Prepared Meal Delivery vs. Meal Kits: What's the Difference Anyway?

By Sarah PritzkerSarah Pritzker

Iceberg, Goldberg. It’s all the same, right? Wrong! In fact, meal delivery services differ in so many ways it might not seem like they’re even in the same industry. There are clear differences that set prepared meal deliveries from ready to cook meal kits. For example:

Meal Kits vs Prepared Meal Delivery: What's the Difference?

What are Meal Kits? 

Meal kits offer prepared ingredients that need to be put together, cooked, or tended to in some way. They are bundled with clear recipe cards and instructions to follow (and sometimes fun facts about the food you’re preparing!)

The great thing about meal kits is that they are usually cheaper than ready-made meals, are cooked from fresh ingredients, improve your cooking skills, and expose you to new dishes for a lower cost. On the other hand, they can be time consuming or require you to go out and buy additional ingredients you don’t have on hand.

What are Prepared Meal Deliveries? 

Prepared meal deliveries provide pre-cooked (usually frozen) meals that are delivered directly to your door, ready to heat and eat (or require minimal prep). They are convenient as they don’t require any cook time and cleanup. The drawbacks? Selection is limited, it’s not always healthy or fresh, and can be pricey. 

Choosing the Right One for You

Now that you get the differences between the two, it’s time to see which option is right for you. Depending on your lifestyle, schedule, personality, and food preferences, meal kits or prepared meal deliveries will naturally be a better fit.

Time

One of the biggest motivators to get a meal kit is the time factor. Most people today are too busy to make a menu plan, shop for ingredients, haul them home, wash and chop vegetables, prepare proteins, and cook, bake, fry, or roast the meal. For that exact reason, many people opt for a meal delivery service. This way, even if it's not every night, you and/or your family are getting a healthy, home-cooked meal every week.

While many meal kits only take 15-30 minutes of preparation time, for some people even this is too much. If time is really that tight, then definitely opt for the prepared meal option.

Convenience

This is a no-brainer. If convenience is your goal, then meal deliveries are the best way to go. You just can’t beat heat and eat options, and with the new healthy choices like Freshly and BistroMD, you can even get meals that are good for you. What a time to be alive!

Price

Depending on what your budget is, one option may be a clear winner. If you are on a tighter budget for example, then a meal kit will make more sense for you. It’ll make the food go a longer way and let you get more meals out of the experience for less.

On the other hand, if you're factoring in things like restaurants and take-out food, gas, time spent shopping and waiting in line, and groceries themselves, you might find that using a prepared meal comes out more economical than you thought. If that's the case, then go straight for the option that looks tastier and pulls ahead in your own comparison.

One last word on pricing. With Balance MD on the scene, the whole conversation gets thrown, well, out of balance. That’s because this prepared meal delivery services charges as little as $5.95 per serving for its ready-made food. Talk about a game changer!

Variety

Variety is the spice of life, and if you feel that way about your food, you’re going to want a lot of options when shopping for your meals. In general, you’ll get more variety from meal kit services than prepared meals. For example, you can choose from 18 different options from Home Chef, 20 from Plated, and weekly rotations from Martha & Marley Spoon. Compare that to prepared meal delivery services that offer only a handful of choices each week, and variety is certainly a meal kit winner.

The one exception to this rule again is Balance MD, with over 100 meal options to choose from, you’ve got all the variety you could ask for!

Experience

If you’re rushing from soccer practice carpool to a late afternoon meeting with a client to the dry cleaners to a dentist appointment to...something else, you probably don’t have time to pull out the cutting board and make an elegant meal.

But, maybe you’re not that busy. And maybe you enjoy cooking (or would enjoy it but don’t get the chance to because you’re intimidated by the concept). Maybe you want to explore your culinary skills, or maybe you want to enjoy a fun, different evening in with friends. If this sounds more like your style, then a meal kit dinner with friends can be the perfect solution. 

With companies like Martha & Marley Spoon or HelloFresh, you can learn an exotic new recipe, prepare it together with your pals, and enjoy a delicious dish that you had fun putting together yourself. With meal kit prices ranging from $5.99-$18, it’s a steal for a culinary experience like that!

Health & Nutrition

Gone are the days when prepared meal deliveries came in frozen packages and contained barely recognizable food items. Today, even the frozen options are more nutritious and appetizing than most of the alternatives you’d get from a regular night at home (cereal again?).

That being said, when the meal is prepared and frozen, you lose out at least somewhat on taste and nutrition. So, if these are your goals, you’ll need to find a prepared meal service that delivers fresh food. It’s possible and, in fact, services like Freshly and Green Chef do just that.

It’s a lot easier though to find healthier options for meal kit services. Meal kits come with the healthiest ingredients, fresh and ready to put together. Most of the time these ingredients are of the highest quality too, such as organic ingredients, ethically sourced proteins, and farmers’ market vegetables. Choose from companies like Sun Basket, Plated, or HelloFresh to get the freshest, healthiest meal kits out there.

Get the Best Food Available Delivered Right to Your Door Today

So, which is right for you? That depends on what you're looking for. If you want fast, easy, and no questions asked, then opt for a prepared meal delivery service. They'll deliver your food straight to your doorstep, ready to go in just a few minutes. No muss, no fuss (and no cleaning up, either!). Prepared meals are also great if you like the idea of world-class chefs preparing your food for you, if you don't have a budget to think about, and if you literally don’t have a moment to fit cooking into your day.

On the other hand, if you are looking for an experience, want to learn how to cook, or do have a few minutes to spare to whip up something with your own personal twist to it, then meal kits are a dream come true. You’ve got all the ingredients measured out for you, recipes clearly printed for easy instruction and minimal prep time. Best of all, you get a genuine home-cooked meal without the hassle of going through aisles and wasting time standing in line.

Either way, the meal delivery industry is making healthy eating a reality for so many people today. From fun and affordable meal kits to quick and easy prepared meals, there’s something for everyone. So, what’s your flavor?

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