Save time and money and eat healthy while using the best prepared meal delivery service.
Healthy, home-cooked meals are good for the soul, but the entire process of meal planning, grocery shopping, meal prep and cooking can be rather time consuming. That's where the best prepared meal subscriptions come into play. These are the perfect way to cut down on greasy foods and save money on takeout. Of the nearly two dozen I tried, Fresh N Lean came out on top with exceptional food for a fair price.
There are now meal subscriptions for every budget, dietary need and nutrition goal, including the health conscious, those looking to lose weight, cut out carbs, vegans and vegetarians, those keeping to a gluten-free diet and people with diabetes. But that doesn't mean they all taste good -- that's where we come in.
Unlike TV dinners of the past, many of these delivery services churn out tasty food without preservatives. Pricing typically varies depending on how many meals you want per week, so family meals might be cheaper per serving than fully prepared meals for one. Some services send the food fresh, while others flash-freeze it for you to thaw and eat when you're ready. Either way, you're likely getting a much healthier meal than if you opted for fast food, frozen dinners from the grocery store or even most restaurant takeout.
Since there are dozens of options these days, I did a lot of testing to find the absolute best premade meal services in 2023. They range from well-known services like Fresh N Lean to new and niche services such as Pete's Real Food and Mosaic Foods. To save you the trouble of trying them all, I noshed on nearly all to bring you this list, which includes the best overall meal subscription, the best vegetarian and vegan meal delivery, the best meal delivery for fitness enthusiasts and more.
Making dinner can be enjoyable, but dinner burnout can catch up to you quickly. Since most restaurants charge a pretty premium for takeout and delivery, and meal prep can eat up precious hours of your work week, an easy meal plan from one of these services can help lighten your daily load. And if meal delivery elicits thoughts of overly salted instant mashed potatoes and mystery meat, know that prepared food -- both fresh and frozen -- has come a long way in the past few years.
For those who still want to cook but need a little helping hand, an oven-ready meal kit delivery service will cut out the prep, shopping and planning. But if it's a fully prepared meal you're after, there are services for that and we've tested some of the best-known meal delivery operations -- along with a few newbies -- to see which ones cut the mustard and which ones need a lot of ketchup just to be eaten.
What exactly is a prepared meal delivery service? This sub-category of meal delivery will send fully cooked, nutritious meals made with healthy ingredients straight to your home. From there, it's as simple as simple gets: Just pull a delicious meal out of your fridge or freezer and warm it up -- no cooking -- and you've got a satisfying lunch or dinner ready to go.
Menu options are endless and certain prepared meal delivery services such as Fresh N Lean and Factor have taken note of modern healthful eating habits, offering prepared menus and healthy meals tailored for almost any dietary preference, including carnivores, vegetarians, flexitarians, vegan and other plant-based diets. They can also cater to those with dietary restrictions who are keeping to a keto, low-sodium, gluten-free, organic, low-carb, low-sugar or paleo diet. Even picky eaters will find something they like with all these prepared meal options.
Another option to consider is deliveries of oven-ready meal kits that still have to be cooked but require very minimal prep, effort or technical skill to make a fresh meal. You may be wondering how these differ from the standard meal kit delivery services.
These "oven-ready" meal delivery plans, which fall somewhere between a classic meal kit and meal delivery, are uncooked but preassembled to be thrown together to be baked, roaster, stir-fried or dropped into the slow cooker with no major prep required for a healthy, fresh-cooked meal. Think simple dishes like roasted chicken breast with precut vegetables and a flavorful sauce. Services including Home Chef even provide the cooking tray in many of its meal kits so there is exactly zero cleaning to do after.
Just a reminder: While many of the meal plan services we sorted through are fully prepared, the meal-kit services like Home Chef are not yet cooked, so know you'll still be turning on the oven. Please don't eat any raw chicken.
