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We tested five different meal-kit delivery services. Here’s how they stack up

By Alex Baldinger| Photography by Gabby Frank

Maybe you’re too busy to hit the grocery store. Or maybe you wouldn’t know what to make even if your fridge were stocked. Congratulations: you’re the target audience for all those recipe kit subscription ads you’ve seen on Facebook and heard on your favourite podcasts. The premise: skip the shopping cart and sign up for a weekly delivery of pre-portioned ingredients and step-by-step recipes.

The upsides: these services cut down on food waste by providing only the ingredients you’ll need, in precise quantities. And they teach basic techniques—chopping, slicing, mincing, searing, building flavours—that can improve a novice home cook’s repertoire. (You’ll need to have a few kitchen essentials, like bowls, knives and cooking oil.) The downside: they’re not cheap; the same meals could be prepared for way less if you did the shopping yourself. But if it’s this or takeout, you’ll eat better and save scratch in the long run.

We signed up for five services that deliver around the GTA, cracked a beer, threw on some music and got down to cooking. Here’s how they stacked up.

We tested five different meal-kit delivery services. Here's how they stack up

1. GoodFood

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What's in the box from Goodfood, one of the recipe-kit delivery services taking over Toronto's home kitchens
Food & Drink

What’s in the box from Goodfood, one of the recipe-kit delivery services taking over Toronto’s home kitchens

How much is it per serving? $10.83

What’s in the box? The recipes are sealed in see-through plastic bags. Recipe cards highlight any fancy gourmet items, with step-by-step photos and instructions, including a very cheffy mise-en-place step that insists you prep the ingredients before doing any cooking.

Test recipe: steak with panzanella With soaring beef prices, steak feels like special-occasion food. These beef medallions, cut from the pricy tenderloin, are paired with a tomato and toasted bread salad, spruced up with purple basil pesto.

We tested five different meal-kit delivery services. Here's how they stack up

How’d it taste? The plentiful panzanella balanced the richness of the beef, which was lean and fork-tender, with delicate marbling. A salt-and-pepper- only purist wouldn’t mind the paltry packet of spice, but fans of well- seasoned steak might have a beef.

Prep time: 30 minutes

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Our rating: 9 out of 10

 

We tested five different meal-kit delivery services. Here's how they stack up

2. Fresh City

How much is it per serving? $11.08

What’s in the bag? Each recipe is packed in its own reusable, insulated bag; meats come separately in a heavy-duty freezer bag. (You return the bags each week.) Recipes are printed on a card slightly larger than a parking ticket, sans step-by-step photos.

Test recipe: Moroccan chicken thighs This is no slow-cooked Sunday gravy affair: it’s chicken in a quick sauce made from sun-dried and grape tomatoes, minced garlic, and spices— turbinado, ginger, cumin, turmeric, cayenne—served over raisin quinoa.

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We tested five different meal-kit delivery services. Here's how they stack up

How’d it taste? Deeply flavourful, despite its 25-minute simmer, and the dark-meat chicken was golden-brown and tender. A good reminder of how easy it is to cook something filling and flavourful with only a few fresh, smartly chosen ingredients.

Prep time: 40 minutes

Our rating: 8 out of 10

 

We tested five different meal-kit delivery services. Here's how they stack up

3. Chefs Plate

How much is it per serving? $10.95

What’s in the box? The kits are packaged in sturdy paper bags, with full nutrition labels for diehard calorie counters. Recipes are printed on letter-size cards, with step-by-step photos. (Chefs Plate doesn’t put its recipes online, so save them for future use.)

Test recipe: fish tacos Tilapia might well be the skinless chicken breast of the fish farm, but it’s a perfectly fine fish to dredge in spices and serve on flour tortillas with some crisp, tangy salsa fresca.

We tested five different meal-kit delivery services. Here's how they stack up

How’d it taste? Lots of fresh cabbage made for a crunchy mouthful. And the “Baja” seasoning mix—paprika, onion powder, cumin—gave the pan-fried tilapia some needed personality. But can we please have some crema next time instead of the low-fat yogurt?

Prep time: 25 minutes

Our rating: 7.5 out of 10

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We tested five different meal-kit delivery services. Here's how they stack up

4. Prepd

How much is it per serving? $10

What’s in the box? The individual kits arrive in clear, unsealed plastic bags, inside a no-frills cardboard box sealed with green painter’s tape. It’s the cheapest service we tested, but the detailed, photo-heavy recipe cards were on par with the top-of-the-line options.

Test recipe: baingan bharta curry A whole roasted eggplant is the star, simmered with onions, jalapeños, chickpeas, tomatoes and spinach; seasoned with garam masala, cumin, coriander, curry and fresh ginger; and served with brown basmati.

We tested five different meal-kit delivery services. Here's how they stack up

How’d it taste? While it could have used a bit more of the spice blend, it hit the important curry notes. And it was copious, enough for two full servings and a decent-sized lunch portion the next day. (And curry is one of those foods that’s always better the next day.)

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Prep time: 35 minutes

Our rating: 7 out of 10

 

We tested five different meal-kit delivery services. Here's how they stack up

5. HelloFresh

How much is it per serving? $13.33

What’s in the box? The meal kits are packed in tidy, rectangular boxes. Some of the produce is precut to shorten cooking times. The recipes are presented in a glossy pamphlet rather than individual cards, which is great for future reference.

Test recipe: veggie pizzette with pesto Everyone loves pizza (er, pizzette) night, and this one starts with whole wheat dough topped with pesto, green and yellow zucchini, and a scattering of shredded mozzarella. A simple tomato salad fills the plate.

We tested five different meal-kit delivery services. Here's how they stack up

How’d it taste? Savoury, light and fresh, and a good argument for using pesto as a pizza base. But at $13.33 per serving, it needed something more: fresh bocconcini instead of shredded mozzarella, perhaps, or some fancy finishing oil or Maldon salt.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Our rating: 6 out of 10

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