What's for Dinner? Meal Delivery Plans that Work for SoCal Families
Dinner happens every day, and family members are quick to remind you of its existence. “What’s for dinner?” “When’s dinner?” “Have you started on dinner?” Notice a theme?
Thoughts of it echo in your head as a busy mom, and the pressure can be especially unnerving if you aren’t a foodie. You want a meal to be quick, easy, and healthy, but the grocery store is a hassle with tired kids in tow; the fast-food window brings inevitable guilt, and you can't do Happy Hour every night.
This is why fresh meal delivery services are flourishing in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas, with more are popping up all the time. Led by Blue Apron and other innovators, these services deliver either complete meal kits with the recipes and perfectly proportioned fresh ingredients, or ready-made meals to your front door. And what kid doesn't like getting and opening boxes?
Options include how many meals you want delivered each week, and how many people you're trying to feed. While these are subscription-based services, companies offer the option to cancel anytime or skip a week if you're going on vacation or have other plans.
Choices can be personalized for special diets, including vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc. Nutritional information is included in the package and/or available on the website; most meals are in the 500- to 700-calorie range. Tax, shipping, and delivery is included in the price unless noted, and the meals are shipped in inventive, eco-friendly “keep-fresh” ways so you don’t have to be home when the boxes arrive.
Here are some of our favorite meal delivery services, keeping in mind the kid-friendly and convenience factors. Most if not all offer deals on your first purchase, and Groupon and other such sites frequently offer discounts. Note that prices are accurate as of our publish date but are subject to change at any time.
How it works: Blue Apron delivers meal kits with all the proportioned ingredients and step-by-step recipes each week.
Convenience factor: Some chopping of ingredients may be required, but the all-inclusive packaging means you don’t have to worry about not having something like soy sauce or cumin on hand. Cooking times range from 20 to 40 minutes.
Kid-friendly factor: Kids that like helping in the kitchen love that they get to mix, pour, and stir, and you don’t have to worry about them adding too much or too little, as the ingredients come pre-measured. Because Blue Apron chooses the specific meals it sends you, you run a risk with picky eaters who might balk at, say, adding pimentos to cheeseburgers. However, the preference options can head off a lot of the concerns.
Sample meals: Fresh Fettucine Pasta, Crispy Cod Sandwiches, Honey Mustard Chicken.
Cost: Two dinner kits per week for four people (eight meals) – $69.92 ($8.74 per meal); four dinner kits per week for four people (16 meals) – $139.84 ($8.74 per meal); three dinner kits per week for two people (six meals) – $59.99 ($9.99 a meal).
How it works: Meal kits include nine or fewer pre-measured, pre-chopped ingredients ready for you to prepare with the enclosed instructions.
Convenience factor: One Potato says its meals can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. It offers just five meals a week and pre-selects the three meals it sends you based on your preferences, so you might have to go through a couple of preference options to find the right meal offerings for your family each week.
Kid-friendly factor: One Potato definitely aims at the family market, by offering Weelicious-tested recipes and free slice-and-bake cookie dough in every box. The key benefit for families, though, is its lower meal prices for kids, since it takes into account they tend to eat a lot less.
Sample meals: Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs With Caesar Salad, Falafel Plate With Greek Salad and Cous Cous, Bucatini Marinara With Herb-Whipped Ricotta and Country Salad.
Cost: Three meals per week under Family Plan – minimum cost is $85.44 (averaging $11.99 per adult meal and $4.50 per child meal).
How it works: Meal kits include fresh, quality ingredients pre-measured and ready for you to prepare with the enclosed recipe card. Hello Fresh offers three plans: Classic, Vegetarian, and Family.
Convenience factor: Cooking times vary from 20 to 40 minutes. Hello Fresh selects the meal kits based on your preferences, but it also gives you the flexibility to select meals from your weekly menu.
Kid-friendly factor: Hello Fresh says the Family Plan “was created with the whole squad in mind, which means we hold back on the spice without skimping on flavor or nutrition.”
Sample meals: Beefy Taco Casserole, Chicken Satay Skewers With Peanut Sauce, Balsamic Onion Burgers With Crispy Cauliflower Oven Fries.
Cost: Three kits per week for four people (12 meals total) – $104.88 ($8.74 per meal); meals under the classic and vegetarian plans are $9.99 per meal with various ordering options.
How it works: Gobble delivers farm-fresh gourmet dinner kits with three-step instructions that it promises take 10 minutes or less to prepare.
Convenience factor: Gobble prides itself on this, saying you can cook the meals “faster than you can order takeout.” It takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process, offering simplified choices and one-pan preparation.
Kid-friendly factor: Gobble makes it easy by marking select meals as “Certified Gobble Kid Friendly.”
Sample meals: Blackened Tri-Tip Steak With Mashed Potatoes and Baby Carrots, Souvlaki Chicken Sandwich and Tabbouleh Salad With Lemon Vinaigrette, Spinach-Stuffed Gnocchi With Mushroom Bolognese and Roasted Red Bell Peppers.
Cost: Three dinner kits per week for two people (six meals) – $71.70 ($11.95 per meal) or three dinner kits per week for four people (12 meals) – $143.40 ($11.95 per meal).
How it works: You pick your meals from a rotating weekly menu, and the complete prepared meals arrive fresh and ready to heat in the microwave or oven.
Convenience factor: You can grab a well-prepared, flavorful meal from the refrigerator and have it on the table in about three minutes. Freshly does not offer a family plan, so you have to order the same meal for however many family members there are if you want to serve the same thing to everyone, which increases the preparation time.
Kid-friendly factor: Because the meals come pre-prepared, there’s no way to avoid a particular spice or sauce that been added but kids might not like.
Sample meals: Southwest Chicken Bowl, Seafood Risotto With Shrimp and Scallops, Holiday Turkey With Quinoa Dressing.
Cost: Four meals per week – $49.99 ($12.50 per meal); six meals per week – $59.99 ($9.99 per meal); nine meals per week – $89.99 ($9.99 per meal), and 12 meals per week – $107.99 ($8.99 per meal).
Top photo courtesy of One Potato.