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Cooking nutritious meals requires time and effort. Although meal delivery services may help people eat balanced meals, they are not always suitable for those on smaller budgets.
Meal delivery kits may also reduce the stress of planning and shopping for food.
This article will describe how meal delivery works and outline some of the most affordable options to try. It will also examine the benefits and potential drawbacks of signing up for a meal delivery service.
A quick look at the cheapest meal delivery services
- Best for those new to meal delivery: HelloFresh
- Best for unique spice blends: Marley Spoon
- Best for a dedicated Weight Watchers (WW) plan: Blue Apron
- Best for meal-by-meal customization: Home Chef
- Best for families: Dinnerly
- Best for students: EveryPlate
- Best menus for common health conditions: Mom’s Meals
- Best for dairy- and gluten-free meals: Daily Harvest
- Best plant-based option: Mosaic
Meal delivery services send meal kits or preprepared meals directly to a person’s home on a specified day and time. Some companies deliver meals or ingredients fresh, and others send frozen food.
Although offerings vary among companies, most require customers to cook the meals. Services typically allow people to choose from a variety of recipes and the company will include all of the necessary preportioned ingredients. Some meal delivery options may offer ready meals or kits with precut ingredients.
People can often customize their plans to suit their needs, including the frequency of deliveries and the number of dishes per week. They may also be able to exclude certain foods such as meat, fish, or dairy.
Often, the delivery service will provide enough meals for a few days, rather than the whole week. Some companies offer options for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner.
In contrast, according to an 8-week study, eating fresh fruits and vegetables may have links to decreased indicators of cardiovascular damage and strain in those without preexisting cardiovascular disease.
Most meal delivery services work on a subscription basis. This typically means 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 offer various types of meal delivery plans, including:
- premium or gourmet options with expensive ingredients or cuts of meat
- 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 customers know when their weekly shipment is on the way. The food usually arrives in a refrigerated box.
There are many potential advantages of using meal delivery services, such as:
- allowing people to spend less time planning meals
- providing 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
- introducing people to new ingredients
- generating less waste
- providing many nutritious options
- helping people get started with a specific diet, such as the keto diet
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.
It is best for people interested in trying keto or any other type of diet to contact a healthcare professional first, to help ensure the diet and meal delivery menu they choose is safe for them and meets their dietary needs.
Possible drawbacks of using a meal delivery service include the following:
- receiving low quality protein and produce, depending on the standard 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
- high costs, which may particularly affect households that require large quantities of food
In choosing brands to include in this article, Medical News Today assessed the following criteria:
- Price: MNT compared the weekly cost for the same number of meals and servings, so people can decide what is most appropriate for their budget.
- Nutritional value: These meal delivery services meet the average person’s nutritional needs and promote healthy eating habits.
- Ingredient quality: Brands use fresh, high quality ingredients. Some also use organic produce or sustainably sourced ingredients.
- Variety: Services feature a range of flavors and ingredients to suit different tastes and diets.
- Availability: Services are available throughout most of the United States.
- Sustainability: Brands reduce their environmental impact by employing recyclable packaging, carbon-neutral shipping, local ingredients, and other sustainable practices.
- Reputability: Services adhere to industry best practices, have passed our medical vetting process, and meet MNT’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 these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.
All quotes are from Healthline Nutrition and Fitness Editor Kelli McGrane, MS, RD, who received free meal delivery kits from several brands included in this article.
Best for those new to meal delivery: HelloFresh
- Price: from $8.99 per serving
- Special diets: vegetarian, pescetarian, low calorie
- Who it is best for: people who want to try out meal delivery
- Delivery times: between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., or 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. for an additional charge
- Subscription: 2–6 recipes a week for two or four people
HelloFresh is one of the most popular, longest-running meal delivery services in the U.S. Every box includes a recipe card with detailed cooking instructions.
A person picks a plan and receives food for two or four people. The service then delivers fresh ingredients to their door, with all meals portioned in exact amounts.
HelloFresh is a good option for people new to meal delivery as it is widely known and customer reviews are easy to find. It may also help people who are not confident cooks learn new skills.
“Overall, I’ve found HelloFresh meals to be bold in flavor and have a good variety of textures. However, I often add extra vegetables that I have at home to make the meals more filling and nutritious.” — Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
Meal options include:
- hoisin beef tacos
- creamy aubergine curry
- teriyaki prawn poke bowl
- chicken korma curry
- Middle Eastern-style lamb stew
- well-known and popular service
- offers a range of cuisines
- people can keep the recipe cards for later
- the company faces criticism over animal welfare
- does not offer many vegan, keto, or paleo options
Best for unique spice blends: Marley Spoon
- Price: from $4.14 per serving
- Special diets: low calorie, vegetarian, vegan
- Who it is best for: people who want to use an environmentally friendly service
- Delivery times: morning or afternoon
Marley Spoon offers meal kits for a very affordable price per serving.
