THE SKINNY ON MEAL BOXES

There’s a big trend coming to a dinner table near you: meal subscription boxes. Never heard of them? Well, let us be the first to school you. For those of you who have heard of them, skip the next paragraph.

In a nutshell, meal subscription boxes are recipes and all the ingredients delivered to your doorstep. You’ll see there are variations on the theme as you read on. In most cases, you select your meals for the following week, schedule your delivery, and a box of ingredients and recipes for the week are delivered based on the schedule. No need to go grocery shopping, you get the exact amount of items measured out perfectly so there’s no waste.

Okay, now that we’ve got everyone up to speed, let’s hurdle right over the highly commercialized brands you most likely already know about – like Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Plated – and examine those that are lesser known and more specialized. (Disclaimer: this is a super competitive market. During our research, some brands were dropping like flies. Even Amazon is in on it. So, if you read this article and find a broken link, it means another one bit the dust, so don’t blame it on us). Here are the survivors (as of this writing) and the ones we feel are set apart from the rest.

Gobble

The trifecta of meal subscriptions: 3-steps, 10-minutes, one pan. That means less time cooking and cleaning and more time enjoying our meal. Plus, the menus make our tummies growl. Mole Rubbed Chicken Breast with Mexican Style Corn on The Cob and Braised Pinto Beans – uh, yum. Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Skewers with Sweet Chili Rice Noodles – are you kidding? We can pull this off at home? You bet. Ahi Poke Bowl with Seaweed Salad. Sign us up.

Martha & Marley Spoon

Yes, Martha, as in Martha Stewart, also has a meal subscription gig. And, of course, we love it, because Martha knows how to do it right. It’s the same business model as many of the better-known brands, but the recipes for the meals and ingredients are much more up our alley. Many of them look similar to the recipes in her book “Great Food Fast,” which is one of our faves. But in this case, we don’t have to the make trip to the grocery store. The box delivers exactly what we need, and the price is around $10 a portion. On this week’s menu is Balsamic-Tamari Steak with Grain & Mushroom Stir-Fry, and in next week’s is Cheese Ravioli with Spinach & Pine Nut Dressing. Yes, please.

Pete’s Paleo

No cooking required with this one – just heat and eat. And you can’t beat the price: $305 for a 5-meal subscription to feed a family of 4 for dinner. The meals are farm-to-table, based on what is harvested and available week-by-week. Some of the items on the menu this week that caught our eye: Pesto Chicken with Blistered Tomato and Spinach with Spaghetti Squash; and Thai Spiced Tri-Tip with Bok Choy and Roasted Butternut. Yum.

Purple Carrot

Through Purple Carrot you get 1-2 person plant-based meals three times week at a terrific price, roughly $11-13 a plate. We checked out the menu and would actually consider going vegan — especially when we read the menu for Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach Quesadilla with Refried Red Lentils and Lime Crema.

Its latest offerings are the TB12 Performance Meals, developed in partnership with Tom Brady. Based on the TB12 philosophy that helps athletes maximize their performance. TB12 meals looked a little more substantial. They are higher in protein and completely gluten free. What caught our eye was the Crispy Plantain Sofritas with Chiles & Avocado Mash.

Sakara

Have $420 a week to spend on your delivered meals? Then this one is for you. We’d rather hire a personal chef who will also give us a hot stone massage and clean the pool shirtless. But that’s just us. This is Gwyneth’s go-to meal delivery subscription, so it’s not a surprise that it delivers organic, plant-rich, gluten-free superfoods. Here’s a typical day of meals when you subscribe:

Upon rising: Sakara Morning WaterBreakfast: Chia Coconut Protein WafflesMid-morning: Sakara Detox TeaLunch: Kale Caesar with Hemp DressingMid-afternoon: Sakara Detox TeaDinner: Daydreamer Soba BowlBefore bed: Sakara Night Water

Sounds so healthy and we bet you feel great after a week of clean eating. Not sure you want to commit? Test the waters (literally). Order the beauty and detox waters for $24 for 4 bottles….and tell us what you think.

PlateJoy

PlateJoy is a play on the subscription box. Well, it’s actually not a box. It’s a meal planning service. PlateJoy provides customized recipes and grocery shopping lists based on dietary needs/restrictions, preferences and health goals. You start the process by taking a three-minute quiz and the folks at PlateJoy build meal plans around it. Then you click the button to create your personalized meal plan. By spying on others’ reviews (which were glowing), the meals included Pistachio-crusted Salmon with Roasted Vegetables, and Pesto Spinach Artichoke Chicken Breast Bake.

Josephine

Josephine is another take on the meal box, and it is a box, but instead of getting it delivered to your door, you pick it up at a neighbor’s. What? Let us explain. It’s a great concept. You sign up for a network of cooks in your community. You then take a look at what’s on the community cooks’ menus, order what you need, and pick it up during the time period they provide. For example, in our community tonight, Manda is making Hungarian Goulash and Rhubarb Galettes for dessert. Or, if we’re not feeling like Hungarian tonight, we can order Rosemary Chicken Penne with Asparagus from Laura for $8 a portion, but we better hurry up because she only has 5 portions left. There are so many things we love about Josephine. Not only do we get home-cooked meals (by someone else), we get a sense of community. See what’s cooking in your neighborhood.

As you can see, there are quite a variety of meal subscriptions out there, and this is just a small taste of the offerings available. But there’s definitely something for everyone – whether love to cook, hate to cook, or somewhere in between, vegan, paleo, or food aversions – you’re sure to find a box that fits you.

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