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Meal prep services

So, you work hard, you often get home late and the last thing you feel like doing is cooking something.  Isn’t it just much easier to get someone to deliver good meal prep services to you so you don’t have to worry about it?


Sounds like a great idea – so we thought we’d review four of the finest.  There isn’t too much science behind this!  We chose a few meal prep companies that people recommended and thought about them in terms of: health; ease of prep; cost; tastiness and ingredients; flexibility of menus; delivery; and waste!


Prepped.

So, first up is Prepped, a New York based meal delivery company.  It is kind of unique in that it focuses on being health and easy.  The meals on the website come with their macros and it is also a Paleo meal plan, with dairy-free, gluten free and low carb food options.  There isn’t that much on offer but things look tasty.


I ordered 3 meals for two: two boneless buffalo wings, two pesto salmons and two basic chicken with rice.  The total was $70 which is pretty comparable to other providers meal prep services…. but then they sting you with $15 delivery.


The food is delivered in a box on Tuesday evening, with ice packs so you don’t need to rush home and collect it.  There was ALOT of packaging!  Everything was wrapped in plastic, and then inside plastic.


So, my first meal – Buffalo Chicken with mashed cauliflower and green beans.  It was OK!  It was super easy to get ready – just 3 minutes in the microwave which was awesome.   The meal itself was fine – I mean nothing to write home about but edible.  Again the packaging has the macros on the packaging – which is really useful to understand what you are eating.

Next up: Pesto Salmon with garden vegetable spaghetti squash and seared broccoli.  Again super easy to prep (3 mins in microwave); had the macro labels; but really not that tasty (it felt like a school meal) and soooo much plastic.  The final meal was basic chicken and rice with seared Brussels sprouts – which was actually not too bad; the best of all three options.

Overall, I nice and easy and healthy – but really not very tasty.  And, they keep on texting me with offers even though I don’t want them too!!


Blue Apron

Next up, Blue Apron.  So this is really the grand daddy of meal prep services.  There are a lot of delicious looking meals on their website.  They are regularly updated so you are never likely to get bored.  It’s tough to fine the macros for the meals and sort by healthy options (burgers and pizza seem to be high up on the list!).


So pricing: again I am looking to order three meals for two people – which comes out at $59.94 per week (there is a starter discount that gets it down to $35).  There’s no minimum commitment but when you sign up you are automatically enrolled in a weekly subscription.

It’s quite a cool idea – you are sent the ingredients and a card giving you instructions on how to cook your meals.  Your food arrives in a cooled box (similar to Prepped) and they deliver 7 days a week (which is nice).  I ordered Pan-seared salmon, seared steak and quinoa and vegetable salad.


First observation – there is a lot of plastic again.  Your meals come with a knick knack bag which then has lots of small individually wrapped herbs and condiments.  There is also a pretty good America food label outlining calories, fat, carbs and protein (as well as saturated fat, trans, cholesterol, fiber, sugar, etc).  I couldn’t find this info on the website so it is kind of pointless at this stage as I would have preferred to have used this to inform my choices at the beginning.


As you’d probably expect, the meals tent to be quite high on carbs (the quinoa and vegetable salad was 106g carbs of which 40g was sugars – mainly due to the dates).  But the food is tasty.  And it is fun cooking.  It is not as easy as just putting everything in the microwave and typically takes 30 minutes to prepare a meal but it is pretty fool proof.

First night is salmon… this was really tasty and was quick to prepare.  The following night we had quinoa and vegetables; a nice simple dish that came with red wine vinegar, dates, almonds and peppers.  This was pretty quick to prepare.  And finally, seared steak.  This was certainly quite decadent with the knick knacks including butter, fresh cheese, feta and demi-glace.  It is quite easy to exclude some of these additional ingredients if you are looking to reduce weight and the instructions were clear.


All in all, this was much tastier than Prepped and it was pretty fun cooking.  Again I was concerned by how much plastic was used and by the final night I didn’t really feel like cooking when I got home from work.  But overall, a good experience.


Kettle Bell Kitchen

Next up is Kettle Bell Kitchen – a recommendation from my Cross-fit gym.  So, I ordered three meals ( you can choose from a long range of options on their menu – they have a list of about meals, sides, snacks and and dessert – although it is definitely not as exhaustive as Blue Apron).


Each meal has the macros on written on it clearly and there is no doubt that these meals are geared towards healthy eating – most are paleo; they all have high protein.  They come in various sizes (Medium, Large and XL) which is useful as I tend to eat Large and my wife eats Medium.


It is pretty expensive!  My total for 3 meals for two people came to $77.70 and then you get charged on top of that for delivery.  Also, they do not deliver every day!  You have to choose a combination of days to get your food – I went for Wednesday in four days time.  What is quite cool is you can save on delivery fees and they will drop the food off at your gym so you just need to collect it when you are there.


Anyway, my first meal was bacon fingers with Brussels sprouts and spinach.  This was really tasty!  585 calories without the sauce (although the label states the sauce has 31g of fat which can’t be right?!).  This was really tasty – like a healthy chicken in breadcrumbs.  Meal prep was really easy – just 3 mins in the microwave.


I also really like the fact that they have a limited amount of packaging.  It feels like you are throwing away sooo much plastic with Prepped and Blue Apron, whereas KBK only comes with a wax coated cardboard box (I’m not sure if that can actually be recycled), a plastic lid, a paper cover and a plastic container for sauce inside.  It is worth noting that with the sauce containers, you can choose to not add them to your meal and save a few calories that way!

Next up was wild salmon fish cakes.  Again a really tasty meal.  All the sides are vegetables – so this must be paleo friendly.  And it is certainly filling.  Also love how little waste there is – and no washing up!!  Final day we have Chinese pork and vegetable stir fry, which was (yup!) really tasty!  610 plus an extra 140 calories for the sauce macros.  So all in all, each meal I really need to have without the sauce – which is a bit of a shame as they really do make a difference.  But that said they are in self-contained plastic cups so really easy not to include!

All round – this was a big win!  Really easy to cook, with tasty and healthy options.  And you can take meals in for lunch at work and just nuke them there which is cool.  Quite a bit more expensive than the other options though.


Plated

And finally, we come to Plated.  At this point, I should probably confess that I love Shark Tank!  I have been addicted to it for quite a while so I kind of just wanted to add Plated because it was featured.  In the interest of transparency, this may cause a bit of bias but anyway, here we go….


So for two servings, three times per week it costs $71.70 (there is a 25% discount getting it to $53.77).  Shipping is free over $60.  This certainly more in line with Blue Apron than something healthy.  You also need to cook everything – a quick glance shows you high level calories, the chef and prep time.  If you click on the food you then get the macros.  There are vegetarian options but nothing to indicate there are vegan, paleo, etc.

So first observation is this is a subscription service which kind of annoys me!  You can’t just order and try do one-offs.  You can cancel your subscription with 6 days notice.  Anyway, my order is $71.70; free shipping and $17.99 discount.


But before I go further, I notice that this is actually so similar to Blue Apron.  I mean it is actually hard to spot the difference.  So I start to do a bit of research on-line…

A comparison of Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated ended up recommending Blue Apron (you can read the review here).  How sad – it is basically the same product.  I am not even going to bother trying it!  I pulled a picture of the internet so you can see what it should look like….

Conclusion

Well, I guess it slightly depends on what you want to do!  I am trying to loose weight so I have gone with Kettle Bell Kitchen as my preferred option.  It does cost more, but it is very easy (just microwave for 3 mins) which means you can take them in to work for lunch; the meals are tasty; and I think they are the healthiest option with clear macro labeling.

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