evaluated five national meal kit services: Blue Apron, Green Chef, HelloFresh, Plated and Purple Carrot.

"We prepared and tasted a week's worth of dinners from each service, and we found that 24 of 27 meals were very good to excellent," said Consumer Reports' Dietician Amy Keating.

HelloFresh was a standout for its dishes, such as the blackened tilapia with blistered vegetables. Of the meals tested, Hello Fresh averaged the lowest in fat, calories and sodium.

Green Chef features all organic ingredients. Their recipes, such as veggie polenta fajita and steak tapenade with broccoli slaw, feature lots of veggies used in creative ways.

Consumer Reports also asked 57 meal kit users about their experiences. Nearly every one said they liked trying different flavors. While the cost is about $10 to $12 per portion, the majority of meal kit users surveyed say the dinners are a good value.

"Americans throw away 28 percent of the produce they buy," Keating said. "Meal kits come with exactly what you need for the recipe, so there's no waste."

In every case, Consumer Reports testers found the ingredients arrived fresh, and the meals took close to the claimed time to prepare.

So, now you can dine in like you're dining out. But in this case you're also the chef.

If you want to give meal kits a try, Consumer Reports suggests you shop around. Many can be tailored to your specific needs whether you're vegan, vegetarian or have a family to feed.

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