Full disclosure: While both my husband and I are fortunate to work from home, and while we both love to cook (and eat!), most weeknights are still a mad dash to get dinner on the table.
We have a pretty clearly-defined meal plan for most days of the week, but the prep time involved still requires whoever is less busy to inevitably rush through dinner in a harried, often-stressed out way so we can eat at a reasonable time. And then there is our athlete-teenage son who will either eat three meals-worth in one eve or none at all – he’s grown to be a picky, sometimes unpredictable eater, as many teens can be.
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Seeking a bit more balance in the kitchen (and some variety), we opted to test out four Canadian meal delivery kits. You should know, this wasn’t our first foray into the service; when I went back to university full-time in 2016, we spent a good portion of those two years ordering from the still nascent meal delivery kit services setting up shop in Toronto (we have two binders-worth of recipe cards to show for it). The service provided us with a quick, simple and delicious solutions to weekly meal prep when we needed it most. I was curious if this would still be the case in 2022.
We tested GoodFood, Chefs Plate, HelloFresh, and Plant Prepped. If you’re unfamiliar with them, they all share a few things in common: they come in prepackaged boxes or bags of mostly-raw ingredients with easy-to-follow recipe cards and nutritional information for dinner meals, typically feeding two to four people (GoodFood, Chefs Plate, and HelloFresh tell you to double up on ingredients in each step if you’re cooking for four). They can be delivered and left at your doorstep or at the concierge, and include ice packs to keep perishable ingredients as fresh as possible.
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The best part? In an effort to reduce food waste, most of the ingredients come in pre-measured amounts. (Note: pantry and other staples, such as olive oil, salt and pepper, are not included.) This does lead to a lot of packaging, but each of the services now available have sought to find recyclable and more environmentally-friendly solutions.
This is where many of the similarities for these Canadian companies end. Here is what we found in our experience testing GoodFood, Chefs Plate, HelloFresh, and Plant Prepped.
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Availability: Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Maritimes.
Average price per person: As low as $5.49/serving for the Pizza Bar and as low as $8.99/serving for other meals.
Packaging: The kits arrived in paper bags that contained recyclable plastic bags with the ingredients we’d need – many of which were pre-chopped for us. The groceries were kept cool with a cooling pack, and all were fresh and some still frozen.
Dietary Variety: GoodFood had one of the most versatile kit and delivery options of the four meal kits we tested at this time. You can choose from meal offerings that include Classic, Easy Prep, Clean15/Carb-Wise, Vegetarian, Brunch, Pizza Bar, Sheet Pan, Slow Cooker, Dinner + Lunch combos, and already-prepared dishes. You can also select from a range of affordable, high-yield options (see their Slow Cooker Recipes), and other more gourmet meals for special occasions.
Additionally, GoodFood offers ready-to-blend smoothie mixes to kickstart your mornings the right way, and even a grocery selection with over 1,000 products to choose from (GoodFood will continue adding to this offering). If you’re in a pinch, you can find staples and as well as many other ingredients (we test-ordered ice cream and shrimp, and both arrived still frozen, within a 24-hour turnaround from order to delivery). Its GoodFood house brand offers up delicious varieties, but you can also find other brands on the site. Lastly, GoodFood is rolling out an On Demand Delivery service, which minimizes the time from order to delivery to as little as 30 minutes (this service is now available in Montreal and Toronto, with plans to roll out over the country in the next year and beyond).
Convenience: The ability to mix and match meal kit types and groceries, and order any day of the week make this service a standout option for families in need of flexibility and efficiency. Most meals require about 25-30 minutes of prep, with much of the chopping already done. Need even faster meals? GoodFood offers 15- and 20-minute meal options, making meal prep more accessible to the busiest of families, or you can also order from its ready-made meals too if you know you won’t have any time to cook on certain days.
Favourite Recipe: Spice-Crusted Tuna Steaks with Charred Scallion Sauce
Overall Experience: We found the ingredients to be fresh and very high quality; we were impressed that the pasta was fresh, not dry, and I loved that canned goods were BPA-free. This makes sense, as GoodFood emphasizes the quality of its ingredients, with at least 85 per cent of them being either sourced from Canadian farms and local businesses or packaged right here in Canada. The service prioritizes ingredients without additives or preservatives and ensures its meat and fish come from eco-responsible sources. Spices and mixes included a breakdown of ingredients and the recipes were straightforward and an incredibly delicious addition to our weeknights.
Best For: Those who are pickiest about their ingredients, and in need of flexible options, and with shifting needs in terms of simplicity, price, and service.
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Availability: Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia & Manitoba.
Average price per person: As low as $8.99/serving.
Packaging: Chefs Plate boxes are 100 per cent recyclable. The kit bags and cool-pouches are made from compostable materials (composting varies across Canada, so be sure to check local guidelines). Also, just be sure to remove any stickers and or zippers from the pouches before placing them in your bin.
Dietary Variety: Vegetarian, spicy, balanced (20g of protein, under 15g of saturated fat, and less than 100g of carbs) and premium meal options.
