Half the battle of making dinner after a long day at work is deciding what to make. Or, perhaps you're more enthusiastic, and have your heart set on a chicken piccata recipe only to realize you tossed the last of your capers on a bagel this weekend, when you didn't feel like making breakfast. If this is you, you might love a meal delivery service. They can provide you with a variety of pre-prepared meals that you can heat up in minutes or the exact ingredients needed for recipes of your choosing, all delivered right to your doorstep. And outside of the overall convenience of these services, experts told us meal delivery kits can help you explore new foods, refine your cooking skills, save money on groceries and cater to dietary restrictions like gluten-free or vegetarian.
SKIP AHEAD The best meal kit delivery services | How to shop for a meal kit delivery service
To determine the best meal delivery service for you, we spoke to chefs, nutritionists and recipe developers about what to look for in a meal delivery service and highlighted their recommendations for the best ones to try this year.
What exactly is a meal kit delivery service?
Meal kit delivery is pretty straightforward — you typically choose from an array of meal plans and serving sizes online and the company sends out a select amount of ingredients for you to make those meals at home. You can also select how many meals you want to receive per week, usually ranging from two to five. Some services will offer pre-made meals rather than the ingredients, which can be useful for people who don’t necessarily want or have the time to cook.
Meal delivery services will usually have a range of meals or recipes to choose from depending on your tastes, schedule and dietary restrictions. And many services that send you ingredients to cook with allow you to swap out or modify each ingredient to fit your dietary needs or health goals, according Lisa Moskovitz, a registered dietitian and CEO of NY Nutrition Group. She also noted that there are plenty of meal delivery services that specially cater to more challenging dietary restrictions, like gluten-free, dairy-free and animal-free lifestyles. “A meal delivery can make it easier to find meals you can safely tolerate when you can't always rely on unfamiliar restaurants,” she said.
What are the benefits of meal delivery services?
There are several obvious benefits to meal kit delivery services: They can help you stick to a healthier lifestyle and conveniently deliver fresh ingredients or ready-to-eat meals right to your door (meaning no more schlepping all your bags, a big plus if you rely on public transportation). Since most services provide you with a specific amount of ingredients for each meal, they can also help you avoid wasting food, according to Ariane Resnick, a special diet chef and certified nutritionist.
Most of the experts we spoke to told us they prefer meal services that let you cook the meals yourself — this can give you an opportunity to try your hand at cooking and even experience new foods in the process.
“In many ways, a meal kit delivery service can be a good solution to obstacles keeping people out of their kitchen… [and] they're a great way to introduce people to ingredients they normally wouldn't be cooking with,” said Ben Leonard, a chef and food educator with more than 15 years of experience.
The type of meal delivery service you choose can help you achieve your health goals — some services are marketed as healthier or weight loss-friendly, while others simply promise a tasty, home-cooked meal. However, experts told us it’s important to pay close attention to the individual ingredients that come with each meal plan to make sure they align with your objectives.
There are some downsides to meal kit delivery services, though. Most ingredients and ready-made meals come individually wrapped in plastic or inside cardboard, creating unnecessary waste on a weekly basis. “It's a lot of packaging that would otherwise be avoided if you were shopping yourself,” said Leonard.
8 best meal delivery services in 2023
We talked to our experts about important features to consider when shopping for meal kit delivery services, including available options for certain dietary restrictions, how customizable the plans are and the quality of the ingredients. With these features in mind, the chefs and nutritionists we spoke to gave us their specific recommendations for the best meal kit delivery services to try for various budgets and diets. We separated them into two categories: meal kit services that send out individual ingredients and pre-made meal delivery services.
Best meal kit delivery services
These expert-recommended meal delivery services all feature an option to send separate ingredients and allow shoppers to cook themselves.
Best customizable meal kit delivery service: Home Chef
Home Chef features a rotating weekly menu with more than 30 meals to choose from. You can also select from a variety of menu options catered to your preferences, including 15-minute meal kits, grill- and oven-ready kits and special occasion meals.
Before ordering, you’ll be prompted to take a quiz that personalizes your menu based on your taste, serving size and delivery preferences. When looking at individual menu options, each meal shows the estimated time it takes to make. The high customizability made this a standout service for our experts, who emphasized the ability to customize anything from portion sizes to the amount of protein.
