Meal Delivery Service Review Methodology

See how we tested and rated each meal kit

The meal delivery industry seems to be expanding daily, with new kits and ready-to-eat meals for nearly every group. There are kits for folks looking to stay within a tight budget, options for plant-based eaters or sustainability-minded cooks, and plenty to choose from if you just want dinner for your family done in under 30 minutes. We wanted to make it easy for our readers to find a delivery service that’s the right fit for them.

In 2021, our team of six writers worked constantly for four months to order, test, and review nearly 50 of the most popular meal delivery services on the market, documenting the entire process. They were supported by our in-house team of editors, directors, SEO experts, data researchers, and photographers. The end result was 46 full reviews of these companies and 16 articles that compare one service to another.

Our team put each service through its paces by researching, ordering, and preparing multiple meals, and even interacting with their customer support teams. While we wanted our experts to weigh in with their opinions, we also wanted to drive these reviews using data to make them as objective as possible.

Purple Carrot noodles in bowl

Data Collection

We began this project by compiling a list of the most-searched meal delivery services using advanced SEO tools. This told us what people were looking for. From there, our in-house team spent weeks putting together detailed project plans, which ultimately led us to create two surveys for each tester to fill out: one focused on the company and another that asked questions about the meals.

These surveys gave us a wealth of information about each service, their offerings, who their meals were geared toward, nutritional data about the food, and much more. We then brought the findings to our data science team, which was able to pick apart the data and put it into a rubric. After several more brainstorming sessions and meetings with a registered dietitian consultant, we categorized the data into five areas that we felt are essential to the meal delivery experience: sustainability, customer experience, nutrition, cookability, and eating experience.

Sustainability: Packaging and Sourcing

Sunbasket packaging

We understand that packaging is a critical part of how meal delivery companies manage to get fresh food to our doorstep, but anyone who has ordered from one of these services knows that packaging can become excessive, even overwhelming. Not only does this impact the overall experience, but it can be a major concern for sustainability if you’re going to use the service on a regular basis. We awarded points to services that had less packaging overall, as well as for those that offer more sustainably sourced or humane ingredients.

Customer Experience: Customer Service and Customizability

If the main function of a meal delivery service is making life easier, then these companies should be all about the ultimate customer experience. We broke this rating into two parts: how customizable was the experience, and how well did the customer service teams handle our inquiries? Our rating for customization was based on data points surrounding the flexibility of ordering, when and how you make changes, delivery options, add-ons, and more. Companies that offered more flexibility and easily allowed changes scored better, while more rigid structures fared worse.

a chart with top customer experience scores

We also had our testers put customer service teams to the test by reaching out with questions, whether they had actual issues or not. While individual experiences are detailed in each review, we ranked the customer care experience based on responsiveness and how many avenues there were to reach the team.

Nutrition: Transparency and Accommodation

As our personal definitions of what’s considered “healthy” food become more individualized, meal delivery services are trying to keep up. One way they’re doing this is by offering meals that accommodate various dietary restrictions. Another is by providing more in-depth information about nutrition and allergens for customers as they select their meals. Rather than rating meal kits and prepared meals based on our definition of “healthy,” we scored them based on whether or not they gave enough information and customization so that you could decide if they meet yours.

We scored companies on certain measures of flexibility (such as portion size), the ability to accommodate various diets and nutrition needs, as well as the availability of information related to ingredients and allergens.

Cookability: Recipe Quality and Cooking Support

Blue Apron recipe cards

Some customers are looking for a quick and easy dinner option while others want a more complex and gourmet cooking experience. No matter which type, however, the recipes should be easy to use, accurate, and perhaps even educational. The cookability score is highest for companies that gave accurate recipes, provided additional resources such as a blog or videos that made cooking easier, and/or explicitly taught cooking techniques.

Whether you want dinner on the table in 15 minutes or you have an hour to cook, you can trust that companies with a high cookability score will reliably get you there.

Eating Experience: Food Quality and Menu Variety

While all elements of a meal delivery service can have an impact, maybe nothing is more important than the food itself. Needs can vary, but no matter your budget, diet, or location, everyone wants fresh ingredients, flavorful meals, and a menu with plenty of delicious options to choose from.

a chart with the top eating experience scores

Our testers rated meals from each service based on the quality of individual ingredients, down to the leafy greens. We also asked them to rank how many menu selections they had with each service and how diverse the meal choices were. Companies that scored well in the eating experience had the most options to choose from and the freshest-looking food.

a chart showing the top overall scores

Meet the Team

Pete Scherer
Recipe Developer, Food Writer
ghi

A self-taught cook and baker, Pete Scherer is a recipe developer and food writer in California. Pete graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in acting.

