Meal delivery services are popular and lure you with tons of huge discounts upfront; but when the introductory offers run out, are they still worth it? In this Plated review, we’re closely analyzing one of the most popular meal kit services available today.
We want to help you decide if it’s right for you, if it will save you money or cost you money in the long run, and who definitely should not subscribe. Keep reading to get all the answers to your questions in this Plated review!
Subscription Meal Kits and Who Loves Them
Image from TheTakeOut.com, via AFP/Getty Images
In the last decade we’ve seen the astonishing growth of tech-fueled innovative companies that have changed how we live and work. Coworking spaces are multiplying, you can catch a ride in somebody’s vehicle, and you can even sleep on somebody’s couch--all without needing to talk to a single person!
Eating is also being revolutionized--especially dinner. The first meal kits to pop up nearly a decade ago were HelloFresh in Germany and Blue Apron in the United States. HelloFresh was in countries like Australia, the UK, and the US by 2014, with millions of subscribers, while Blue Apron has been considered one of the fastest growing companies as it meets the needs of millions of hungry customers
How Do Meal Kits Work?
Meal kits bank on the fact that we’re busy and don’t want to take the time to grocery shop or meal plan. They also lean on the fact that most of us want to get back to cooking and to eat at home--for health reasons, family reasons, and for the simple love of preparing our food!
People are looking for healthier, easier ways to make dinner at home possible and dinner kits are designed to solve that problem. Typically when you subscribe, you’re ordering a week’s worth of meals that arrive pre-ordered for you. Many of the ingredients are pre-measured, so there’s little to no waste.
Customers often have to supplement with staples ingredients from their pantries, like olive oil and salt and pepper, but all other ingredients will be supplied. Ingredients are fresh and come in a lined box that can sit on your doorstep till you get home from work.
You’ll simply place your items in your fridge or pantry when you get home, and then use the provided recipe card to make the dinner on the night you choose.
Who Are Meal Kits Best For?
Prices on meal kits can vary quite a bit, and whether or not they’re good values depends a lot on how you cook and eat now. If you’re already cooking at home, you’re probably not saving a lot by switching to a service like Plated. However, if you’re eating out a lot, you can stand to save quite a bit.
Saving money isn’t usually people’s first objective when trying meal kits, however. Here are a few of the reasons they’re popular:
Different meal kits are better for different people depending on your food allergens, food preferences, and the number of people you’re feeding--some services just aren’t well suited to feeding your family of four, for example, and some offer few choices for vegetarians or people looking for gluten-free options.
How does Plated stack up? Well, let’s take a closer look at the company to see.
Who is Plated and How Does it Work?
You might remember Plated from their 2014 appearance on NBC’s Shark Tank. Founders Nick Taranto and Josh Hix were Harvard classmates who envisioned creating an e-commerce food business that would enable people to share a food experience around a dining table.
The deal Taranto and His worked out with Mark Cuban fell through shortly after the airing, but another Shark Tank member, Kevin O’Leary, soon became an investor. The company remained private (though it continued to raise money) and was acquired in 2017 by Albertsons for $300 million, the biggest buyout in Shark Tank history.
Today, customers can purchase Plated boxes in select Albertsons stores, but the company continues to operate its subscription service. Plated focuses on three things:
How Does Plated Help Its Customers?
When it comes to saving time, Plated aims to help like most other dinner kits--by providing clear, step-by-step instructions--complete with tips and photos--and delivering all the necessary ingredients straight to your doorstep.
Plated has come a long way since its early days when founder Taranto recalls delivering salmon and basil in soggy cardboard boxes in the middle of summer and having zero repeat customers!
In addition to convenience, Plates also focuses on helping people have fun in the kitchen, in part by purposefully teaching new techniques and skills so that people at all cooking levels can have more fun in the kitchen. Plated also focuses on its community, allowing members to use social media to share what they’re making.
Finally, Plated pledges to help customers enjoy more. Plated’s cofounders recognize sitting down to a meal is a vital part of cultures everywhere, and being able to do so again means a lot.
What Kinds of Plans Does Plated Have?
Plated offers three plans, based on serving sizes:
Each plan can be ordered for two, three, or four nights. So, for example, if it’s just and the kids at home this week, you can order the two-person plan for three nights. When your significant other gets back from her business trip, you can switch to the three servings plan. Will you be having guests in town for the week? Order the four serving plan for a few nights in!
