What Is A Meal Kit & How Do They Work?

Meal kits have exploded in popularity over the last decade, making them a mainstream service. With all this talk about what meal kits are, how they work, what are the best companies for meal kits and how to choose a good one, we’ve created this complete guide to help you navigate the world of meal kits.

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What Is a Meal Kit? 

A meal kit is a subscription service or one-time purchase where a company sends a customer pre-portioned ingredients along with a recipe card. The customer then finishes the meal prep and cooks the meal themselves. 

The business model was conceived in Sweden in 2007 with the launch of Middagsfrid by Kicki Theander. However, the meal kit movement wasn’t popularized until five years later when HelloFresh and Blue Apron entered the market. Since their inception, it’s estimated that there are over 150 meal kit companies worldwide and this number is only expected to increase as the market continues to grow. 

As of 2022, it’s estimated that the meal delivery business model is responsible for $14.63 billion and is expected to grow to $59.2 billion by 2032.

How Do Meal Kits Work?

Meal kits follow a very simple step-by-step process. You pick which recipes you would like to make, how many recipes you want per week and when they should be delivered. 

Nonetheless, let’s go through how a typical meal kit delivery service works on a weekly basis, using HelloFresh as an example. 

Step 1: Choose Your Meals 

The first step is where the fun starts…choosing what you want to eat. There are so many new, delicious recipes every single week! Most meal kits will offer 2-5 meals with portion sizes for either 2-4 people. This makes them ideal for families, couples, or people who just want an extra portion. 

There are also tons of meal kit services that can cater to your specific dietary needs. Whether you’re keto, gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian, there’s an option out there for you!

Once you’ve selected a plan that suits your lifestyle, you can choose shipping options to ensure that you’re home to receive the box.

Meal options for HelloFresh

Step 2: Receive Your First Box 

There’s no better feeling than a box filled with high-quality ingredients arriving at your doorstep ready to be eaten. If you happen to be out while the delivery arrives, don’t worry! Each box is carefully packaged with insulation and ice packs to ensure that your food won’t spoil for 6-8 hours. 

Once you’ve taken your box inside and opened it you’ll find several things:

  1. All the pre-portioned vegetables, sauces, and proteins
  2. A nice easy-to-follow recipe with high-quality images (just to make sure you’re on the right track)

One thing I’ll note is that meal boxes assume you have basic cooking ingredients such as oil, butter, salt, and pepper. They also assume you have some pots or pans and appropriate kitchen utensils, so these won’t be found in your meal kit. 

Cat on top of a hellofresh box

Step 3: Cook A Meal 

Here’s where the exciting part truly begins. For anyone out there that’s a kitchen newbie, myself included, the cooking process is incredibly simple and to the point where I feel comfortable having my daughter cook all our meals as I supervise. 

This week, Warm Mexican-Style Bean Bowls are on the menu and I couldn’t be more excited!

Mexican Bean Bowl

Step 4: Time to Eat! 

After you’ve put together the recipe, it’s time to enjoy this delicious food. I put on my favorite television show, resist my cat trying to steal a bean, and relish in my tasty feast.  

Which Meal Kit Is the Most Popular?

1. HelloFresh

HelloFresh has become the gold standard that all meal kit companies should try to live up to. They have one of the best meal plans in the industry with new weekly recipes allowing picky eaters to find something they’ll like. 

While they don’t have tons of plant-based recipes for our vegan friends, they have plenty of vegetarian options, many of which are naturally vegan or require minimal swap-outs at home. 

One additional thing that I love about HelloFresh is its commitment to the environment. They offset 100% of their greenhouse gas emissions in addition to innovating on the ways they package their ingredients to make them more sustainable!

Delivery: Canada and the United States

Beef bowls with hummus spiced rice
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HelloFresh

$11.49
Per Serving
HelloFresh is one of the largest meal-kit companies in the world and has established operations in Canada, Western Europe, and the United States. ...
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Delivers to:

Australia, Canada, Europe, United States

Dietary Plans Available:

Low-calorie, Vegetarian

Dinners for:

Two (Couple), Four (Family)

Price per Plate

$10 to $15

Free Shipping?

No

Intro Deal:

Yes

Sustainability

Recycling

HQ Location

Germany

2. Chefs Plate 

If HelloFresh is the gold standard for meal kit delivery services, Chefs Plate is the platinum standard. This meal kit company’s budget-friendly pricing structure and versatility make it great. 

Each month they have 22 new recipes with options that take as little as 15 minutes to make. Additionally, they consistently bring back customer favorites and have the option to add additional appetizers or salads. This system ensures that you’ll always have delicious food delivered straight to your door.

Lastly, they also have an app that allows you to easily manage your subscription making them one of the most convenient and straightforward meal kits on the market right now. 

Delivery: Only Canada

Shrimp scampi linguine
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Chefs Plate

$8.99
Per Serving
Meal kit services aren’t the most budget-friendly meal-time solution for Canadians. But along the spectrum of cost, Chefs Plate sits on the most ...
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Delivers to:

Canada

Dietary Plans Available:

Vegetarian

Dinners for:

Two (Couple), Four (Family)

Price per Plate

$10 to $15, $5 to $10

Free Shipping?

