We searched for the best meal delivery services during deployment! Here’s how that worked out.
As a mom of four kids, dinner is sometimes the hardest part of the day. I have to plan out meals ahead of time, and run to the store while some of them are at school. If I forget an ingredient, it’s dead to me. There is no way I’m dragging four kids to the store to pick up one item. I might just make mac and cheese or something from the freezer instead.
During deployment, when I’m the only adult in the house, cooking is an additional challenge. I may spend an hour preparing a healthy meal, only to have everyone else in the house reject it and complain about it. It’s hard to keep us all healthy when I’m tired and the only thing they ever want to eat is delivery pizza.
That’s why a meal delivery service is amazing for any family, but it’s a particularly wonderful resource during military deployments. Meal delivery service companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or Chef’d deliver fresh meals to your door. Every ingredient is already measured and included. Vegetables and meat arrive ripe and chilled. And instructions with pictures are included! All you have to do is cook the meal and enjoy it. It’s like being the star of your own cooking show! Using a meal delivery service can be a great date night at home, or even a solution to a busy weeknight schedule for someone who wants help with meal planning. But these services come with a price tag, and I know you are wondering… are they worth it?
I recently tried Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, AND Chef’d and I’m here to tell you exactly how our experiences went. This is NOT a sponsored post. I bought the products myself, and I am reviewing them myself. Opinions are my own. So please, read on and get the inside scoop!Want to try a food delivery service at home? We tried Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, & Chef'd. Who won? Click To Tweet
Hello Fresh offers tasty, simple meals
We have enjoyed four meals from Hello Fresh. I initially tried Hello Fresh because of a coupon, but I returned to it because of the quality and flavor. This is a meal delivery service that is repeated weekly, unless you tell them to skip weeks or suspend your account (which you can do for free anytime).
Here’s a video of me unboxing our first Hello Fresh box so you can see how everything arrived!
Hello Fresh lets you choose your delivery date and subscription plan. I chose Mondays, when the Commissary is closed. The 2-person plan delivers 3 meals weekly for $60. The family plan (which serves 4 people) is 2 meals weekly for $70. So either plan’s price per serving is around $9. Each week, there are at least six menu options, so you can choose the ones that appeal to you.
I like Hello Fresh for several reasons. First, their meals are fresh, healthy, and family-friendly. We all enjoyed the flavors, but there was nothing so spicy or exotic that the kids refused to eat. In fact, my kids enjoyed following the photos in the directions and helping me in the kitchen! It was a lot more hands-on for them than usual because everything was clearly explained on the direction sheet.
Secondly, I found that Hello Fresh had the best quantity of food for the price. Their portions were generous, and we always had leftovers, even though it was five people eating a meal designed for four people. I liked being able to eat the fresh food the next day for lunch. When we made honey sesame chicken tenders, this was the leftover portion. It would have been plenty to feed my husband, if he were home, meaning that the family box is adequate for a family of 6.
We didn’t have any complaints about Hello Fresh, except maybe the price. Even though it is cheaper than some other meal delivery options, it is still more expensive than my typical home cooking for a family. Online, I have seen people complain about the lack of menu variety and the fact that the vegetable side is generally roasted, which can get boring if you use the service regularly.
If you use this affiliate link to Hello Fresh, you get $40 off your first box!
Blue Apron is a basic meal delivery service
Blue Apron is similar to Hello Fresh: it is a meal subscription service, which delivers meals every week once you sign up. You have the option to skip weeks or temporarily suspend your service. You choose a convenient delivery day. Blue Apron’s menu options change weekly, but at any time there are only a few meals to choose from–six choices for the 2-person plan, and only four choices for the Family Plan. Their prices are similar to Hello Fresh, even though they aren’t initially listed on their website. ($60 weekly for two people to receive three meals, or $70 weekly for a family of four to receive two meals.)