How Much Does Plated Cost?
Plated pricing is very straightforward--something that sets it apart from many of its competitors and something we appreciate. The two-person plan is $11.95 per serving, whether you get two meals, three meals, or four meals, while the three-person and four-person plans are $9.95 per serving.
You’ll notice quickly that while $9.95 per serving isn’t dirt cheap, you’ll easily spend that or more picking up Chipotle or dining out. In other words, it’s easy to see how Plated can help people save money.
You won’t pay for shipping, and you can cancel, pause, or skip a week at any time. Plated currently offers a 25% introductory offer for new customers, which makes getting started with them even cheaper!
What Kinds of Meals Does Plated Offer?
Each week, Plated offers customers a huge menu of options for meals. Many are seasonal and what Plated calls “globally inspired.” Plated provides options for gluten-free meals, low-carb, low-calorie, and vegetarian options as well as customer favorites that have appeared on past menus.
You can choose exactly which recipes you’d like to receive, and you can choose the order you prepare them each week. The recipes provide full details, including the chef that developed it (you can keep an eye out for your favorite chefs), the prep times and cook time required (most are under thirty minutes), and cooking skill, and you’ll see quick tags like “vegetarian” or “stovetop only” or “quick cook.”
Here are a few recipes on the menu for this week:
Are you hungry yet? We are! Let’s uncover a little more about the pros and cons of using Plated.
Pros to Subscribing to Plated
You’ve likely already begun to pick out the pros to joining Plated. Here are our favorites:
1. Plated Helps You Save Time
There’s no denying that having somebody else do the shopping and the meal planning helps tremendously when it comes to saving time, especially if you’re somebody who has more money than time. However, it’s not just time that Plated allows you to conserve--its decision-making energy.
Think about it this way: you get home from work, and you’re tired and ready to eat, but you still have to find a recipe, gather the ingredients, and prepare. By the time you get to the grocery store, it’s already dinner time, and you’d rather just grab takeout again. Plus, finding recipes that are reliable and delicious and healthy is difficult--nobody wants to put all that effort into a new recipe, only to have it bomb.
Plated allows you to feel confident about what you’re preparing and allows you to save your creative energy and decision-making for the things that matter.
2. Plated Helps You Save Money
While a four-person meal plan, four times a week can cost as much as $160, that still pales in comparison to what you would spend eating out. You can probably purchase ingredients at the grocery store yourself for about half that, but then there’s your time you need to factor in. Plated isn’t a money-saving plan for everyone, but it can help you save a great deal.
Plus, more and more people are beginning to use it for special events, like vacations. For example, if you stay at an Airbnb equipped with a kitchen, you can order a Plated box delivered to your door for an inexpensive and delicious way to vacation!
3. Plated Helps You Achieve Your Health Goals
Anybody who has ever tried to stick to a healthier eating plan knows: planning is key. Failure to plan more often than not means you’re grabbing something unhealthy for dinner, derailing all your best plans and intentions.
Plated, however, gives you the confidence of knowing exactly how you’re sticking to your goals, whether you’re trying to eat low-carb, vegetarian, or low-calorie.
4. Plated Can Help You Become a Better Cook
There’s no doubt that one of the most exciting benefits to Plated is how it helps you learn new techniques and cooking styles that you might never have tried on your own. The instructions are clear and simple with lots of photos. Who knows, you might even learn to love cooking!
5. Plated Can Help You Focus on the Things That Matter
One of our favorite reasons to use Plated is an intangible one. By freeing up your time and decision-making and keeping you at home in the evenings, you’re able to focus on the relationships that are close to you--whether that means inviting friends over for dinner, helping your kids with their homework, or making dinner a fun at-home date night with your significant other.
Cons of Using Plated
Like most things, Plated has a list of cons. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use Plated, but it does mean you should carefully consider whether or not these downsides apply to you.
1. Plated Uses a Ton of Packaging
This isn’t a problem that just Plated has; there’s yet to be a meal kit service that has figured out how to minimize the packaging problem. All your ingredients come packaged in some way; then there’s the cardboard box and liner it all comes in, plus the insulated liners and ice packs.
