Stumble in the front door at 8 p.m. after a long day at work, and the last thing anyone wants to do is spend an hour making a mess in the kitchen. In a perfect world, dinner would always be pre-planned and pre-prepped, and cooking and eating it would cure the day's stress, not cause it. Luckily, these 13 companies have our backs. From pre-packed dinner boxes delivered to your front door, to meticulously organized meal plans for the entire week, there's something here to make healthy cooking easier for everyone.
Dinner in a Box
Everyone should be able to enjoy delicious, interesting, home-cooked meals, right? Blue Apron is all about providing a great cooking experience for its users. Once per week, you’ll get a delivery including all the ingredients you need to make three meals (serving two people each). Each week, they feature entrees like chicken chilaquiles, steak salad with chicory and curried chickpeas, and salmon cakes with beet salad. The only things they assume subscribers have are olive oil, salt, and pepper. Every recipe features a new special ingredient (tatsoi, anyone?) to broaden your culinary palette, too. Plus, they offer a meat and fish box or a vegetarian box. Delivery available from Maine to Florida, and west to the Mississippi river as well as Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada and most of Utah and Arizona. Cost: $59.94 per week for three meals that each serve two people.
Who wouldn’t want a chef-designed meal on the dinner table a few times a week? With Plated, you get just that, but in your own home (and, well, you get to prepare it yourself). It’s pretty simple: You choose the meals you want in a given week, order, and the ingredients for those meals show up at your doorstep the next week. Your recipes may have been created by a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, one who's appeared on The Chew, or someone who's won multiple "Best Restaurant" awards. Each week they have up to seven dishes ranging from entrees like meatloaf burgers with garlic mashed potatoes to berbere spiced salmon with steamed potatoes and winter greens. Delivery available to 80 percent of the continental U.S. Cost: $12 per plate for weekly deliveries.
In NYC and looking for an easier way to plan, shop for, and cook organic meals at home? Marisa from Sweet Roots NYC may have the answer. She works with her clients one-on-one to create tailored weekly meal plans that take into account your taste preferences, health goals, and how comfortable you are wielding a knife. Once you OK the week’s plan, her team does all the work to deliver the ingredients (pre-measured, sometimes pre-chopped, with recipes) right to your door. They want to take the stress out of cooking without taking away the joy and satisfaction of preparing a meal on your own. Delivery available in New York City (Manhattan and Brooklyn). Cost: $25 per meal ($75 minimum per week).
This one’s all about the healthier options. Every week you’ll have a box with ingredients for three meals delivered to your door and packed with fresh produce and protein. Boxes hold enough to serve two or four people, but the recipes (like cheesy pork enchiladas with avocado) take no more than 30 minutes to prepare, regardless of how big the crowd is. Not in the U.S.? Hello Fresh has quite the international vibe. The company started in Germany in 2011, and quickly expanded to the UK, the Netherlands, and Australia! Delivery available nationwide. Cost: Boxes available from $59 per week.
San Franciscans, we are officially jealous. Luke’s Local is reinventing ready-to-eat meals. Every week, they deliver boxes that are some sort of hybrid between a CSA (community supported agriculture) program, personal catering, and an artisan food shop. All the meals are prepared by local chefs, all the produce comes from local farms, and the artisan items are all locally sourced (like bread or granola for snacking!). The best part? You get to pick which items go in that box for every order. Delivery available in San Francisco, East Bay, and South Bay for $3.99; pickup also available at other locations in San Francisco area. Cost: Prepared foods range from $5 (breakfast burrito) to $75 (family meal bundle).
Southern cooking isn’t all fried chicken and collard greens, as PeachDish is proving. Their chefs create seasonal, Southern-inspired recipes that would appear on restaurant menus, then the company makes them super easy to create at home by sending pre-measured ingredients and cooking instructions to your doorstep. Pick two recipes a week (vegetarian options sound delicious: Roasted Delicata Squash Stuffed with Currants, Red Onion, Sage, Walnuts, and Quinoa, anyone?), and you’ll get everything you need for dinner for two. Except that bottle of wine. Cost: $50 per week for two meals that serve two.
