The 8 Best Meal Delivery Services For Families
Let’s be honest, who really has time for meal planning and grocery shopping?
You may feel often that there’s not enough time in the day, but for busy families, this is the understatement of the year. When parents aren’t working or sleeping, they’re folding laundry, changing a toddler’s diaper, taking a shower, walking the dog, shuttling kids to soccer practice, cleaning the bathroom, and so on and so forth. The daily barrage of to-dos seems insurmountable, and this is where meal delivery services swoop in and save the day.
Meal kit delivery services have grown in popularity over the last decade, and it’s easy to see why. As you creep into a drive-thru line at the end of the day, these companies interject with a better idea — nutritious, high-quality recipes that also save you time. For a family of four with busy schedules and varied tastes and dietary needs, these companies provide much more than a convenient alternative to meal prep and grocery shopping. The trick is knowing which service, among the dozens available today, is best for you and your clan.
Take a look at the information below, outlining important details on eight of the country’s most popular meal delivery services and why they’re the best options for families.
Overview of the best meal delivery services for families
Founded in 2013, Home Chef is one of the original meal kit delivery services, and it’s only improved with age. In fact, Home Chef delivered more than 10 million meals in 2019 alone.
One of the many features that makes Home Chef so popular, especially among families with picky eaters or dietary restrictions, is their level of customization options. When you sign up for Home Chef, you’ll complete their “taste profile” and note any dietary needs or preferences you may have. For individual recipes, you can use their “customize it” option to swap out one protein, like steak, for another, like organic chicken breasts. You can even choose the ingredients you want to avoid, like nuts and mushrooms!
Home Chef also lets you decide how much time you want to spend cooking, by providing simple options like “15 Minute Meal Kits” all the way up to their “Culinary Collection.” And instead of offering traditional “meal plans,” you’ll pick the number and type of meals you want as well as the number of servings for each. You can choose from roughly 21 meals every week and select two, four, six, or eight servings for each.
Finally, if you (or your kiddos) aren’t happy with a meal, Home Chef offers a “backup plan” through their 100% satisfaction guarantee. Just email email@example.com within seven days to request a refund.
HelloFresh has been around for nearly a decade, and they’ve staked their claim on the meal kit delivery empire. In fact, the HelloFresh Group owns four major meal delivery services, including Green Chef and EveryPlate (featured later in this article).
HelloFresh is growing fast for a number of reasons, but among them is their deliberate effort to create family-friendly dinners. With their Family Friendly Plan, you can receive four healthy, tasty meals, created with little palates in mind, for four nights a week at just $7.49 per serving.
HelloFresh is a great choice for novice chefs (or little chefs), because they let you select the “level” of cooking you want. For beginner cooks, level one requires just a couple pots and pans (if that!), while level three recipes cater to culinary artists who want a little extra time in the kitchen. Kiddos who like to help may enjoy the level one meals, and they’ll love the brightly colored recipe cards and photos with clear instructions for every step of the process.
Thanks to their concerted efforts to appeal to adults and children, HelloFresh makes cooking a family activity!
Sun Basket caters to those who value organic, sustainably-sourced ingredients.
They are a USDA-certified organic handler, and currently more than 99% of their produce is organic. In addition, their meats and poultry are responsibly raised, their seafood is exclusively wild-caught, and their in-house dietitian reviews and approves every recipe that heads out the door.
However, Sun Basket does a lot more than source from environmentally friendly suppliers; when those high-quality ingredients arrive, Sun Basket’s chefs produce some of the most creative, globally-inspired meals in the industry. For parents who want to expose their kids to a wide variety of foods, Sun Basket is a great asset. In fact, their recipe booklet includes ways kids can help during the cooking process!
In addition to their range of flavor profiles, Sun Basket provides meals for every time of the day. You can purchase a probiotic smoothie for breakfast, a sesame ginger salad for lunch, then round out the day with pepper and onion-smothered Black Angus steaks with kumquat salad. You can also add snacks, proteins, pasta sauces, desserts, and more.
Plant-based recipes have grown in popularity in recent years, and Purple Carrot is one meal delivery service that’s capitalizing on the movement.
Purple Carrot specializes in veggie-centric meals, but their audience is much wider than vegans and vegetarians. Recognizing scientific evidence that links plant-based foods to health benefits like a decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes, Purple Carrot’s mission is simple: make America more “pro-plant.” They use a wide variety of fresh produce and find creative ways to use simple ingredients like cashews and black beans.
Not every household with vegan or vegetarian members are 100% meat-free, so Purple Carrot’s extensive menu includes a diverse selection of plant-based family friendly recipes, like delicata squash paella or spicy almond butter udon.
A family of four can choose two or three meals per week, but you can also add dishes for breakfast and lunch ($4.49 or $8.99 per serving, respectively) as well as some snacks. The price is a little steeper for Purple Carrot than some competitors, but shipping is free, which cuts down the total cost.
