We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Cooking meals requires time and effort. As well as food preparation, people will need to plan meals and shop for ingredients. However, using a meal delivery service can help a person minimize the time they spend in the kitchen.

Meal delivery also reduces some of the stress associated with planning and shopping for food.

This article will look at how meal delivery options work. It will also examine the benefits and potential drawbacks of signing up for a meal delivery service and outline some of the most affordable options available.

Meal delivery is a service that delivers meals or meal kits to households.

Although offerings vary among companies, most will require the customer to actually cook the meal.

Most meal delivery services allow people to choose from a variety of recipes. The companies will package preportioned ingredients and provide their customers with instructions on how to cook the meal.

Often, the delivery service will provide enough meals for a few days, but not the whole week. Some companies also offer options for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, in addition to dinner.

Some meal delivery options may also offer ready-made meals or kits with precut ingredients for people who have limited time.

Using a meal delivery service may help people who are short on time consume healthful, balanced meals with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. It may also help people eat fewer processed foods, which might be a tempting hunger fix otherwise.

One study suggests that people who ate more ultraprocessed foods, including prepackaged buns and desserts, had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease.

In contrast, according to one 8-week study, eating fresh fruits and vegetables was associated with decreased indicators of cardiovascular damage and strain in people with preexisting cardiovascular disease.

Another study, this time from 2017, suggests that young adults with low intakes of fruits and vegetables experienced improved psychological well-being after eating 2 extra servings of fruits and vegetables per day for 2 weeks.

Most meal delivery services work on a subscription basis. This typically means that a person will subscribe and get notifications about when it is time to select the meals for the following week.

Usually, customers can skip a week if they do not want to receive a meal delivery during that time frame.

Many companies offer different types of meal delivery plan, including the following:

  • premium or gourmet options with expensive cuts of meat or expensive ingredients
  • family-friendly meals suitable for children and picky eaters
  • fast-cook meals with ingredients already prepared in some way
  • pescatarian menu options
  • vegetarian menu options
  • vegan menu options
  • ketogenic menu options
  • dairy-free menu options

Companies will typically let their customers know when their weekly shipment is on the way. The food will usually arrive in a refrigerated box.

There are many potential advantages to using a meal delivery service. These include the following:

  • spending less time planning meals
  • offering a helpful way of learning to cook
  • offering a new roster of recipes, often on reusable recipe cards
  • providing more variety and access to ingredients that may not be available at the local grocery store
  • offering an introduction to new ingredients
  • being convenient
  • generating less waste
  • providing lots of healthful options
  • helping people get started with a specific diet, such as a keto diet, for health

One 2019 study suggests that participants who followed low carbohydrate diets, including keto diets, experienced weight loss, while those with type 2 diabetes also experienced improved blood sugar control.

However, the researchers emphasize that the low carb diets were not appropriate for everybody. They also claim that scientists need to conduct more research into the effects of these diets on humans, particularly in the long term.

People who are interested in trying a keto diet or any other type of diet should contact a healthcare professional first to make sure that the diet type and meal delivery menu they choose is safe for them and meets their dietary needs.

Some of the potential drawbacks of using a meal delivery service include the following:

  • receiving low quality protein and produce, depending on the quality of the particular service
  • experiencing delivery mishaps
  • receiving unpalatable recipes
  • food spoiling before a person is ready to cook it
  • needing more time if a recipe requires new cooking techniques
  • being expensive, which may affect households that require a large quantity of food

The sections below will look at some of the most affordable meal delivery service options. Also, note that many companies offer discounts for people who are new to the service.

This article bases all prices on a plan that offers three recipes per week with two servings each.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried any of these products. All information presented is purely research-based.

HelloFresh

HelloFresh are one of the most popular, longest-running meal delivery services in the United States.

  • Price: $62.93 per week for three recipes with two servings each.
  • Pros: The expansive menu features tasty vegetarian options.
  • Cons: Few options are available for people following vegan, keto, or paleo diets.

