MY WIFE ELISABETH wandered into the kitchen while I was testing a Blue Apron meal kit. She lifted one of the four-pound Nordic Ice bags that come in the box and gave the thawed, semi-glutinous thing a squeeze.

“You could make a breast larger with this stuff,” she declared, before investigating the bubble-wrapped foam lining inside the cardboard wall of the box. “It’s like a disposable cooler!”

Her reactions were more investigative fascination than judgment, but I couldn’t help but wonder if this was part of the reason—along with Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods—for Blue Apron’s disappointing recent IPO and subsequent stock market slide.

My initial goal was to review the efforts of several individual companies that provide ready-to-cook meal kits. But after testing multiple meals delivered from Blue ApronPurple CarrotHome Chef, and the new offering Amazon Fresh has begun to roll out, Amazon Meal Kits, I found that they were all similar enough that I wanted to take an updated look at the meal kit concept as a whole.

Perhaps the best-known among meal kit services, Blue Apron felt like the right place to start, and, I’d learn, followed a template similar to other meal kit companies.

I quickly found that, with the exception of Amazon’s kits, which you can get if you subscribe to Amazon Fresh, you can’t just buy one meal; You subscribe for a weekly drop-off of three meals for two or, as Purple Carrot puts it, “Serves 2 or 1 with leftovers.” Each individual meal costs around $10, sometimes a couple bucks more, occasionally a shade less.

Almost all of the ingredients for all of the meals come in the kits, though they might rely on you to have items like salt or cooking oil on hand. Large recipe cards with helpful photos guide you through the recipes. All of the ingredients are pre-portioned so you end up using all the food in the box, cutting down on food waste and getting dinner on the table faster.


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