What's for dinner? is a never ending saga for many of us. Despite the fact that dinner occurs EVERY day, we all have those days when dinner is not on our radar until the last moment. Whether you are single, married, in school, working, stay at home, etc., life is busy and many of us have limited time to plan, shop, and cook a gourmet (or for that matter any kind of edible, half way appealing to the eyes, and tasting good) meal for ourselves and/or family. Today many companies are available to help with meal planning, shopping, and cooking by bringing all the ingredients you need for delicious mealsstraight to your doorstep. Let's take a closer look at a few of these “MailMeal” companies. I will be reviewing Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Home Cuisine, and Katered To You. I will be discussing their services offered, menu/food allergies, cost, location/delivery options, and food wholesalers. Hello Fresh (https://www.hellofresh.com) is a weekly subscription service. I decided to give them a try since there was an offer on Louisville Groupon. I purchased “2 weeks of meals for two” for $59 (valued at $138). That’s 6 Classic Meals feeding 2 people. Hence, each serving cost $4.92. That’s not a bad deal! Services Offered: Hello Fresh creates the recipes and does the shopping for you. Then they deliver all the ingredients to your doorstep in a recyclable cardboard box that includes ice packs to keep your food from spoiling before you arrive. At your convenience, you prepare the meals in your own home. The recipes I tried were amazing, but the downside is that they were a little time consuming. I definitely spent more than 45 minutes in the kitchen preparing them. But if you love to cook, and just don’t have time to plan and shop, you will enjoy Hello Fresh. Menu/Food Allergies: Hello Fresh works closely on recipe development with a team of in-house chefs who've graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education and other esteemed Culinary Schools. There are two “boxes” to choose from. You must choose either the Classic or Veggie Box. If you sign up for the Classic Box subscription, you can choose 3 out of 5 recipes offered each week. Unfortunately, this option is not yet available for the Vegetarian subscription. But Hello Fresh stated they are working on it! If you have a food allergy or sensitivity things can get a bit complicated. Besides being able to choose 3 out of the 5 recipes offered for the Classic Box, you will be happy to hear all the ingredients come individually packaged. So you can omit an ingredient from the recipe easily. However, if you have a severe allergy, this company probably isn’t the best for you due to the risk of cross contamination. Cost: The Classic Box cost $69 for 3 meals feeding 2 people or $120 for 3 meals feeding 4 people. The Veggie Box cost $59 for 3 meals feeding 2 people or $109 for 3 meals feeding 4 people. Delivery is free. As mentioned earlier, you can also take advantage of the Groupon if you would like to try this company at a great price. I “deactivated” my Hello Fresh account after initiating my Groupon without any issues. A word to the wise, all orders, changes, or cancellations for the following week must be in by Wednesday at 11:59pm. Location/Delivery Options: Hello Fresh delivers to the continental U.S. They deliver Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for all customers, as well as, Mondays and Tuesdays in specific areas. Deliveries typically arrive between 8am-8pm. Food Wholesalers: Hello Fresh claims to use local supplies. They don’t state to use organic, but one of the supplies on their website, Murray’s Chicken, did state that their chickens are raised without the use of antibiotics, growth drugs or hormones, and have plenty of room to stretch their wings and access to fresh air and sunlight. Although we can’t assume all the products are organic, I was happy to hear that Hello Fresh is taking appropriate steps in providing healthy foods. Blue Apron (https://www.blueapron.com) is also a weekly subscription service, similar to Hello Fresh. Services Offered: Blue Apron’s services are also similar to Hello Fresh. They too deliver all the ingredients to your doorstep in a recyclable cardboard box that includes ice packs to keep your food from spoiling before you arrive. And at your convenience, you prepare the meals in your own home. Their website states “Meals are 500-700 calories per serving and take 35 minutes to prepare.” Menu/Food Allergies: There are two meal plans, a 2 Person Plan or the Family Plan. With the 2 Person Plan, you will receive three delicious recipes and the corresponding ingredients pre-portioned for two. The Family Plan is perfect for feeding a family of four. The culinary team states to create four new Family Plan recipes each week designed to appeal to both parents' and kids' palates. In