Yes

Intro Deal:

First 2 meals free

Sustainability

Ocean Wise, Sustainability

HQ Location

Toronto

3. Blue Apron

Blue Apron is one of HelloFresh’s biggest competitors as they provide exceptionally delicious meals for a reasonable price. 

What I love about Blue Apron is their versatile meal plan options. They offer everything from ready-to-cook all the way to heat and eat. This makes them super convenient if I’m running late and need to get my daughter lunch for school!

At Blue Apron, they have thought of everything so I always feel prepared no matter the occasion. 

Have a fancy dinner club next week and you’re worried your cooking is not up to par? Order their premium dishes, their steak is juicy and well-seasoned!

Looking to do a detox after eating at McDonald’s for one too many meals? Try their wellness dishes, their couscous bowls are bursting with flavor! 

Are you super interested in desserts but don’t know where to start? Try their dessert dishes, their cupcakes are to die for!

Delivery: Only the United States

Baked cheddar pasta
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Blue Apron

$11.99
Per Serving
When most people hear the term 'meal kits', Blue Apron is one of the first brands that comes to mind. Founded in 2012, Blue Apron is the front-runner ...
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Delivers to:

United States

Dietary Plans Available:

Vegetarian

Dinners for:

Two (Couple), Four (Family)

Price per Plate

$5 to $10

Free Shipping?

Yes

Intro Deal:

$20 Off on First Order

Sustainability

Animal Welfare, Recycling

HQ Location

New York

4. Every Plate

Every Plate is the most affordable meal kit on the market. You’ll never have to worry about breaking the bank as it only costs $4.99 per serving. Additionally, all of their recipes are very user-friendly and require only 6 steps. 

However, don’t mistake budget friendly for low quality. Every Plate consistently brings new flavors and delicious meal items that you could easily be charged $50 at a premium restaurant. 

Delivery: Only the United States

Chicken with gravy and salad
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EveryPlate

$4.99
Per Serving
Launched in 2018 by HelloFresh, EveryPlate is the low-cost version of HelloFresh. They offer a smaller variety of recipes but for a very competitive ...
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Delivers to:

United States

Dietary Plans Available:

Vegetarian

Dinners for:

Two (Couple), Four (Family)

Price per Plate

$5 to $10

Free Shipping?

No

Intro Deal:

20% Off First Two Boxes

Sustainability

Recycling

HQ Location

New York

5. Marley Spoon

This is Martha Stewart’s meal kit and what I love the most about it are the family-friendly options. They create recipes that take less than 30 minutes that your children will love. 

I know that my daughter has been super receptive to their recipes and she is usually a very picky eater. Overall, Marley Spoon has been great as I don’t have to sacrifice flavour for healthiness. 

Delivery: Only the United States

Chicken alfredo
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Martha and Marley Spoon

$8.49
Per Serving
Marley Spoon is a German company that provides meal kits all around the world, including the United States, and Australia. They offer meal kits ...
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Delivers to:

Australia, Europe, United States

Dietary Plans Available:

Diary Free, Gluten Free, Low-calorie, Low-carb, Vegan, Vegetarian

Dinners for:

Two (Couple), Three, Four (Family)

Price per Plate

$10 to $15, $5 to $10

Free Shipping?

No

Intro Deal:

No

Sustainability

Recycling, Sustainability

HQ Location

Germany

6. Fresh Prep 

Fresh Prep is one of the best options for meal kit delivery when it comes to organic ingredients and sustainable practices. They’re a certified B-corporation and continue to find ways to improve its environmental impact. 

All of their meals are delivered in reusable, insulated and sanitized cooler bags with a reusable ingredients container (instead of packaging everything in single-use plastic pouches). They specifically base their meals around seasonal ingredients to reduce their carbon footprint and create fewer emissions. 

Another element that makes them one of the best meal kits is that they pre-cut their vegetables, in addition to pre-portioning their ingredients, which saves on meal cooking time. As a kitchen novice, I can’t tell you how much time I have saved from this carefully planned detail. 

Lastly, their meal kits cater to many different dietary preferences. They have vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and carb-conscious meals. For the meat-lovers, they also serve premium antibiotic-free poultry and MSC or Ocean Wise certified seafood.

Delivery: Only Alberta & British Columbia in Canada

Steak potatoes and arugula salad
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Fresh Prep

$10.00
Per Serving
Based in Vancouver, Fresh Prep was founded in 2014 for people in search of an easier answer to the question "what's for dinner?". Fresh Prep sources ...
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Delivers to:

Calgary, Edmonton, Metro Vancouver, Nanaimo, Red Deer, The Okanagan, Vancouver Island

Dietary Plans Available:

Diary Free, Gluten Free, Pescatarian, Vegan, Vegetarian

Dinners for:

Two (Couple), Four (Family)

Price per Plate

$10 to $15

Free Shipping?