Convenience: Chefs Plate offers 15-minute meal options for the business of nights, while still serving up delicious, full meals that feed (and satisfy) this family of three.
Favourite Recipe: Difficult to choose between Harissa Squash Bowls with Halloumi & Crispy Kale and Spanish-Style Beef & Rice Bowls with Zucchini and Creamy Lemon Aioli.
Overall Experience: We love Chefs Plate for its interesting flavour combinations and for expanding our culinary repertoire. Some of our favourite meals were vegetarian ones, though we are a meat-eating family (admittedly trying to incorporate more plant-based eating into our diets), with frequently-picky eaters. The ingredients were fresh and high quality and the meal preps were simple and straightforward, with delicious, filling outcomes.
Best For: 15-minute meals and easy-to-cleanup options, as well as for those looking to try out new flavours and cuisines.
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Availability: HelloFresh delivers to 95 per cent of the Canadian population including Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, and the Maritimes. Additionally, the team continues to expand the delivery area.
Average price per person: As low as $5.75/serving for a box of three meals for four people.
Packaging: Packaging for HelloFresh is like the packaging for Chefs Plate (both are owned by the same parent company). The boxes are 100 per cent recyclable. The kit bags and cool-pouches are made from compostable materials. HelloFresh keeps its perishables cool with gel packs (these have an opaque film and are made with salt and water), and water ice packs, which you can easily dispose of by letting them melt and pouring the water down the drain. If you wish and have freezer space, you can also save them and reuse them yourself down the road.
Dietary Variety: As with other brands, the selection of meals varies week-to-week, but there are plenty of options to choose from for various diets, including calorie-smart, carb-smart, family-friendly, quick and easy, beyond meat, and premium options for special occasions. While HelloFresh doesn’t offer vegan options yet, it makes swapping out ingredients for vegan alternatives from your fridge or pantry pretty simple.
Convenience: The recipes were easy to cook and were surprisingly quick, with the longest taking 35 minutes, from prep to heaping plate. HelloFresh also offers ready-made meals should you need something already prepared for you.
Favourite Recipe: Saucy BBQ Beef Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes and Garlicky Green Beans
Overall Experience: I recalled my experience with HelloFresh from several years ago, and while some things have changed (i.e. format of the recipe cards), the flavourful, easy-to-whip up meals are still the brand’s hallmark.
Best For: Price and specialized diets such as keto, vegetarian and pescatarian, as well as families of more than four people (you can double up on certain meals if you have five or more mouths to feed).
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Availability: Most of Quebec and Ontario.
Average price per person: As low as $11.83/serving for three meals for four people.
Packaging: As with most other meal delivery kits, the packaging is made out of recycled materials and is curbside recyclable. Its bottles are BPA-, BHT-, latex-, sulphur- and silicone-free and can also be recycled. Plant Prepped says its gel packs can be drained down the sink or refrozen and reused.
Dietary Variety: Vegetarian and vegan meals are available along with gluten-free and soy-free options.
Convenience: Recipes are ready in 30 minutes or less and you can trust all meals are 100 per cent plant-based.
Favourite Recipe: Spiced Chickpea Lettuce Cups
Overall Experience: While it’s clear Plant Prepped runs a smaller-scale operation than the three other services noted here, it may be a good option for those looking to support a local, plant-based service. The spiced chickpea lettuce cups were tasty, but the portions for all meals were significantly smaller per person compared to the others (maybe a bonus for some). Similarly, we felt that the site’s claim of “Restaurant Quality Meals At Home” fell short in the round of meals we tried. The recipe cards included some vegan ingredients (such as a vegan yoghurt–a bonus and a surprisingly tasty alternative), however, the cards did not specifically call out potential allergens in the vegan ingredients (some vegan yoghurts are made with nuts and we have a nut allergy in the house, so we had to sub in our own dairy alternative due to the lack of clarity). This said, the recipe cards prominently note that Plant Prepped packages ingredients containing gluten, soy and nuts in their kitchen and that they aren’t able to guarantee orders that are free of allergens (similarly, no other kit claims they are allergen-free). Some of its ingredients were organic (i.e. tofu) which was refreshing to see.
Best For: Those looking for more vegan options, and those in Ontario and Quebec looking to support a smaller scale, local, and plant-focused meal delivery kit service.
There is no question – meal delivery kit services simplify meal-planning and preparation. Save for a few staples, everything you could need for that night’s meal comes to you, conveniently pre-measured and even in some cases, pre-chopped. The services offer an excellent way to gently nudge you out of a routine and introduce you to new whole family-pleasing flavours, cuisines, and combinations. However, it’s easy to see how costs for such services on an ongoing basis can add up, and that the services do use more packaging than you otherwise might, simply grabbing groceries yourself. Still, this may nonetheless be a more affordable option if you’re in the habit of buying and then tossing out unused food. And with the option to skip a week or more (just be sure to check each service’s cut-off time), it’s hard to find downside to having meal kit delivery as an option when you need it most. I definitely see us coming back to several of our favourite recipes and services down the road.