MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Meal delivery services promise to make our lives easier with no planning or trips to the grocery store – and there is a growing list of kits to choose from. We sent WCCO’s Liz Collin to test some of the most popular to see if they deliver on taste and cost.

The ads make it sound simple, promoting meal services that sound strikingly similar whether it’s Home Chef, Green Chef, Freshly or Blue Apron.

The catchy commercials were enough to get Denise La Mere-Anderson and Dawn Staycoff to order.

“No one has ever eaten my cooking and said ‘wow, I’d like to come back for seconds’,” La Mere-Anderson said.

“I do like to cook,” Staycoff said.

“That’s what I like about these meal boxes they give you new ideas and new recipes and you can adapt them,” she added.

We were there to see Dawn Staycoff whip up her first Home Chef dish.

“It’s chicken with fig glaze and goat cheese asparagus,” Staycoff said.

It’s a 15-minute recipe she followed on the app.

Denise La Mere-Anderson is a busy wife who clocks more than 50 hours a week at work.

“I was eating cereal and soup three meals a day because it worked with my lifestyle and it worked with my culinary skills,” La Mere-Anderson said.

“My first foray into meal delivery was Blue Apron,” she added.

As a self-confessed kitchen klutz, she tried a few services where you do the cooking yourself.

“For me, it was a lot of work,” La Mere-Anderson said.

But La Mere-Anderson found the prep always took longer than the listed time.

A commitment to her health kept La Mere-Anderson trying new subscriptions. It’s how she found Trifecta.

“I haven’t had a bad meal yet,” La Mere-Anderson said.

“This meal is dill and caper aioli salmon and roasted asparagus, most ingredients I couldn’t find in a store honestly, “she added.

Trifecta are never-frozen, organic meals delivered to her house each week. She simply pops them in the microwave for a few minutes.

But the easiest food to make came at the highest price in our comparison:

Trifecta costs at least $15 per meal. Blue Apron was next at nearly $10 per serving. The same with Green Chef. Hello Fresh rang up about a dollar cheaper and Freshly cost $1.50 less per serving.

Home Chef advertised the best value online with meals starting at nearly $7.

Shipping costs ranged from free to $10 a week. All plans offered coupons and incentives to get started.

Back at Staycoff’s, she bought the three meals with two servings a piece from Home Chef for $45. So, we wanted to see how much in theory her $15 chicken dish would cost at the grocery store. From pot roast seasoning to Dijon mustard, we cut corners where we could on the seven ingredients. We came up with a $24.49 total. Nearly $10 more than the Home Chef meal but with a lot more ingredients from the grocery store left over.

The companies Staycoff and La Mere-Anderson tried said they all made it easy to put a pause on the service. But La Mere-Anderson noted it took five phone calls to be able to cancel Green Chef, altogether.

Also, both women noted the large amounts of packaging with Green Chef and Home Chef, forcing them to figure out what do with the Styrofoam, ice packs and big boxes every week.

On Facebook, many parents shared their frustrations when they tried different meal kits when it comes to cooking for kids.

Sarah said: “We did Hello fresh for a few months but the meals weren’t exactly kid-friendly. We’d end up making separate things for the boys.”

Jon said: “We use to have hello fresh for while it worked fine for convenience and quick meal prep the ingredients where always fresh and good but we have picky kids so they didn’t always work out for us but gave us some new ideas…”

The following are statements from the companies we mention:

Blue Apron

Blue Apron is a home cooking company. We offer our customers 17 recipes every week across two plans (11 recipes per week on our two-serving plan and 6 recipes per week on our four-serving plan), all with varying cooking times, as well as a diverse selection of cuisines and high-quality ingredients including antibiotic-free beef, poultry, and pork, seafood consistent with the standards established by Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, and pasture-raised eggs from Vital Farms, a recognized leader in humane eggs.