Green Chef, owned by the HelloFresh Group, is another meal delivery service that’s putting your family’s health first.
Green Chef has three meal plans, designed for three of the most popular diets of our day: Balanced Living, Keto + Paleo, and Plant-Powered. Green Chef’s Keto + Paleo meal plan is unique among competitors and features delicious grain-free dinners, like their thai coconut chicken soup or bavarian pork patties, that appeal to the whole family! Their Plant-Powered plan has vegetarian and vegan recipes, while the Balanced Living plan provides a diverse blend of vegetarian, seafood, and meat recipes.
Green Chef may be a little more expensive than its peers, but their credentials make the few extra bucks well worth it. Not only are they the first USDA-certified organic meal kit service, but Green Chef is the first meal kit company to receive gluten-free certification through the Gluten Intolerance Group’s Gluten-Free Food Service program. For gluten-free families, this is one service that stands out among the pack.
On top of their commitment to delivering healthy meals for the whole family, Green Chef also makes concerted efforts to protect the environment through recyclable packaging and partnerships with leading sustainability organizations. In fact, Green Chef is “the only meal kit company that offsets 100% of its direct carbon emissions and plastic packaging in every box!”
If there’s one thing EveryPlate does well, it’s provide affordable meals for every family member.
Unlike some other meal delivery services, EveryPlate isn’t trying to be the best at everything or provide luxury ingredients for the bougie chef or the diet-conscious cook. Their aim is to offer tasty options for frugal families. Meals are just $4.99 per serving, and that price remains consistent across their menu!
In addition to providing prices that are almost half that of competitors, EveryPlate has 16 meals to choose from each week. EveryPlate aims for simple and convenient, without sacrificing taste. Select simple super smashed burgers one night, then step it up a notch and go with pork sausage stuffed peppers or hotel butter steak later in the week.
EveryPlate is the perfect choice for families who want a delicious dinner in six easy steps, but don’t want to break the bank.
EveryPlate may dominate competitors in the cost category, but Freshly takes gold in another arena: speed.
While most meal delivery services provide a box full of pre-packaged ingredients that take 30 minutes to prepare, Freshly’s kit comes with ready-made meals you can eat in just three minutes. In other words, if you’re a working parent who gets home at 5:15pm and only has weekends to plan out dinners and shop for groceries, Freshly’s got you covered.
Freshly also differs from its peers in the area of meal plans. You’ll still select the number of meals you want each week (4, 6, 10, or 12), but instead of three meals for two people or two meals for four people, Freshly dinners are all single serving. So if your daughter wants the sierra chicken bowl, but your partner prefers sausage baked penne, everyone can eat what they’re craving.
Since Freshly provides such a wide range of meals, their menu also accommodates a number of dietary needs and taste preferences. In fact, the entire Freshly menu is gluten- and peanut-free, so families with just one or two members with these food allergies won’t ever have to worry.
There’s a lot of competition among meal delivery services today, but Blue Apron has established a great reputation as one of the first. Blue Apron arrived on the scene right after HelloFresh and just a year before Home Chef, and like both these competitors, Blue Apron has achieved a great blend of quality ingredients in delicious meals at a fair price.
There’s a fine line between Bobby Flay-level entrees and an average Joe dinner, and Blue Apron has found it. Their chefs are clearly both knowledgeable and inventive, but the recipes aren’t too complicated for the mediocre cook. Select the Signature meal plan for four, and choose from two, three, or four meals each week, including options like cool cajun chicken lettuce wraps and Tuscan pork pasta.
Kids will love Blue Apron’s flavor-filled dishes, but moms and dads get a tasty treat too. Blue Apron has a wine subscription service with unique pairings to go with the meals. For just $65.99 a month (includes shipping), Blue Apron sends six bottles, which complement the recipes on that week’s menu.
Blue Apron also has dishes for specific diets, like vegetarian, diabetes-friendly, as well as some Weight Watchers meals.
Summary of the best meal delivery services for families
|Meal delivery service||Price per serving (starting at…)||Shipping cost||Number of options each week||Number of servings/meals||Estimated prep and cook times||Special diets|
|Home Chef||$6.99||$6.99-$13.99||Around 21||2, 4, 6, or 8 servings/21 meals||10-50 minutes||Vegetarian, low calorie, low carb|
|HelloFresh||$7.49||$8.99||Around 23||2 servings (3, 4, or 5 meals) or 4 servings (2, 3, or 4 meals)||25-50 minutes||Vegetarian, pescatarian, low calorie|
|Sun Basket||$8.99||$7.99||Around 20||2 or 4 servings/2, 3, or 4 meals||6-50 minutes||Low carb, low calorie, paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian, diabetes-friendly, pescatarian|
|Purple Carrot||$9.99||Free||4 or 8 (depends on meal plan)||2 servings (3-4 meals) or 4 servings (2-3 meals)||10-50 minutes||Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free|
|Green Chef||$11.99||$8.99||9||2 servings (3 or 4 meals) or 4 servings (2, 3, or 4 meals)||24-45 minutes||Vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, keto, paleo, gluten-free, grain-free|
|EveryPlate||$4.99||$8.99||16||2 or 4 servings (3-5 meals)||10-45 minutes||N/A|
|Freshly||$8.49||$5.99 to $11.99||30+||Single servings/4, 6, 10, or 12 meals||3 minutes||Gluten-free, peanut-free, low calorie, low fat, high protein, low sodium|
|Blue Apron||$7.49||$7.99||3, 7, or 11 (depends on meal plan)||2 or 4 servings/2, 3, or 4 meals||20-55 minutes||Vegetarian, diabetes-friendly, Weight Watchers|
How I came up with this list
In the last decade, dozens of meal delivery services have sprouted, each with their own specialties and niches. Some are uniquely curated for the vegan diet, while others cater to families in search of 15-minute meals; however, a majority of these companies are crafting their dishes with the average American family in mind.
