PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) --The home delivery meal kit business is red hot - a 400 million dollar market that continues to boom. Consumer Reports checked out some of the most popular services.
What is a meal kit? It's a pre-packed, chilled box arrives at your door with every ingredient - excluding staples like salt and pepper - that you need to whip up dinner.
In most cases, you can pick the meals or have the company choose for you.
They are convenient - but are they fresh? Healthy? Affordable?
Consumer Reports food experts evaluated five national meal kit services: Blue Apron, Green Chef, HelloFresh, Plated, and Purple Carrot.
"We prepared and tasted a week's worth of dinners from each service, and we found that 24 of 27 meals were very good to excellent," said Amy Keating, Consumer Reports Dietician.
HelloFresh was a standout for its dishes, like the Blackened Tilapia with Blistered Vegetables. Of the meals tested, Hello Fresh averaged the lowest in fat, calories, and sodium.
Green Chef features all organic ingredients. Their recipes, like Veggie Polenta Fajita and Steak Tapenade with Broccoli Slaw, feature lots of veggies used in creative ways.
Consumer Reports also asked 57 meal kit users about their experiences.
Nearly every one said they liked trying different flavors. And while the cost is about ten to twelve dollars per portion, the majority of meal kit users surveyed say the dinners are a good value.
"Americans throw away 28 percent of the produce they buy. Meal kits come with exactly what you need for the recipe, so there's no waste," said Keating.
In every case, Consumer Reports testers found the ingredients arrived fresh, and the meals took close to the claimed time to prepare.
So now you can dine in like you're dining out. But in this case you're also the chef.
If you want to give meal kits a try, shop around.
Many can be tailored to your palate, whether you're carnivorous, vegan, vegetarian, or have a family to feed.