Meal kits and delivery systems

The kits are designed to suit individual tastes and dietary preferences including vegan, paleo, vegetarian, all burgers, and butcher block meat protein selections.

The latest food craze in the US is home delivered meal kits. A couple of years ago there were only a handful of choices. Today, this market strategy is exploding with no less than 25-30 company offerings. Food boxes typically include all the ingredients for the home cook to create a meal that will serve 2 to 6 people. The kits are designed to suit individual tastes and dietary preferences including vegan, paleo, vegetarian, all burgers, and butcher block meat protein selections. The processes of ordering, meal selection, delivery, consumer inquiries are all about the same from company to company.

For the past 2 months, my wife and I have been trying and evaluating 3 different meal plans. We are a two person household and we wanted to determine a selection that best suits our needs based on meal selection, quality of meals, cost of boxes including shipping versus grocery shopping, ease of meal preparation and customer service. Although I will not name the companies we tried, we purposefully selected three that were of varying cost per serving (including shipping) and perceived quality. Most meal box companies tout their quality, price, ease of selection and time savings with respect to shopping on your own and meal preparation.

Meal Box Kit Review (Household of two): Price Comparison

Meal Company

Price including shipping

Price per Meal

Company A



Company B



Company C




The higher the price of company meal kits, the greater the meal quality in this authors opinion. For example, the lower priced company A (in the table above), included meals that were more casserole-like versus company C, that provided more expensive proteins like salmon, beef tenderloin and shrimp. Additionally, company B and C provided interesting sauce combinations for the proteins with almost every meal versus company A, which provided none. The sauces are generally an enhancement to the flavor and takes the cooking experience up another level. 

All the companies in this trial provided multiple choices of meals besides the three that were available in a given week. You could select an alternate meal prior to your delivery date. Company C provided dessert and fresh fruit selections for an additional cost per person. Company C also provided an opportunity to select a “premium meal” for an additional cost of $4.00/per serving. An example of a “premium meal” was a protein of filet mignon versus beef tenderloin.  Company A, the least expensive, did not have an “upgraded” menu option or dessert options.

There are additional opportunities to receive discounts from each company by referring others to try a box. One company will provide a free box to you for one referral who orders and another company provides a $30.00 credit on your next shipment if someone you refer orders. These are nice benefits for the consumer and for the company. Certainly, word of mouth is a powerful driver for these services.

All in all, our experience was pleasant and fun. The real benefit that we were looking for was the reduction in our overall grocery costs and time savings to shop. Given the differences in the price of the meal services trialed, we spent no more than $40.00 per week in additional groceries. When adding up all the costs for meal kits and grocery store visits, we spent a total of $895.83. The kits provided 27 meals for two people or a 54 total meals. That represents a cost per meal, including additional groceries purchased, of $16.59 for a nine week period. This cost per person was reduced further by incentives for reduced processing on your first box, free shipping, or discounts for successful customer referrals.

When making a decision to try one of the meal kit programs, consider your specific food needs, number of meals required, and number of servings required and the overall cost of preparing your meals, including grocery store visits. The difference in the types of meals is up to you of course, but the costs of what you’re currently eating per serving are calculable, much like was done in this trial and you can compare your costs and satisfaction.  Good luck on your own personal trial and bon appétit!  

Michigan State University Extension’s Community Food Systems Team works to help grow the local food system through education, collaboration, program development, research and grant writing support. This article and many others can be found on the team link.

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