We put two of our favorite meal kits head to head.
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Beginning December 1, 2019, Plated will no longer be offering their subscription service. Plated meals will still be sold at certain stores across the country. Check out our roundup of the best meal kit delivery services for other options.
Unless you’ve tried every major meal kit on the market, there’s a good chance you can barely tell them apart. Brands like HelloFresh, Home Chef, Plated, and Sun Basket are all working to define themselves in a crowded space, but their same-sounding names and overlapping missions make it difficult to tell them apart—and decide which is actually worth the money.
Lucky for you, we’ve done all the hard work already. I tested the best meal kit delivery companies over three months and judged them on cost, recipe quality, meal options, and more, ultimately picking Home Chef as our favorite kit overall.
But what sets Home Chef apart from Plated, our favorite meal kit for families? And which is right for you? Read on to see how the services compare.
Because Plated and Home Chef are both established companies with large networks of food suppliers, they’ve been able to keep their meal prices competitively low. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering how they’ll each fit into your budget.
Plated offers three different plans to customers based entirely on the number of servings they want per meal: two, three, or four. Meals are $11.95 per serving for the two-serving plan, and $9.95 per serving for three- and four- serving plans, regardless of frequency. Shipping is free on orders above $60, and $7.95 otherwise. This means that most people only opting for two servings per meal will have to pay for shipping. Customers can adjust their plan options and delivery day from week to week.
Home Chef, meanwhile, has a fixed price of $9.95 per serving for most dinner meals, regardless of frequency or number of servings. They only offer one menu per week, but these menus always include a “premium” option offered at market price (e.g. Filet Mignon with Smoked Gouda-Potato Gratin is $19.95 per serving) as well as three lunch options for $7.99 per serving. The “Customize It” option also allows for premium cuts of meat to be added for an additional price. Shipping is $10 for orders less than $45, and free for orders above $45.
When you break it down, a couple interested in cooking three standard dinners a week would spend $59.70 at Home Chef, and $79.65 at Plated. A family of four, however, would spend $119.40 at Home Chef and $119.40 at Plated—the same exact cost—for the same number of meals.
For couples and small families, Home Chef will almost always cost you less than Plated. However, for larger families and people who want three or more servings per meal, the services will cost you just about the same. Home Chef does have more additional fees (with protein upgrades and premium meals) that allow you to spend more than you might originally intend to, but they’re avoidable if you’re sticking to a careful budget.
When we last tested these services for our meal kit round-up, we were impressed by Home Chef’s large, varied menu. Currently, Home Chef offers 14 dinner options and three lunch options per week. Dinners include at least one premium meal and at least two vegetarian, gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free options per menu. While vegan meals are not prioritized, at least two recipes a week can be altered to be vegan.
Since we tested, though, Home Chef has introduced their “Customize It” option, which allows subscribers to swap proteins for over half the dinners offered each week. Some meals allow for swapping an entirely new protein in for another for free, while others allow for upgrades to more premium cuts of meat for an additional price.
Kids don’t like pork? Swap in boneless chicken thigh instead for the Korean Noodle Bowl. Mom wants antibiotic-free chicken breast? Upgrade to the premium cut for $1.99 per serving. These options give couples and families a lot more flexibility in how they eat, without deviating from the organized menu and clear recipes we’ve come to expect from Home Chef.
But if we’re talking true meal variety, Plated might be the only service that has Home Chef beat: They have the biggest menu of any service we tested, with 20 dinner options and two dessert options every week. There are no fixed menus, so customers can truly mix and match to their heart’s desire. For easy browsing, these meals can be filtered by different criteria, including vegetarian, gluten-free, and family-friendly.
While many Plated meals rely on a traditional meat, grain, and veggie combination, at least four meals a week are entirely vegetarian, and two are adaptably vegan. If you’re a strict vegan, you might want to check out Sun Basket—but Plated accommodates just about every other diet.
Home Chef’s “Customize It” options allows for a lot of variety, and they also offer snacks, smoothies, lunches, and other non-dinner foods on their regular menu. But in the end, Plated has a menu with 20 dinner options to choose from each week—so if variety is your priority, they can’t be beat.
When it comes to recipe quality and accuracy, Home Chef takes the cake. Their fresh, high-quality ingredients and well-written recipes that break down intimidating cooking methods into digestible steps made me feel like I was preparing restaurant-worthy (or at least guest-worthy) meals without running around like a maniac.
Take their Farmhouse Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, Green Onion Gravy, and Corn. While browsing for meals on the company’s website, I initially saw fried chicken and laughed. How could a food so many people find impossible to cook at home be executed well in the context of a meal kit? I was shocked—and thrilled!—to find that Home Chef’s recipe yielded wonderfully even, juicy chicken with nary an oil burn in sight. I could hardly believe I did it myself.
If the words “fried chicken” make you clutch your heart in health-related fear, don’t worry—Home Chef isn’t just for indulgent diets. I was impressed by the depth of flavor in the Yang-Yang Beef with Shishito Peppers, a lighter alternative to traditional Chinese food, and loved the Hot Honey Salmon with Zucchini and Tomatoes for its summertime simplicity. Vegetarian meals, like the Wild Rice and Brussels Sprouts Harvest Bowl, were on the table in less than 30 minutes, but the average box-to-table time on my Home Chef meals was about 45 minutes.
Plated meals are big, which is a lovely antidote to the small portion problem that plagues many meal kits. Having meals that are filling without being heavy is half the battle. In my testing, I was impressed by how quickly dinners like Crunchy Pork Milanese with Honey Mustard and Arugula came together—and while the flavors were often not as complex as those of the competition, they were always strong, and never bland. This is great news for parents who want to eat well, but don’t want to bother preparing meals their kids won’t enjoy, too.
Home Chef wins this round in terms of flavor sophistication and recipe accuracy, but Plated’s large, family-friendly meals are also perfect for some people.
At the heart of Home Chef’s success is its organization—and that extends to its packaging. Any experienced cook knows that preparation is half the battle, and this company knows it, too. Ingredients are divided per meal into labeled bags that easily slide into the fridge. This organization made for faster fridge-to-table times than a lot of the competition and saved me the stress of forgetting ingredients and re-reading recipes four times over.
Home Chef would, however, be wise to incorporate more biodegradable packaging into their existing model. While it wasn’t the most wasteful packaging we’ve seen, most of the materials were recyclable, not biodegradable.
Plated’s packaging is unremarkable but similarly plastic-heavy—so extremely eco-friendly customers may want to look elsewhere. If we’re choosing between the lesser of two evils, then, I choose Home Chef for its organization.
If you’ve got four or more people to feed, including picky eaters and those who always go back for seconds, Plated is our choice for you. With 20 different meals to choose from each week, this service has both the largest menu and some of the largest portions I saw among all the meal kits I tested, making it great for families. It also has extremely flexible policies when skipping a delivery, changing delivery days, and altering meal boxes, making it easier for you to fit them into your family’s hectic schedule.
However, Home Chef is our favorite overall for a reason. High-quality ingredients, well-written recipes, and fantastic flavors make the experience one you’ll want to integrate into your weeknights—and the service’s organization makes it incredibly easy to do so.
With such comparable pricing, Home Chef is best for couples and small families—but if you’re cooking for a crowd, the Plated variety and flexibility will definitely appeal to you. Still not finding what you want with these services? Check out our round-up of all the best meal kit delivery services.
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