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The best meal delivery and meal kits to gift in 2021

Easy meal delivery is a vastly underrated gift for the busy people on your list. Here are the best ones to give in 2021.

Sometimes great gift-giving means getting inside the head of the person you're shopping for and considering the tempo of their life. For a busy parent (or just a busy person in general), premade meal deliveries or a curated meal kit to help shave time off at mealtime can be a serious boon. True story: I gifted a few deliveries of meal kits to an aunt who loves cooking but hates the grocery store. She was over the moon, and I've been getting weekly glam shots of a finished chicken Milanese or shrimp and grits with her tastings notes for each.

Cooking is really only enjoyable if you have the time and that's not always the case, of course. That's especially true when you're loaded up with 90 other items on a to-do list that never seems to get shorter. A shipment of easy meal kits or prepared meals can provide a lift, but the best meal delivery service to gift someone depends on a few factors. With so many meal delivery options in 2021, there's definitely a perfect fit for every type of home chef and eater on your gift list.


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Read moreBest food subscriptions to gift for 2021

Gifting a meal kit service versus meal delivery

A meal kit service like Sunbasket or Purple Carrot will send perfectly portioned ingredients to knock out healthy and tasty recipes. These handy operations can work double-time as gifts, giving someone an assist in the kitchen at mealtime but also helping teach new cooking skills and introducing fun, new recipes. As an example, I discovered an incredible Moroccan chicken recipe via delivery of Sunbasket kits. While I don't need the meal kit to make it anymore, it would never have become a fixture in my weekly rotation without having used the service. 

On the other hand, a meal delivery service such as Freshly, Daily Harvest or Mosaic Foods won't require the giftee to cook at all. Boxes of meals made from scratch and ready to heat and eat will show up at a frequency of your choosing. This may be the best choice for someone with no interest in cooking or no time to do it.

As someone who has tested just about every meal delivery and subscription service under the sun, I'll tell you there are nuances to each that make some food for some people and not so good for others. Sunbasket is my favorite, with healthy inventive recipes that will challenge a home chef but may not be the perfect pick for someone just learning to cook. Fresh n' Lean is the best meal delivery service I've tried, but for someone who keeps to a vegan or plant-based diet, there are better options.

Below I've outlined my picks for the best meal delivery to gift different types of eaters and home chefs in 2021. If you're looking to start the new year off right or to give a loved one a post-holiday pick-me-up, these are the best meal delivery services to bestow on someone this holiday. 

Read more: The best gifts for a wine drinker in 2021

Sunbasket

While other meal kit subscriptions may be built for families with super-easy and crowd-pleasing recipes, Sunbasket is still my favorite meal kit service for discovering new and interesting recipes. It's the best meal kit service to gift a foodie on your list. With dishes like Belizean stewed chicken over coconut rice and pork chops with kimchi and chimichurri sauce, Sunbasket is most likely to please a home chef who knows their way around the kitchen and has already worked through a few cookbooks. 

Read my full Sunbasket review here. You can gift Sunbasket cards in any amount over $60 and let your recipient choose their own meals. The service also has ready-made meals if they want to sprinkle in some no-cook options into an order.

Purple Carrot

Many folks are trying to eat more plant-based food for myriad reasons but knowing what to make and how to make it can be tricky. Purple Carrot meal kits are some of the best for learning basic skills and how to cook key ingredients for a vegan or vegetarian diet: hearty veggies, lentils, legumes and others.

With satisfying plant-based recipes like vegan sausage jambalaya and crispy quinoa cakes, Purple Carrot is a great meal kit to gift a vegetarian chef, but also a meat-eater looking to add more plant-based meals to their current rotation. 

For $72, you can gift three Purple Carrot meal kits, each with two servings per meal. The easiest way to gift Purple Carrot is to send a set amount for them to spend on meal kits. For much more info, read my full review of Purple Carrot here.

HelloFresh

Perhaps you suspect someone on your list would like to learn to cook but you're not quite sure. HelloFresh is the most affordable meal kit, with tons of easy recipes that don't require loads of cooking skills or experience, making it the best meal kit to gift a beginner chef. HelloFresh recipes may be easy to execute, but that doesn't mean they're boring, with recipes for things like country beef and mushroom pot pie and coconut chicken curry. HelloFresh also has the most weekly menu options of any meal kit company -- sometimes as many as 25 -- so your giftee is bound to find something they like. 

HelloFresh gift cards start at $65, which covers a week of meals (three) for two people and then goes up from there. Want more info? Check out our full review of HelloFresh meal kits.

Fresh N Lean

If you suspect someone on your list needs a weekly lift in the form of premade meals that taste excellent and require only heating -- no cooking -- I'd suggest Fresh n' Lean. With dozens of meals each week, the service tops my list of best meal delivery in 2021 and would make a solid gift for the busy person you're shopping for.

You can read more in this full review of Fresh n' Lean. As with many of the other services you can send an e-gift card with a minimum purchase of $100. That should be enough for about seven meals if they choose a la carte and 10 meals if they opt for a subscription. 

Mosaic Foods

Mosaic is one of the best prepared meal delivery services I've tried and the food is all vegetarian to boot. The absence of meat didn't bother me in the slightest and every meal I had was at least good, and most were great. I especially loved the flavorful feta and olive ragout and harissa jackfruit bowl. The food arrived looking as good as it tastes, which is always nice if you're gifting.

Read my full Mosaic review here before deciding, but this is my top pick for plant-based premade meals to gift in 2021. The minimum order, including for a gift, is $70 which is good for about eight meals. Add another $28 in meals and shipping is free.

Pete's Paleo

The Paleo diet is generally regarded as healthier than the uber-popular keto since it doesn't rely as much on high fats as much but still cuts out a lot of the processed wheat and sugars. Pete's makes paleo-friendly food with keto crossover appeal. It's all very healthy, tasty and fresh. The food is all nutrition- and protein-packed, making it perfect for a gym rat on your list. 

The best part about Pete's is you can easily gift a pack of 10 meals for someone to stock in the fridge or freezer not worry about any subscription messiness. Read my full review of Pete's Paleo here.

Daily Harvest

If someone on your list struggles with getting food on the table due to an overactive schedule or work life but strives to eat well, Daily Harvest would make the perfect gift. With mostly ready-to-eat vegan smoothies, harvest bowls, breakfast bowls, soups and flatbreads that require little more than to be heated or blended, Daily Harvest is as simple as it gets. Easy doesn't mean bland, either. Daily Harvest integrates lots of spice and some very trendy superfoods and other ingredients into its ever-changing lineup such as in the pineapple, kale and matcha smoothies or the red lentil, cumin and coconut harvest bowl. 

Daily Harvest is priced per item, with snacks and breakfast bowls starting at $6, soups and smoothies for $8 and harvest bowls and flatbreads for $9. You can order and send a box of nine meals you've selected ($75) or simply send a gift card from $50 up to $200 and let them choose. Read my full review of Daily Harvest here.

Now playing: Watch this: The best meal kit for you
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Now playing: Watch this: The best meal kit for you
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Now playing: Watch this: The best meal kit for you
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Now playing: Watch this: The best meal kit for you
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Now playing: Watch this: The best meal kit for you
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