Luckily we've done the work for you. We've scouted over 16 different meal planning, meal prep and meal kit services out there to let you know what the real deal is with all of them.
Take a look and enjoy!
The first class of meal prep services are meal planning apps. These are apps that will plan your week for you and help you prep each week. Some of them (like ours) integrate with online grocery delivery services, so you can get the convenience of meal kit delivery without paying crazy delivery or kit markup fees.
Here’s the top 5 players when it comes to meal planning on a diet.
Ultimate Meal Plans
Grocery Delivery: Optional
Okay, this is us. waves hi
Yes, we might be biased, but we wouldn’t be worth our . We’ve spent years building the best meal planning experience for paleo, keto, AIP, low carb, healthy and clean eating and we don’t mind bragging (a little) about it.
Our meal planning provides real food meal plans for the week that you can make in 15 minutes with 5 ingredients or less. You can exclude specific foods for allergies, food sensitivities or taste preference and you can scale your meals to the # of people that you need.
Yes, it’s our app - but we’re damn proud of it and we’d love for you to try it.
Real plans is probably the best alternative to Ultimate Meal Plans (if we’re going to have to choose).
Meal plans is a bootstrapped company that deals directly with some of your favorite recipe bloggers. This is great if you have a blogger you love and just want to eat whatever they eat. The downside is that the meals can vary widely on their length of creation + ingredients.
Our customers are pretty busy, so we actively built something different with our 15 minute, 5 ingredient guarantee, but if you really want to cook the meals from your favorite blogger - you can give them a try.
These guys are cheeeeeeap. That’s great if you’re on a budget, but their meals are all over the place and not as helpful. While you might save a few bucks, there are better options out there.
Platejoy is the VC funded mammoth trying to take over the meal planning space. They have slick branding and a big marketing budget, so you’ve likely seen them somewhere. Their product is “okay”, but is definitely the choice if you want to give your dollars to VC bros in Patagonia vests, you’re welcome to, but
The choice if you want to meal plan from your phone. We don’t think that’s a great idea, but if you’re addicted to your phone. Try it out.
We’re going to call these done for you meal prep kit companies since they’re basically shipping you pre-made kits that you just need to heat and shove into your face-hole.
From $45.96 for 4 meals.
One nice part about these guys is that they will just charge you for one meal. Instead of trying to have to figure out how many people each week, you can just pay for the cost of the meal straight up and then multiply that by the number of total meals you need.
$76.98 for 6 meals
These also sell their meals in single portions. They have a big focus on high-quality ingredients, so if you have to pick one of these, they’re not a bad option.
6 meals for $69.99
SnapKitchen is the company I’m actually most familiar with. While they do online orders, here in Austin, they actually have a small pop up store that you can run in and grab your food.
I wouldn’t say it blows my mind taste-wise, but it is pretty convenient. The a la carte option is clutch.
Territory foods does subscription based pricing, but also allows you to buy a la carte. They do not serve all locations, so be careful about using them.
Props for making it easy to find pricing.
These guys do meal prep kits on subscription. Their app looks nifty, but huge demerit points for being hard to find pricing and dark patterns.
A la carte pricing is available - $85 minimum order.
Meal kits are typically delivery services where they include a bunch of recipes each week or month along with the groceries to make them.
We don’t LOVE these options for a few reasons.
These kits come in huge boxes designed to keep the food fresh! (That’s great). But, then you immediately unbox them and throw them out - along with dry ice and whatever else they needed to include to keep it fresh (that’s not great).
These kits end up generating a ton of waste for what turns out to not that much food. (That’s even worse).
With online grocery delivery becoming more mainstream, it’s much smarter to just get the right groceries to go with your meal plan and then cook them yourself.
It’s cheaper, and better for the environment. Unless, of course, you really care about letting your neighbors know that you eat Blue Apron when they check out your trash on garbage day.
All of these companies spend a ton on marketing and that costs comes right back to your food. The average cost for a meal here is between $8 and $15 - which is way too high for a home cooked meal. You could just order a steak or go out to eat if you’re spending that much money.
And while the food is “okay” - with a little effort, you can make a SMOKING meal at home or find a pretty good meal out to eat. It’s a weird price point and doesn’t make sense for middle-class families.
Some of these ones actually include a $7 delivery charge EVERY WEEK. You could end up spending just $30 on delivery when you could get your entire grocery order delivered for half that by most grocery stores.
Not only is it hard to figure out exactly what quantities of food you’re ordering from some of these places, but often it’s not even a full week’s worth. You’re spending nearly $100/week plus shipping to eat a few times / week.
While these may work well if you’re based in NYC and eat out most days, for the average customers of ours with a busy family full of mouths to feed - this is simply just not a practical or even affordable option.
These business models don’t seem to be working out for the companies. There’s countless people talking about how Blue Apron’s subscription model is terrible (what if you want to go on vacation, take a break, have more meals on week, etc).
Beyond that - none of them will give you straightforward pricing
But it’s not just random internet conjecture - just check check out Blue Apron’s stock price that It first listed on the stock exchange at nearly $150. Now it trades closer to $5.
These are hype machines that are driven by marketing, but unsustainable for the business, the customer and the environment.
That said, they do have customers - so they are somewhat popular. If that’s you, we’ve listed them here, but we haven’t ranked them out of respect for the principles outlined above.
$59.99 for 3 meals. Free shipping.
Probably the most well known meal kit model, mostly because they let everyone try it once and then people left.
It’s a great idea, but for the things outlined above, we can’t recommend them.
A Blue Apron clone. But in Green.
$69 for 3 meals. Free shipping.
Another Blue Apron / Hello Fresh clone. This one in red.
Varies from $71.94 to 143.88 plus SHIPPING.
Starting at $71.94 for 6 Servings PLUS shipping
The stupid part is that it’s $7 for shipping for each box. That’s $28/month you’re spending just on shipping. There is talk of Sunbasket maneuvering to add more items to retail grocery stores. If they scale that up, we’d go with them.
Many grocery stores have ready-to-eat food waiting for you in their grocery stores. We recommend these first as you can easily show up and buy one (or ten) with no accounts, no commitments, and just see what you like.
Personally, we think if you’re going to go the “meal kit” route - this is the future of the space + the better long term options.
Kevin’s Natural Foods
Kevin’s is a paleo-inspired line of ready-to-make foods. THey’re at the local HEB in Austin and they’re pretty good. While they can get expensive (all of these are more expensive options than just grocery shopping), the convenience is really nice to have when y you’re in a rush. I usually keep a couple spare ones around just in case.
They are generically branded by HEB so we can’t necessarily guarantee that they’ll be high quality ingredients as the others, but they’re not bad “in a pinch” - just watch out for the typical sugars, seed oils and other junk that comes in these meal kits.
We’ve built this definitive list but we’re far from the only one with an opinion out there.