The Busy Girl’s Guide: The Best Meal Prep Services

Hi there!  I am so incredibly excited about today’s post!  You know every Friday I post my food and fitness for the week and I have had the hardest time keeping this one a secret for the past few weeks!  I’ve been testing out the Best Meal Prep Services and I’ve been having to fudge my meals each week a bit (by fudge I mean leave out some meals, not photograph things that I didn’t make!).  This is the perfect addition to The Busy Girl’s Guide because we all know that making meals during the week can be so daunting and time consuming.  These Meal Prep Services will help any busy girl make a gourmet looking meal in no time (check each website for delivery options in your area)!

Busy Girls Guide

Plated

What is it: Plated (referral link) is self-described as Chef-designed recipes with fresh ingredients delivered to your door.  I think this is a pretty accurate description of Plated.  The chefs all have impressive creds and the ingredients do arrive at your door very fresh!  

How it works: Each week there are 7 recipes to choose from including 4 meat and fish options and 3 vegetarian options.  I loved being able to choose any of the 7 recipes I wanted!  Each recipe feeds two people (two plates per recipe) and you must order a minimum of 4 plates per order (2 recipes for two people or 1 recipe for four people).  You pick your delivery date and the ingredients along with a recipe card are delivered to your door by 8pm the date of delivery.

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Recipes:  The recipes are really unique and varied with Plated.  A few that I tried include:

  • Sweet Chili Eggplant and Coconut Cashew Rice
  • Brussel Sprouts, Cranberries and Pepitas over Polenta
  • Red rice with Roasted Squash, Leeks and Pepitas
  • Artichoke Fontina Calzones with Marinara Sauce
  • Vegetable Fried Rice
  • Pollock in Parchment Paper with Potatoes and Roasted Carrots

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Taste: Everything I got from Plated was incredible.  It tasted delicious and if you ever thought for a second that you are not a gourmet cook, Plated will prove you wrong.

Ease: I would say that the recipes are moderate.  They each say they take 30-40 minutes and I say they definitely take 40 minutes because you have to chop up all the vegetables. The recipes each have about 5-6 steps and include usually one to pan pots and/or pans each.  The directions are easy to follow and you get all the ingredients you need for each recipe except for certain staple pantry items, which are noted (like olive oil).

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Price: Plated offers a membership and non-membership option.  Non-members pay $15 per plate with no commitment and you can order anytime.  Memberships are divided into two groups: Monthly and Annual.  Monthly members pay $12 per plate + $10 per month for membership and you are billed automatically until you cancel. Annual members pay $12 per plated + $8 per month for membership and you are billed annually a one-time fee.

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Grade:  Everything Plated sent me was amazing and I always wanted more plates each week than I possibly eat and make!  I love that each recipe came with a recipe card including photos and it is also available online in PDF form.  The meals were a bit caloric, however, with a range of 500-800 calories!  The recipes are inventive and made meal planning a snap.  I loved getting individual portions of all my ingredients because I end up throwing out so many leftover ingredients all the time.  The food stayed fresh for a week so I didn’t have to worry about cooking everything right away since sometimes when the Hubs wasn’t home I would cook one meal and eat it two nights in a row. One of my favorite parts of Plated was that I could choose my delivery day.  I like my food to come at the beginning of the week since we may eat out on the weekend.  I choose Mondays, which was perfect for me.  The only thing was that the meals sometimes didn’t arrive until the cut-off at 8pm, which meant I was starving!  While I thought the meals were generally easy to make, I think some time could be saved by providing some pre-chopped veggies.  A-

Blue Apron

What is it: Blue Apron is fresh ingredients and great recipes delivered weekly to your home!  Again, pretty accurate statement.  Although, I did notice that sometimes my vegetables got a bit sad because when I am cooking for one, the ingredients need to last a whole week.  Nothing spoiled and everything tasted good!  Blue aprons were originally worn by chefs in France to show they were apprentices.  A blue apron is a symbol of lifelong learning in cooking.

How it works: Each week there are three recipes to choose from with each recipe yielding two servings.  You can choose what you eat for instance: omnivore (you eat everything), vegetarian or you can choose that you either do or do not eat: fish, shellfish, beef, lamb, pork or poultry.  You get three meals sent to you based on these preferences.  The meals are automatically delivered each week but you can skip any weeks you would like.  There is no membership or membership fee.

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Recipes: The recipes from Blue Apron were varied and tasty.  I tried:

  • Center-Cut Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions & Blue Cheese Grits (this one was a hit at my house)
  • Crispy Chickpea & Quinoa Vegetable Cakes with Watercress Salad
  • Kumquat-Lime Glazed Tilapia with Brussel Sprouts and Almond Freekeh
  • Chicken Potstickers with Baby Tatsoi
  • Eggplant Lasagna with Bechamel Sauce & Fresh Spinach Noodles
  • Coconut-Poached Tofu Soup with Lemongrass & Red Curry

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Taste: Everything tasted amazing!  I loved every recipe I received, even dishes I thought I may not like as much.  The only thing is that I wish you could choose between the six options rather than having three sent to you based on your eating preferences.  For instance, one week I might want two vegetarian and one fish and another week I might want two meat dishes and one vegetarian.  I would love to customize more.

