Meal Delivery Services for the Home Cook

Meal Delivery Services for the Home Cook: Plated and Blue Apron

Disclaimer: although it may sound like it, this is not a sponsored post, just a review of the services based on my experiences using them.

Last year, I posted a review of the very first Plated box that I signed up to receive. Plated is a meal delivery service that allows you to order meals by the “plate” (2 plates = 2 servings), and the ingredients and recipes to make those meals are sent for you to cook at home. My first two meals were swiss chard rolls stuffed with quinoa, goat cheese, and butternut squash, and stir-fried tofu with hoisin, cashews, and vegetables. Needless to say, both tasted awesome and the portions were generous.

Plated Recipe Cards

Since that time, I was able to try a similar service called Blue Apron. The premise is the same –- fresh ingredients and recipes are sent for you to cook at home, and the recipes are quick and easy to make on a weeknight.

So, how do the two services compare? There are some differences that are worth noting…

Meal Variety and Selection

Both services offer meals suitable for a variety of tastes and in sizes for couples as well as families (single people: sorry, you need to order at least two servings, but leftovers are always good for lunch during the week.) Meat-eaters, vegetarians, and special dietary needs can be accommodated. My experience is based off of ordering enough for two people and a combination of vegetarian and seafood recipes. Most of the recipes that I have received have been sufficient to feed three or even four people, depending on the recipe.

With Plated, choose the meals you would like to receive from that week’s selection of land, sea, and veggie options. If you are looking to go meatless once a week as one of your resolutions for the new year, you may choose to order a vegetarian recipe to make one night and something with meat or seafood for another night, rather a strictly meat or no-meat meal plan.

Plated also offers an automatic delivery option, where you may mark off what you like and don’t like (e.g., no nuts, no meat) and the service will send you only the recipes that fit into that category.

Plated meal preferences for auto delivery

Blue Apron only allows an automatic, weekly delivery option based on preferences that you have marked off; there is no option to pick and choose recipes. Your preferences can certainly be changed at any time, but doing so still doesn’t allow for complete flexibility with choosing your meals the way that Plated allows with its one option.

Blue Apron meal preferences for deliveries

Meal Availability, Packaging, and Delivery

Plated shows meal availability for four weeks at a time, whereas I have found that Blue Apron only has the coming week’s menu available a majority of the time. For those that are cost-conscious or perhaps choosing to place orders every other week due to travel or other schedule restrictions, this might be a concern.

Blue Apron delivery schedule

When choosing your meals, Plated lets you know if anything is sold-out prior to ordering, which can be disappointing. I am not sure if the service has repeated popular sold-out recipes yet, or what would happen if you had a subscription but everything was sold out for that week. I have never encountered an issue with anything being sold-out with Blue Apron, but I have encountered ingredient substitution. The company will notify you if kale is being substituted when mustard greens are unavailable for a recipe, for example, but they will still send the recipe.

Plated delivery schedule

Both services offer super-secure packaging, which ensures that ingredients stay cold for a considerable amount of time before they are unpackaged and put away, and flexible delivery schedules. With Blue Apron, choose to receive your delivery any day from Tuesday through Friday; with Plated, choose a Tuesday or a Friday only. If you subscribe with either service, you may choose to skip weeks, depending on what is most convenient for you. In most cases, there is time to change your mind and still receive a delivery for a week that you previously chose to skip.

Recipe & Ingredient Quality

Both services are comparable on the quality front. All recipes are quick and easy to make, taking anywhere from 20-40 minutes per recipe depending on skill level, and come printed on heavy-stock recipe cards with pictures of each step. I never had an issue with spoiled, missing, or insufficient ingredients for a recipe, although I have added or omitted ingredients for personal taste and variety. I did run into an issue of getting burnt-out on ingredients with Blue Apron. There were a few weeks in a row where I seemed to receive salmon in every box. Salmon overload!

Pricing

At the end of the day, pricing is about the same for both services. Plated’s requirement of ordering 4 plates, plus shipping, brings up the per-box delivery to approximately $60 for two meals for two people. With Blue Apron, a box of three meals for two people is $59.99. The service also offers a family plan that includes 2 or 4 meals for 4 people for either $69.92 or $139.84.

Other Features

Blue Apron offers codes that you can send to your friends and family to try the service for free and gives you more codes as you order more boxes. Plated offers a referral program to earn free meals as more people sign up using your code and frequently offers coupons for new subscribers via advertisements on Facebook and other social sites. Easy-to-navigate websites, informative blogs, and the ability to send gift boxes or certificates to friends and family for special occasions are also standard issue.

Blue Apron has a personal account feature that allows you to look back at all of the recipes that you received, rate them from one to five stars, and provide a brief review of the recipe. I imagine that this data could be used to tailor meal preferences in the future, although I haven’t seen an obvious indication of this yet in my deliveries.

Blue Apron delivery history

An online marketplace where you can purchase essential tools and ingredients as well as original cookbooks created by the Blue Apron chefs is also now available.

The Verdict?

It is a tie, in terms of core aspects of the service: both services do a great job at offering recipes that are quick and easy to make with fresh ingredients, well-packaged boxes, and reasonable prices. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend trying either service, since my experiences with both have been favorable.