When you’re in a recipe rut and crunched for time, it can be a relief not to have to shop – or find some use for the odds and ends of ingredients left over from last week’s spree.
Enter the meal kit. A number of new services like Chefday, HelloFresh and Plated, among others, offer the ingredients you need for a particular recipe, pre-measured and portioned for the number of servings you request.
Some services make local deliveries, others ship, but cold packs are always included.
Meal kits fall somewhere in the middle on the bargain scale — they’re generally cheaper than enjoying the same dish at a restaurant, but pricier than if you’d hit the supermarket to buy those ingredients.
That extra cost doesn’t mean they can’t have value, though. You might be learning a new skill from the recipe, or giving a unique ingredient a try.
That can cut costs if it means you’re not buying a full bottle, box or bunch of something you might not like, or would struggle to find other recipes for.
Deals also pop up pretty frequently for such sites.
ChefDay recently offered a 40% off deal through daily deal site Gilt City, and HelloFresh users can save $20 off their first order with a referral code from a friend who already uses the service.
Plus, the more servings you buy, the lower the per-serving price.
Some of the services worth checking out:
A weekly delivery with all the ingredients to make three meals — with options for meat eaters and vegetarians, and recipe cards for preparation. Meals can be as low as $9.99 per person per serving.
Offerings in mid-June include cod with Parmesan, crusted squash and roasted red potatoes, steak with salsa rossa and broccoli rabe and chicken bahn mi with sesame cabbage salad. Delivers to part or all of 28 states and Washington, D.C.
Once you sign up for a subscription, you’ll get weekly deliveries, until you cancel.
Choose from an array of recipes, including asparagus stuffed salmon, meatballs shakshuka and stir fried green bean vermicelli — all organic ingredients.
Get two portions for roughly $30, along with recipe cards and access to video tutorials. Meals can be as cheap as $12 per meal per person.
New Yorkers can order as few as two portions of one meal per order; users in other areas where the company delivers (most of the East Coast) need four portions total, in one or more meals. No subscription required.
Pick the veggie box for $59, or the classic box for $69, and you’ll get three meals for two people, with recipe cards. (You can also buy portions for four or six, at an extra cost.) Some meals cost as little as $8.27 per person.
Recipes slated for mid- June include golden beef pilaf, orzo risotto with buttery shrimp, and stuffed peppers with quinoa.
Once you sign up for a subscription, you’ll get weekly deliveries, until you pause or cancel. Available for delivery in 29 states on the East Coast, as well as Washington, D.C.
Non-members pay $15 per serving for four; $14 for six or more. Members pay $10 per month, for a reduced rate of $12 per serving for four; $10 for six or more.
Past recipes on the rotating menu of local and seasonal dishes included lamb souvlaki kebabs with toasted pita and Greek salad, roasted swordfish with Meyer lemon risotto, and barbecue chicken with peanut Udon noodles and Asian slaw.
Current delivery areas range from Boston to Washington, D.C., but the company plans to expand nationally.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.