My Trials with Meal Delivery - Part 1: Vegetarian Meal Kits

Runners talk a lot about food. We love it. We carbo load before races, then we celebrate with a post-run beer. If we have an aggressive fitness or time qualifying goal, what we eat (or don't eat) becomes very important. I have blogged about what I eat before, during and after a race (link used to carry way too many gels with me), and I've also written from time to time about nutrition goals within the context of other running and fitness goals. But I've never written a post exclusively about food.

Not from a meal kit, this is my own sautéed orange bell peppers and tomatoes with black bean noodles and ginger-marinated tofu over greens; a little healthier than my normal fare

I've been a vegetarian for all of my adult life, which is probably more years than you think. And while I've never adhered strictly to a vegan diet, I have monitored and reduced my consumption of dairy at times. I've been a vegetarian longer than I've been a runner, and I never imagined resuming consumption of meat to fuel my running. That will never happen. It's absolutely possible to be an endurance athlete, and even a competitive one, on a plant-based diet. I'm not going to defend the lifestyle in this post, but you can find a lot of information from No Meat Athlete and other resources.

Plated's Smoked Tofu Tacos with Spicy Avocado Dressing

My basic diet (no animal flesh or byproducts, some dairy) has never varied much, though I've had times when I ate more healthfully than others. About a year ago I noticed myself relying too much on take-out and convenience foods. I wasn't cooking at home much, and I definitely felt the negative side effects of this approach. So I decided to try a meal kit delivery service. And then I tried another one, and another. I've now tried four different meal kit companies. These services simplify the meal planning, shopping and meal prep, but ultimately, you cook your own food. The benefit is that you know what goes into everything, and if you are culinarily inclined, you have the opportunity to customize the recipe to your own needs or tastes.

My favorite Purple Carrot recipe: General Tso's "Chicken" (made with seitan)
Hello Fresh teamed up with Jamie Oliver for this dish of Sicilian Spaghetti alla Norma with Eggplant, Baby Capers & Basil

Following is a summary of the four services I tried. Note that there are different delivery plans than "what I got" and that the average price for weekly meals for two people was $60, but prices vary by company and by plan. Also note that Purple carrot changed their business model and started making fancier vegan meals, and I have not used them since they made their changes.

What I Got
Two or three meals per week, serving two people

I chose the vegetarian plan, but they also have meat based choices
Creative entrees, easy to follow recipes; packaged in Green Bags to keep produce fresh
Several veggie entrees lacked protein; some recipes were flops; portions didn’t always give me leftovers; too much reliance on dairy
Two meals per week, serving four people

All vegan food
Home cooking type recipes with more universal appeal; large portions with leftovers; service used to come with a bonus snack recipe and ingredients
Recipe cards did not have photos; a few times ingredients were mis-measured; too much reliance on grains and starches over fresh vegatables
Three meals per week, serving two people

I chose the vegetarian plan, but they also have meat based choices
Easy, quick recipes; even with simple ingredients, the food tasted great overall
Some recipes are too simplistic; packages arrived late a couple times
Three meals per week, serving two people

Organic food; I chose the vegetarian plan, but they also have meat based choices as well as gluten-free and paleo
Unique and tasty recipes
Several items are already prepared (e.g. a sauce made by Green Chef); recipe cards don’t list quantities for easy duplication at home (but the website does)

These services all have their place, and I've enjoyed recipes from each of them. They got me back in the habit of cooking again. But here's what I realized recently: I can do just as good on my own with only a little additional effort. These services didn't really change HOW or WHAT I ate in any meaningful way. I'll still use them occasionally, but now I understand myself better.

So, I decided to try something remarkably different, and if you want to try it too, 
stay tuned for Part 2 of meal delivery, where I tell you all about it. (Cue suspenseful music...)


  1. GREAT post!! you didn't include individual price point in the comparisons....were they pretty much on par with each other?

    1. Close enough. They're not different enough to worry about, though I'd say Plated is the priciest one of the companies I've tried.


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