While many of these things are recyclable, you’ll have to take the extra steps to do the recycling--and not everyone has recycling options. Plus, some things can’t be recycled and must be thrown away.
2. You’re Still Doing the Dishes
We’d be remiss to point out--even though you’re not meal planning or grocery shopping; you’re still doing the cooking and the cleanup. And it’s worth noting that Plated while providing delicious recipes, doesn’t necessarily skimp on the number of pots and pans you’ll need.
If you’ve got a partner to help you clean up, this might not be a problem, but if it’s just you and you aren’t crazy about cooking, to begin with, you might get frustrated when you have to do a large load of dishes several times a week.
3. It Might Be Difficult to Find Recipes for Allergens or Diet Preferences
If you’re vegetarian or paleo, you might want to pick a meal kit that has plans specifically for those needs, since Plated doesn’t. While this makes Plated easier to use, it makes us concerned that people with special dietary needs or preferences may have a difficult time finding a variety of meals to choose from each week.
How Does Plated Compare to Its Competitors?
At last count, there are over 150 meal subscription services which means that Plated has some stiff competition. How does it compare? Let’s check some of Plated’s top competitors out:
Plated vs. Blue Apron
Blue Apron is older than Plated but is extremely similar. The concept is the same, with only a few variations. Here are Blue Apron’s plans:
Blue Apron’s pricing is similar to Plated’s, but we feel that the options are more limited unless you fall within the four-person plan. There is no vegetarian option for families and no option for three servings.
Blue Apron seems to have roughly the same number of recipes and the same kinds of tags--certain recipes are quick, some are plant-based, and so forth. Overall, we feel that Plated is better because of its wider variety and customizability.
Plated vs. Sunbasket
Sunbasket sets itself apart from the rest quickly because of its huge variety of meal options, including the following:
Subasket guarantees 18 different meal choices each week, regardless of which plan you’re on. Plus, produce is 99% organic, while meat and dairy products are responsibly raised and free-range when possible.
Here’s how pricing breaks down:
Sunbasket is just a few dollars more than Plated, and while it doesn’t offer the customizability regarding servings that Plated offers, it blows Plated out of the water when it comes to creating a set of menu items that easily accommodates all kinds of lifestyles. Plus, we love that there are options for extra salads and snacks.
You might not need or want the extra options Sunbasket provides but if you do, it’s a better option.
Plated vs. Martha & Marley Spoon
Martha Stewart has recently partnered with meal kit service Marley Spoon to make Martha’s entire recipe line available to subscribers. If you’re a fan of Martha’s recipes, this means you’ll have some of her best recipes all ready to cook on your doorstep!
Here’s how pricing works:
Marley Spoon offers list customization, and it costs a great deal more than Plated does. Plus, it fails to deliver when it comes to a robust selection of allergen-friendly meals and lifestyle meals like paleo and others. Unless you simply love Martha and her recipes, we recommend going with Plated.
What Do Other People Say About Plated?
If Plated’s continuing popularity is to be trusted, people love and enjoy the service. Most people don’t use meal subscription services past eight weeks, but there’s a chance Plated might convince you otherwise, especially when you consider it can meet your servings needs where other meal kits fail.
People often point out how hearty Plated’s servings are, claiming they often have enough for leftovers the next day. Some, however, point out that Plated’s instructions aren’t necessarily the most helpful if you’re a novice cook, especially when it comes to storing the food and knowing when to defrost the meats.
Others complain about the leftover ingredients--like soy sauce--that ultimately go unused, though many also talk about how much of a relief it is to not have to think about dinner most nights! The more experienced cooks, however, and the people who enjoy ultra simple meals at home, pointed out that for them, Plated is more expensive.
Most people, however, exclaim over how delicious and crowd-pleasing most recipes are. It seems Plated rarely has a dud and is great about encouraging people to try new foods!
Final Thoughts on Plated
The bottom line for us in this Plated review is that Plated is a hugely helpful, delicious option--for the right people. If you can make Plated work for you from a price perspective and your allergen or food restrictions are too specific, you’ll likely enjoy a break from the planning and meal prep each week. Plus, there’s a good chance it will help you eat healthier and relax more in the evenings, knowing dinner is covered!
If your primary goal, however, is to eat as inexpensively as possible, you’ll need to stick to your own meal prep, as laborious as that may be.