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Ease: All of the ingredients are sent straight to your door, individually portioned so you don’t waste anything.  You get a recipe card and the recipes are available online!  The first recipe I tried was the Eggplant Lasagna.  This recipe was intense!  I needed four pots plus a pan for the oven and it took almost an hour!  Not a great week night recipe because I was exhausted afterwards and starving!  But, the food did taste amazing.  This recipe was by far the most complicated and used the most pots and pans (read a lot cleanup).  The potstickers were also a little difficult because we didn’t use a good pan and they got stuck to it but we were able to rectify that with the remaining batches and ended up getting some good ones.  I made this one on the weekend (thank goodness!).  Most recipes have six steps and are fairly easy to follow although I found sometimes that I was confused by a slightly unspecific recipe (e.g. how much water do you need to cook lasagna noodles or rice).  I would rate the recipes moderate to hard. 

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Price:  The price starts as little as $9.99 per plate (nice!).  For 3 plates of 2 portions I spent $59.94.  Of course the more people you have, the higher the price.  You can choose 2, 4 or 6 people and get portions accordingly, which is great!

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Grade: There are several delivery slots to choose from with Blue Apron but the earliest date is Tuesdays, which for me is not bad but it left Mondays a bit hectic and wide open for me, which I didn’t love.  Also, the delivery window was between 6pm and 10pm, which meant that with my first delivery I couldn’t make until Wednesday because I didn’t get it until 10pm and by then I had eaten pasta already!  The recipes were all really great and overall not too difficult to make.  They were also generally pretty healthy with most recipes ranging between 460 and 680 calories.  In some cases I had a little more than 2 portions and was able to eat some for lunch as well, which was nice. The individual portions were great and there was a good amount of variety with the recipes I tried.  I also think I could easily re-create these recipes if I got the groceries.  I wish I could customize a bit more in choosing my menu, the delivery was earlier in the week and the day and the veggies stayed a little bit fresher longer.  B+

Hello Fresh

What is it:  Hello Fresh is described as everything but the chef!  Farm fresh ingredients delivered to your door each week.  The food remained fresh and was individually portioned so you have everything you need for each recipe!

How it works: Each week choose from either an omnivore box or a veggie box (so you either have to choose meat and fish or just veggies).  You get three meals that feed two people each (you also have the option of choosing meals for 4 people).  The vegetarian box comes with three meals chosen by Hello Fresh while the omnivore box appears to have five options you can choose from–you can choose meat, fish or vegetarian with this box and get a nice mix.  

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Recipes:  I choose the vegetarian box and I wish I had tried the omnivore box.  I tried:

  • Eggplant Parmesan Stacks with Arugula Salad
  • Lentil & Cauliflower Dahl over Basmati Rice
  • Vegetable Sheperd’s Pie

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Taste:  I loved the Eggplant Parmesan Stacks and even had enough for two dinners and one lunch.  They were incredibly tasty.  Unfortunately, the Hubs and I didn’t enjoy the Lentil & Cauliflower Dahl as much. Even though the ingredients were promising, the taste was a bit bland and we both thought it would have been better with some coconut milk or something else to make it a bit creamier.  It tasted healthy and while I love eating healthy, I want the health part to be disguised by great taste!  It wasn’t bad, we just didn’t love it.  I think the omnivore box might have been more enjoyable for us.

Ease:  The recipes were pretty easy to make. with most of them not taking more than 30 minutes, which is perfect if you are busy!  The recipe cards have only 4-5 steps and usually only require about two pots and/or pans.

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Price:  The price is very reasonable with the veggie box costing $9.08 per meal and the omnivore box costing $10.75 per meal. My veggie box cost $59 for three meals serving two people each.  You can use my referral code PEF7LQ to get $20 off your next box (full disclosure- I will get $20 off my next box too!). 

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Grade:  Delivery is on Wednesdays, which is not great for me.  Since we tend to eat on the weekend and I usually am dying for a night off from cooking by Fridays, I prefer to have my fresh groceries at the beginning of the week.  There is also not a lot of customization with this plan, which means you might end up with something you don’t love.  But on the bright side, it does force you to try new things!  The meals were generally healthy with calories ranging between 500-600 calories each.  Hello Fresh also provides you with additional nutritional information, which I liked!  The recipes were easy to make but unfortunately the lentil dahl recipe turned me off a bit since I didn’t like it.  B-

Readers, have you tried any of these meal prep services?  How do you make meals when you are busy?  How do you come up with recipes?  What would make meal planning and making easier for you?

