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.

Value for money

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.

Spices

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.

Spoiled ingredients

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.

Reviews and costs compared

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.


Families

  • Price: $134.99 (Feed Four, Five Meals plan)
  • Our recreation: $139 + $14 delivery (week 1), $135 + $14 delivery (week 2)
  • Assessment from our volunteers: “After fighting to get the kids to eat, it’s just not for us.”

Couples

  • Price: $79.99 (Feed Two, Three Meals plan)
  • Our recreation: $63 + $16 delivery (week 1), $52 + $16 delivery (week 2)
  • Assessment from our volunteers: “We’re not convinced. The meals are typically more complex and time consuming than the ones we make ourselves.”

Policies: Free-range poultry and eggs
Availability: Most major cities and suburbs in New Zealand.


Families

  • Price: $165 (My Family Food Bag plan)
  • Our recreation: $145 + $14 delivery (week 1), $144 + $14 delivery (week 2)
  • Assessment from our volunteers: “We would consider buying it in the future. It had good meals and the kids ate everything.”

Couples

  • Price: $124.50 (My Classic For Two plan)
  • Our recreation: $89 + $16 delivery (week 1), $110 + $14 delivery (week 2)
  • Assessment from our volunteers: “I’d like to keep ordering it occasionally. It’s more than I would spend on dinners during my weekly shop, so I’ll need to keep it as a treat.”

Policies: Free-range or free-farmed meat and eggs (wherever possible); produce from local farmers
Availability: Most major cities and suburbs in New Zealand.


Families

  • Price: $179 (Original Bag for Four plan, now costs $189)
  • Our recreation: $140 + $14 delivery (week 1), $144 + $14 delivery (week 2)
  • Assessment from our volunteers: “I really enjoyed the healthy choices in the meals and the great amount of vegetables, but each meal did not have the depth of flavour of the meals we cook each night by ourselves.”

Couples

  • Price: $99 (Express Bag For Two plan, now costs $109)
  • Our recreation: $93 + $16 delivery (week 1), $107 + $14 delivery (week 2)
  • Assessment from our volunteers: “The meals were generally not big enough to satisfy two adults.”

Policies: Free-range meats and eggs (wherever possible); produce from local farmers; uses waste minimisation practices
Availability: Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Waikato.


Families

  • Price: $199 (Classic Four Nights)
  • Our recreation: $137 + $14 delivery (week 1), $156 + $14 delivery (week 2)
  • Assessment from our volunteers: “It was too expensive for what we received … This would suit young professionals in a flatting situation where they could afford the food.”

Couples

  • Price: $109 (Table For Two)
  • Our recreation: $86 + $16 delivery (week 1), $87 + $16 delivery (week 2)
  • Assessment from our volunteers: “We wouldn’t order it again only because of the price, otherwise I would definitely purchase through this company again.”

Policies: Free-range meat and eggs; produce from local farmers
Availability: Greater Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Wellington.


Our volunteers

Auckland family

  • 2 adults, Jane and Grant, and 2 kids, Olivia (10) and Guy (7)
  • Weeks 1 and 2: Emma’s Food Bag
  • Weeks 3 and 4: WOOP

Wellington family

  • 2 adults, Emily and Alex, and 2 kids, Marie (6) and William (4)
  • Weeks 1 and 2: Bargain Box
  • Weeks 3 and 4: My Food Bag

Auckland couple

  • 2 adults, Anna and Ed
  • Weeks 1 and 2: Emma’s Food Bag
  • Weeks 3 and 4: WOOP

Wellington couple

  • 2 adults, Sue and Joe
  • Weeks 1 and 2: Bargain Box
  • Weeks 3 and 4: My Food Bag

Nutritional content

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.