Just the thought of shopping for a family meal after a busy day at work can be exhausting. Enter meal delivery services. My Food Bag was the first to bring ingredients and chef-created recipe instructions for evening meals to our doors. Its popularity has seen other companies move in to get a slice of the pie.
We trialled 4 of these services – My Food Bag, sister service Bargain Box, Emma’s Food Bag and WOOP.
For 2 weeks, our volunteers weighed delivered ingredients so we could assess the premium you pay for daily dinner inspiration. We also asked them, and their kids, to rate the finished meals.
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The best value was the aptly named Bargain Box family kit. For the $134.99 price, we calculated it would cost $135 to $140 to shop for the ingredients and recreate the week’s 5 meals.
The caveat is the amounts sent are tailored to the menu. For example, Bargain Box delivered 250g of pre-chopped pumpkin. The smallest pack we could order from Countdown was 400g costing $3.49, which would leave you with extra food in the fridge for other meals. The flipside is the tailored amounts in the kits mean you don’t have to buy a large perishable item, such as a tub of pesto, when the recipe only calls for a small amount.
In contrast to the family option, the ingredients for Bargain Box’s couple’s pack would have been $17 to $28 cheaper to pick up at a supermarket.
WOOP had the biggest mark-up. Its family kit cost between 15% and 30% more than buying from a supermarket. Some of the vegetables, such as pumpkin and potato, came pre-peeled and even pre-cooked, adding convenience you won’t find at your local supermarket.
My Food Bag’s value was consistent for our family, though varied from week to week for our couple. The couple’s kits were better value when they featured gourmet items, such as pulled lamb or beef.
We found the couple’s version of Emma’s Food Bag was better value than its family option, even after it bumped up the price by $10 during our trial. The company says its couple’s kit is the most popular option.
The depth of your herb and spice rack may influence whether you’ll find a meal kit service good value or not.
All the services we looked at delivered small spice or sauce packets, from a beef spice kit for marinating steaks to a Cajun honey sauce to drizzle over a finished meal.
These tailored servings require many ingredients to recreate them. We calculated it would cost $65 (half the price of the kit itself) to buy all the ingredients from scratch for the three 15g spice packets sent in one My Food Bag kit. However, your pantry would also be well-stocked with spices you could use for other meals.
Seasonings were a cause of complaint among our volunteers. In their taste assessments, the family trying out Bargain Box says 3 out of the 5 meals provided one week were too spicy for their children.
Bargain Box asks customers for weekly feedback and says, while recipes are occasionally flagged for their heat, it’s unusual for children to dislike so many meals in one week.
Spiciness was also an occasional issue for our families trialling WOOP and Emma’s Food Bag.
The menus at My Food Bag advise chefs to leave out ingredients such as hot sauce and spices for those who can’t handle the heat.
Overall, our volunteers found the food arriving at their door was fresh and high quality. However, all 4 services delivered items – including rosemary from Emma’s Food Bag, lettuce from My Food Bag and broccolini from WOOP – that had spoiled.
Our Bargain Box trial family got a leaking sauce packet and an undersized serving of smoked chicken one week.
Bargain Box credited their account $15, but our family thought a refund would be more appropriate.
“We had to purchase more chicken – if we were on a budget that could have caused problems,” they say.
Our triallists also found some of the Bargain Box and Emma’s Food Bag veges were fading by the time they were using them during the week. Emma’s Food Bag says New Zealand’s rainy summer and autumn affected produce supply and quality.
Of the 4 services we trialled, only My Food Bag won over our volunteers. However, none of our participants are signing on full-time, preferring to stick with an occasional order.
Both Emma’s Food Bag and WOOP say 2 out of every 5 customers order occasionally.
One mum found 5-day meal plans were a burden on nights when after-school activities were scheduled. 3- or 4-day meal plans can offer more flexibility.
We priced the cost of meal kit ingredients using Countdown’s website and compared it against what you pay for each of the 4 services we reviewed. For non-perishable items, such as pasta or packets of herbs, we calculated the cost of buying the proportional amount. For perishable items, we used the cost of the nearest-sized item. Our figures also list the cost of getting the food delivered by the supermarket.
Policies: Free-range poultry and eggs
Availability: Most major cities and suburbs in New Zealand.
Policies: Free-range or free-farmed meat and eggs (wherever possible); produce from local farmers
Availability: Most major cities and suburbs in New Zealand.
Policies: Free-range meats and eggs (wherever possible); produce from local farmers; uses waste minimisation practices
Availability: Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Waikato.
Policies: Free-range meat and eggs; produce from local farmers
Availability: Greater Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Wellington.
As well as appealing to the whole family, you’d want a meal delivery service to provide healthy, balanced meals. Our volunteers thought My Food Bag did this well.
When it came to eating 5-plus a day, we found Bargain Box was the best option for our families, with an average of more than four 80g servings of vegetables and fruit per adult, per meal.
Emma’s Food Bag was close behind, with four 80g servings of veges per meal. My Food Bag averaged 3-and-a-half servings, and WOOP just over 2.
All 4 services’ menus meet healthy-eating guidelines. However, many recipes rely on red meat, particularly the family kits.
While a good source of protein and iron, the Ministry of Health recommends New Zealanders limit their red meat intake to less than 750g each week.
Bargain Box, Emma’s Food Bag and WOOP all featured red meat, bacon or sausage in more than half the meals we sampled. Bargain Box says it monitors the amount of red meat offered in its kits and uses smaller portions when recipes feature processed meats.
All kits provide a nutritional breakdown of their meals.
Just Cook It kits are being offered at selected supermarkets. Several different kits are prepared daily, with menus changing weekly.
Meal kits cost between $22.99 and $37.99. We looked at one of its 2-person boxes, harissa lamb skewers with tangy potato salad, at $25.99.
After pricing the lamb skewers kit’s ingredients by weight using comparative items at New World Thorndon, we found you’ll pay a mark-up of just under 10% for measures tailored for the recipe and the ability to grab and go.
|Item||Weight/amount||New World price|
|Wilcox baby perlas potatoes||294g||$2.52|
|Tasman Bay Herbs Italian parsley||9g||$2.49|
|Pams kitchen skewers||4||$0.07|
|Pams Spanish capers||17g||$0.37|
|Entube harissa paste||35g||$3.50|
|Delmaine baby gherkins||150g||$0.94|
GUIDE TO THE TABLE We used full-priced comparable items. For non-perishable foods and groceries, a proportional price for the amount in the kit was calculated, based on the best-value product available.
By Olivia Wannan
This information is available to Consumer members only.