Amazon? Delivering to your doorstep? Groundbreaking.
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You probably already know that Amazon will sell you almost anything under the sun—but did you know that now includes meal kits? Yes, the ecommerce giant recently expanded their once Seattle-specific meal kits nationwide, or more specifically, to every US market that offers the AmazonFresh grocery delivery service.
This is more bad news for subscription services like Blue Apron and HelloFresh, which have been struggling to stay ahead in the increasingly competitive and expensive world of meal kits. But it’s good news for Amazon Prime members looking for meals on demand, in addition to the grocery discounts and benefits they’ve already seen from the company’s 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods.
As someone who tested every major meal kit on the market in the summer of 2018, Amazon’s new offerings piqued my interest. Could the company’s massive infrastructure help them offer great meals, or would this boxed kit option be a forgotten footnote in their business model? I signed up for Amazon Fresh and tried a week’s worth of meal kits to find out.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member who also subscribes to the AmazonFresh add-on, available in 18 US markets, you’re eligible to have Amazon meal kits delivered right to your door. Unlike most meal kit subscription boxes, this service isn’t pre-scheduled, pre-fixed, or heavily packaged. That’s because AmazonFresh subscribers can schedule delivery of their products whenever they’d like, down to the hour, thanks to the company’s partnership with Whole Foods.
While the kits themselves closely resemble those from services like Home Chef and HelloFresh, with recipe cards and pre-portioned ingredients, they arrive in paper bags rather than large sealed boxes. Each meal kit comes with two servings per box.
Currently, Amazon offers 14 different dinner meal kits that range in price and cover a variety of diets. This is on the low end of options for most meal kit delivery services, which typically offer 10 to 20 meals per menu that changes week to week. Current meals include:
Amazon meal kits also don’t need to be be ordered independently. If you use AmazonFresh for regular grocery delivery, you can add on one or more meal kits to your order whenever you’d like. In this way, each individual meal kit is treated just like a grocery item. If you’re serving more than two people, however, you’ll need to buy multiple meal kits per meal. Some meal kits are also sold directly out of certain Whole Foods locations.
On the surface, Amazon meal kits are much less expensive than comparable meals from other subscription services. Currently, every meal kit Amazon offers costs between $8 and $10 per serving—most two-serving boxes from other services we’ve tested cost $9 to $12 per serving. Shipping is free for orders over $35, and $9.99 for orders that don’t meet that threshold.
When you factor in the cost of Amazon Prime and AmazonFresh, however, you start to see how the ecommerce giant can offer meal kits for such seemingly low prices. Amazon Prime currently costs $99 per year, and AmazonFresh is $14.99 per month, which adds up to just under $280 per year for the ability to even buy these meal kits. That cost quickly makes up for the $3 in savings per meal.
When you break it down, a couple interested in cooking three standard dinners a week would spend about $55.35 on Amazon meal kits, including the cost of Prime and Fresh, and about $59.70 at Home Chef, the best meal kit we've tested. Ultimately, the savings at Amazon are light.
If you’re someone who already regularly uses both Amazon Prime and AmazonFresh throughout the year, these meal kits are definitely affordable for what they are. But if you’re not already tangled in the web of Amazon and just want some meals delivered to your door, you won’t find a ton of savings here, and other meal kit delivery services may be a better fit.
To see if these meal kits are actually worth their salt, I signed up for a free trial of AmazonFresh with my existing Prime subscription, ordered three meals, and got cooking. I chose Chicken Parmigiana with Pesto Farafelle and Caprese Salad, Petite Tender Steak with Truffle Butter and Garlic-Chive Potatoes, and Falafel Patties with Tomato and Sumac Salad, and my total order came out to just around $50.
Ordering was as simple as adding the meal kits to my cart, checking out as I normally would through Amazon, and choosing a delivery day and window. I chose the window of 1 to 3 PM on Saturday afternoon, and sure enough, there was a knock on my door and two brown AmazonFresh bags sitting on my porch by 1:30.
I recognized the bags from my boyfriend’s previous grocery orders through AmazonFresh on his own account. They’re much less bulky than the big packages I’ve received from other services, and that’s because they don’t have to be insulated or protected for long-distance shipping.
Inside each bag was one to two labeled brown boxes—the kits themselves—and a row of frozen plastic water bottles in place of freezer packs. Not the most professional looking, but preferable to a bunch of wasteful packaging. Each box fit neatly in my fridge until they were ready to be prepared.
Despite my initial skepticism about Amazon’s ability to package fresh and tasty meal kits, I’m happy to report that every meal I made throughout the week was quick, simple, and flavorful. The steak and potatoes came out rich and well-cooked, and the chicken parm was crispy and comforting, with leftovers to spare.
I believe this success is in large part due to the high-quality ingredients Amazon is able to source through Whole Foods and its other partners. Save for some wilted, browned herbs, every ingredient in my box seemed incredibly fresh. Amazon also pre-preps and pre-chops more ingredients than most other meal kit delivery services, which help keep cook times accurate and under 30 minutes.
The directions were occasionally needlessly complex—two different recipes instructed me to sear something in a pan, then transfer to a baking sheet to put in the oven, rather than just asking me to use a cast iron pan or other piece of cookware that could move from stovetop to oven. But this is part of the deal with meal kits—they assume you have nothing and know nothing, so they can still be friendly and useful for novice cooks with understocked kitchens.
Amazon’s recipes are also successful because they aren’t very experimental—they rely on flavor combinations you already know and love. Italian food, steak and potatoes, Mediterranean platters, salmon and veggies, and curry and rice are probably all very familiar to you, and they just require quality ingredients to make them work.
Other meal kits have introduced much greater variety and more interesting recipes to keep customers invested, whereas Amazon is playing it safe and assuming you’re hungry. It’s up to you to decide which one is more appealing.
Amazon meal kits are also Alexa compatible, in that you can have Alexa read out directions to you and guide you through the cooking process. I didn’t use this option and don’t think I ever will, but I was still able to get every meal for two on the table in under 40 minutes.
One small quibble from an herb snob: Amazon, like almost every meal kit distributor, doesn’t seem to care about the difference between Thai basil and Italian basil. I don’t want to put Thai basil on my Italian food, it tastes incredibly odd, so they should stop sending it with Italian dishes.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member and you’re looking for a quick solution to constant grocery shopping and meal planning, Amazon meal kits are a solid option to build into your rotation. I've tested every meal kit on the market, and I can attest that Amazon's are very easy to make, use high quality ingredients, and are simple to order and schedule, with little commitment.
If you’re not already on the Amazon bandwagon, however, you’d be just as wise to try out one of our other favorite meal kits like Home Chef, which has much greater meal variety and more competitive pricing. Amazon's prices appear lower, but when you factor in the yearly and monthly costs of Prime and Fresh, the services cost about the same.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.