- Cost: Starting at $9 per serving, with a minimum weekly order value of $50
- Serving size: Two, four, six or eight servings
- Number of meals: Two to six recipes per week
- Expert insight: Since Home Chef is one of the more customizable options with a variety of selections, Leonard noted it’s likely best for “families, kids or people with any dietary restrictions.” With that said, it may not be the best for people who are indecisive or not as picky with their options, according to Leonard.
Best meal kit delivery service for beginners: Blue Apron
Blue Apron offers a number of weekly menu items based on your selected meal plan. Meal plan options include a Signature plan, a Vegetarian plan and a Wellness plan that features nutritionist-approved, carb-conscious recipes. The prices will also depend on the plan you choose.
- Cost: Starting at $8 per serving, with an additional $10 for shipping
- Serving size: Two or four servings
- Number of meals: Two to four recipes per week
- Expert insight: While Blue Apron does require some cooking chops based on the difficulty level of its recipes, Leonard noted it can be a good option for beginner cooks that are hoping to “learn from the beginning and hone their basic skills.”
Best meal kit delivery service for adventurous cooks: Hungryroot
Technically, Hungryroot isn’t a meal kit service. Instead, it’s a grocery delivery service that offers a lot of the same benefits and customizations as other meal kits on this list — you take an initial quiz on your preferences and dietary needs, and Hungryroot creates a personalized grocery plan. In addition to delivering fresh food for the week, it also sends you specific recipes based on the groceries you order. You can also edit your delivery every week in case you want a specific ingredient or food item.
Select editor Morgan Greenwald, who has tried several meal delivery services in the past, said Hungryroot is a perfect fit for her pescatarian diet and noted that she was sold on the subscription after trying out several delicious recipes from the service. “I’m happy to pay a premium for healthier, high-quality ingredients that match my dietary needs,” she said.
- Cost: Starting at $65 for three two-serving meals (about $11 per serving) — shipping is an additional $7 for plans under $70
- Serving size: Two or four servings
- Number of meals: Two to eight recipes per week
- Expert insight: With the ability to choose the type of meal you want (breakfast, lunch or dinner) and customize the groceries you get, Hungryroot essentially “allows you to be a bit more adventurous and cook from the hip, or also follow the recipes exactly,” said Leonard.
Best meal kit delivery service for healthy eaters: Sunbasket
Sunbasket offers both ingredient-based meal kits and pre-made meals, all of which the brand says consist of high-quality ingredients and organic produce. You can choose from 10 meal plans, including Chef’s Choice, Fresh & Ready, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian and Diabetes-Friendly options. The Fresh & Ready option lets you receive single-serve meals to heat in the oven or microwave in just a few minutes, according to Sunbasket. If you don’t feel like committing to a single plan, the service lets you mix and match with over a dozen meals from its weekly rotating menu.
Most of Sunbasket’s packaging is also recyclable or compostable, using sustainable material like recycled and virgin craft paper and 100 percent shredded recycled paper filling, according to the brand. Sunbasket says it’s currently working to make its packaging 100 percent sustainable.
- Cost: Starting at $12 for meal kits and $10 for the Fresh & Ready meals, with an additional $6 for shipping
- Serving size: Two or four servings for meal kits, single-serve for Fresh & Ready meals
- Number of meals: Two to five recipes per week
- Expert insight: Both Moskovitz and Resnick said that Sunbasket is their top choice for healthy meal kit deliveries. It “has a variety of options that can be modified for carnivores and strictly plant-based eaters alike,” said Moskovitz.
Best meal kit delivery service for vegans: Purple Carrot
Purple Carrot offers both prepared meals and meal kits, so you can choose whether you want to cook, or simply heat up your dinner or lunch. The meals are all fully plant-based, and Purple Carrot provides several gluten-free recipes to choose from, as well as gluten-free pre-prepared meals. After selecting whether you want meal kits or pre-made meals, you can customize the number of dinners you get per week — these range from two to four meal kits and six to 10 pre-made meals. Deliveries take place on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays depending on your shipping location, and you can choose to skip a delivery on any given week.
- Cost: Starting at $11 per serving for meal kits and $13 per serving for pre-made meals with free shipping
- Serving size: Two or four servings for meal kits and single-serve for pre-made meals
- Number of meals: Two or three for meal kits or six to ten prepared meals per week
- Expert insight: Resnick called these meal kits a “wonderful blend of familiar and innovative” Because the meals are fully plant-based, she told us Purple Carrot can be an easy way for people to “add more plant foods into their diets without having to fully convert to veganism.”
