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Meal kits make cooking fun and they're totally convenient, especially these days when having the essentials delivered just makes life easier. For an experienced home cook looking for meal kits to help bulk up their recipe rotation or improve cooking skills, you might want to opt for one of the more sophisticated operations like Sun Basket or Green Chef. But if you're looking to incorporate meal kits into your weekly routine for utility and to blunt the nonstop barrage of grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking, you may be looking for a cheaper meal delivery service or meal kit because, just like anything else, they can add up.

If the goal is getting preportioned ingredients for a tasty and satisfying home-cooked meal at a fair price, you have options in 2021. There are affordable meal kits with easy recipes starting at as little as $5 a serving -- even less if you snag a sign-up offer. Dinnerly and EveryPlate, both of which clock in at $5 a serving, are the most budget-friendly meal kits. But there are also midrange options such as HelloFresh and Home Chef. The latter two may cost a few bucks more per serving but they allow for more customization and have more recipes to choose from each week. 

Fitting a meal kit into your cooking routine will take nearly all of the guesswork and legwork out of dinner. If you're in charge of making meals most nights, that could be a major boon, giving you precious time back for other things. Plus, many of them are really tasty with loads of healthy lunch and dinner options. Some meal kits even cater to specific diets such as keto, paleo, low calorie, gluten-free and more. 

No matter your budget, there are affordable delivery services to make cooking for you or the family as easy as ever. We even tried all the meal kits and prepared meal services on this all to help you decide which one is best for your budget, tastes and schedule. 

Check out the six absolute cheapest meal delivery services available in 2021.

Read moreThe best meal kit for vegetarians and vegans in 2021

EveryPlate

EveryPlate is the cheapest meal kit service, with recipes starting at $5 a serving -- sometimes less if you snag a sign-up offer. I tested EveryPlate recently and was pleasantly surprised. You won't find a lot of foofy, upscale cuisine or complicated recipes, but you will get a lot of satisfying, rib-sticking meals such as hoisin meatloaf with mashed potatoes, cheeseburgers, umami pork chops and sweet potato quesadillas. 

EveryPlate meal kits are easy to prepare and I loved everything I made, making it my pick for the best budget-friendly meal kit in 2021. For more, read my full review of EveryPlate,

Price: $5 a serving

Dinnerly

Clocking in at a comparable $5 a serving is Dinnerly. Much like EveryPlate, Dinnerly has a lot of comfort food options such as ravioli with spinach and parmesan sauce, carne asada tacos and chicken pad thai. 

I tested meal kits from Dinnerly and all were easy to prepare, although -- on average -- they involved more work than EveryPlate's recipes. Dinnerly allows you to add on protein packs of chicken breast, ground beef or shrimp for meal planning along with a small market of snacks and desserts, which you can tack on at an extra cost. 

Price: $5 a serving, plus $9 shipping

HelloFresh

HelloFresh is a bit more per serving than EveryPlate or Dinnerly -- $7.49 a serving if you order meals for four -- but this meal delivery service affords you more recipe options and I'd contend the recipes and ingredients are of a higher caliber too. HelloFresh has as many as 25 dinner meal kits per week, so it is nearly impossible not to find something you'll like. HelloFresh also has five or six plant-based recipes a week making it the best cheap meal kit service for vegetarians. 

When I tried HelloFresh's meal kits recently, I made the meatloaf a la mom, barramundi with corn and potato hash and pork chops with honey butter. I liked all three. Check out my full review of HelloFresh for everything you need to know about the meal delivery service.

Price: $7.49 a serving

Home Chef

At just a tick more than HelloFresh is Home Chef. I tried Home Chef a few months back and loved the flexibility and customization the meal kit subscription allows for. For instance, you can swap the protein in just about any recipe or double the portion if you're expecting company or want leftovers to eat for lunches during the week. Home Chef also has oven-ready meal kits which only need to be assembled in a tray and cooked -- no chopping or prep required.

A few Home Chef recipes I tried and liked were the moo shu pork tacos and bruschetta shrimp risotto which had a ton of garlic but was far easier to make than I expected. Read my full review of Home Chef

Price: Most meals are $9 a serving with some even cheaper such as lunch meal kits and entree salads.

Freshly

If you desire to do exactly no cooking at all but want tasty meals delivered at an affordable price, Freshly is where it's at. Freshly sends precooked meals (fresh, not frozen) to your door in a one-time order or subscription. While this meal delivery service has healthy recipe options aplenty, Freshly is one of the better options if you want the occasional cheat meal or serving of comfort food. 

Penne bolognese, peppercorn steak with mashed potatoes and chicken casserole are just some of the heartier choices you can have delivered and at the ready. But there are also healthier, low-cal Freshly meals to keep yourself honest. 

Price: Freshly is just $8 per meal when you order 12 meals per week. 

Daily Harvest

Daily Harvest isn't a traditional meal kit company but rather sends healthy, plant-based smoothies, soups, grain bowls to your door, starting at $7 a meal. While the other options on our list are geared towards dinnertime, Daily Harvest is best to have easy breakfast and lunch meals ready to heat and eat. 

When I tried Daily Harvest, I loved the interesting smoothie combos such as a chocolate blueberry smoothie with greens, banana and almond butter. The heartier meals are great too like the cauliflower rice and pesto harvest bowl with cashews and spinach. You won't need more than a saucepan, toaster or blender to prepare most of the meals and most can be made in as little as 5 minutes. Read my full Daily Harvest review here.

Price: Meals are between $6 and $9 and there's no subscription required. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.