A series of unsponsored meal kit reviews and comparisons
A few months ago, my daughter made a case for us to try meal kits. I wasn’t so sure at first. Whenever I had checked into them previously, they seemed expensive and didn’t have a lot of recipes we would actually like. I have two particular eaters in my household, and we’re pretty plain eating folks. But, I decided to check into it again and found there were many more options, so I decided we’d give meal kits a try. I started with one company, but I was anxious to do a meal kit comparison and see what we’d like most.
So after about five meal kit boxes from one provider, I paused my account and changed to another. I just wanted to see the difference. At the same time, there was a third one I was curious about as well. I figured all this trying would end up being a great meal kit comparison to share!
Before ordering, I tried looking at meal kit comparisons, but most of them seemed to include affiliate links or sponsorships with the companies. I am not affiliated with or sponsored by any of these meal kit companies. When I started writing this meal kit comparison, in fact, I had no idea which service I’d end up liking the most — if any of them. I didn’t even intend to make it a blog post!
Then, once I decided to make it a blog post, I thought it’d be just one post. Pretty quickly, I realized that I needed more than one post to include all the information to make a helpful comparison. Over the next few weeks, I’m posting our experiences with Dinnerly, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Every Plate and EMeals.
Dinnerly was the first meal kit we tried. It seemed like decent prices and had a variety of options we could make work. I signed my family of four up for the 4-person plan of three meals a week. Three meals a week was the smallest amount Dinnerly allows.
I was pretty impressed with the Dinnerly menu choices, because I could find a good amount of meals that would work for our family. My husband and son are not big on eating meat and can be a bit particular. Usually, I would go for two of the three meals to work for all four of us and have one that I’d make an easy alternative for the guys.
I also was able to modify some recipes to fit our preferences. For example, when I made pasta with meat sauce, I used half the amount of ground beef the recipe called for, because that’s what our family likes. I froze the remaining half easily since it came is 1/2-pound sealed packages. Another time I got chicken tostadas to make and used some of my own ground beef to give my guys an option, since they don’t like chicken.
Overall, the Dinnerly recipes had a decent selection whether you are big meat eaters or not. We only had two recipes we didn’t care for. One was for a breakfast casserole, which was a miss because of the scrambled eggs that much of my family doesn’t like (not Dinnerly’s fault). The other was a miss because I tried gnocchi for us. None of us had ever had it; none of us cared for it (probably not Dinnerly’s fault either).
There were a couple of weeks that not much looked good to me, so I skipped the week, which was easy to do. Dinnerly also has a feature to allow you to pause your service rather than cancel, which is what I did for this meal kit comparison.
Shipping for each box was $8.99. The meals were $22.36 each for four servings. I had some discounts for being a new subscriber to help offset the cost, but without them, the cost was $76.07 for three meals a week for four people. Discounts are applied over multiple weeks, so you get a smaller amount off of a few orders rather than a larger amount of one order.
Starting off with the first shipment, things went a bit awry. Our box didn’t arrive on the day it was supposed to. I contacted customer support who assured me it should show up the following day and still be cold. I was dubious, to say the least. The box didn’t eventually show up and it was cold enough.
Every week, the box was delivered around 6 p.m., which is late for deliveries in my neighborhood. And because we eat dinner around 5 or 5:30 p.m. most weeknights, it meant that I couldn’t plan a Dinnerly meal for delivery day. I still don’t know the delivery service used, because it was very vague in the app. The one time I saw the truck deliver the box, it was an unmarked box truck.
The ingredients were fresh, though, and of good quality. We had one bunch of green onions one time out of the four kits we got that were pretty wilted, but it was also winter in the Midwest. So I didn’t hold that too much against them. Everything was pre-portioned. All items came in one big box that I then would divide up what I needed when cooking. Things like sour cream, for example, came in 2-ounce tubes that I would use a certain number of per recipe.
Cooking the meals
My biggest gripe with cooking from Dinnerly is that the estimated times were much less than actual. If a meal said it took 20 minutes to make, it usually took more like 30 or 40. I’m not sure if the times were from a professional chef or what. I’m not a complete novice in the kitchen, but I’m certainly no professional.
The recipes were available in the app or through my online account. I used the app because having my phone in the kitchen was easier. I still wasn’t crazy about having to use my technology where I was cooking, though. Later, I discovered that if I open the recipes on my computer then I could print out recipes cards, which I much preferred.
I also found that we needed some kitchen tools I didn’t have on hand and had to look up work arounds for. Using a handheld grater was the most common one. I did end up buying one of those. Another time, I needed a meat mallet tenderizer and didn’t have one (we really don’t eat much meat).
I like to look at recipes ahead of time to get an overview of the steps so I know what’s coming. The first time I cooked with Dinnerly, I didn’t do that, but I learned after that to swipe ahead and see all the steps before I started then I could go back. Sometimes the directions for the steps were a big vague. I’m a recipe-follower and like very specific instructions, though.
We almost always had leftovers. Dinnerly has decent portion sizes for sure. In fact, we contemplated switching our plan to a two-person plan. But we found that most things froze well, and we ate the leftovers.
Overall, Dinnerly was a pretty good fit for our family. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars. I don’t like that three meals a week were the smallest amount we could use. Of all the meal kits I compared, this one also had the worst shipping and tracking.
Other posts from this series: