Hang up your car keys and meal-planning hat (at least for a little while). Ready for someone else to solve the perennially challenging, daily question of what to make for dinner?
We have researched the latest ways to get meals — or meal prep — brought to you, from app-driven services that bring gourmet dishes prepared by local chefs to companies that box up ingredients and recipes but let you do the cooking. Here are 10 innovative services, of various models, to try. In the process, you can expand your family's palate and your own library of favorite recipes.
Tip: Most of these services have a deal or discount for first-timers, and also offer a discount for sharing with friends.
Disclaimer: This is by no means an all-inclusive list. You won’t find some of the more well-known options, such as AmazonFresh, or organic food delivery services such as Freggies to Full Circle. If you have a service you think should be added, email email@example.com.
The leading fresh ingredient and recipe delivery service in the United States, Blue Apron solves your dinner problem by delivering step-by-step recipes and seasonal, pre-portioned ingredients sourced directly from farms and suppliers. In other words, you still do the actual cooking and mixing, but they take most of the work out of it (and provide inventive meal ideas that expand your family's collective palate).
Every week, Blue Apron creates seasonal, chef-inspired recipes that are not repeated within a year. By working with a network of family farms that champion sustainable farming practices, Blue Apron gives customers access to hard-to-find seasonal produce such as fairytale eggplants, fiddlehead ferns, watermelon radishes and zephyr squash.
Tip: Because the meal kits come with beautifully designed directions and everything is pre-portioned, the meal prep could be done by kids, with or without supervision, depending on their ages.
Sample meals/recipes: Seared chicken and caramelized fennel, spinach and mozarella pizza, mushroom tacos
Cool fact: Launched 2012, Blue Apron now ships more than 3 million meals each month. Each recipe is created by the in-house culinary team, led by co-founder Matthew Wadiak.
Delivery fee: Delivery is free. Blue Apron is a subscription service, although you can skip a week or cancel by giving a week’s notice. On the 2-Person Plan, meals are $9.99 per person per meal, and on the Family Plan, meals are $8.74 per person per meal.
Delivery range: Blue Apron ships to 99 percent of the Continental U.S., including all of Washington State. The meals are delivered through several shipping partners such as Federal Express.
The appeal of Lish — which was founded in 2014 by ex-Amazon product manager Aakhil Fardeen — is simple: excellent, fully prepared meals prepared by well-known Seattle-area chefs delivered to your door within an hour or two of ordering. As you shop for your meals, you can see which chef prepared each dish, including stars such as Ethan Stowell, Una Kim an Ericka Burke — or which local vendor or bakery provided the product (Macrina, Dry Soda, etc.). Meals start at around $11; add-ons from $2. Chefs prepare the meals in either Lish’s kitchen or their own restaurants.
Sample meals: Green curry chicken with jasmine rice; vegetable rice bowl; coq au vin; pork chile verde; as well as desserts such as salted chocolate chip cookies and banana bread pudding; and local drink products such as Dry Soda or Rachel’s Ginger Beer.
Cool fact: All meals are packaged in compostable trays and decompose within 60 days.
Delivery fee: $3.99
Delivery range: Lish delivers to the majority of Seattle area and just expanded to serve several zip codes in the Bellevue area. Meals are delivered chilled. You can order as late as 7 p.m. in the Seattle area and 4 p.m. in the Eastside area. Order via the Lish app or online.
Like Lish, Munchey is a good choice for families who want to order their meals fully prepared and might want to choose different entrees for each person. The history: Tri Tran started his company in 2011 to solve the challenge of serving fresh, thoughtful meals to his wife and two sons while working as an engineer. Tran hired professional, local chefs to prepare fresh, nutritious dishes, which he delivered himself. Now, Munchery serves more than four metropolitan areas — with more on the way — and serves thousands of meals daily in each of its regions. Currently, there are up to 40 items on Munchery’s menu at any given time, with entrees ranging from $7 and $12 and sides and kids' menus about $5–$8.
Sample meals: Vegetable & tofu lo mein; shrimp and pasta primavera; pistachio-crusted cod; kids' chicken parmesan
Cool fact: Munchery delivers its dishes in a unique chilled format, which maximizes freshness and taste. When heated, food is served as you’d get it in a high-end restaurant.
Delivery fee: Munchery can be scheduled in advance for one-hour delivery windows, or can be ordered on-demand and delivered in a little as 15 minutes. Schedule-ahead deliveries cost $2.95 per order, and meals can be delivered on-demand for $4.50 per order. (Also, you might find a special for free first-time delivery.)
Delivery range: Munchery currently serves the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Meals are delivered between 4pm and 9pm, Monday through Friday. Weekend service is currently available in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and will be rolled out to the additional service areas in the coming weeks. Munchery is also beginning a lunch service.
Launched in 2011 by two Bellingham-based mothers, Acme Farms + Kitchen is a fresh-ingredient and recipe delivery service that helps you shop and cook local, offering options such as gluten and dairy-free, paleo and vegetarian. They connect more 80 local farmers, ranchers, fishers and artisan producers with more than 2,000 families in the Northwest.
Sample meals/boxes: Acme provides ingredients and meal plans, but you still do the cooking. How much prep you need to do depends on the type of box. Boxes range in price from $75 for a small locavore box to $145 for a paleo box. The small boxes include 3–4 dinners for a family of 4 and the large boxes include 5 dinners for a family of four. You can also try special boxes like the getaway box (breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour snacks, a cocktail kit, and a dessert) or a happy-hour box or a dessert box.
You can choose to order one at a time, or a weekly or monthly option.
Cool fact: All of Acme’s food is sourced locally and members know exactly who produces their food. See Acme's blog for stories of farmers they work with. Another plus? The food never travels far, eliminating the need for excessive, wasteful packaging.
Delivery fee: In Skagit, Snohomish, and King County, delivery is included in the price of the box. In Whatcom County delivery is optional and the charge is based on your location.
Delivery range: Home delivery of locavore boxes is currently offered in Whatcom County, and select parts of Skagit, Snohomish and King Counties. If you live near Bellingham, you have the option off picking up your box at Acme headquarters.
In the Blue Apron model, HelloFresh sends new recipes to your doorstep each week along with the pre-measured fresh ingredients needed to create each meal, down to the spices, herbs and condiments. The recipes are designed by in-house chefs and nutritionists to be accessible to everyone, from novices to seasoned home cooks alike. Each recipe comes with step-by-step instructions and guiding images to help you create delicious meals in about 30 minutes.
Sample boxes and recipes: Choose from a veggie box (with ingredients to make meals such as courgette linguine, or veggie pizza) or omnivore box (homestyle chicken-fried steak, crispy chicken biryani).
Cool fact: HelloFresh has created an eco-friendly, specially designed box for delivery that acts like a mini refrigerator, ensuring ingredients arrive cool and fresh even if you’re not home when it’s delivered.
Delivery fee: Delivery is free; all you have to pay is the weekly subscriptions fee, which can be paused or canceled easily online.
Delivery range: HelloFresh delivers to the entire continental United States via their various delivery partners, including UPS.
Started by one man with a van who delivered ice cream to rural families in western Minnesota in 1952, Schwan’s now boasts more than 4,500 yellow delivery trucks. Peruse its more than 350 food products online at schwans.com or with its new mobile app. Schwan’ offers a range of foods, including prepared meals, USDA-choice meats and wild-caught seafood, fruits and vegetables, and a wide array of ice cream products and desserts.
Sample products/meals: Chicken pad Thai; gluten-free breaded chicken bites; bean-and-cheese enchilada bake.
Cool fact: Since the 1970s, more than 70 percent of its delivery trucks run on propane, an alternative fuel.
Delivery fee: $1.75 for each truck delivery; shipping fees for mailed orders using standard shipping is $19.99 for orders of more than $100 and $14.99 for orders $50 and under.
Delivery range: All of the 48 states in the continental United States; in areas not served by trucks, the products are delivered by mail in coolers packed with dry ice or in freezer bags.
You probably already know about Smith Brothers' milk delivery service. But did you know that its organic milk comes from 100 percent grass-fed cows to Puget Sound porches within 24 to 48 hours? Or that Smith Brothers Farms carries far more than dairy products? Its growing merchandise list includes food and coffee from many local beloved vendors.
Sample products and meals: Besides a wide range of dairy products, Smith Brothers delivers products from companies such as Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie, Alki Bakery, Cougar Mountain, CBNuts and Beecher’s.
Cool fact: This Seattle-area company sponsors many Puget Sound community organizations, including PEPS. In 2014 they were named the 2014 Dairy Foods Plant of the Year and also received the 2014 Seattle Business Awards “Legacy” Award.
Delivery fee: Delivery is free for orders over $10; orders for less are charged a $1.29 delivery fee.
Delivery range: As far north as Marysville, as far south as Olympia, east to North Bend, and west to Bremerton. Smith Brothers Farms makes deliveries to single-family homes; they are unable to deliver to condos or apartments.
"Get the best of your city delivered in minutes," is the promise of this modern-age courier service. Order via its mobile app and you are paired with a courier (on bike, scooter, motorcycle or in a car) who delivers your order. Track your courier’s progress via the app or call or text your courier to add pick-up of a necessary dessert ingredient at a store, for example.
All products except alcohol (in Seattle; some cities do allow alcohol delivery) are available from participating merchants via the website, or the a iOS or Android apps.
Sample products/meals: A quick look at Seattle offerings include Blue Moon Burgers, Ezell's Chicken, Lunchbox Laboratory, P.F. Chang's and much more.
Delivery fee: Delivery starts at $5 and goes up depending on distance. There is a 9 percent service fee on all orders. Postmates also launched a merchant program with participating merchants delivering for a flat $4.99 fee. If you open the app, look for the $4.99 favorites at the top.
Delivery range: Postmates is now in 28 markets and operates 24/7; find the full list of cities, which includes Seattle, on the website.
This old-school style delivery service began in 2001. 2 Go Services still direct mails its catalog of restaurant vendors to the Greater Seattle Area but a better option for on-the-go parents is ordering via the website, using your zip code to find restaurants and place your order online. (Coming soon: ordering app.) Or call, fax or e-mail your order. One of the company’s drivers will deliver your meal from one of its 220 restaurants.
Sample restaurants: Buca di Beppo, Chutney's, Lunchbox Laboratory
Cool fact: During its early years, 2 Go Services cold-called to obtain its restaurant list. Now they mainly pick restaurants based on customer recommendations. “Or we go eat at restaurants, deciding to include them based on how we like the food and the general demeanor of each place,” says founder Robert Bennett.
Delivery fee: Delivery charge of $8.50 in most areas. If your order outside this area and the food arrives hot, 2 Go Services charges a bit more. The delivery fee for group orders from 10 to 50 people is $11.50, and they provide needed items from plates to tablecloths.
Delivery range: Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Renton, Kent, Tukwila, Burien, Auburn, Federal Way, Tacoma and surrounding areas, with plans to add new territory (Lynnwood to Everett) in 2016.
This online and mobile food company is available to use in more than 900 cities in the United States. In Seattle, choose to order food from more than 300 restaurants, using the GrubHub website, iOS or Android apps. After customers enter an address, GrubHub will show you all the restaurants offering delivery or take-out options in their area. GrubHub ensures their customers and restaurants are happy by handing all the customer service for meals bought through the company.
Cool fact: GrubHub’s kids’ meal takeout is on the rise! Kids’ menu ordering spiked 45% over the past year, and 98% since 2013.The average price of a kids’ menu item in Seattle is $4.92
Delivery fee: GrubHub is free for diners to use, while the restaurants set all menu prices, delivery minimums, and possible delivery fees. Participating restaurants pay GrubHub a percentage of each order (usually 10 percent), paying a higher fee for more visibility on the site.
Delivery range: This is dependent on each restaurant’s delivery range.
Note: This article was originally written in 2013 and updated in 2015.