Comments

  1. I actually think these kind of services are great when living in NYC and considering the price of most meals and groceries, definitely affordable. I weirdly have an obsession with food shopping so it might not be worth it for me, but if my schedule wasn’t so lenient, this would be a great option! I’d take a personal chef too though…;)
    Davida @ The Healthy Maven recently posted…A No BS Guide to Food PhotographyMy Profile

  2. I’ve always wanted to try one of these services, but was nervous that I wouldn’t love the food… I love experimenting in the kitchen and I LOVE that this take out all of the guess work.
    Kimberly (Manifest Yourself) recently posted…New Coach, New T25 OutlookMy Profile

  3. Wow – we don’t have anything like that here (maybe a business ides?!). I think I would like it once as something a bit different. Fun to read about the different options you have!!!
    Kim recently posted…Crock Pot Mexican PorkMy Profile

  4. I just tried Blue Apron – a client gave me a week as a gift – and loved it! The food quality was great. The only downside, I thought, was that everything was separately packaged – like one recipe called for 1 carrot and another for 2 carrots, and they were in separate plastic bags. It felt a little wasteful in terms of packaging.
    Carly @ Fine Fit Day recently posted…Exercise to Fight Parkinson’s DiseaseMy Profile

  5. That food all looks so good and your fish looks just like the picture! I’ve never used one of these services, I actually enjoy coming up with and planning my food, although once I have a family, I feel like this would be a stress reliever for sure!
    Lauren @ Focused To Be Fit recently posted…More Than Flexibility – Man Flow YogaMy Profile

  6. What a cool service! I’d never heard of anything like it before, but I can imagine it’s especially useful for not only busy girls, but busy girls in a big city like NYC. If I lived there, it’s probably something I’d try every once in a while!
    Lisa @ Lulu’s Big Adventure recently posted…A Glimpse Into Troubled Minds: 3 Interesting Psychiatry CasesMy Profile

  7. I haven’t tried any of these services yet. It’s definitely a cool concept. I love to cook so much that I’m not sure I would do it on a regular basis, but I believe it’s a good option for those folks who are not good at cooking and portioning well balanced meals.
    Megan @ The Skinny-Life recently posted…Comment on Spring into Your Fitness & Health by GiGi EatsMy Profile

  8. This are some great services, not sure if any of it is in my budget but maybe one day? lol I don’t like thinking about what to eat and when I ask the husband he almost never knows what he wants!! I tell you what I want…that vegetable fried rice!!
    Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama recently posted…Tooth Brushing Made Easy With Oral-B Disney Timer App! #ProHealthKidsMy Profile

    • Oh my gosh my husband does the same thing and then I’ll give him a look that says “you did not just respond like that.” and he’ll say “pasta?”, which we have 100x a week! Haha! I agree these programs are best for occasional use.

  9. Remember those meal delivery services about 10 years ago? They were horrendous. Plastic looking food – looked like those plastic dog toys, LOL! But Now… WELL LOOK AT WHAT YOU REVIEWED! This food looks fantastic and… REAL… and HEALTHY!!! HEALTHY – that’s key! I am thrilled to see this! I will forever remember this one company called Horizon Foods, my mom would order from them and we would FORCE HER to buy the mini pizzas and mozzerella sticks! Those would be my PM snacks after school, ugh – so not healthy! LOL! I would love to try these meals… However, I do love my own cooking too… But if I were in a bind, BOOM – One of these meals = perfection!
    GiGi Eats Celebrities recently posted…The Skinny Ain’t So Confidential AnymoreMy Profile

    • Oh my gosh those were the worst! These are so much better because, as you pointed out, real ingredients! While I wouldn’t call them diet plans, I would say that they are useful if you need help with portions!

  10. First, thank you for your supportive words on my blog Monday! I appreciated it so much :) Second, that Plated service sounds amazing! That one looked the most appealing to me based on your reviews. I think the concept is so awesome! It probably wouldn’t be a regular thing because of the prize but it sounds great when you know you’re going to be on a time crunch and need things planned out before. These are all so cool though I honestly have never heard of this concept until now. Way awesome!
    Paige@FitNotFad recently posted…Healthy Blueberry Muffins + Changes AheadMy Profile

    • Absolutely Paige. I’m here for you if you need anything. You’ll make it through girl! You have such a positive outlook on life.

      Agree that these services are better in a time crunch or if you are in a rut. I was also thinking it might be useful in the summer since i like to travel on the weekends and have less time to shop/plan!

  11. So interesting!! I’ve heard of a few of these, and a few were new to me, but I’ve never tried a meal service before — mostly because I love the meal creation part of it. When I’m short on time & starving I have a lot of quick and easy go-to meal ideas, like a huge salad, ravioli or veggie quesadillas. I agree that an hour sounds like a pretty long time for prep with these services!

    Oh and the most appealing sounding dish to me was the artichoke fontina calzones! I’m writing that down so I can recreate it soon :)

  12. Reason 579 to move! OMG I would absolutely love a service like this. We have a few similar things but the best one – where a chef comes to your house and prepares the meals and leaves them in your fridge or freezer – are outrageously expensive. The only other real option are places where you can make 2-4 meals for the week but you have to make them there – bring a cooler and then store them when you get home. I’ve tried the latter before kids and it was pretty good but nothing like the services you described!
    Allie recently posted…Remember Those New Year Resolutions?My Profile

    • Um, yes the chef! Haha. I can imagine it is expensive. I think some of these might be available in your area. I know at least Plated delivers to CT but I’m not sure where!

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  1. […] with purple potatoes and “creamed” spinach courtesy of Blue Apron.  I loved cutting up the purple potatoes, with their rich and vibrant hue they just made me […]

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