I have a confession to make:
I love meal kits and meal delivery options.
I never intended to fall in love with meal kits.
But when my wife and I decided to order a Hello Fresh food subscription box on a whim one day, we quickly realized that we didn’t choose the meal kit life – it chose us.
Yes, I know. I am a typical Canadian millennial that doesn’t know how to meal prep or cook from scratch, etc. I could be saving “so much money”… But hear me out on this one. I’d go so far as to say that the number of domestic arguments my prepared meal kit subscription (delivered to my door) has saved my wife and I, make it worth the cost alone. When you consider all of the other positives its brought to our life, it has been a fantastic value overall.
My Personal Experience: Pulling my weight in the kitchen
I am entirely willing to admit that the main reason my wife has taken on much of the cooking in our house over the years is that I’m really bad at it. I’m not bad at it because I can’t follow a recipe or lack attention to detail. I’m not even bad at it because I’m too lazy to cook. (I should point out here in the interest of trying to salvage some degree of self-respect, that I do handle the bulk of the cleaning and laundry in order to bring some semblance of balance to the domestic chores scale.)
I’m bad I used to be bad at cooking because I’m too lazy to plan and shop. These bad habits are not helped by the fact that we live in a rural Canadian area, so purchasing fresh produce can be difficult. Any spice or food option that is juuuuust outside the mainstream? Forget about it.
Because I was an extremely reluctant cook, my wife would naturally get annoyed with me from time to time for not pulling my weight (which is considerable) in the kitchen. I can honestly say that since starting our meal kit delivery service, the following positives have occurred in my life:
- I cook much more because I don’t have to plan ahead.
- My wife and I haven’t had a single argument about household chores in several months.
- We NEVER throw out food anymore (and never have a fridge that smells like food that should be thrown out).
- We both look forward to getting home on Tuesdays to find three separate delicious meals waiting for us. Most of which we’d have never tried were it not for the food box subscription we have.
- We eagerly anticipate sitting down together and choosing our meals for the next week. Food preparation has went from something to be endured, to something that brings joy to our lives.
Yes, prepped meal kits have been really good for us and depending on your circumstances may be good for you as well. Look at my comprehensive meal kit comparison research below and learn the basics!
A Comparison of Canada’s Best Meal Kit Delivery Services
Fresh City Farms
Fresh City Farms
With nearly two million meal kits being shipped across Canada every month, more and more Canadians are signing up for the value found in a meal kit subscription box. However, Canadians still lag behind markets like the USA as far as percentage of the population having tried a meal kit service – thus guaranteeing that you the consumer can soak up some juicy promotional deals as companies fight for market share dominance! Who doesn’t love free food? Especially if you live in a major urban city, why not try several options and see which one you like best?
The Cost of Canada’s Meal Kit Options
I want to be right upfront in saying that meal kit delivery services are more expensive than going out and buying groceries. As a rough rule of thumb, I’d say 50% more for meal kits on comparable item-for-item basis. (Which only makes sense given the convenience involved.)
BUT – and this is a huge BUT – consider what you’re getting for that extra cash.
1) We NEVER have to go to the store for an ingredient that we’re missing. This is especially pleasant on cold winter evenings after we stumble in the door and put on our warm PJs!
2) We NEVER waste food from cooking dinner meals. I hated feeling guilty looking at rotting produce in our crisper. That guilt is now gone.
3) We NEVER have mental stress in the morning or after work when it comes to planning what to eat or asking each other, “Did you remember to take that _____ out of the freezer?” That relieved mental burden just makes life better.
4) Our restaurant spending is down 60% because our old “we’re too tired” default option was to order in, or go out. We now have a better default option!
5) We’re eating healthier than we ever have in our life! (Admittedly, not the highest bar to clear.) My dinner now ranges from 500-900 calories – when it was often double that before. It’s automatic portion control, combined with delicious ways of mixing veggies into everything.
Comparing Canadian Meal Kit Costs
Hello FreshGood FoodMiss FreshChef’s PlateFresh City Farms
At roughly $11 per serving (depending on how many meals ordered and which service you use, as well as if you go exclusively vegetarian) meal kits aren’t cheap. I also know that it’s possible in urban areas for discerning grocery shoppers to cut their grocery bill substantially.
The thing is, I don’t want to be a discerning grocery shopper. I don’t even want to be A SHOPPER!
I want to sit on my comfortable couch and scroll through delicious-tasting meals that I’ve never tried before, and pick next week’s suppers and lunches in 4 swipes or less.
Let’s take a look at the cost of meal kits using a real life example. Remember that when we’re talking about the major meal kit companies, taxes are included in the cost of almost all of the food (anything that is considered essential groceries does not get charged sales tax in Canada) and delivery. So when you see an advertised price of $70 for the week, the charge to your credit card will be exactly $70! Dalhousie’s Sylvain Charlebois recently released a study that states the that the average Canadian family spends roughly $250 per week on groceries. Once we factor in the fact that we’ll dramatically cutting down on our 500+ pounds of food that the average Canadian family throws out every year, and chopping our restaurant food budget down to size, I think it’s a reasonable to assume that we will be adding roughly $20 per week to our overall food bill (depending on how big your family, which meal kit you subscribe to, and how much money you were spending on groceries before).
I should also take a second to point that meal kits are an especially excellent deal for rural Canadians. When you consider that a Canadian in a small prairie farm town, or fishing village in Atlantic Canada pays the same for a meal kit as someone that lives in Toronto – that’s already a clue that it’s a great value. But it’s when you factor in that us rural people pay substantially more for groceries (for less of a selection – and less freshness!) that the value really starts to go up. We sacrifice less of our food budget than our urban counterparts – and get produce that is objectively more valuable/scarce for us!
I think that the other point that people have to consider when comparing apples to er… fresh vegetables, is that almost every single one of the ingredients in the meal kits that I’ve prepared is a premium product at the peak of freshness. So it’s not fair to compare to a ramen-noodles inspired menu.
Finally, if you’re not around for a week, and/or just want to save a few bucks before the next paycheque arrives, all of the major meal kit companies make it fairly simple to skip a week.
Meal Prep Delivery In a Snap
Signing up for a meal kit delivery service is super easy.
As one might expect from app-based companies, their sign up process is simple. You hook a credit card up (like any other subscription box service) and you’re good to go.
Depending on the meal kit company, you’re likely to have the option of a two-person meal option and a four-person “family size”. We actually toyed with the idea of ordering a 4-person meal for just the two of us, and then having a bunch of leftovers. It’s not as crazy as it might sound because obviously a large part of the cost involved in the delivery of the service, is the actual delivery. So ordering a large meal kit box is the way to get the most bang for your buck. That said, the two-person meal kit has always been a generous meal for us, and there are leftovers roughly 30-40% of the time. This is saying something as I’m a pretty big dude at 6’2, 250 pounds!
Again, depending on which meal prep delivery company that you choose to go with, there will usually be 5-7 options for you to choose 2-4 meals from that week (depending on what type of subscription package you choose). Each meal will come in it’s own bag with everything needed to cook the meal aside from basic kitchen ingredients such as oil, salt, sugar, etc. All other materials are in individual packaging. We have yet to receive produce that was not fresh (7 months into our subscription). The only negative thing that we’ve had happen is that when it was -45 outside this February, the basil leaves froze. I’m not paying for a heated meal kit box – so I’ll live with that one!
I cannot quantify the satisfaction of coming home to a box of food delivered to your door. I realize it’s a relatively simple concept, but man does it make climbing that supper preparation mountain a breeze! I was mildly concerned at first, that given our hot humid summers in Manitoba, our meat products would wilt. The engineering prowess that goes into these eco-friendly packages is pretty cool though. Just to test the limits, I left our box outside all day on a 30 degree day in August. When I unpacked it eight hours after morning delivery, the ice packages were still more than half frozen, and the package was very chilled. Needless to say, the meals were delicious and we experienced zero evidence of bacteria, food poisoning, etc. Consequently, I’m comfortable saying that these kits are relatively impervious to heat (at least our meal kit delivery company is).
The first question a lot of people have for me is, “What happens if they try to deliver my meal kit subscription when I’m not home?”
Basically, the answer is, “Whatever happens to any package you try to have delivered!” Obviously it depends where you live, but some popular problem solvers for this situation are:
- Have it left on your doorstep or leave directions to place it in an ideal spot. (It won’t thaw in under 10 hours if the box is insulated with cooler packs – trust me.)
- Have it delivered to your palace of work. (There has been no discernible smell from any of my boxes and again, it will stay cool inside.)
- Make friends with a trust-worthy neighbour that accept the package on your behalf. (Invite them over for a meal?)
- Kindly ask a local business that you frequent if they might accept the package for you.
What’s In a Meal Kit Meal Box?
There is obviously variability from one meal kit provider to the next; however, the general model for food box subscription companies is to deliver a medium-sized box once-per-week with 2-4 meals packaged individually inside. (With the meat products located in a separate, cooled section).
Recipes and step-by-step illustrated instructions accompany each product. I feel that I am the perfect test case for how good these instructions are given that I previously as limited to making eggs, basic pasta dishes, and grilling/frying meat when it came to my culinary skill set. Aside from some early learning pains about what “medium heat” or “small bowl” consisted of, it was a very gentle learning curve. The only meal I have screwed up in seven months was a flaky pastry concoction that still tasted good, it just didn’t get light and fluffy because I mistimed a couple of steps. That’s roughly a 99% success rate!
I will also admit that for a kitchen newbie like myself, the promised cook times are “stretch goals” to aim for, as opposed to hard-and-fast rules. A meal that claims to take 30-minutes to prep, often takes me 45 minutes. Mind you, that’s starting the clock when I think to myself, “Hey it’s time to make supper,” to “Supper’s ready!” I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that someone that who has mastered the dark arts of kitchen craft could prepare a meal 30%+ faster than yours truly.
Some meal kit delivery services specialize in vegetarian options or gluten-free recipes. I personally was not interested in going exclusively in those directions; however, I’m happy to say that we now eat vegetarian at least once a week. It makes me healthier and helps me feel better about the whole environmental impact thing. Plus – I kid you not – my favourite recipe so far has been a veggie lentil bake! If you had told me beforehand that I’d love a meal with the word “lentil” in it, you would have gotten quite a confused look.
The Best Meal Kit Companies in Canada: A Closer Look
Here are the details on the top meal kit delivery options in Canada, including the one we use. Exclusive promo offer codes are on their way!
Toronto Meal Kits
As the centre of the Canadian logistical universe, Toronto meal kits offer a ton of choice for folks who live in the GTA. Obviously you have the “Big 3 + 1” companies in Hello Fresh, Chefs Plate, and Goodfood, plus Miss Fresh. Additionally though, there are local competitors such as Fresh City Farms that offer very specific or niche offerings. Prepd and Cook It meal kits are also available to Toronto residents, as they seek to compete on price point with the heavy hitters. Depending how far you live from the city centre, you might have access to more meal kits than others. If you live in one of the ‘burbs you’ll have to type in your address – but it’s a virtual guarantee that Hello Fresh delivers to you (95%+ of Canadians) and almost certain that Chefs Plate and Goodfood will be able to deliver their food subscription boxes to your door as well!
Montreal and Quebec Meal Kits
As both Goodfood and Miss Fresh started in Montreal, the Quebec meal kit scene is home turf for two of the four major meal kit delivery companies. Hello Fresh and Chefs Plate were quick to get into Quebec as well. Finally, all Montreal residents and most of suburb/exurb Quebec also has access to the relatively small local meal kit company Cook It. With all of this choice available, it really comes down to what you’re looking for in a meal kit. If you want to support the local French touch, you have Goodfood and their main pitch person, Quebec media personality Anne-Marie Withenshaw or Metro store-owned Miss Fresh. If you’re looking for a real local flavour, perhaps Cook It is more up your alley. If price is your foremost concern, you can’t beat Chefs Plate. And if you simply want the consistently-excellent taste of Canada’s most popular meal kit, Hello Fresh is a safe bet.
Vancouver Meal Kits
It will likely come as no surprise that much like Toronto and Montreal, Vancouver meal kits are led by Hello Fresh, Chefs Plate, and Goodfood. With Hello Fresh recently acquiring Chefs Plate and renewing their commitment to locally-sourced produce and meats, they have been able to really shorten the “field-to-table” time by contracting with local producers that can take advantage of British Columbia’s temperate climate. In addition to these Canada-wide giants however, Vancouver is also home to a bevy of smaller, local meal kit contenders. Eat Your Cake calls itself “Vancouver’s healthiest meal kit delivery option”. Contrary to what you may think from the title, this Vancouver meal kit delivery company is not all about the treats, but rather specializes in recipes designed for specific goals such as weight lost or peak athletic performance. The price tag matches the high level of customization though! Fresh Prep is another meal kit company that makes its home in Vancouver and hopes to grow eastward (powered by it’s fleet of drivers). FUUD is not only a great name for a meal kit company, but also a premium option for folks that live in the Vancouver metro. You may recognise them from their Dragon’s Den appearance! Finally, Sergio Pereira and Patrick Carr are “2 Guys With Knives” – our final local Vancouver meal kit company. Together this high-end chef and personal trainer are creating a local Vancouver meal kit for fitness-focused customers.
Calgary, Edmonton, and Regina Meal Kits
Let us not forget about my beloved prairie provinces. Hello Fresh is my recommendation to folks who are scattered across the small cities, towns, and villages of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Since they deliver to 95% of Canadian households, they’re the best bet if you live “out of the way”. Chefs Plate and Goodfood are also cross-Canada options that pop up in most prairie cities. Hello Fresh has actually made a point of sourcing from local Alberta companies such as Byblos Bakery and Spolumbo’s Fine Foods & Deli. Local meal kits include one of my favourite prairie startups at Zesty Kits in Regina. The local meal kit is quickly expanding throughout Saskatchewan and specialize in heath-conscious meal kits. Calgary and Edmonton have their own local meal kits in Rooted and SPUD. Both of these Alberta-only companies seek to source nearly 100% of their produce from Alberta. SPUD is more of a fresh-grocery delivery company than a meal kit company per se, but they seemed relevant to mention here.
Are Canadian Food Box Subscriptions Worth It?
Ultimately, only you can decide if the massive increase in ease and convenience are worth the increased cost when it comes to meal kits. Personally, you can obviously tell from this article that I’m a fan. It allows my wife and I to more equally share cooking duties, it gives us access to meals we would never consider otherwise, and best of all: I don’t have to think about planning dinner until the second I’m ready to start cooking! The amount of mental space that I can now dedicate to other thoughts and endeavours is astounding.
I should reiterate, that to be fair, grocery shopping and cooking were never my forte. If you’re the type of individual that really likes to experiment with new creations on a daily basis, take your time grocery shopping, or watches a ton of cooking shows, then perhaps the super-simplicity of having a healthy delicious dinner show up on your doorstep isn’t worth the same to you that it is to me. On the other hand, if you find yourself rushed for time in the evenings, stuck in a bit of a “supper rotation rut”, or find yourself eating out while throwing away food, then a meal kit subscription is honestly a godsend.
With so many Canadian meal kit delivery companies willing to let you try their service for a crazy reduced rate (making it cheaper than comparable premium-fresh groceries) what do you have to lose?