Medically reviewed by Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
When it comes to choosing a vegan meal kit, how much money do you really save? And which vegan meal kits are the best bets to try?
Let's face it: Health and nutrition experts have long extolled the virtues of enjoying healthy, homemade meals at home.
And scientists have observed the connection between frequent restaurant dining and negative health outcomes, including obesity. Over the past several decades, the number of restaurant-cooked meals consumed as a nation has steadily increased. The value of the U.S restaurant industry in 2010 was about $580 billion. It’s expected to reach $899 billion in 2020, according to data from .
Of course, there are many, many ways to eat a healthy restaurant meal. But when it comes to most-of-the-time eating–done at home are meal kits the way to go? This is a question that plant-based eaters in particular may have, as vegan meal boxes, remain a bit of a mystery. Read on to find everything you need to know about choosing a vegan meal service.
I'm so excited to bring you this guest post from Susan Doktor and the editors at .
The Growth of Vegan Dining
Vegan dining options have become more plentiful, with the opening of more all-vegan-all-the-time restaurants and a wider range of vegan options appearing on traditional restaurants’ menus.
Currently, the fastest-growing segment of the restaurant industry is what’s known as “fast casual” and includes such restaurant chains as Panda Express, Panera Bread, and Chipotle.
What drives so many consumers, including the most health-conscious among us, to dine out so frequently? Sure, there’s the social aspect, though the global pandemic has cast a shadow on dining en masse. But convenience is also a prime factor. More people are working multiple jobs to get by, per data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which leaves less time for shopping and cooking.
Balancing the desire to eat more healthfully with the need for quick and easy meals has become a common conundrum. It’s also, interestingly, the momentum behind the burgeoning meal delivery service industry, which is projected to hit $20 billion by the year 2027.
Of course, cooking healthy meals at home is a great option. But meal delivery services can cut down on kitchen stress–and they can be healthy. Let’s take a look at how they work and how to choose the best meal delivery service for your palate and pocketbook.
How Much “You” Does a Meal Kit Require?
Meal delivery services come in many varieties. Some services deliver pre-measured ingredients that home chefs then combine and cook to create finished dishes. Others promise to save you additional time by providing individually-packaged heat-and-eat servings.
Do you wish you had more time to cook? Is cooking something you’d just as soon avoid entirely? Or are you somewhere in between? There’s a service to suit your style, no matter where you fall on that spectrum.
When you Google "vegan meal kit," you'll see so many options–including HelloFresh, Green Chef, Sun Basket, and more. Many promise to be dairy-free and gluten-free, in addition to being ready-to-eat plant-based food. You may also find eco-friendly, prepared meals that utilize organic ingredients.
Most companies focus on either kits or packaged meals, not both. But who’s to say you can’t try both types to see which you prefer or switch between two types of services when you feel like it? One of the nice features of most meal delivery services is they don’t require a lengthy commitment.
Meal Kit Challenges for Vegans
Some meal delivery services focus solely on healthy eating, while others include healthier options as part of a larger menu. But across the spectrum, meal delivery services are mirroring restaurants by including more vegan recipes in their repertoires.
Veganism can be fairly narrowly and simply defined: A vegan doesn’t eat foods derived from animals. But many vegans define their lifestyle in more holistic terms. Some subscribe to the philosophy that seeks to eliminate all forms of animal exploitation. That’s why products as wide-ranging as cosmetics, clothing, and furniture are often described as vegan nowadays.
Very few meal delivery services offer vegan meals exclusively. And their definitions of vegan may differ from yours. Do their meals contain honey? This ingredient doesn't meet the strictest definitions of being vegan. If you decide to start having meals delivered from a vegan-only meal service, it’s important to read the ingredient fine print to be sure the company’s philosophy aligns with yours.
But many meal delivery companies don’t make this easy. They have lots of lovely photos of the delicious meals they prepare, but you have to dig a little deeper to find specific ingredient information about each dish. During a quick perusal of one well-known plant-based meal provider’s site, we clicked on a recipe for a chili recipe that included Cheddar. That’s because some sites toss vegan and vegetarian meals into one lump category.
Then there's the issue of balanced meals. Does the meal service company employ a registered dietitian to help ensure that meals contain an ample amount of protein? Or are the vegan meals similar to what you may get as a wedding guest: a plate of pretty roasted vegetables?
