Whenever I get a pitch in my inbox asking me to sample a new product, my first reaction is usually skepticism. Could this cricket bar really be that good? Is it actually feasible that this pill will help me avoid a hangover? Will this meal kit really make me eat healthier in less time than other meal kits, or just cooking for myself?
That last pitch came from Hungryroot, the grocery-slash-meal-kit hybrid delivery service aimed at millennials trying to eat better. And the answer, much to my surprise, was yes. Hungryroot actually did make good on its promise: to provide simple, healthy recipes that can be prepared in under ten minutes.
How it works
On its website Hungryroot refers to itself not as a meal kit or a grocery delivery service, but a sort of hybrid of the two. The ingredients included are a mixture of known brands, like Beyond Meat sausages or Banza chickpea pasta, as well as Hungryroot-made offerings, including a range of sauces and pre-cooked grains. To get started you go onto HungryRoot’s site and create an account. Then you input any dietary restrictions (vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, etc.). You then choose your subscription plan, which is anywhere from 3-6 two-serving meals per week, plus snacks. I selected the smallest option, 3-6 meals, and chose a vegetarian meal plan.
A few days later a box arrived with 11 ingredients meant to create three plant-based meals: a Pasta (Banza chickpea pasta, HungryRoot Cashew Cheddar, baby broccoli), a Market Plate (shaved brussels, pre-cooked grain mix, and Beyond Meat sausage), and a Warm Bowl (HungryRoot lemongrass tofu, snap peas, and Lotus Foods brown rice ramen). There was also a tub each of Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Black Bean Brownie Batter, which were gluten-free, vegan, and surprisingly delicious. I know, I’m as shocked as you are.
One of Hungryroot’s main selling points is the speed and ease with which you can prepare the meals. And, at least from my experience, they really deliver. The recipes I tried consisted of only three ingredients each, all of which were pre-prepped (the brussels sprouts were shredded, tofu nuggets pre-cooked, etc.). All I had to do was some light vegetable chopping, boil some water, sauté, and mix. Even if you have very, very few kitchen skills — and the bare minimum of appliances (read: pressure cookers) — you’d be able to nail these recipes. You don’t even need a microwave.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, the meals were meant to be ready in 10 minutes and… they actually were! Some even took less time than that. In the past when I’ve tried meal kits, the dishes often end up taking much more time and effort than their glossy recipe cards promise, so it was nice to be eating something warm and filling and full of vegetables mere minutes after I pulled the ingredients out of the fridge. All of the meals also had enough leftover for me to take them into lunch the next day.
There’s always a catch, and for Hungryroot that catch is its cost. Smaller deliveries, which include groceries to make 3-4 two-serving meals plus snacks, cost $69 per week. Medium deliveries (4-5 two-serving meals plus snacks) cost $99 per week, and large deliveries (5-6 two-serving meals plus snacks) are $129 per week. Shipping is free for all orders and you can pause your subscription at any time.
[Update: A representative from Hungryroot emailed me to note that the company has just rolled out a new food profile survey that allows them to design custom pricing plans based on family size, personal health goals, etc. Most plans range from $60 to $100 per week. Orders over $70 will receive free shipping.]
Hungryroot updates its offerings every Thursday, so there are always fresh options to choose from on their site, and deliveries happen weekly.
Cost-wise, Hungryroot’s service shakes out to $8-$12 per meal, depending on which service you choose. The pricing is in line with other meal kits on the market right now, like Blue Apron and Purple Carrot. HungryRoot meals also have the added benefit of taking less time than other meal kit competitors and requiring less elbow grease and fewer dishes. However, $70 will buy me groceries for 2-3 weeks’ worth of meals, so it felt indulgent to spend it on a single week’s worth of ingredients, even if they do save me a few minutes in the kitchen.
When talking about food delivery of any kind, it’s required that we wag our fingers at the amount of packaging they use. Hungryroot did indeed come in a large box lined in foil insulation with ice packs, but the box and foil were home recyclable, as were the drained ice packs. At least they claimed. Regardless, I didn’t have to suffer the guilt that comes with shoving a bunch of bulky packaging into my garbage can, knowing it would end up in a landfill somewhere.
Is Hungryroot Worth It?
So do I recommend Hungryroot? Surprising no one more than myself, I actually do. For consumers that want to prioritize healthy eating and don’t mind paying for it, but are tired of prepackaged $15 takeaway salads, Hungryroot makes a lot of sense. In that way it’s similar to Daily Harvest, the frozen, pre-prepped smoothie and microwaveable meal service. Hungryroot requires more work than Daily Harvest, but it also has a bigger and tastier payout.
In the end, I think that Hungryroot is one of the rare direct-to-consumer meal companies to actually deliver on its promise of healthy, easy, plant-based meals. The question is whether there are enough of those consumers out there to save Hungryroot from the struggles that are affecting other meal kit and prepared food delivery companies.