Having tried offerings from every company on this list (and many more), I've determined the best prepared meal service for each type of diner from vegans to those seeking a more restaurant-quality experience. Luckily there's a meal delivery service geared to almost every person, with budgets ranging from the affordable to the total splurge.
After testing more than 20 of the most popular premade meal subscriptions in 2023, these are the 8 best prepared meal delivery services your money can buy.
Having tested all of the leading prepared meal delivery service options, Fresh N Lean ran away from the competition, ticking more boxes than any other. The food is healthy, thoughtfully prepared, tastes fantastic, looks appetizing and is fairly affordable depending on the plan you select.
Fresh N Lean has five meal plans to help keep folks on track with their specific nutrition goals including low-carb, vegan, paleo and protein-plus options. The food I tried was all made exceptionally well, made from simple, whole ingredients. Save for one dry chicken breast, everything I had was at least good, and most better than good, with some meals even bordering on restaurant-quality. My favorite was a tender braised beef with vegetables and coconut-cilantro sauce.
Pricing: Price per meal varies greatly depending on the plan you select as well as the number of meals per week. It's roughly $8 to $10 if you order 10 or more meals per week. If you select lunch or dinners only, it'll be less than $15 per meal. It's not the cheapest, but not the most expensive either and totally worth the extra few bucks, in my opinion.
I sampled nine of Mosaic Food's plant-based prepared meal offerings and the vegetarian prepared meal delivery service had an astoundingly high hit rate. Mosaic uses big and interesting global flavors and employs creative use of meat substitutes such as tofu, jackfruit, cauliflower and vegan sausages to create tasty and satisfying vegetarian meals -- even for this omnivore. There are some vegan meals, but many of them use dairy products, so vegans must choose their Mosaic meals more carefully.
While everything I had from Mosaic was at least good, some standouts included the bean and jackfruit chili, tomato olive and feta ragout and a tangy Thai noodle dish. All the food arrives frozen but still tastes surprisingly fresh upon defrosting and eating.
Pricing: Mosaic meals are also simple to order from with a clear, concise website and no overly complicated plans. You simply choose the meals you want with a minimum order of $70 (about eight meals) and then decide how often you want them delivered -- weekly, biweekly or monthly. You can change the meals, pause or cancel your subscription at any time.
Mosaic recently added family meals too meant for three or four people. It costs $5 per serving.
Home Chef is a popular meal delivery company and recently launched a line of oven-ready meals like cajun chicken with rice and beans, meant to take nearly all the work out of dinner but still delivering home-cooked food, technically speaking.
If it's oven-ready meal options you're after you'll want to choose Home Chef's Fresh & Easy meals which are focused on easy oven-ready options. Plus this meal delivery service offers grill-ready meals for summer, 15-minute entree salads for those craving lighter fare or slow cooker meals that likewise require very minimal preparation and cleanup. This new category from Home Chef is designed to be low technical skill and is a good option if you're wanting a home-cooked meal delivery plan but not interested in enlisting at a culinary institute to make a delicious meal happen.
Pricing: You can adjust the number of people and recipes for each week, but most Home Chef meal delivery kits break down to just under $7 per serving. Most people choose six to eight meals a week, so the average cost is about $70. But you can choose as few as six servings and as many as 12 and will save slightly more with a larger order.
The best thing about CookUnity is the sheer volume of meal options you can choose from, all originating from chefs -- some famous and some not -- of different backgrounds and culinary styles. As a bona fide restaurant junkie, I would think of CookUnity not only as a tasty way to keep myself fed without having to cook but also as a fun way to learn about new kitchen personalities and restaurants for the next time I'm traveling to a new city or looking for a place to dine out locally.
I liked almost everything I tried, with recipes ranging from very healthy to more comfort-style food. There are plenty of options for vegetarians, too, but note that the menu will vary depending on where you live since they pull from local chefs to create the weekly offerings.
Pricing: Meals can be had for as cheap as $10 if you order in bulk. Smaller plans will run you more like $13 or $14 per meal, which is not a bad deal considering the quality. The big downside is that CookUnity is not currently available to all ZIP codes.