Kits from this company include curated spice blends. A person can choose from over 100 weekly recipes.
Some meals require a small amount of preparation, while others come ready to heat.
“Marley Spoon offers a really tasty family-friendly meal delivery service.” — Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
- garlic-lime marinated sirloin steak
- curry spiced cod
- chicken fajita casserole
- spinach and cheese ravioli limone
- vegan coconut corn chowder
Shipping costs $11.99.
- includes unique spice blends
- a professional chef designs the meals
- very affordable price per portion
- the company is involved in multiple environmental initiatives
- customers mention quality control issues
- limited vegan meal offerings
Best for a dedicated WW plan: Blue Apron
- Price: from $7.99 per serving
- Special diets: low carb, low calorie, vegetarian, WW, diabetes-friendly
- Who it is best for: people following a WW plan who want to try meal delivery
- Delivery times: 7 days a week
People can choose from over 60 dishes on Blue Apron’s weekly rotating menu. This service offers menus and recipes that are not typically available from other companies, including diabetes-friendly recipes and a dedicated WW menu.
This could be a good choice for people already following a WW diet.
However, Blue Apron does not offer gluten-free or vegan options.
In addition to meal delivery kits, Blue Apron offers wine and cooking tools from its online marketplace. The company claims all of its ingredients are free of genetically modified organisms and its packaging is recyclable.
Blue Apron meals come with easy-to-follow instructions, resulting in minimal prep time for the consumer.
- oven-baked tomatillo chorizo and rice
- cheese crisp burgers
- chimichurri shrimp
- roasted paneer and vegetables
- spicy glazed tofu rice bowls
Shipping costs $9.99.
- offers unique menus for those on WW diets
- uses ingredients from sustainable sources
- recyclable packaging
- offers fewer menu items than other companies
- does not offer vegan or gluten-free food
- food is not certified as organic by the United States Department of Agriculture
Best for meal-by-meal customization: Home Chef
- Price: from $8.99 per serving
- Special diets: calorie and carb conscious
- Who it is best for: people who want to adjust their meals according to preferences
- Delivery times: vary by region
Home Chef offers meal kits and oven-ready meals with greater scope for customization than other brands.
Home Chef uses a person’s taste profile to recommend meals from its weekly list of up to 30 options. Customers can edit or change meals before 12 p.m. Central Time on Fridays, including upgrading, swapping, or doubling up on certain ingredients.
However, changing the meal may increase its price.
The meal kits come with step-by-step recipe cards and some of the ready-made meals are very quick to prepare.
The company does not offer many diet-specific boxes, such as allergen-friendly, vegan, or keto boxes.
- balsamic spicy onion jam burger
- crispy garlic sesame glazed chicken
- Milanese-style pork chop
- pork meatloaf in creamy tomato sauce
- lemon pesto shrimp flatbreads
- kits offer large portions
- people can swap and upgrade ingredients
- offers meal kits and quick-to-make or oven-ready meals
- the packaging is not environmentally friendly
- does not cater to gluten-free, keto, or vegan diets
- does not offer as many dishes as other brands
- there is a minimum weekly order value of $49.95
Best for families: Dinnerly
- Price: $4.99 per serving
- Special diets: low calorie, keto, and low carb
- Who it is best for: families
- Delivery times: vary by location
Dinnerly claims it uses fewer ingredients per recipe than other meal delivery companies, which helps cut costs. The company also has a marketplace where customers can order groceries.
According to Dinnerly, the recipes are quick and easy to cook. It also offers child-friendly options.
“I think it’s a good service for families on a budget who also need dinners that are quick and easy to prepare.” — Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
Dinnerly does not provide physical copies of its recipes. Digital-only recipe cards may be unsuitable for those without a reliable internet connection or those who do not have a laptop or smartphone.
Dinnerly meals include:
- tamari butter steak
- keto-friendly lemon-pepper pork tenderloin
- Mediterranean meatball pitta
- low calorie rice noodle stir fry
- crispy ranch fish sticks
- prices per serving are very affordable
- introductory offers reduce costs to around $2 per serving
- people can choose from over 100 recipes each week
- recipe cards are only available online
- the website does not clearly list its diet-specific menus
Best for students: EveryPlate
- Price: $1.99–4.99 per serving
- Special diets: vegetarian
- Who it is best for: students
- Delivery times: between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
EveryPlate offers discounts for students, a feature that is not widespread among other brands. This means students can get meals for as little as $1.99 per serving. This offer is available through UNiDAYS.