The point is, you have to be a bit of a detective when researching meal delivery resources. While we all enjoy helping ourselves to information on the Internet, this may be one instance where a phone call to a company’s customer service department is very important—and a time-saver, to boot.
How Expensive are Vegan Meal Kits?
Meal delivery is like countless other categories, only more so: A large portion of what you pay for is convenience. If the time savings of such services is valuable to you, it makes sense to do some comparison shopping. Services that deliver top-quality ingredients, freshness, and a lot of menu variety tend to be on the more expensive side.
Meat is one of the most expensive ingredients people consume—in more ways than one—so you might expect home-delivered vegan meals to cost less than other meal options.
But it turns out that sticking to a vegan diet is actually more expensive than relying on animal-based foods. That’s something you may have discovered on your own while shopping for your home-cooked meals. Most meal delivery services charge the same amount for plant-based and meat-based meals.
On average, vegans can expect to spend between $8 and $12 dollars per meal. Breakfasts and lunches are typically less pricey than dinners. You might expect meals that require food prep to fall on the lower end of the price scale, but that’s generally not the case unfortunately. Some may involve more packaging because individual ingredients may be pre-measured and packed separately in a prep-it-yourself meal kit. That’s something you may want to consider if environmental concerns are foremost in your mind.
Meal delivery services are most times sold via subscription. (Bonus points to you if you can also earn accelerated rewards with your monthly payment!) You know how supermarkets often give you a price break when you buy five packages of coffee instead of one? Many, though not all, meal delivery services also reward you for buying in bulk. The more meals you sign up for each week, the less each individual meal may cost.
This puts families in a better position than single diners, but even singles can bring costs down by committing to a full week of meals, rather than just a couple of meals. If that sounds like too great a commitment to make week after week—schedules are unpredictable, of course—you’ll be glad to know that most meal delivery services offer a lot of flexibility. If you give a company a few days or a week’s notice, you can amend your subscription weekly or even skip weeks as needed.
You might be tempted to select a service that offers free shipping. However, those that do often bake the cost of shipping into their per-meal prices. So be sure to compare the full costs of any service you’re considering to determine which is the most economical choice.
Or you might use variety as your barometer. Most meal delivery companies switch up their menus weekly. One difference you might note among services is the number of choices they provide their customers. Some offer as many as 20 and others as few as five dinner selections per week. Breakfast and lunch menus tend to be more limited across the board.
Vegan Meal Kits to Try
When it comes to choosing a vegan meal service to try, here are a few to consider.
This plant-based meal delivery service may be the best choice for vegan eaters. You'll get a plethora of options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beyond.
This staple vegan meal kit service offers both vegetarian and vegan meal options. In the service's Classic Plan, you'll find four "veggie" meals each week. The bad news? You'll have to review the ingredients in these meals to determine if they're vegan.
Fresh n Lean
This newer meal-delivery service offers a vegan meal plan. You'll get meals such as maple parsley carrot with tofu for dinner.
Vegan Meal Delivery Services in a Nutshell
From shopping at a wider variety of stores to reading labels more carefully, following a vegan diet takes a little more work no matter how you get your meals. But when saving time is essential, meal delivery services can meet the needs of vegan diners.
Most meal delivery companies promote their services by offering new customer discounts on first-time orders. By all means, take advantage of those and find a plan that meets your vegan standards, falls within your budget, and serves up beautiful meals. Dining should be a pleasure that enhances your daily life and your long-term health.
About the Author
Susan Doktor is a journalist and business strategist who hails from New York City. She writes on a wide range of topics, including health, food and wine, and the environment. Follow her on Twitter at @branddoktor.
- Contributors to the Obesity and Hyperglycemia Epidemics. A Prospective Study in a Population-Based Cohort, Nature
- Restaurant Industry Facts at a Glance, National Restaurant Association
- About 13M U.S. Workers Have More Than One Job, U.S. Census Bureau
- Meal Kit Industry Expected to Hit $20B by 2027, GroceryDive.com
- This Is the Best Meal-Kit Service on the Market Right Now, Money.com
- How Much Does it Really Cost to be a Vegan?, VegWorldMag.com
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I'd love to hear from you! What vegan meal-delivery services would you add to this list?
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