This article narrows the playing field to just eight of the nation’s top meal kit delivery services, based on three qualifying factors: size, speed, and variety.
One of the primary metrics I used to produce this list was size. Some meal delivery services are better suited for singles or couples, but each of the companies listed above offers a wide enough selection to meet the needs of an average family of four — and some even more!
The list above also features services with quick dinners for busy families. Most of these companies provide meals that take roughly 30 minutes to make; however, some dishes, like those from Freshly, travel from the box to the table in as little as three minutes.
Finally, the list above acknowledges the reality that every family member is unique. You may be the lone vegetarian, or perhaps your son has peanut allergies. However, even with dietary preferences and food allergies aside, everyone has their own likes and dislikes, and the eight meal delivery services above provide categories that cater to a wide variety of needs and wants.
What are meal delivery services?
First of all, let’s distinguish between a meal delivery service and food delivery.
Food delivery is what companies like Uber Eats and Grubhub provide — local food, whether it’s from a favorite restaurant or even a grocery store, brought right to your door. On the other hand, a meal delivery service sends ingredients, recipe cards, and a predetermined meal plan to your home, after which you create your meal.
Menus are quite diverse and are typically on a rotating schedule, just as they would be for most families cooking at home. Additionally, they take dietary preferences and restrictions into consideration, with dishes for veggie-lovers, gluten-free folks, and more.
In short, meal delivery services respond to a different need than food delivery. While food delivery lets you grab dinner from your local brewery without ever leaving the couch, meal delivery services are for the families who want an easy, home-cooked meal without the hassle of meal planning and prep or grocery shopping.
Why should you use meal delivery services?
No matter your relationship status, family size, or like/dislike of cooking, meal delivery services provide a lot of benefits for a lot of people.
One of the greatest perks these companies offer is they save a lot of time. For many of these companies, you still need to do the work of preparing your dinner, which typically takes an average of 30 minutes; however, you’ll bypass the time spent meal planning, rifling through cabinets to see which ingredients you do or don’t have, and, of course, shopping for ingredients.
Meal delivery services are also great for families who want to make delicious, healthy meals, but don’t have the slightest idea how. Not only do these companies often use healthy ingredients for their recipes, but the meals are created by professional chefs who understand how to use ingredients well.
Finally, meal delivery services are a huge asset for families with a diverse set of tastes and dietary needs or preferences. In fact, some companies, like Freshly, let you select single-serving meals, so every member of your family can choose the dish they want!
However, even with all this said, meal delivery services aren’t the best option for everyone. If you’re strapped for cash, meal planning, and grocery shopping may be a more cost-effective solution. Additionally, if you’re especially environmentally-conscious, most meal delivery services package small servings of spinach, teriyaki sauce, spices, and so on, so you’ll probably have much more trash to pitch at the end of each week.
Most important features of meal delivery services
There are dozens of meal delivery services to choose from today, and they all have their own unique benefits. In addition to details like cooking times and meal selections, here are some other important features to look for in a meal delivery service that’s fit for families.
Most meal delivery services are priced by the serving, and that little number becomes especially important when you multiply it by the mouths you need to feed.
If you want to try out one of these services, keep in mind that costs can add up quickly. Fortunately, the companies mentioned in this article provide servings for as little as $4.99, so you can spend your time and money on more important matters.
Not every meal delivery service will prioritize healthy ingredients — but most do.
Parents want what’s best for their kids, and food is no exception. That’s why most meal delivery services, including those above, are doing their part to address this interest, by providing organic, sustainably-sourced, healthy ingredients for their customers.
Quality customer service
Your kids probably have a short list of favorite foods, from frozen blueberries to dino-shaped chicken nuggets, but the reality is we adults have our preferences as well.
As you’re testing out new recipes, you or your kiddo may stumble upon a dish that’s not quite to your liking. When that happens, you’ll want a customer service department that’s willing and able to help. Some companies, like Home Chef and Sun Basket, even offer a full refund when customers aren’t happy with their order!