Choosing the right meal delivery service today is tough. There are hundreds of options to choose from. Not only that, but they all have their own unique options and features. Thus, people end up confused and either not ordering or simply ordering the meal kit they’ve seen marketed/advertised the most.
If you’re looking for the right meal kit for you and/or your family, you’re in the right place! Today we’re looking at two of the biggest meal delivery services in the industry—Plated and Blue Apron.
There’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Blue Apron. They advertise all over the place, on podcasts, websites, and even commercials. I’m not stepping out of bounds by saying they might be the most well-known meal kit in the world.
Plated, on the other hand, is a bit less known. However, if you’re a fan of the show Shark Tank, you may already be familiar with their meal kits. That’s because Plated got their first boost in exposure from appearing on the show! They origonaly got an offer from Mark Cuban although it eventually fell apart. However, that hasn’t stopped them from growing exponentially since their episode.
To help you understand which of these two meal delivery services is right for you, we’re breaking down the most important elements of choosing a meal kit and going in-depth on comparing them both.
Let’s get started!
Variety of Food & Meal Plans
Choices and diversity of food and meal plans is important when it comes to a meal delivery service. No one likes having the same old food over and over. Also, a meal kit service with diverse meal plans allows you to customize what you eat to fit your specific diet (e.g. Atkins, Whole30, paleo).
Do you like trying new, unique twists on classic meals? If so, Plated is the way to go. Upon reviewing them our first time, we were incredibly surprised at how fun their recipes were. A lot of the meals we received in our boxes were atypical spins on normal recipes. To give you an example, on their current menu they have Sticky Pineapple Chicken with Scallion Rice and Chinese Broccoli. As you can see, it’s a twist on the normal "chicken and broccoli" dish most of us grew up having for dinner.
While Plated’s meals are notable, their meal plan variety is nonexistent. Unlike many other meal delivery services out there, Plated does not offer plans for any specific diet (e.g. gluten-free, low-carb, vegan, vegetarian). That isn’t a knock on Plated by any means. However, it doesn't allow individuals with dietary restrictions to order from them, which is a bummer.
Like Plated, Blue Apron offers some slightly similar unique takes on classic meals. However, their recipes are a little less “risky”. By that I mean, Blue Apron meals seem to be made to appeal to a much broader audience. When glancing at their current menu, with dishes such as Basil Fettuccine with Zucchini, Beef and Mushroom Burgers, and Barbecue Vegetable Flatbread, there is nothing that jumps out as something I’ve never tried before or makes me say “that’s interesting”. Now, that isn’t to say that Blue Apron meals aren’t tasty (which we’ll get to a little later on).
Blue Apron also does not offer any special meal plans. However, they do offer some vegetarian options.
Portion & Serving Sizes
When it comes to meal delivery services, bigger is definitely better. You want to have the ability to choose how many meals you receive for a variety of reasons, such as if you have a lot of mouths to feed.
In our review, we found Plated meals to be pretty normal in terms of quantity of food. None of the meals we received we’re necessarily too big or too small. Like Goldilocks said, they were “just right”.
Plated allows you to choose the number of servings you receive in your box. Options include 2 servings, 3 servings, and 4 servings. You also have the ability to select how many nights per week you’d like to cook (2, 3, or 4).
Blue Apron meals are relatively normal sized—some meals seemed a bit larger than normal. We ended up having leftovers with some of the meals we cooked, which I look at as a good thing since it ends up being lunch the next day.
Unlike Plated, Blue Apron only allows you to choose between their two-person plan (which obviously serves 2) and their family plan (which serves 4). With their two-person plan you can choose to have either 2 or 3 recipes sent to you per week. With their family plan you can choose to have either 2, 3, or 4 recipes sent per week.
The heart of every meal kit lies in its ingredients. Are they fresh? Do they come pre-portioned and pre-chopped? Do you need to have any kitchen staples (e.g. butter, olive oil, salt/pepper) or is every item included?
Both Plated and Blue Apron are pretty similar in regards to ingredients.
First, both sent ingredients that were fresh. None of the vegetables were overly ripe. On the flip side, nothing sent was spoiled either.
Second, both meal kits send their ingredients pre-portioned. That means everything is nicely bagged and properly labeled. Although, they aren’t pre-chopped.
One thing to note that neither company do is organize the ingredients by recipe within the box. That means all of the ingredients are spread out within the box and you need to dig through them to find what you’re looking for. Certain meal kits, like HelloFresh, organize their ingredients into mini boxes within the package you receive so that the ingredients are organized by the recipe (example).
Lastly, both meal kits send you basically everything you need to make the meals (minus salt and pepper). That means you don’t necessarily need to have kitchen staples like butter or olive oil, most are included with each recipe. While this may sound like a no-brainer, there are a bunch of meal kits out there that actually skimp on sending the smaller popular ingredients because they assume most people already have them in their kitchen and they don’t want to spend the extra time/money packaging them.
Winner: It’s a tie!
Ease of Cooking
One of the main benefits of meal kits, and the reason why so many people use them instead of grocery shopping, is the fact that they make cooking way easier. No more scouring the web for recipes, waiting in long lines at the grocery store, and hoping that your meal turns out good.
That being said, both Plated and Blue Apron are relatively easy to cook. This is due, in part, to the design of their recipe cards. The recipes are broken down, step-by-step, into easy instructions. They know that the people making these meals might not be culinary experts so the directions are pretty straightforward.
