Looking for an easier way to get dinner on the table every night? HFG compares the most popular meal delivery kits.
Let’s face it: life is busy! So, if someone else offered to plan your weekly menu, do your shopping and deliver it all to your door, who wouldn’t say yes. This helps explain the skyrocketing popularity of meal delivery kits — but are they healthy? And do they truly offer value for money? Here’s what you need to know.
How do they work?
Meal delivery kits usually work on a subscription basis — you sign up to receive a box of food for a set number of meals each week. The food comes to you in a well-insulated box. Inside you’ll find all of the ingredients (prepared and pre-portioned) that you’ll need to make the recipes, except for a few basic kitchen staples. You still need to cook the meal, but most of the work is already done.
Are they really healthy?
New research from The University of Sydney has analysed what meal delivery kits offer in terms of nutrition. It found that each meal in the most popular meal delivery kits in Australia provided two-to-three serves of veg, and some had a high proportion of whole grains.
On the less positive side, the study also revealed the average kilojoule content was between 2900kJ (700cal) and a hefty 4000kJ (950cal) per meal. There was a large variation in saturated fat content as well, with up to 22g per serve in some meals: that’s more than four times the acceptable level for a healthy meal. The study found some meal delivery kits had exceptionally high levels of sodium, ranging from an average of roughly 700mg to 1400mg per serve (the daily upper limit is 2000mg sodium).
What’s on the market?
We compare five of the most popular meal delivery kits.
The cost: From $7.49 per meal
The offer: You can choose from three meal plans: classic (with 10 recipes to pick from per week), vegetarian or family. HelloFresh promises recipes that are easy to follow and feature fresh, seasonal produce. To set up your subscription, you opt for three, four or five different meals per week, and choose two or four serves of each.
The verdict: HelloFresh has designed the family plan to keep mum, dad and kids happy, with friendly flavours for young palates, plus optional ingredients for those a little more daring.
The cost: From $6.25 per meal
The offer: Dinnerly has a two-person box and a family box, both of which can be vegetarian.
The company gives you the choice of ordering between three-to-five meals each week. The delivery kit is slightly cheaper than the other options outlined here, which Dinnerly attributes to using digital recipe cards instead of printed ones.
The company also uses recipes with fewer ingredients and chooses simple packaging.
The verdict: This meal delivery service is no fuss, with easy-to-follow recipes and just five steps.
Thomas Farms Kitchen
The cost: From $9.49 per meal
The offer: You can choose from a two-person box for three or four nights, or a four-person box for two, three or four nights. Thomas Farms Kitchen is unique in that it allows you to forego the meal kit subscription and opt for a one-off meals from the menu as you please. This gives you more flexibility in creating your meal plan.
The verdict: Unlike many other options, Thomas Farms Kitchen has options that can cater for singles, so no one misses out!
The cost: From $9.35 per meal
The offer: With 23 recipes to choose from each week, you’re spoilt for choice, with categories like vegan and vegetarian, gluten free and healthy. Theres a two-person and a four-person box, and you choose between two-to-four meals per week.
It’s a more expensive option, but as a bonus you can also order a fruit box for $24.90 per week.
The verdict: For true foodies, Marley Spoon has a more gourmet feel and offers plenty of variety with high-quality ingredients.
The cost: From $8.85 per meal
The offer: Pepper Leaf is an Australian-owned family business that prides itself on sustainable practices. You can opt to order a classic box, a vegetarian box or a family box, over two-to-five nights. There isn’t as much variety in the vegetarian category (with just three recipe options per week), but you get to choose from eight recipes in the other two categories. Pepper Leaf stands out for its promise to keep recipes to just 20 minutes.
The verdict: Great for larger crowds: the vegetarian and family boxes cater for up to six people, the most of any meal delivery kit.
Pros & cons
Consider these pluses and minuses before subscribing to a meal delivery kit.
Meal delivery kits can …
✓ Save time by doing the planning and shopping for you
✓ Allow you to enjoy the cooking experience without stress
✓ Create less food waste, as you only receive what you need for the recipe
✓ Expand your horizons in the kitchen, offering new flavours and skills
✓ Encourage you to eat at home more, which is good for your health
But, they also …
✗ Don’t provide everything you need — ingredients like olive oil, flour, herbs, and eggs in some cases, are not included
✗ Don’t completely eliminate the need to shop. You’ll still need to shop for breakfast, lunch and snack ingredients
✗ Don’t always cater for everyones dietary requirements
✗ Don’t necessarily save you money — you can easily prepare healthy meals at home for less than the cost of a serve from a meal-delivery kit
✗ Can create a lot of waste due to an excess of packaging, although most of this is usually recyclable
Melissa is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with a love of healthy, delicious food. She is passionate about helping others to lead healthier lives and teaching people to use nutrition to better their health.