Best pre-prepared meal delivery services
These expert-recommended meal delivery services are pre-made and ready to eat — experts told us you can simply heat them up for an easy meal during the week.
Best affordable meal delivery service: Factor
Factor provides you with a new menu of over 27 dietitian-designed pre-prepared meals each week. It caters to a number of diets and dietary needs, including keto, Paleo, low-carb, vegetarian, plant-based and high protein, according to the brand. You can choose from five plans, ranging from four meals per week up to 18 meals per week. Factor also lets you schedule a complimentary consultation with a registered dietitian to answer nutrition questions or determine if a Factor subscription is the right choice for you.
Former Select reporter Justin Redman said he loves Factor because the meals are “chilled (not frozen), tasty, nutritious and easy to prepare” — he simply pops them into the microwave for a couple of minutes. Redman also noted his Factor subscription helped him regulate his nutrition: “I’ve actually lost about five pounds after a couple of months being on the plan without drastically changing my workout routine or lifestyle otherwise,” he said.
- Cost: Starting at $11 per serving with free shipping
- Serving size: Single-serve
- Number of meals: Four to 18 meals per week
- Expert insight: “Factor is incredibly reasonably priced for the quality of health-oriented food they offer,” said Resnick. She especially likes that chefs design the meals but dietitians approve them, and the fact that they don’t cater to just one special diet. “I think a lot of people want to try eating plans like keto and vegan, but don't know where to begin — meal options like this let them explore something new without overcommitting … [and] discover if a diet suits their taste preferences, their individual dietary needs and their budget before diving too deep,” she added.
Best meal delivery service for most dietary restrictions: BistroMD
If you’re looking for healthy, ready-to-eat meals, BistroMD lets you choose from over 150 chef-prepared meals based on your dietary needs. You can select from five different programs: Signature, Gluten-free, Heart Healthy, Diabetic and Menopause. Once you select your plan, BistroMD gives you multiple selections for the number of meals you get per week. The service also offers an EATS (Essential and Tasty Snacks) program that provides healthy snacking options for an additional charge.
It’s important to keep in mind that BistroMD is a single-serve, individualized plan, so this may not be a good option if you’re looking to feed a family or partner.
- Cost: Starting at $150 for the Lunch & Dinner 5 Days plan and $190 for the Full Program 5 Days plan, with an additional $20 for shipping
- Serving size: Single-serve
- Number of meals: Five to seven meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner per week
- Expert insight: “BistroMD prides itself on being ‘doctor-designed’ and therefore is more medically therapeutic than most other companies,” said Moskovitz.
Best gluten-free meal delivery service: Splendid Spoon
Splendid Spoon offers over 50 healthy ready-made meals and snacks that include everything from smoothies and soups to grain and noodle bowls — and everything is gluten-free. You can select between multiple meal plans, including a Breakfast plan that includes five smoothies, a Lunch option that features five soups and grain bowls or a combination of the two. Some plans also offer a Reset option, which includes low-calorie soups designed for people with digestive issues or for those who want a break from high-calorie foods.
While you can’t customize the number of meals you get per plan like you can with most other delivery services, Splendid Spoon does let you choose how often you want to receive your meals: weekly, every other week or once a month. The service also offers an On-Demand Box that lets you order food in bulk.
- Cost: Starting at $10 per meal and $82 for the plan, with an additional $13 for shipping (free if you order 10 or more meals)
- Serving size: Single-serve
- Number of meals: Five to 20 meals per order
- Expert insight: “I recommend Splendid Spoon for anyone who wants healthy meals in a flash — they taste as healthy as they are, which is a downside for some and a bonus for others,” said Resnick, who was sent a few boxes by the brand to try out. She added that she enjoys the selection of juices and smoothies and the convenience of thawing one at a time.
How to shop for a meal kit delivery service
Experts told us some of the biggest factors to consider include the price per meal, the quality of the ingredients, the amount of time you're willing to dedicate and your cooking ability.