This free meal plan newsletter is perfect for those who love cooking at home but don’t love all the time it takes to actually plan out those weekly menus. Founder Jess Dang started Cook Smarts as a way to help people get back in the kitchen. But it’s about more than just the free meal plans: Jess also runs the Cook Smarts blog, which offers some pretty killer cooking tips and instructional videos. Cost: Free.
This simple desktop app was born out of a desire to eat real, healthy, delicious food, prepared at home, without all the stress of walking in from work at six o'clock and trying to throw something together before the family (or just you) gets cranky. Basically, the program allows you to store all your favorite recipes, drag-and-drop them onto the day you want to eat them, and get an easy shopping list to print out for easier shopping. Still not impressed? The mobile app allows you to view your shopping list while out and about. Plus, it also keeps track of all of your “pantry items” when you check them off your shopping list. Cost: $4.95 per month; $39 per year.
If you tend to bookmark or pin recipes but always end up making the same stir-fry, it's Relish to the rescue. An email reminds you to log in every Thursday to check out the new weekly menu, complete with recipes for entrees, sides, and desserts that take no more than 30 minutes to make. Drag the 15 items you want to make into your weekly menu and scale them to serve two, four, six, or eight. Relish generates a grocery list that can be customized to add staples you’re low on or subtract things you already have. All you have to do is shop once, and you’re ready to cook for the entire week. Cost: From $4.90 per month.
All it takes is 20 ingredients and 20 minutes each night to eat healthy, unprocessed meals, according to the Fresh 20. Each week they create a meal plan for five recipes with a shopping list of 20 seasonal ingredients (plus pantry staples) to make those meals. The promise: Reduce waste (no more excess chard going bad in the fridge) and save time, whether you’re vegetarian, gluten free, kosher, or... not at all picky. While most plans are made for families, there’s also a “for one” option of recipes that serve two, so instead of going out for lunch, take the rest of dinner to work and save moolah. Plus, everything is reviewed by a registered dietitian to be sure the meals are indeed healthy. Cost: From $18 for three months
For all the convenience of services that deliver ingredients or do all the work to create meal plans, sometimes you just don’t want someone else to decide that you're having roasted spaghetti squash with marinara and olives on Thursday night. The solution for those who want more control? Make your own plan with Pepperplate. This app allows you to customize and organize recipes you’ve created as well as ones from popular sites. Add the ones that appeal most at this moment to your schedule and shopping list, then rearrange the list so it makes sense for how and when you shop. Once it’s time to cook, take your device into the kitchen and avoid covering it in chocolate-covered fingerprints thanks to “Cook Mode,” which keeps the screen from dimming. We’ll still lick our digits clean, though—need to make sure that brownie batter has enough cocoa. Cost: Free
Find a recipe you love on Greatist or any other site? Tap a button, download it, and save it to Paprika—the app makes it that easy. From there you can create reusable meal plans for the week (or month, Chef Ambition!), scale the recipes to serve the number of people at your table, and hit the grocery store with the automated shopping list that brilliantly groups items by aisle and combines similar ingredients so “avocado” isn’t listed five times. While cooking, cross off ingredients, highlight which step you’re on, and make notes to the recipe—the screen won’t go black as you work. Plus you can have multiple recipes open at once (great for holiday and party cooking) and set a timer for each. The one downside users report is that you have to buy the app for each device you want to use it on. Cost: $4.99 for phone and tablet; $19.99 for desktop
Bits and Pieces
OK, so you’ve found the time to get in the kitchen and cook… but now it’s time to make it more fun. Kasey and Matthew of the popular food and music blog Turntable Kitchen have the solution for you: a monthly gift box filled with three killer recipes, a mix tape (in both vinyl and digital form), and a few special key ingredients. Turn on the record player and fire up the stove for a perfectly paired music and cooking experience. Cost: $25 per month (plus tax). Originally posted December 2012, updated November 2014.