Favorite service: "My favorite service was Green Chef because it was consistently delicious, healthful, and convenient."

Favorite dish: "My favorite dish was the Calabrian shrimp and pancetta pasta with asparagus and lemon ricotta from Blue Apron. Just an absolute flavor bomb.”

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Marisa Olsen
Food Writer
Marisa Olsen

Marisa Olsen is a New England-based writer whose passion is all things food. She holds a degree in art history and psychology from the University of Connecticut.

Favorite service: "My favorite service was Green Chef. I loved the variety of cuisines, health-conscious meals, and the effort to use sustainable and organic foods whenever possible.”

Favorite dish: "I loved the Tuscan-style pork chops with scampi cauliflower from Home Chef. The preparation was so simple, and the pork chop was tender and flavorful.”

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Kristy Del Coro, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian, Chef, Food Writer
Kristy Del Coro

A registered dietitian and chef, Kristy Del Coro has worked in culinary nutrition since 2010 after earning a master of science in clinical nutrition from New York University and a culinary arts degree from the Institute of Culinary Education. She is a writer, consultant, and nutrition counselor.

Favorite service: "Green Chef. I loved the variety of globally inspired flavors, the use of spices, and minimally processed ingredients, plus the company's commitment to sustainable, high-quality sourcing."

Favorite dish: "My favorite dish on Green Chef's menu was the pan-roasted cotija chicken. It had great bold flavors and was very satisfying while also feeling healthy." 

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Nick Evans
Food Writer, Chef
Nick Evans

Nick Evans is a self-taught home chef based in Denver, Colorado. He released a cookbook, “Love Your Leftovers,” in 2014. He runs a cooking blog, Macheesmo, where he has published nearly 2,000 of his own recipes.

Favorite service: "Veestro. It was very different from what I normally cook. I loved that the meals were healthy and you can store them in the freezer for when you need fast meals. Great flavors, and I loved that you can order a la carte so you don't have to worry about a subscription.”

Favorite dish: "The farro ragout from Veestro. Really unique and good flavors.”

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Tori Martinet, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Food Writer
Tori Martinet

A licensed registered dietitian and culinary nutritionist, Tori Martinet works with individuals and brands on all things food and nutrition. She holds a bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular neuroscience and a master’s in nutrition and exercise physiology.

Favorite service: "Tovala was definitely my favorite. It was super tasty, quick to prepare, and who doesn't love a little extra tech? Dinner via barcode scanner is not something you see every day and the specialized countertop oven component was really fun to use."

Favorite dish: “I loved the chickpea shawarma pita from Tovala. I'm not vegetarian, but I do love to see how companies approach plant-forward dishes. This one was super satisfying, very flavorful, and visually appealing.”

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Heather Ramsdell
Senior Editorial Director
Heather Ramsdell

Heather Ramsdell is an editor obsessed with improving everyday acts of cooking and eating. Before joining The Spruce Eats in 2019, she directed culinary content for Food Network’s digital kitchen, worked as a creative director at Whole Foods Market, and launched the FreshDirect website. Additionally, she has written articles and books about design and food.

Throughout her years in the food industry, she has also been a cook, recipe developer, photographer, and video producer.

Heather earned a B.A. from the Cooper Union, an M.A. in writing from City College, and studied cooking at La Varenne in France.

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Jason Devaney
Associate Editorial Director, Performance Marketing
Jason Devaney

Jason Devaney is an associate editorial director on the Performance Marketing team at Dotdash Meredith. He has more than 20 years of editorial experience and has worked in a variety of roles at regional and national newspapers, magazines, broadcast networks, websites, and even startups.

He fell in love with food during a summer spent in Italy in 2014, and now spends his free time exploring local coffee shops, tasting his favorite French red wines, and experimenting in the kitchen.

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Hannah Kang
Research Associate, Performance Marketing
Hannah Kang

Hannah Kang is a research associate at The Spruce Eats, where she helps put together data-driven recommendations through research, data collection, rubrics, and more.

Hannah has an extensive background conducting research for Fortune 500 companies and multinational pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Takeda, and Merck. She holds a master’s degree in psychology and a bachelor's degree in psychology and social behavior.

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