regards to allergies… my understand is that you don’t actually get to pick your recipes. However, you can customize your menu based on your dietary preferences (which you can change or update at any time). Furthermore, as of now, Blue Apron doesn't allow any meal choices beyond meat and fish or vegetarian, so it's important to check each week's menu for any food allergies or preferences before ordering. Cost: There are three options. The 2 Person Plan cost $59.94 which includes 3 meals per week at $9.99 per person. The Family Plan (feeds 4 people) includes either 2 or 4 meals per week. The 2 meal plan cost $69.92 and the 4 meal plan cost $139.84. Both Family Meal options cost $8.74 per person. You also get 2 meals free on your first order. There is no membership fee or commitment. In order not to be charged for an order, Blue Apron requires a 6 days advance notice for skipping weeks or canceling an account depending on the delivery day you selected. Location/Delivery Options: Blue Apron also delivers nationwide. Typical deliveries are made Tuesday through Friday in most locations, and select locations are eligible for Monday and Saturday deliveries. Delivery is included in the price of your subscription. Food Wholesalers: Some of the wholesalers are listed on their website. I couldn’t get a hold of anyone at Blue Apron to answer my questions about whether or not their ingredients were organic, but a friend of mine who tried their service showed me their meat was labeled hormone and antibiotic free. Home Cuisine (http://homecuisineonline.com) For almost 30 years, Chef Sandy Pike has been feeding the city of Louisville. She’s owned and founded some of the city’s most beloved food establishments: Jack Fry’s, Café Society, Queen of Tarts. But when a family member had a health scare and needed to change her eating habits, Sandy started cooking simple, healthy meals and dropping them off – and Home Cuisine was born. Services Offered: As a Home Cuisine client, you can receive 1 or 3 meals a day; 3, 5, or 7 days a week. Home Cuisine recipes never use white flour, sugar, canned ingredients or bad trans fats. Instead, the recipes contain fresh seasonal fruits, vegetables, whole grains and organic when possible. Each meal is individually packaged with complete instructions on the small amount of preparation required to put the food on your table (which is usually just a quick ‘warm up’.) Menu/Food Allergies: There are three meal plans to choose from: Calorie Controlled, Paleo, or Vegetarian. For people who don’t know where to start when it comes to a calorie controlled meal plan, Home Cuisine has taken the guess work out of healthy eating by offering the Calorie Controlled meal plan that will get you going in the right direction. Just choose how many calories you need per day; 1200 or 2000. Each day will include lean protein, complex carbs and tons of the freshest vegetables and fruits. All meals are prepared according to the American Diabetic Association, as well as the American Heart Association’s healthy guideline. Home Cuisine has also embarked on a line of Paleo meals at the insistence of several Louisville doctors who were placing their patients on the plan to identify food allergies and for others to lose weight. If you aren’t familiar with the Paleo Diet, it eliminates processed foods, gluten, legumes, sugar, dairy, and starchy carbohydrates replacing them with grain fed meat and poultry, wild caught seafood, organic vegetables and fruits. This meal plan also gives you the option to choose from either 1,300 or 2,200 calories per day. Lastly, as for the Vegetarian meal plan, the sample menu includes eggs and yogurt, so if you are truly interested in a Vegan meal plan, I would acquire about this before ordering. I tried to get a hold of this company a couple of times to get a few questions answered, but I didn’t hear back from them. Like the other meal plans, you get the option to choose from a 1,200 or 2,000 calorie plan. On all the meal plans, there is an option for a Family Meal. The Family Meal Plan option feeds 2 adults and 2-3 children. This option is only for one meal per day, but is available for 3 or 5 days a week. Food allergies and sensitivities aren’t addressed on their website, so again I would recommend contacting the owners before ordering if this is a real concern for you or a family member. Cost: The cost varies depending on multiple factors including: the meal plan and caloric value you choose, whether you want 3 meals or just 1 meal (dinner only), and how many days a week (3, 5, or 7) you want the service. Let’s start with the Calorie Controlled Meal Plan. Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner under the 1,200 calorie plan will cost: $105 (3 days a week), $125 (5 days a weeks), or $150 (7 days a week). The 2,000 calorie plan cost: $120 (3 days a week), $140 (5 days a week), or $165 (7 days a week). Dinner Only for the lower calorie plan cost: $60, $75, or $95 (3, 5 or 7 days a week). The higher calorie plan meal cost: $65, $90, or $105. The Family Meal cost: $140 (3 days a week) or $180 (5 days a week). Moving on to the Paleo Meal Plan. Depending on if you choose 3, 5 or 7 days a week, the cost is $105, $140, or $175 under the 1,300 calorie option. Then the price jumps up to $120, $155, and $185 on the 2,200 calorie option. For Dinner Only on the lower calorie plan, the price is $65, $90, or $105, and $75, $100, or $115 for the higher calorie plan. The Family Meal option $160 for 3 days a week or $210 for 5 days a week. Lastly, the Vegetarian meal plan cost: $105, $125, or $150 under the 1,200 calorie plan. The 2,000 calorie plan cost goes up to $120, $140, or $165. The Dinner only plan is $60, $75, or $95 on the lesser calorie plan, and $65, $90, or $105 on the higher calorie plan. The Family Meal option is $140 or $180 depending on if you want the meals for 3 or 5 days a week. Location/Delivery Options: Home Cuisine is located at 309 R Wallace Avenue, Louisville, KY 40207. You can pick up your Home Cuisine meals at any Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Market. Just let them know which of their 5 stores is most convenient for you, and they will make sure it’s waiting for you there. If you’d rather have your meals delivered direct to your door, they can do that, too! Local delivery in the Louisville metro are starts at $10 per week, and may vary according to total distance traveled. Their website states they deliver twice a week. However, I don’t know if that means they offer two different days for delivery, or if you receive half your meals one day and the rest another day. Food Wholesalers: I couldn’t find any information on the wholesalers. So we can’t assume everything is organic. Katered To You (http://www.kateredtoyoullc.com) came into existence when the owner, Katie, turned her love for cooking into a mission to help others live a healthier and happier lifestyle. At an early age she learned the ins and outs of food service while working in her father’s restaurant. You can read more about her biography on her website. She is one talented lady! Services Offered: Katered To You provides already prepared or as Katie calls them, “Heat And Eat” meals. All meals come in a microwavable safe container. In case you didn’t catch this… THERE IS NO COOKING INVOVLED!! That’s music to my ears!! And if you read Katie’s biography you will discover that she is highly gifted in the musical area. As for me… I am not! I am neither blessed with musical talent or with the love for cooking. God makes us all different for sure. Menu/Food Allergies: You can order by the day, week, or month. If you are ordering for the day, orders must be placed by 2pm the previous business day for early pickup. For same-day pickup, orders will be ready by 5pm. For weekly or monthly orders, orders are due by 2pm on Friday. The menu is huge. It includes everything from breakfast to dessert. You won’t get tired of sampling the variety here. In addition, if you have a food allergy or sensitivity; if possible, Katie will make the necessary substitutions to any menu item to best meet your needs. Cost: There are three options for purchasing. 1) A single meal for one is $10. 2) The 12 meals per month (based off a 4 week period) + 2 meals for free is $120 ($8.57 per meal). 3) Or the 20 meals per month + 2 for free is $200 ($9.09 per meal). Location/Delivery Options: Katered To You is located at 37 Bank Street, Suite 9, New Albany, IN 47150. Delivery is offered on Sunday and Monday for an additional $10 anywhere in the Kentuckiana (Southern Indiana, Louisville, Prospect, Crestwood, and other nearby cities) area. Pickup at the store is free and offered from 2-5pm on Sunday and 9am-6pm on weekdays. Food Wholesalers: Katie does a lot of shopping from local farmers and Farmer Markets. I too tried this company’s food to see how the food compared to Hello Fresh. I requested that my meals be make with gluten free and organic ingredients. Katie was happy to meet my needs, and I was very satisfied with the customer service, quantity, flavor, and presentation of my meals. So there you have it! Four different companies with similar goals in mind, and one of the main goals is centered around making it easier for you and your family to consume healthy foods; even when you are busy. These companies take away the stress surrounding meal planning, shopping for groceries, and some even omit the hassle of cooking and cleaning up afterwards. Cooking and eating fresh ingredients helps you and your family stay healthy and beats any type of convenience food, frozen food or fast food. So if you are struggling to get healthy meals to the dinner table on time, one of these companies might be just right for you.