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How we test meal kits

We've evaluated over 14 popular options to help you find the best meal kit delivery service for your family.

It's 5:30 p.m. and you're not sure what to do about dinner. Do you have groceries in the refrigerator? Should you stop for takeout? Are there still leftovers from the last time you picked up Chinese food?

Figuring out what to eat can be a challenge, especially when you're trying to prioritize healthier home-cooked options. One potential solution: A meal kit delivery service, which can help you discover new dishes and keep you motivated to meet your cooking goals. Each week, meal kit delivery services send all the ingredients you need for meals you’ve preselected according to your dietary needs and taste preferences. These services require no extra grocery shopping and minimize waste by providing only what's needed for your home-cooked dishes. Some of these services offer add-ons for breakfasts, lunches and desserts too. There are plenty of good deals to be had — and some even offer the first box free.

Read more: These are the best healthy meal delivery services and best prepared meal delivery services of 2024

Open box with plastic bags full of ingredients
The Blue Apron box includes an insulated bag filled with items packed in bags. (Lisa Schweitzer/Yahoo)

With so many meal kit services aimed at the home cook, it's difficult to know where to start. That's where I come in. I've been eating for a living for many years now, have a degree from the French Culinary Institute and have worked for various food publications. I'm also a mom, with an active teen and tween for whom I cook on a daily basis.

I've tried many meal kit delivery services with my family to get their input. I also consulted with other Yahoo staff testers to get their insights. I evaluated each service according to the number of weekly menu choices that cater to a variety of dietary preferences (low-carb, keto, paleo, kid-friendly, gluten-free vegan, etc.), the quality and freshness of the included ingredients, ease of cooking, cost, eco-friendly packaging, flavor profiles and taste.

I also considered info from Facebook groups devoted to discussing meal kits, plus expert advice from Jaclyn London, a New York City-based dietitian. Here's how I made our top picks for the best meal delivery kit services of 2024.

Arguably, this is the most important step in the process of testing meal kits: finding the plan that works best for you, then selecting the specific recipes that will be shipped to you each week. Key questions to consider include: Do you want to cook from a meal kit twice a week, three times or more? How many portions do you need? Are you counting on leftovers for lunches?

Most companies will let you choose from two to six portions per meal and two to five meals per week, with pricing that varies accordingly. Generally, the cost per serving goes down as you increase the portions and the number of meals per week. Starting prices range from easy on the budget (check out Dinnerly, which starts as low as $6 per serving) to high-end (see Sunbasket, which can run as high as $28 per serving). Most meal kit services have both a website and an app, so you can make changes to your order or look up a recipe as needed.

Many meal kit delivery services allow you to select a plan based on dietary preferences such as keto, paleo, low-carb, vegetarian/plant-based and low-calorie. (Worth noting: Every brand has its own definition of what these labels mean.)

Meal kit plan selection and pricing information
There's a meal kit delivery service for every budget and taste. (EveryPlate)

My family loves variety, while other families' tastes are more set. Some meal kit delivery services offer 100-plus choices each week (like Hello Fresh), and others have fewer options (like EveryPlate). When testing meal kits, I considered whether each service offered recipes that conformed to people's dietary preferences, which range from keto, paleo and plant-based to low-carb, low-calorie and more. If a particular dietary preference is important to you, skip the services with fewer recipe offerings each week — you may end up with very repetitive meals.

The services that let me customize meals by swapping out proteins or sides (see Home Chef) were ideal for ensuring that all of my meals for the week weren't chicken dishes. With so many dietary restrictions and preferences in our midst, I made it a point to note this feature in my reviews.

If organic ingredients are important to you, check out Green Chef, which garnered the top spot in our testing for organic meal kits. But, as expected, with organic ingredients come higher prices per serving. And if a particular nutritional profile is a must, look out for meal kits that offer the ability to filter dishes by dietary restrictions or lifestyle.

Some meal kit services offer additional items, usually referred to as add-ons, that you can have delivered with your kits. I often found that it was possible to add fully prepared breakfasts, cooked proteins, snacks, desserts and even pantry staples to my cart before checking out.

When I order a meal kit, I want it to show up on time and intact. Once I open the box, I should be able to identify which ingredients are for each dish and ensure that none are spoiled or leaking. In some cases, brands grouped all items for each dish in bags, while in other boxes, items were packed together. Generally, the brands ship all food fresh, not frozen, in an insulated box or bag with ice or gel packs that keep food cool until you can unpack it. If anything arrived in subpar shape, I noted it and contacted customer service.

As far as sustainability goes, most brands offered quite a bit of information on how to recycle the different components of their packaging and how much post-consumer recycled materials they use.

Blue Apron meal kit ingredients in packaging on kitchen counter
The ingredients of this meal were packed together in a plastic bag, making it easy to grab it from the fridge when I was ready to cook. (Lisa Schweitzer/Yahoo)

Once your box arrives, it's time to start cooking. Many meal kit delivery services assume you have basics such as cooking oil, salt and pepper at home, but I always checked the ingredients that arrived against the recipe list. After that, I evaluated how easy it was to prep the ingredients, how clear the directions were and whether each meal could be prepared in the suggested prep time. I made a note if a kit was more suited to a beginner cook or a more seasoned "home chef" and whether I thought I would realistically want to make each dish on a busy weeknight.

Finally, I tasted all the meals and evaluated whether the food was properly seasoned and delicious or just OK, and whether I wanted to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day (always a good sign). I also evaluated the portion sizes and found that they vary widely, not just from brand to brand, but sometimes among a brand's different recipes. That's good information to have before you place that meal kit order.

he Marley Spoon kit for restaurant-style ramen
I had serious doubts that I would be able to create restaurant-style ramen at home, but this Marley Spoon kit delivered. (Lisa Schweitzer/Yahoo)

I considered many factors when I evaluated each meal kit delivery service, including the cost of the plan, recipe choices, a website or app's ease of use, delivery, packaging, quality of ingredients, instructions and, of course, taste. Once I tried a few kits, it was easy to decide whether each one was a good value, so you don't have to waste time and money on the trial-and-error process.