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Freshly review: One of the most consistent meal delivery services we tried

"TV dinners" have come a long way, baby.

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Freshly

If you scan the web, there are currently more ways to get dinner on the table with little to no effort than there are weeks in a year to try them all. The easiest of all are prepared-meal delivery services such as Freshly and Factor that require no cooking but rather send ready-to-eat meals to your door as often as you'd like. 

Easy meal kit and prepared meal delivery services have skyrocketed in popularity over the past several years and have only gotten more popular since the pandemic has kept many of us eating at home more and missing restaurant food. Of the meal services out there, a few have pushed through the crowded food delivery category to earn a loyal following of hungry folks who are short on time, cooking ability -- or both. Curious as I am, I decided to taste through some of the best and most popular premade meal delivery services available in 2020 and I started with Freshly. I'm continuing this project in 2021, so keep an eye out for more reviews.

Freshly is one of the most popular of the prepared meal subscription services and a quick scan of online Freshly reviews shows it has a growing base of loyal customers. Freshly meals are different from meal kits like Blue Apron and HelloFresh in that lunches and dinners arrive completely prepared and fully cooked in individual packaging that you simply heat and serve. No prepping, chopping, mixing or measuring involved. 

I tried several of Freshly's premade meal plans over the course of a few weeks to give the delivery service a fair shot and give you an honest review of this handy delivery service. I went into my tasting not expecting high-end cuisine but rather hoping the brand would make good on its promise of delivering fresh and flavorful meals that are conveniently packaged and shipped weekly to help take the guesswork out of lunch or dinner on those hectic days. Here's a breakdown of the popular meal delivery service and my firsthand review of Freshly.

Freshly pricing in 2021

Meals per week Price per meal (shipping is extra)
4 $11.50
6 $9.50
10 $9
12 $8.50

How Freshly works

Freshly meals come individually packaged and portioned, so these work especially well for single folks or couples without kids. Meals are assembled much like old-school TV dinners but are far more attractive and -- spoiler alert -- they taste better too. Freshly meals arrive cold but not quite frozen, so it's up to you whether to heat and eat them right away or freeze a few meals for a rainy day. (Note: some foods freeze much better than others, I found). 

freshly
Freshly

Through the website, you can choose a meal plan subscription that includes as few as four or as many as 12 meals per week. Freshly has plenty of healthy meal choices good for lunch or dinner and options for folks with dietary restrictions, including gluten-free, keto or low-carb and low-calorie. There are, however, almost no plant-based options so this is not a good meal delivery service for vegetarians or vegans. Freshly ships to every state in the lower 48 (sorry, Hawaii and Alaska!). You can also change, pause or cancel your Freshly meal plan anytime, so it's very low-risk if you just want to check it out for a week or two.

Read moreCatch the best seafood delivery services of 2021

How much do Freshly meals cost?

Depending on the plan you choose, Freshly meals clock in between $8.50-$11.50 per meal. It's certainly more expensive than cooking at home, generally speaking, but it's cheaper than takeout and healthier, generally speaking. There are shipping costs as well that vary but generally don't exceed $10 per box.

Environmental impact and packaging

Freshly is as good as any with regards to recyclability. You can check out this slick video on the company's website explaining how nearly every piece of your order right down to the ice packs can be recycled.

Read more: How to properly recycle takeout containers

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Freshly

How my Freshly meals stacked up

I've tried a good many prepared meal services at this point, and while others like Home Bistro may hit higher highs, Freshly was the most consistent meal service I've tested thus far. You can tell it focuses on fan favorites and universally popular dishes rather than attempting those more out-of-the-box recipes. For what it is and aims to be, I'd say that's a good thing. 

Freshly meals are premade and shipped in cooler boxes and so they're not likely to win any Michelin stars but I was pleasantly surprised by how flavorful and, well, fresh most of my Freshly meals were. The culinary team has clearly thought carefully about what sort of meals will both travel and reheat well, and this made a big difference for me when comparing it with some other meal delivery services.

Here's a breakdown of each Freshly meal I had and how I liked it: 

Almond-ginger chicken bowl: These bowls were some of the most successful Freshly meals for me. They all had good flavor, especially the Asian-style grilled chicken and veggies over rice with a punchy ginger sauce. The bowls are also the easiest to heat quickly and well without drying out the ingredients. Plus, they make a rather satisfying lunch or a quick and easy dinner.

ginger-bowl
Freshly

Turkey meatloaf: The meatloaf had really nice flavor and was very tender. It was also not overly greasy or salty and the accompanying bean salad and cauliflower mash were nice complements. It felt like comfort food but without being too heavy.

Buffalo chicken with loaded cauliflower: This simple dish was also good but felt more like a lunch than a dinner. The buffalo sauce wasn't too spicy and the grilled chicken stayed moist when reheated.

Cauliflower bolognese: I try to stay away from any prepared pasta and this cauliflower bolognese was a prime example of why. Even when reheated using my preferred method (see below), the end result was mushy and unappealing. The flavors were fine but not enough to make up for mushy pasta. Nothing is, to be honest.

freshly
Freshly

Steak peppercorn: This steak was another entree I had low expectations for, but I can say it overachieved in comparison with the pasta (mentioned above). It wasn't a Ruth's Chris ribeye by any stretch, but it was decent despite being cooked most of the way through. The side dishes were also solid and the whole meal was filling. My suggestion: Keep this steak -- and any steak for that matter -- out of the microwave at all costs.

Read moreBest meat delivery for 2021: Snake River Farms, Omaha Steaks, Rastelli's and more

Chicken tikka masala: This is probably my favorite guilty-pleasure takeout dish and so my standards are high. Freshly's might not have totally matched the version I usually pick up from my favorite Indian restaurant, but it was a solid effort. I reheated it in a skillet and the result was some very tender and tasty chicken in a creamy masala sauce with fluffy rice. A delicious meal that I would eat again.

chicken-tikka-masala
Freshly

A big hack 

Try not to heat any Freshly meals in the microwave if you can help it, with perhaps the exception of certain sides like mashed cauliflower or roasted potatoes. For chicken bowls, stir-fries and pasta, simply toss it all in a nonstick skillet for a few minutes, covered over low heat along with the sauce before serving. Yes, you'll have a pan to rinse -- but I promise it's worth it. I ordered two of each meal and tried heating them a few different ways. Every single time the microwave lost, often in a landslide. For larger pieces of chicken, steak and pork loins you could also use the low-and-slow skillet method but add a splash of water or chicken broth to bring some of that life and moisture back, or cover and heat them in your convection oven (also on low) or a countertop oven.

The verdict on Freshly meal delivery

I liked Freshly more than most of the meal delivery services I've tried so far. I'd categorize Freshly's style as comfort food with a slight healthy bent and most everything I tried tasted fresh and came out well when I prepared it. As someone who cooks often, I wouldn't see myself eating Freshly meals more than a couple of times a week. But if I didn't enjoy cooking as much or was too busy to make the bulk of my daily meals, I think it would be a different story.  

Now that I'm working from home indefinitely like many of us are, preparing lunch daily has become a bit more of a time-suck than it used to be (it's hard to justify ordering in when your stove is 4 feet away). I can certainly imagine having a few Freshly meals on hand that are ready to rock when the 12:30 p.m. lunch craving hits and I'm tight on time or motivation. Especially those saucy bowls, which make a tasty, healthy reprieve from the humdrum sandwich or salad routine. 

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.