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Meal kit delivery services have many advantages: You can get the exact quantity of ingredients or pre-prepared meals you need delivered straight to your doorstep, and it’s a great way to avoid unexciting supermarket trips. Experts told us there are also plenty of benefits to meal delivery services outside of their convenience, including the ability to explore new foods, refine your cooking skills and easily cater to dietary restrictions like gluten-free or vegetarian.
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.
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 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 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.
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, they conveniently deliver fresh ingredients or ready-to-eat meals to your door and they let you avoid hefty trips to the grocery store (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 with online cooking classes platform Homemade.
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 2022
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, and 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 and highly rated 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 $9 per serving for the four-serving Signature plan and the two-serving Vegetarian and Wellness plans — shipping is an additional $10 for each
- Serving size: Two or four servings for the Signature plan and two servings for both the Vegetarian and Wellness plans
- 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.
- Cost: Starting at $66 for three two-serving meals (about $11 per serving) — shipping is an addition $7 for plans under $70
- Serving size: Two or four servings, depending on your plan size
- 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 $13 for the Fresh & Ready meals — shipping is an additional $6 for each plan
- 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 pre-prepared meal delivery services
These expert-recommended and highly rated 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 meal delivery service for 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 $149 for the Lunch & Dinner 5 Days plan and $187 for the Full Program 5 Days plan — shipping is an additional $20
- 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 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.
- 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-tasting meal delivery service: Freshly
Freshly offers pre-made meals that are ready to eat in 3 minutes or less, according to the brand. You can choose to receive anywhere between four and 12 meals per week — all of which the brand says are single-serve and chef-prepared — and you can select from more than 30 menu items that accommodate various dietary restrictions like gluten-free, dairy-free, plant-based and carb-conscious diets.
Freshly says its food typically has a refrigerated shelf life of about three to five days. Select items that the brand suggests should be eaten first (like seafood) will feature a badge on the package.
- Cost: Starting at $9 per meal — shipping varies on the number of meals per week, starting at $7
- Serving size: Single-serve
- Number of meals: Four to 12 meals per week
- Expert insight: Moskovitz said she’s a fan of this service, its flexible plans and the type of meals it provides. “Freshly's meals are reliable and score high in the taste department,” she noted.
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 $14 per meal ($70 for the plan) with free shipping
- 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. “A meal delivery can make it easier to find meals you can safely tolerate when you can't always rely on unfamiliar restaurants,” Moskovitz said.
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.