We’ve tried several meal preparation services and compared them for quality, taste and overall ability to please four different picky family members, and we’re sharing our results here to save you some time.

Quick cheat: Plated is our favorite.

The Plated meals usually turn out pretty much like the photo they send with the recipe

As working parents of two busy teens, we are constantly looking for shortcuts that save time without comprising quality, particularly at dinnertime. The concept of meal prep boxes being delivered weekly is very appealing, because the ingredients are fresh (usually) and the meal can be prepared quickly and easily.

Our family has tested Blue Apron, Sun Basket and Plated. We gave all of them a fair chance, receiving at least eight weeks of boxes with two meals each week for our family of four. Our criteria for success were the following:

  • Taste
  • Freshness
  • Variety of choices
  • Ease of preparation
  • Organic ingredients
  • Did I mention taste?

Blue Apron

Blue Apron….yawn.

  • Taste – high scores here, with four thumbs up from all four family members
  • Freshness – Mostly okay with a couple of pretty bad exceptions, including rotting arugula and moldy cucumbers
  • Variety – Pretty bad with only six choices per week
  • Ease of Prep – High marks, by far the easiest
  • Healthy – Sort of, with some dishes heavy on the butter and/or cheese
  • Organic – Nope, not always

Sun Basket

Sun Basket offers a wide variety of tastes, but perhaps too sophisticated for kids

  • Taste – OK but perhaps a little too exotic for the kids
  • Freshness – Very good
  • Variety – Many options with perhaps too few basic choices like spaghetti or tacos
  • Ease of Prep – Mostly ok with a couple of difficult exceptions
  • Healthy – Very, with mostly fresh vegetables and some meats
  • Organic – Yes, almost hippie level

Plated

With Plated, you choose from a variety of dishes and can program weeks in advance.

  • Taste – Very good with some occasional spices the kids find strange
  • Freshness – Very good
  • Variety – 14 choices each week, including Vegetarian, Paleo, Vegan and more
  • Ease of Prep – OK but not as easy as Blue Apron
  • Healthy – Mostly, with the occasional comfort dish with high calories
  • Organic – Yep

 

  • Plated sends an email each week with a reminder of what you ordered.

 

The outcome of our little experiment puts Plated as the clear winner.

The variety of choice with Plated allows us to make meals we know our family will enjoy, along with some options that will stretch our palates. The ingredient are always fresh and well packaged, arriving undamaged and unblemished. The shipping package is not overdone like Blue Apron, where there are so many packages with packages they almost seem like Russian nesting dolls. (The amount of unrecyclable trash from each Blue Apron delivery was really wasteful). Plus Plated offers breakfast options as well as a couple of dessert choices for an extra fee.

So there you have it – Plated is our choice. We’ve been doing this for about two years now and have stuck with Plated the longest, with two meals a week for the past eight months.

Here’s another nice fact: the meals work out to about $ per person per meal. I don’t know if we could do better shopping for the ingredients ourselves, because there would be leftovers of each ingredient we would save in our frig and then throw out. Certainly this cost is lower than eating meals out.

(Or, you could just make my White Chicken Chili recipe for dinner).

Do you have a favorite? We’d love to hear what is working for you!