I Tried Thistle Meal Delivery: It's Like Sakara Life, Only Much Cheaper
Thistle is a more budget-friendly version of Sakara Life. I tried a week of Thistle's fresh salads, stir-fries, snacks and smoothies to see how they compare.
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David WatskySenior Editor / Home and Kitchen
David lives in Brooklyn where he's spent more than a decade covering all things edible, including meal kit services, food subscriptions, kitchen tools and cooking tips. Since earning a BA in English from Northeastern in Boston, he's toiled in nearly every aspect of the food business, including as a line cook in Rhode Island where he once made a steak sandwich for Lamar Odom. Right now, he's likely somewhere stress-testing a blender or researching the best way to make bacon. Anything with sesame is his all-time favorite food this week.
ExpertiseKitchen tools, appliances, food science, subscriptions and meal kits.
Tasty fresh salads, stir-fries and snacks delivered by hand
Cheaper than other similar fresh meal services
All meals are gluten-free and can be made vegan
Many ingredients sourced from local farms
Delivery was easy and on time
Still pricier than other healthy meal subscriptions
Menu is limited each week
Salads lose a little oomph after a day or two
There are dozens of healthy meal delivery services to choose from and frozen, prepared meals to thaw and eat others send meal kits that require cooking. Thistle is a healthy meal service that sends mostly prepared, fresh food that requires almost no prep. It's one of the healthier meal services I've tried with a variety of salads, stir fries, snacks, juices and protein-packed breakfast meals to choose from.
If you've tried or have been tempted to try Sakara Life, the Instagram-friendly fresh food delivery service Thistle is modeled after that concept. I reviewed Sakara Life in 2021 and while the vegan food was outstanding, the cost (more than $70 a day) was prohibitive. Thistle fresh meal delivery is markedly cheaper than Sakara Life (about half the price) and follows a similar model. That said, it's still not "cheap," ranging from $12-$16 per meal, depending on how many you order.
To see if Thistle was worth the price of admission, I tried a few day's worth of its healthy food. My delivery showed up on time, and the meals were healthy, tasty and took just seconds to prepare. It's the best option for anyone seeking truly fresh meals delivered, but there are still some healthy meal services I rank above Thistle.
Where does Thistle deliver?
As of this writing, Thistle is delivering to select cities on the East Coast and West Coast.
West Coast: San Francisco Bay Area, Napa & Sonoma, Sacramento, Davis, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Orange County, Inland Empire, Ventura County, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Las Vegas, Portland and Seattle-Tacoma
East Coast: New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Arlington VA, and parts of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
To see if you are in Thistle's delivery zone click here.
How does Thistle work: Signup, ordering and delivery
After signing up for Thistle, you'll plug in some dietary preferences, including which types of ingredients or foods you avoid in your diet, as well as what sort of protein you're eating plan. There are options for meat, eaters vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians alike.
You'll also choose how many meals you want per day. You can order any combination of breakfast, lunch, dinner meals and snacks for up to five days per week. Typically Thistle sends a delivery of curated meals for the week but you can view the order and make changes ahead of delivery. Thistle also has cold-press juices and wellness shots to add to your weekly haul.
Meals are delivered by hand in an insulated bag via messenger on the day or days of your choosing. If you sign up for text alerts, you'll be cued into the arrival, down to the minute so you don't miss them. You can leave last week's insulated bags outside and the delivery person will pick them up during their next meal drop.
Because the fresh food is not meant to be frozen, Thistle delivers food either once or twice per week, depending on the number of meals you choose.
One thing that separates Thistle from the rest of the pack is that they deliver only fresh food, nothing is frozen or premade and vacuum-sealed. Everything can be eaten as is, or there is the option to heat certain meals in a skillet and mix in the sauce if you prefer a hot lunch or dinner.
Thistles meals are healthy, full of whole ingredients and gluten-free, even the pasta. The food has minimally processed foods and contains lots of superfoods, such as sweet potatoes, ancient grains, nuts, fruit, veggies and lean meats.