Pete's Real Food won me over in a week-long taste test, notching its place as one of the best healthy, organic meal delivery services I've yet to try. While it's not the cheapest service we've tried, it is actually cheaper than other meal services that use organic ingredients and quality meats and was better than most of them. You can nab a 10-pack of healthy meals for just $121, though it's currently sold out.
The Pete's Real Food meals I had were all well-prepared: meats were tender, vegetables (mostly) cooked to proper doneness and all the flavors worked. The food wasn't overly seasoned and the recipes were mild and maybe even on the safe side -- but that's nothing a few shakes of hot sauce can't fix.
If you're in training or keeping to a paleo plan and looking for lots of protein, healthy fats and nutrient-filled carbs such as sweet potatoes and beets, Pete's should hit the spot. Pete's has lots of ordering options and the meals are made to freeze so if you don't want to subscribe, you can keep an inventory on hand for those moments you need a quick fix.
Editor's note: On June 19, 2022, Daily Harvest issued a recall of its lentil and leek crumbles amid reports of serious illness. As of July 14, the brand reported that "all pathogen and toxicology results have come back negative." We continue to monitor the situation and will update you as we learn new information.
Daily Harvest launched in 2015 with an army of frozen and ready-to-blend smoothies, premade soups and hearty grain bowls to keep stocked in the freezer. Some of the bowls and soups could pass as dinner, but I like these best for a quick lunch or breakfast. Depending on the specific meal, you either drop it into a saucepan or skillet to heat and eat. Or add nut milk and blend it up, for Daily Harvest's protein-packed smoothies, oat bowls and lattes.
This is a completely plant-based meal delivery service and is great if you want to simplify your week and keep meals healthy. Daily Harvest uses lots of ancient grains, oats and trendy superfoods like chia, avocado and kabocha squash in its recipes, which are satisfying and mostly well-balanced in flavor. The brand recently expanded offerings to include flatbreads, which I wasn't crazy about, and snacks and desserts such as low-calorie ice cream and protein bites.
Pricing: With so many different offerings and options you can build a box with whatever you'd like. Smoothies and chia bowls can be had for as little as $7 per serving with bigger meals like grain bowls, soups and flatbreads in the $8-$9 range. Daily Harvest usually has a nice new-customer deal good for $30 or $40 off your first order, so look out for that.
Trifecta has healthy prepared meals that cater to a number of nutrition plans and diets -- keto, paleo, low-calorie, clean eating and plant-based -- so it's perfect if you're trying to incorporate more protein and fewer empty carbs. Trifecta also uses lots of organic ingredients as well as humanely raised chicken and grass-fed beef.
You'll find mostly clean, lean meats and healthy vegetables in Trifecta meals with the occasional side of rice or grains too. While I didn't love everything I tried, there were some real standouts and everything tasted very fresh. My personal favorite was Trifecta's pesto salmon with quinoa and sautéed vegetables.
Pricing: This service is on the pricier side of the spectrum. Trifecta's Clean Meal Plan will cost you $111 for a plan that includes 10 meals -- which breaks down to around $10 per meal. If organic food with lots of fitness-friendly protein is important to you, this is the meal delivery service to try.