Blue Apron’s delivery box was smaller, because they pride themselves on conservative, reusable packaging. So we had to separate which ingredients went with which meal. Everything comes with clear, step-by-step directions, including color photos. The cooking level is fairly simple, so even an inexperienced chef could make these recipes easily. We tried the Pesto Meatball Sandwiches and the Shrimp/Potato/Corn Boil. Both recipes were tasty, and something I would consider making again. However, the meatballs had no flavor. The ingredients were fresh, but fairly basic things that I can find at my local grocery store.
Blue Apron’s meals are simpler than Hello Fresh, and their serving portions are smaller, because the meals are designed for weeknight dinners. According to their website, most meals have about 500-800 calories per serving. The meals were simple and light, but wouldn’t be exciting for a special celebration. For our family there were no leftovers, like we had with Chef’d and Hello Fresh. I enjoyed the healthy vegetable side dishes that were part of each meal, because they were simple yet creative. Also, Blue Apron will let you order wine to be delivered with your meals. Yes: Wine. Delivered. You read that correctly.
There are, however, a few drawbacks to Blue Apron, depending on your current cooking habits and styles. Obviously, the meal service is designed for convenience. The pricing is cheaper than dining out at a restaurant, but more expensive than doing your own shopping and cooking. Without large portions, we had no leftovers, so ended up spending more on snacks and lunches than usual. So it all depends what you are looking for.
Chef’d offers decadent meals to prepare at home
We first tried Chef’d during a military deployment, when my husband was overseas. He wanted to do something for me for Mother’s Day, so he ordered meals for me online. He chose Chef’d mainly because it was the only company he could order through Amazon, with his limited internet access during deployment. He selected meals and ordered them, then they showed up at my door, and I got to enjoy preparing something besides mac and cheese for once! It was a great gift.
The Chef’d meals are each packaged in their own large bag. So even if you order a few meals at once, there is no confusion which ingredients belong with which meal. Each meal includes fresh vegetables, protein, and carbs. On their website, ChefD.com, you can shop for one meal at a time, choosing from a variety of dietary or family-friendly options. The menus change seasonally, but there are at least 100 options to choose at any time. Serving sizes are for 2 or 4 people. The average price per serving is around $15.
We tried Chicken Marsala, The Grilled Cheese Duo, Maple-Glazed Salmon, and Shrimp Fettuccine. Every meal was delicious! The premium ingredients and specialty items made a noticeable flavor difference from the way I usually cook. Most of the meals come with full-flavor items like butter and heavy cream, but there are lighter menu options if you prefer. Everything is included: all you add is salt, pepper, and olive oil. We were really impressed by the serving sizes—a 4-person serving easily served our family of 6 (2 adults and 4 young children). All of the Chef’d meals would be an impressive meal for a holiday or anytime you are entertaining. One night during the deployment, I invited some girl friends to come over and help me cook. The beautiful directions made it a fun and easy meal to prepare.
There are a few drawbacks to consider with Chef’d. First is the price of the meals. They are around $30 for a 2-person serving, which is comparable to a meal at an average restaurant. You definitely get good taste and quality with Chef’d, but it is a special occasion service, not a budget option to use frequently. Also, if you are considering the meals during deployment, I would caution that they are labor-intensive to prepare, and not very child friendly. So if you are sharing them with other adults, they will work wonderfully. But if you are using them to feed yourself and your children during deployment, they are rather extravagant and frustrating. You might be better off letting the kids help prepare simple meals.
Should you use a food delivery service?
The best meal delivery service should offer value and quality food. It will save you time and can save you money if you usually eat out at restaurants. For busy individuals, it can replace some of your meal planning and trips to the grocery store. But with only a few meals per week, you will still go to the grocery store for other food.
Here’s a handy chart to show how Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, or Chef’d could solve your mealtime problems. All three food delivery service companies offer fresh ingredients delivered to your door. But there are some ways they are different.
Looking for more meal prep ideas? You may also enjoy some of my easy breakfasts that you can prepare ahead of time. I love having breakfast ready to go on a busy morning! So if this sounds like what you have been looking for to get you out of your cooking slump, I hope you will give one of them a try! Please leave a comment with any questions.