What I love about the recipe cards that Plated and Blue Apron both send is that they include pictures along with each step in the recipe. This may seem like a small and simple detail but it makes following the instructions much easier and leads to less accidental mishaps in the kitchen when cooking.
Winner: It’s a tie!
The most important aspect of meal kits for most people is taste. No one wants to pay to cook a sub-par tasting meal. However, remember that taste is subjective. What I might find delicious, you may not. That being said, I try to be as objective as possible when evaluating taste when it comes to meal kits.
As mentioned above, the meal variety from Plated is unique. You’re not going to find a plain old burger on the menu—it’ll be a burger with a twist. Because of this, the taste is unique too. While we immensely enjoyed all of our Plated meals, I can tell that some people who might be more conservative with their food preferences may not enjoy Plated as much.
Blue Apron meals are meant to appeal to everyone. You’re much more likely to see a general, well-known meal such as a simple burger or a pizza dish as a meal option. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking they won’t be delicious. All of the meals we received from Blue Apron were incredibly tasty and filling.
Winner: It’s a tie!
Delivery & Shipping Options
When it comes to meal kits, you do not want there to be any issues with delivery. One small delay can mean spoiled food.
Luckily, both Plated and Blue Apron have proven to be reliable when it comes to their delivery. When we ordered both, they came pretty quickly after the initial shipping notification (within 1-2 days).
In terms of shipping options, Plated only gives you free shipping with plans that are $60 or above. Blue Apron gives you free shipping no matter what.
Winner: Blue Apron
Packaging & Environmental Impact
How your meal kit is packed plays an important role in the whole experience. If your food isn’t properly packed, it could lead to bruised/broken ingredients or worse, going spoiled if the ice packs melt. Also, since you’ll be receiving your meal kit on a regular basis, it can create a lot of waste. This leads to an environmental issue. How much of the packaging is recyclable is an important element to consider.
All of the packaging Plated uses is recyclable and made from 100% recycled content. They use two different liners for their boxes (depending on the season and your location). The first is a jute material and the second is a recycled denim material. The jute liner can surprisingly be composted.
In terms of keeping ingredients cool while in transit, Plated uses non-toxic and water-soluble gel packs. That means you can safely throw away the gel by cutting it open and pouring it in the trash. Afterward you can recycle the plastic.
Blue Apron packages their ingredients using a foil liner rather than a recycled jute or denim material, like Plated does. While it’s not recycled, it is recyclable as a #7 plastic. However, it is one of the harder plastics to recycle, according to Earth911.
Blue Apron used to have an amazing recycling program whereby you could return your used packaging and they would recycle it for you. However, it was discontinued in 2018. While this makes recycling their packaging a bit harder, it’s not impossible.
Money Back Guarantee
Sometimes accidents happen. Packaging gets damaged in transit or the box gets delivered to the wrong address. Regardless, you want to know that the meal delivery service is going to have your back.
Unfortunately, Plated has no guarantee listed on their website. They may offer a refund in certain circumstances.
Blue Apron does has a “Freshness Guarantee”. This means that if you’re unable to cook your meal because of an issue with any ingredients you can let them know within 7 days of receiving your box and they’ll either credit your account or refund you.
Winner: Blue Apron
Have an issue with an ingredient? Don’t know what to do at a certain step in the recipe? There’s a chance you’ll have a question somewhere along the line after you order your first meal kit. Good customer support is an important element in making the meal kit experience run as smoothly as possible.
With Plated, you have a variety of different ways to get in touch with support—chat, email, and call. There is always a customer support representative available when you call (no time restrictions). They even have a little “chat with us” button right on their homepage to make getting in touch with them as simple as possible.
Getting in touch with Blue Apron is just slightly tougher. They currently do not have any chat feature so you have to either email or call them. If you choose to call, they only man the phones from Monday to Friday, 10am-6pm EST.
What other things do Plated and Blue Apron offer that don’t fall into any conventional category? We explore them below...
Regardless of whether you want a full culinary experience or you’re just looking to whip up something quick, Plated has you covered. They give you estimated prep and cook times so that you can choose meals based on how much time you want to spend making them.
Want to take your meal to the next level? Blue Apron also has an add-on that allows you to pair your food with just the right wine. Not many other meal kits provide this option so it’s a fun and unique feature.
Winner: It’s a tie!
Plated and Blue Apron are two of the biggest meal kits currently around. Choosing between the two certainly is not easy. You'll notice there were a lot of ties when they were compared them head-to-head.
Blue Apron meals are relatively straightforward. Meaning you don't have to take any risk when it comes to cooking or eating. The recipes are pretty simple to follow and the food is going to be good. Plated, on the other hand, is a bit more varied in their recipes. If you're someone who likes to cook new dishes or try new foods, Plated is a great option. If you're cooking for a family or you're a picky eater, Blue Apron might be more your style.
Blue Apron excels in one big way when compared to Plated... Their "Freshness Guarantee" is highlighted all over their website. When you buy something on the internet, especially food, you want to ensure that it's going to be exactly what you expect. That's why a guarantee of any kind is incredibly important when it comes to meal kits.
Overall, both are great meal kit options and both are included on our list of the top 10 best meal delivery services we've reviewed.
If you have a question about either Plated or Blue Apron, leave your comment below and we'll get back to you as soon as possible!