What I ate and how I liked it
I tried two full days' worth of thistle meals which included two salads, two stir-fry meals, two breakfast meals and three snacks.
I thought everything was good and some were better than good, but nothing blew my socks off. The produce was fresh, but by day three, some of the greens weren't as crisp and the veggies lost a little of their snap. The stir-fry meals, which I heated in a frying pan along with the sauce, never lost their oomph.
Kale Caesar pasta with garlic and garbanzo beans: This meal was tasty with a knife, light, Caesar dressing and lots of garlic.
Crispy chickpea, Greek salad with pulled chicken: The salad also had quinoa and toasted garbanzo beans.I thought the Greek dressing was sharp and delicious and the salad overall was good but the chicken was dry.
Butternut squash and pear pasta salad with garlic and garbanzo beans: This meal was just OK. The pasta was a little mushy and garbanzo beans could have been cooked more. The dressing was a simple balsamic vinegarette.
Panang peanut curry with togarashi seeds: This panang curry was more tangy and less sweet but all the flavors worked for me. My favorite meal of the lot.
Snacks and breakfast: smoothies, protein bars and crudite: The peanut butter and banana smoothie was tasty, but on the small side I make smoothies most mornings for breakfast, and they are about twice the size of this one.
The steel-cut oat bowl with granola and dulce de leche was fine but the sauce was a little sweet for me. The granola meant to be put on top of the smoothie was very good. There was also included a vegan crudites platter with gherkin pickles, carrot sticks, tomatoes and vegan cheese dip.
My favorite of the snacks were Thistle's homemade protein bars. One was peanut butter and chocolate ganache and the other a mango-granola bar. Both were excellent and they gave me a solid energy boost around mid-afternoon.
How much does Thistle cost?
If you choose 16 meals per week the cost breakdown is about $11 for breakfast and $12 for lunch and dinner the fewer meals you choose the more expensive they become. There's a minimum order of three meals per week which would cost you more like $14 for breakfast and $16 for lunch and dinner.
Snacks are additional and optional and cost $6.50 per snack no matter which plan you choose.
Thistle cost per week:
3 meals per week: $45.31 ($15.11 per meal)
6 meals per week: $87.62 ($14.60 per meal)
12 meals per week: $162.9 ($13.52 per meal)
16 meals per week: $199.33 ($12.46 per meal)
Thistle's meal containers are plastic but are fully recyclable as are the dressing containers. The only part of this whole delivery that isn't recyclable or the ice packs but you can return those with the bags or reuse them yourself.
Who is Thistle good for?
If you're looking for easy lunches and dinners, but don't care for fully premade food that was cooked days before and frozen or vacuum-sealed, Thistle is a good bet. The service focuses on healthy and whole foods with lots of salad greens, nuts and roasted vegetables. While some meals have meat, most of them are plant-based and all of them can be made vegan so this is a good option for someone cutting down or eliminating meat from their diet.
Even if you choose the largest (cheapest per-meal) meal plan, Thistle meals are still an expensive way to eat so this is not a good option for anyone on a tight budget. Thistle is also not great for those with unpredictable schedules. Since the food does not freeze well, you'll want to eat your meals within a few days of delivery. Portions are on the small side, so this probably isn't the right meal subscription for a big eater.
If you're interested in having truly fresh food -- not frozen or vacuum-packed meals -- delivered weekly that includes preassembled salads and stir-fries, Thistle is your best option. If you choose one of the larger meal plans, the price per meal comes in at a reasonable $12. Choose a smaller meal plan and you'll pay more like $15 per meal, which doesn't seem worth it.
Thistle and Sakara Life operate with very similar business models delivering fresh food for your week while Sakara's meals are of a higher quality. The price for Sakara -- more than $20 per meal -- is astronomical and Thistle offers a more approachable version of fresh food delivery with meals as low as 12 or $13 if you choose one of the larger plans.
If money is no object, go for Sakara, since the food is better and more interesting. If you like the concept of Sakara life but don't want to spend hundreds every week, Thistle is the better pick.
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.