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

Meal delivery kits also reduce the stress of 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.

Meal delivery services deliver meals or meal kits to households.

Although offerings vary among companies, most require customers to cook the meals.

Most meal delivery services allow people to choose from a variety of recipes. The companies will package preportioned ingredients and provide customers with instructions on cooking 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, snacks, and dinner.

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

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

One study suggests that people who ate more ultraprocessed foods, including prepackaged buns and desserts, had a higher risk of:

In contrast, according to one 8-week study, eating fresh fruits and vegetables had links to decreased indicators of cardiovascular damage and strain in those without preexisting cardiovascular disease.

Another 2017 study found that young adults with low intakes of fruits and vegetables experienced improved psychological well-being after eating two 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 when they need to choose meals for the following week.

Usually, customers can skip a week if they do not wish to receive a meal delivery during certain times.

Many companies also offer different types of meal delivery plans, including:

  • premium or gourmet options with expensive cuts of meat or ingredients
  • family-friendly meals suitable for children and those with specific tastes
  • fast-cook meals with ingredients already prepared in some way
  • pescatarian options
  • vegetarian options
  • vegan options
  • ketogenic options
  • dairy-free 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 of meal delivery services. 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 be unavailable at the local grocery store
  • offering an introduction to new ingredients
  • being convenient
  • generating less waste
  • providing many nutritious options
  • helping people get started with a specific diet, such as the keto diet

One 2019 review discusses how low carbohydrate diets, including keto diets, can be effective for weight loss and improving blood sugar control among people with type 2 diabetes.

However, the researchers emphasized that low carb diets are not appropriate for everyone. They also added that more research is necessary to understand the long-term effects of these diets on humans.

People interested in trying a keto diet or any other type of diet should contact a healthcare professional first. This is to help ensure 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 particular services
  • experiencing delivery errors
  • 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 large quantities of food

How we choose meal delivery services

  • Price: We assessed what the weekly cost is for the same number of meals and servings, so people can decide what is most appropriate for their budget.
  • Sustainability: We have called out the companies that make an effort to cut down on packaging.
  • Business practices: All the services we have included were vetted and meet Medical News Today’s business standards.

The sections below explore some of the most affordable meal delivery services. Many companies also offer discounts for people who are new to the service.

This article bases all prices on a plan offering 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.

Best for vegetarians: HelloFresh

HelloFresh is 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.
  • Advantage: Its expansive menu features vegetarian options.
  • Disadvantage: 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.

Best for seasonal ingredients: Martha & Marley Spoon

Martha & Marley Spoon is new to the market and offers meal delivery kits with various meals to choose from.

  • Price: $71.93 per week for three recipes with two servings each.
  • Advantage: A professional designs these meals using seasonal ingredients.
  • Disadvantage: Customer reviews mention quality control issues in its boxes.

Kits from this company’s range include curated spice blends.

Martha & Marley Spoon is available to order online.

Best variety: Blue Apron

Blue Apron is another meal delivery company that has been around for some time.

  • Price: $59.94 per week for three recipes with two servings each.
  • Advantage: This option offers a lot of variety, with meals featuring easy-to-follow instructions. Diet preferences include Weight Watchers approved, plant-forward, vegetarian, carb-conscious, Mediterranean, and under 500-calorie options.
  • Disadvantage: This service does not cater to people with some specific dietary restrictions.

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

Blue Apron is available to order online.

Best for meal-by-meal customization: Home Chef

Home Chef is a meal kit for people who wish to prepare and serve food quickly.

  • Price: $59.94 per week for three recipes with two servings each.
  • Advantages: Its kits offer large portions and the option to swap and upgrade ingredients. The service also offers ready meals.
  • Disadvantages: The packaging is not environmentally friendly, and the service’s meals are unsuitable for those on vegetarian diets.

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

Home Chef is available to order online.

Best for families: Dinnerly

Dinnerly is one of the cheapest meal delivery providers. Its options are more affordable, which may benefit lower income families.

  • Price: $44.33 per week for three recipes with two servings each.
  • Advantage: The service offers cheap, classic meals.
  • Disadvantages: The kits do not separate ingredients by meal. The service also does not offer printed recipe cards and instead provides digital recipes.

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

Dinnerly is available to order online.

The absolute most budget-friendly: Everyplate

Everyplate is another highly affordable meal delivery company that cuts costs by reducing overall packaging.

  • Price: $35.34 per week for three recipes with two servings each.
  • Advantage: This inexpensive option has menu items that may please people with more specific tastes.
  • Disadvantage: The kits contain few vegetables.

Additionally, its menu is unsuitable for people with certain dietary restrictions, such as those following vegetarian diets. However, it offers discounts for students.

Everyplate is available to order online.

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

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

Meal planning services

Services, such as Platejoy, can help people plan meals.

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

Platejoy is available for purchase online.

Meal preparation help

There are many resources on preparing meals in advance. For example, a person may wish to prepare several meals ahead of time, so it is easier to provide individual meals throughout the week.

However, a person does not have to prepare every meal in advance to benefit from this. 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 vegetables, shredded cheese, and canned sauces, can help save time.

Community Supported Agriculture or meat shares

This option may suit people who wish 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 options may be available, depending on the organization.

Learn more about preparing healthful meals on a budget.

Below are some common questions about affordable meal delivery services.

What is the most inexpensive service for families?

Dinnerly and Everyplate are the cheapest weekly meal delivery options that offer three recipes of two servings each. For large families, people can select the Family box with Dinnerly, which costs $76.06 per week and features three recipes of four servings each. Everyplate offers a family plan with kid-friendly recipes starting from $59.88 weekly for three recipes with four servings each.

What’s the cheapest meal delivery service for single people?

Dinnerly and Everyplate offer the cheapest meal delivery options.

How should I choose the right meal delivery service for me?

If If a person has specific dietary preferences or requirements, such as gluten-free, vegan, or Mediterranean diets, they need to ensure the company offers these options. They should also consider the price and what their budgets can afford. Additionally, if sustainability is important, they can choose a company that cuts down on packaging.

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

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

Getting meal kits deliveries 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.