Every box includes a recipe card with detailed cooking instructions.

HelloFresh is available to order online here.

Martha & Marley Spoon

New on the scene, Martha & Marley Spoon offer meal delivery kits with various tasty meals to choose from.

  • Price: $62.93 per week for three recipes with two servings each.
  • Pros: A professional designs these meals using seasonal ingredients.
  • Cons: Customer reviews mention quality control issues from box to box.

Kits from this line include “curated” spice blends, according to the company.

Martha & Marley Spoon is available to order online here.

Blue Apron

Blue Apron are another meal delivery company who have been around for a while.

  • Price: $59.94 per week for three recipes with two servings each.
  • Pros: This option offers a lot of variety with easy-to-follow instructions.
  • Cons: This option does not cater for people with specific dietary restrictions.

In addition to meal delivery kits, Blue Apron also allow customers to order wine and cooking tools from their online marketplace.

Blue Apron is available to order online here.

Home Chef

Home Chef is a meal kit for omnivores and people who want to get food on the table fast.

  • Price: $59.70 per week for three recipes with two servings each.
  • Pros: The kit offers large portions and the ability to swap and upgrade ingredients.
  • Cons: The packaging is not environmentally friendly, and the meals are not suitable for vegetarians.

This option may best suit families and couples who are not following vegetarian diets.

Home Chef is available to order online here.

Dinnerly

Dinnerly are one of the cheapest meal delivery providers. Their offerings are more affordable, which may be a particular benefit to families.

  • Price: $38.93 per week for three recipes with two servings each.
  • Pros: The service offers cheap, classic, crowd-pleasing meals.
  • Cons: The kits do not separate ingredients by meal and do not offer printed recipe cards, instead using digital ones.

They also use fewer ingredients per recipe than other meal delivery companies, which helps cut costs.

Dinnerly is available to order online here.

Everyplate

Everyplate are another highly affordable meal delivery company who cut costs by reducing overall packaging.

  • Price: $38.93 per week for three recipes with two servings each.
  • Pros: This inexpensive option has menu items that are sure to please picky eaters.
  • Cons: The kits contain few vegetable ingredients.

Also, their menu is not suitable for people with dietary restrictions, such as vegetarians. They do offer discounts for students, though.

Everyplate is available to order online here.

If a meal delivery service still sounds too complicated or expensive, a person can explore other options to help make meal planning easier throughout the week.

The sections below will look at some alternatives to meal delivery services in more detail.

Meal planning services

Services such as Platejoy can help people plan meals.

The platform does all the thinking and provides the customer with a handy shopping list and delicious recipes to try.

Platejoy is available for purchase online here.

Meal preparation help

People can find plenty of information on how to prepare meals in advance. For example, a person may wish to prepare several meals ahead of time so that it is easier to make individual meals throughout the week.

A person does not have to prepare every single meal in advance to benefit from this, however. Preparing just a few meals or meal components for the week ahead can make a difference.

Buying precut vegetables

Many grocery stores now sell precut vegetables and other ingredients to help people reduce their meal preparation time.

Using ingredients such as frozen vegetable mixes, preshredded cheese, and canned sauces can save a significant amount of time.

Community Supported Agriculture or meat shares

This option is for people who want to prioritize being creative in the kitchen. It leaves the culinary creativity up to the customer.

Community Supported Agriculture baskets or meat shares support local food producers and provide customers with quality, local ingredients. Delivery may be available, depending on the organization.

Learn more about preparing healthful meals on a budget here.

Cooking does not have to be a time consuming activity. However, some people often do not have the time to plan, shop, and prepare.

Instead of spending money on takeout, people may wish to consider signing up for a meal delivery service.

Getting meal kits delivered may help people learn to cook, discover new ingredients, and reduce food waste.

Although there are various expensive, specialized meal kit options on the market, many affordable options are also available.