|Service||Subscription only||Meals offered||Meals options per week||Diets services||Price per serving||CNET rating (out of 10)|
|Fresh N Lean||Yes||Breakfast, lunch, dinner||18||Keto, paleo, Whole30, gluten-free Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, high-protein||$8.49-$13||9.2|
|Farmer's Fridge||No||Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks||22||Vegetarian, low-calorie,||$6-$10||8.2|
|Home Chef Oven Ready||Yes||Lunch, dinner||7||None||$9||8|
|CookUnity||Yes||Lunch, dinner||100+||Keto, paleo, Whole30, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sodium, Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, high-protein||$10 -$13||8.8|
|Pete's Real Food||No||Lunch, dinner||28||Paleo, vegan, keto, autoimmune, gluten-free, dairy-free||$14-$19||9|
|Mosaic Foods||Yes||Lunch, dinner||80||Vegan, vegetarian||$5-$10||9.2|
|Home Bistro||No||Lunch, dinner, dessert||45||Vegetarian, low-calorie, low-carb||$17-$19||8|
|Trifecta Nutrition||Yes||Breakfast, lunch, dinner||Meals are preselected||Organic, keto, paleo, Whole30, gluten-free Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, high-protein||$8-$16||7.6|
|Daily Harvest||No||Breakfast, lunch, dinner||100+||Vegan, vegetarian, low-calorie, Whle30, paleo||$8-$10||8.8|
To test each meal delivery service, I tried at least five and sometimes as many as 10 meals from any given service. I tried to choose a range of meals from the various menu and meal plan offerings. For instance, if a service offers plant-based meals I was sure to try at least one. I also mixed up the meal types to include pasta, meat dishes, bowls and other various styles offered by the brand. Further, I made sure to test a variety of cuisines -- Italian, Indian, Thai, Mexican -- if they were offered.
I took careful note of each meal delivery service's website, including what information was provided (ingredients, nutritional info), how clearly the menu was organized and how simple it was to pick a meal plan and order meals. When they arrived, I noted how well they were packaged and checked whether each meal was still chilled or frozen.
To reheat each meal, I took a twofold approach. For some meals, I meticulously followed the heating instructions on the label. But since these are merely suggestions, I reheated other meals the way I would if left to my own devices. Often that meant warming gently in a nonstick skillet or reheating in my air fryer. Many of the meal delivery services offer a microwave heating option, but I almost always found that produced worse results than my trusted methods, even if they typically take a few seconds longer.
That depends on a lot of factors, but if you seek a super simple answer to what's for lunch or dinner, on the regular, prepared meal delivery is a great option. Prepared meals can be had for as little as $5 a serving for certain plans, so the cost can be quite low if you choose the right service. It's probably still a bit cheaper to cook meals from scratch, in general, but that takes time and effort. Most prepared meal delivery services are significantly cheaper than takeout and definitely cheaper than eating out. Plus, you have more control over what you eat before you order it so meal delivery can help keep your nutrition goals on track.
Meal delivery doesn't have to cost a ton. We've uncovered cheap meal services such as Mosaic Foods with portions as low as $5 per serving for a family plan. But most are somewhere in the range of $9 to $13 per meal. Excluding unhealthy fast food, it's tough to find restaurants or takeout services that'll feed you nutritious and tasty food for so little money. And some of these budget-friendly meal subscriptions delivered some pretty tasty fare, on par with the pricier operations.
The healthiest meal delivery service for you will depend on your specific nutrition goals. You can find healthy, prepared meals for vegetarians, vegans, folks keeping to a keto or paleo diet, diabetic-friendly meal plan and just about any other. A big bonus is you can easily see all the nutritional information for every meal, which is not always the case when cooking from scratch or eating out.
Even if you're not trying to overhaul your entire diet, committing to eating healthier even a few times a week can have a huge impact on overall nutrition intake and help create good eating habits. It helps when that healthy food actually tastes good, too. But if you don't have the time to start meal-prepping and macro-counting, or learn a whole new set of healthy cooking skills, eating healthier probably feels daunting.
Now, you might be wondering how meal delivery recipes differ from the frozen meals or classic TV dinners you find in the grocery store -- and it's a fair question. For one: Most are made just before shipping to you, so each individual meal is significantly fresher -- which you can often taste. Because they don't sit on grocery store freezer shelves, most are free from unhealthy preservatives or mounds of salt, too.
Lastly, these prepared meal delivery services often use higher quality ingredients and get a bit more creative with their rotating recipes, although it does vary from brand to brand. Prepared meals range anywhere from $5 to $18 per serving, depending on the service and specific meal plan you choose.