With regard to cooking times specifically, nearly half of the recipes we offer every week can be cooked in 25-30 minutes, recognizing the need to provide a selection of quick options for busy weeknights. Every Blue Apron meal, regardless of the time it takes to cook, is created with a relentless focus on quality whether it’s through the ingredients we source, the diverse cuisines we offer, or the delicious flavors and tastes that delight our customers when they cook with us.

Green Chef

Regarding Packaging:
Green Chef is committed to using the most eco-friendly packaging available to protect our customer’s food in transit. We balance critical customer requirements for food quality and safety against the commercial packaging options available and strive to use the most sustainable options.

Green Chef is the only meal kit company to offset 100 percent of its direct carbon emissions and the plastic from every box sold. Through a new partnership with Plastic Bank, Green Chef offsets more than the plastic used in every box, which has a tangible impact on reducing plastic pollution in our oceans.

Customers can find more information on our sustainability practices along with ways to reuse, recycle, or compost our packaging materials on our website.

Regarding cancellations:
To cancel their orders, customers can call Customer Service at 888-236-7295. Customers also have the option to pause their deliveries at any time through the Green Chef website. They will not be charged when they choose to skip a delivery.

What makes it different:
Green Chef is a USDA-certified organic company (and the first-ever in the category) sourcing wholesome, clean, sustainable ingredients of the highest quality for every meal. You choose from five unique meal plans like Keto, Plant-Powered, and more for your lifestyle and we send easy-to-prepare recipes crafted by our expert chefs to take the guesswork out of what’s for dinner. All ingredients come premeasured, perfectly portioned, and mostly prepped. Each recipe also features our pre-made signature sauces, dressings, and spices.

Home Chef
Since 2013, Home Chef has provided recipes that feature fresh ingredients from our hand-picked community of trusted suppliers, sourcing locally whenever possible. More importantly, we also choose partners with sustainability practices we believe in. Our partnership with Kroger allows us to be everywhere our customers are and because of this partnership Home Chef can offer more variety and flexibility than other meal kits.

In terms of packaging, Home Chef carefully chooses the packaging and shipping methods and we have a program that advises customers how best to reuse or recycle. There are several studies out now that illustrate the carbon emissions resulting from meal kits’ ingredients and packaging, and while both study the entire ‘life cycle’ of a meal – from growing/producing the ingredient to tossing away unused products – the results show that meal kits have a smaller carbon footprint than a meal created after shopping at a grocery store and preparing it at home.

At Home Chef, we’re committed to tackling packaging waste, while ensuring that our ingredients reach our customers in the safest and highest quality conditions. We use packaging that is recyclable or reusable and also keeps the food at a safe temperature during the entire journey from our facility to our customer’s home.

Added: Hello Fresh

HelloFresh is the leading meal kit brand in the U.S. and globally. In addition to having the most 5-star ratings on Trustpilot, we offer more than 20 delicious meals each week that provide home cooks with a truly rewarding and satisfying cooking experience. Each week, our chefs create a wide range of recipe options, including low-calorie, classic, family-friendly, vegetarian, gourmet and 20-minute meals. In addition, customers can now enhance their at-home dining experience with a selection of chef-curated meal additions that range from premium proteins, quick lunches, decadent desserts and savory sides.

Trifecta

Trifecta was created to remove the possibility of diet failure by delivering fresh, healthy meals directly to your door. The number one reason people fail at dieting is lack of consistency – because they don’t have the time to meal prep every week, they are persuaded by endless temptations or just find their diet too difficult to stick to.

We offer six unique meal plans, designed to help you hit your unique health and fitness goals whether you are eating at home, in the office, or on the run. And the best part is, you don’t have to shop, cook or stress about what to eat – we do all the hard work for you, helping you stick to your diet and finally achieve the results you set out for. We’ve helped countless customers lose weight, and improve their overall health and fitness, just check out our inspiring before and after stories.

There are no commitments or fees and you can skip any week’s delivery in advance or cancel at any time.

Liz Collin

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