Deemed “healthy eating for busy people,” PlateJoy is a meal-planning service that delivers fresh, organic ingredients to your doorstep. There are tons of delivery services out there meant to simplify home cooking, but what makes this one special?

I decided to give PlateJoy a try and see if I could manage making healthy, delicious meals with a busy schedule and long commute.

Braised Chicken Photo: PlateJoy

Hands On with PlateJoy

PlateJoy follows a series of simple steps:

1. Select meal preferences
After signing up for PlateJoy, I answered a series of questions to customize my meals to fit my lifestyle and dietary needs.

  • How many people will you be cooking for?
    (Children’s portions are half the size of adult meals.)
  • How do you and/or your family prefer to eat?
    (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian, No Red Meat, Paleo, No restrictions. Users can select more than one.)
  • What meals would you like to purchase today?
    (Users must select at least two — Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks and Desserts.)
  • What is your preferred type of milk?
    (Almond, Cow’s Skim, Cow’s 1%, Cow’s 2%, Cow’s Whole, Lactose Free, Soy)
  • Where would you like your ingredients from?
    (Whole Foods, Peapod, Safeway. The last two options save 20% off the total order.)
2. Choose meals

A Pinterest-like page displayed images of meal options available. PlateJoy’s roster of meal options changes every week and the database expands daily. I selected a few meals that sounded interesting, such as corn salad with dill and yogurt dressing, a veggie frittata, and a rice dish with shrimp, orange, and fennel.

PlateJoy Photo: PlateJoy

PlateJoy assumes you’ve got the basics on hand, but if you’re missing a specific spice or oil, there’s the option to tack it on to the order. With convenient delivery between 10am and 10pm (seven days a week) PlateJoy doesn't have to use insulated boxes like other food delivery services.

3. Unload Groceries
When my delivery arrived on Monday night, it was like Christmas morning (except it was 9 p.m. and I wasn’t wearing a matching pajama suit). I only had a vague idea about what was in the grocery bags, because the PlateJoy website doesn’t include the actual recipes (those are sent in an email, as well as regular old-fashioned mail, after the order is placed). Amongst a sea of 18 eggs I had tons of fresh veggies and only one pantry item: spaghetti.

4. Get cooking!
PlateJoy pledges that breakfast and lunch take less than 10 minutes to prepare and dinner clocks in under 30. Every meal I made did fall within those time frames, which was a pleasant surprise (with instant brown rice and fairly non-involved meals, my biggest time suck was chopping).
Corn Salad Photo by Nicole McDermott

How PlateJoy Stands Out From the Pack

In a sea of meal delivery services, what makes PlateJoy any different from all the others?

  • Variety and customization: PlateJoy doesn’t limit users to a weekly set menu of, say, only three meals. By enabling grocers to participate in the meal-planning subscription game, PlateJoy can provide more variety than other services and cater to a wider spectrum of dietary restrictions.
  • Putting the kibosh on portions: While other services send the ingredients pre-portioned for each recipe, PlateJoy sends the entire bag or carton since the food comes straight from the grocery store. So if you order a yogurt parfait, you’re getting a whole bag of granola (just like you’d buy at the supermarket). This is a part of PlateJoy’s “surplus reduction algorithm” to save money and reduce food waste and packaging over the long term. The site logs what you’ve ordered and will incorporate it into future meals.
  • Double time: In the single person plan, each meal is a “double meal” meaning there are enough ingredients to prepare and eat each recipe twice during the week. I found that even with just six meals I had plenty of food. For multiple people, there's a mixture of single and double meals.
  • Getting the facts straight: Every recipe on PlateJoy’s website includes nutrition facts.

The Verdict

PlateJoy isn’t for people looking to cook up fancy gourmet meals. It takes some of the guesswork out of meal planning, but it’s not as brainless as other subscription services that portion, chop, and package each recipe’s ingredients together. PlateJoy’s main value is in replacing time sucks like grocery shopping and deciding what’s for dinner.

One major drawback was the recipe system. I would have liked to see the instructions before selecting a meal instead of after. While there are only a handful of meals for each meal-type category there are certainly more options than Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. I appreciated the customization factor and that I could order breakfast and lunch in addition to dinner. At the end of the day, PlateJoy is for people who want to take a little work out of grocery shopping but still want a say in what they’re eating.

Currently, PlateJoy delivers to Boston and San Francisco (and other locations by request) but will expand to two undisclosed cities by the end of the year. An average breakfast or lunch costs around $6 and an average dinner costs around $8.

Have you tried PlateJoy or another meal delivery service? What did you think? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet the author @nicmcdermott.