FOX59 tests out meal delivery services to see if they’ll work for you

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 7, 2016) -- Meal delivery services claiming to make it easy to cook gourmet meals at home are surging in popularity, so FOX59 put them to the test to see if they're worth your time.

FOX59's Jill Glavan signed up for three of the services: Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Purple Carrot.

Price could be one of the biggest hangups: each cost between $60 and $70 per week for three meals that each feed two people. If you replaced eating out, though, it actually breaks down to be more affordable, at a cost of about $10 per plate. Many services offer different options, including plans for families.

All of the orders shipped right to the front door through UPS or Fed Ex and came in insulated packaging to keep the food cool.

Overall, the amount of food was impressive. Each ingredient was pre-packaged with the exact portion you needed, meaning a lot less waste than a normal trip to the grocery store.

We brought in IU Health Dietitian Anna King, too, for an expert opinion on the nutritional value of the meals.

"It looks like every ingredient that you’ve gotten is very fresh, nothing’s really wilted," King said.

She found each box surprisingly fresh and healthy, as well as part of a good, balanced diet.

Hello Fresh and Purple Carrot both broke down the calorie counts, and though some of the numbers looked high, King pointed out that none of the ingredients were processed.

"Is it a whole food product? Is it a healthy, fresh product? It’s going to be very good for you," King said.

Blue Apron was the only box that caused a little concern, since it doesn't break down the calories and tends to have you fry more food.

"You’ll find (it) probably is higher in fat," King said.

Another thing to keep in mind was that all of the recipes called for extra salt throughout the process, which can add up to an unhealthy amount. King suggested you cut down your use of salt during cooking.

Still, she said that she would feel comfortable recommending any of the boxes to her clients.

"If it’s going to help you eat more vegetables and more fresh produce, I think it’s a great option," King said.

With that, it was time to get cooking.

All  of the recipes took slightly longer than the time they said and for a novice cook, there were some questions along the way.

Nearly all of the end products turned out well, but there were occasional misses. Every box had one meal that we wouldn't want to make again, and Purple Carrot in particular was not for the unadventurous when it came to ingredients.

Overall, Hello Fresh won our approval for the best nutrition and best meals.

Purple Carrot also got our approval for the freshest, most unique ingredients.

As far as taste went, it was very subjective. Our suggestion is to take a look at the individual websites to see if they offer food you're willing to try.

Finally, we wanted to also give you an option that is local, if getting a box shipped across the country doesn't appeal to you.

Green Bean Delivery, which started in Indianapolis, dropped off their bins in person. Health and Wellness Manager Travis Summit brought fresh produce and groceries, and he was even able to tell us where each one came from.

"We wouldn’t feed anybody products that we wouldn’t serve our own families," Summitt said.

Green Bean doesn't provide meal service just yet, but does post recipes online, and notices what competitors are doing.

"We’re an evolving service so our members have requested a few things that we’re working on at this point in time. ... It’s all about getting real food to the families we serve," Summitt said.

In the end, we found that the meal delivery services are worth it. In order to get the most out of them, though, you have to be adventurous, willing to try new things, and mindful that not every meal will work out perfectly.

That's exactly what King suggests you do with food in your home all the time, too.

"People get really stuck in the same things that they know how to cook and they cook the same thing over and over again. ... I think it really helps people to get a good variety and kind of open up what they’re willing to try," King said.

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