The price of meal kit delivery services vary based on several features, including the quality of meals and ingredients you’re getting, the frequency of your deliveries, how many people you’re cooking for and the meal plan you choose. More budget-friendly services like EveryPlate and Dinnerly will typically cost around $5 per serving, while most other popular services like HelloFresh and Freshly will cost anywhere between $8 and $11 per serving. If you’re looking at more premium or diet-specific services like Sunbasket and Green Chef, they will cost you approximately $12 to $15 per serving.
Daniel Shumski, a recipe developer and cookbook author, advised taking advantage of trial offers. “So many meal kits and delivery services offer great introductory prices — it’s worth trying around to find one that fits your taste and budget,” he said.
The time you’re willing to allocate to preparing, cooking and plating your food can help determine which meal delivery service is right for you. If you’re choosing a plan that sends you all the ingredients, you should be prepared to take the time needed to prepare each dish, said Christine Wansleben, owner and culinary director at Mise En Place. She added you’ll also need to ensure you’re cooking the meals as soon as possible since the ingredients can be easily perishable.
For those who don’t have as much time during the week, ready-to-eat meal delivery services are typically the best option.
Quality of the ingredients
Generally, meal delivery services have specific rules and procedures in place to ensure their ingredients are high-quality and trustworthy, according to the experts we talked to. But if you’re extremely particular about the freshness and origin of your ingredients, you’ll likely benefit more from skipping these services and shopping on your own.
“Once you get accustomed to purchasing ingredients yourself at the store or farmers market, you're always going to trust yourself more to pick out the best ingredients,” said Leonard. As a more cost-effective and less wasteful solution, Wansleben encouraged shoppers to find fresh produce locally instead if they can.
For those looking to meet specific nutritional goals, Moskovitz recommended paying attention to the individual ingredients in each meal plan, the nutrition facts and the portion sizes. “Don't just assume that because it's homemade or marketed as ‘healthy’ that it's the healthiest option for you,” she said.
As previously mentioned, certain meal delivery services will offer a variety of options for those with dietary restrictions. However, Resnick noted there’s one caveat: Those with actual medical issues, such as shellfish allergies or celiac disease, should be mindful of possible cross-contamination.
“Companies are usually forthright about shared equipment, but eaters with actual food intolerances should exercise caution,” she said. “That said, for special diets that are choice-based such as veganism or low carb, I think they're an excellent choice.”
Delivery dates and times
Before committing to a specific plan, Resnick recommended considering when you’ll receive these meals to ensure they won’t go to waste. Most services will offer customizable delivery plans to choose what days you want to receive your weekly delivery — if you know you won’t be there, most services will let you skip a week (but keep in mind there is usually a cutoff time to select this option).
Are meal delivery services safe?
Food safety is often one of the biggest considerations for shoppers, especially when the food is coming from an external source. Every meal delivery service is different and will use different methods to ensure the safety of their ingredients, some of which can be up to the mail or courier service delivering your food.
“A company may do all the things to ensure your box is packed safely, but if there’s an unforeseen disruption in the courier service, that packing effort may be impacted,” said Britanny Saunier, executive director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE). The PFSE advises shoppers to take steps that’ll help ensure the food stays safe.
- Ask questions. Before ordering, “understand the delivery company’s safety standards and how they respond if food is delivered at an unsafe temperature or appears to have been tampered with,” said Saunier.
- Be present. Saunier advised shoppers to arrange for delivery when someone is home so the food can be refrigerated or stored quickly instead of being left outside.
- Examine the box and packaging. When you get your delivery, look for stickers on perishable foods that say Keep Refrigerated or Keep Frozen.
- Carefully examine the food items. You should check that the fresh fruits and vegetables you receive are not bruised or damaged. “Harmful bacteria can breed in cuts or bruising of fresh produce,” said Saunier, adding bacteria can multiply rapidly if food is kept in the “danger zone” between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.
“These steps are no different than if you sourced food yourself from a grocery store or community market,” Saunier added.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Lisa Moskovitz is a registered dietitian and the CEO of NY Nutrition Group. She is the author of “The Core 3 Healthy Eating Plan,” a program that focuses on simple and sustainable ways to lose weight.
- Ariane Resnick is a special diet chef and certified nutritionist. She’s also a recipe developer and has written about nutrition, health, wellness and identity for a variety of platforms, including The Kitchn, Livestrong and Simply Recipes.
- Ben Leonard is a chef and educator for companies and brands nationwide, including Sur La Table, Greenpan and more.
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