Yes

Intro Deal:

First 2 meals free

Sustainability

Zero Food Waste, Ocean Wise, Recycling, Sustainability

HQ Location

Vancouver

Why Do People Use Meal Kit Services?

To Save Money 

Contrary to popular belief, I’ve found that meal kits are more budget-friendly than you think. Once you divide the cost into the actual price per portion, it becomes evident that meal kits are a great way to save money.

Food waste is a huge problem in North America. Having pre-portioned ingredients prevents you from throwing out excess ingredients, saving you money and helping the environment. 

To Save Time

One of the best qualities of using a meal kit business is their ability to save you time compared to other ways of eating.

When you add up the time spent making a grocery shopping list every week, planning weekly menus for yourself or your family, finding ingredients, and measuring portion size of the food, it becomes evident that using meal delivery kits can give you so much more time to spend doing the things you love. 

Whether you chose to spend that extra time with your family, seeing friends, working on a side hustle, or enjoying some much-needed relaxation time, that part’s up to you! 

To Escape Your Comfort Zone

Rather than sticking to the same boring food at home, or picking up the same frozen prepared meals from the grocery store when you’re in a pinch, using a meal delivery service pushes you out of your comfort zone and lets you try a new meal selection every day. 

One of the unique features of meal kit delivery services is that they’re an excellent way of discovering new recipes you’ve never even thought to try. Many meal kit delivery services even have elevated versions of recipes you already love. 

For instance, instead of boxed mac and cheese, learn to make a cashew cream pasta on Fresh Prep, or instead of a carb-heavy takeout burger, become a home chef and master the art of gluten-free, carb conscious and organic burgers on HelloFresh

To Sharpen Your Culinary Skills 

Learning to create new recipes you otherwise may not have experimented with will help to create culinary confidence in the kitchen. From university students who recently moved out of their parent’s home and only know how to make instant noodles (it’s okay, we’ve all been there) to even the finest of home cooks, there is always room to grow your culinary skills. 

Discovering new food options and amping up your skills in the kitchen, are one of my favorite features of meal kit services. 

To Help With Dietary Restrictions

Nowadays there are so many meal kits to choose from that no matter your dietary preference, there’s a meal kit service for you. Whether you have fitness or weight loss goals, allergies, or simply want to follow a certain lifestyle, many meal kit services now have recipe cards with various special diets to choose from.  

Meal planning with kits allows you to effortlessly track calories per serving with easy-to-follow recipes and portion sizes. What we’re saying is, there’s a meal kit for everyone! 

Who Are Meal Kits Good For?

Parents 

Being a parent is a full-time job as it is, without having to worry about cooking for everyone on top of it. Save time cooking with easy meals via a weekly order from whatever your preferred choice for the best meal kit is. Or, sorry, let’s be honest, wherever your kids think the best meal kit service is. 

After all, peace of mind is one service you can’t put a price on. 

Busy Professionals

The last thing busy professionals want to do when waking up at 6 am is figure out what to pack for lunch.  With easy-to-use meal kits, have your weekly lunches prepped and in the fridge so you can focus on important things, like how you’re going to ask your boss for time off work for that last-minute trip your friends pressured you into booking.  

Amateur Chefs

We all know someone whose food we fear every time they invite us over. Hey, we can’t all be Gordon Ramsey. Meal kits make a great gift for that someone in your life who needs a little hint to stop burning the grilled cheese every time they offer to make food. 

With pre-portioned ingredients and step-by-step instructions, what can go wrong? Anyone can become a home chef with meal kits. 

Health Fanatics 

Some meal kit services focus on plant-based, vegetable-rich meals, while other meal kits focus on low-carb or gluten-free options. You can choose from many different healthy options to find the best meal kit for your lifestyle. 

Meal Preppers 

Choose how many meals and how many portions you want when you order meal kit delivery. 

Additionally, meal kits allow you to easily see the nutrition facts of each recipe you order. This takes the guesswork out of meal prep, and with all the options out there, you can easily cater it to a meal plan that fits your goals and lifestyle. 

Pros and Cons: 

Meal Kit Pros

  • Less food waste
  • Saves money and time  
  • Discover new food and recipes each week
  • Cancel anytime

Meal Kit Cons

  • Shipping is not always free
  • Some meal kits take longer to make than expected
  • Some meal kits have poor customer service

To save you time and energy, we review US and Canadian meal kits to prevent you from making the same mistakes we did when we first got into them.

Read More: Meal Kit Reviews

Our Verdict 

Meal kit services help you save time and money while allowing you to get outside of your comfort zone in the kitchen. They’re a great alternative to eating out, making them perfect for anyone. So, what are you waiting for? Sign up for one today!

Natalia S.

Natalia S.

I’m Natalia S., mother, writer, dance teacher, and Airbnb host living with my school-aged daughter in Vancouver. I’m the type of person that loves to eat, is fairly health-conscious…but never cooks. When I’m not busy pinning all the recipes that I won’t cook later, I’m wearing every hat that comes with running three businesses and raising a child.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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Meal Kit Comparison - Simplify Your Dinner Decision
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