EveryPlate claims its insulated boxes can keep meals at the correct temperature for 48 hours after delivery.
“I would recommend that people add frozen mixed veggies or a salad kit to most meals, as many of the dishes felt quite heavy.” — Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
EveryPlate meals include:
- cajun chicken sandwiches
- balsamic steak
- garlicky white sauce flatbreads
- gingery sweet potato stir fry
- feta stuffed salmon salad
The company’s menu is unsuitable for people with certain dietary restrictions, such as those following vegan or pescetarian diets.
- offers student discounts
- packaging can keep food at the correct temperature for 48 hours
- no vegan or pescatarian options
Best menus for common health conditions: Mom’s Meals
- Price: from $6.99 per serving
- Special diets: low sodium, heart-friendly, diabetes-friendly, gluten-free, renal-friendly, pureed, vegetarian, cancer support
- Who it is best for: people with certain health conditions
- Delivery times: not stated
The cancer support menu offers meals high in protein and calories that may help people limit weight loss. The menu for people with kidney disease offers nutritional support, and the diabetes menu includes lower carb options.
Mom’s Meals offers meals under certain Medicaid and Older American Act programs, as well as some long-term service and support programs. A person should check their eligibility as it can vary by state and program. A person’s case manager can help them with this process.
The company states its food will keep for up to 14 days. Prices per serving can vary depending on the menu a person chooses. For instance, pureed meals cost $7.99 per serving.
- barbecue chicken with a potato medley and seasoned green beans
- beef goulash over pasta and seasoned vegetables
- cheeseburger with seasoned vegetables
- buttermilk pancakes
- curry vegetables with pineapple and brown rice
Shipping costs $14.95.
- offers menus suitable for a range of health conditions
- Medicaid can cover the cost of the service
- provides unique menus, such as pureed food
- shipping is more expensive than other brands
- Medicaid coverage will vary by state
- specialist menus cost more
Best for dairy- and gluten-free meals: Daily Harvest
- Price: from $5.99 per serving
- Special diets: specifically catered to dairy- and gluten-free diets
- Who it is best for: people who need or want to avoid gluten and dairy products
- Delivery times: depends on location
All Daily Harvest meals are dairy- and gluten-free. People can also buy snacks, lattes, and smoothies from the company.
Meals arrive ready-made, and customers can heat them in an oven or microwave.
Daily Harvest meals include:
- red cabbage and buckwheat donburi
- chickpea and coconut curry
- black bean and “cheeze” bowl
- Brussels sprouts and sesame bowl
- cauliflower and leek stew
- all meals are dairy- and gluten-free
- suitable for vegans
- some menu options cost $11.99 each
- there is no clear information on shipping costs or times online
Best plant-based option: Mosaic
- Price: from $6 per serving
- Special diets: vegetarian and vegan
- Who it is best for: people who do not consume meat or animal products
- Delivery times: 1–2 days
Mosaic Foods provides plant-based, wholefood frozen meals. The company says it freezes its meals to:
- reduce food waste
- preserve nutrients
- expand access
It claims that its meals contain 10–20 grams of protein and are ready in 5 minutes.
“I don’t think I’d order the meals again as I prefer meal delivery kits. However, I do think these meals are a great option for families that want a stash of healthy meals in the freezer. They would also make a great gift for new parents.” — Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
Meals are à la carte and have individual prices. Some items cost around $11 each, which means not all dishes are suitable for people on smaller budgets.
Mosaic meals include:
- yellow dal curry
- jerk lentil and plantain bowl
- mushroom lover’s pizza
- barbecue seitan pizza
- tomato, rosemary, and white bean soup
- offers exclusively plant-based meals
- some meals are gluten-free
- also offers drinks
- quick to heat
- fast shipping times
- some items are expensive
- no information on shipping costs online
- items have individual prices, which may make this service more expensive
The table below compares each of the meal delivery services in this article.
|Who it is best for||Diets||Delivery times||Price per serving|
|HelloFresh||those new to meal delivery||vegetarian, pescetarian, low calorie||between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.||from $8.99|
|Marley Spoon||people looking for an environmentally friendly company||low calorie, vegetarian, vegan||morning or afternoon||from $4.14|
|Blue Apron||people following a WW plan||low carb, low calorie, vegetarian, WW, diabetes-friendly||7 days a week||from $7.99|
|Home Chef||people who want to customize their meals||calorie and carb conscious||varies by region||from $8.99|
|Dinnerly||families||low calorie, keto, and low carb||varies by location||$4.99|
|EveryPlate||students||vegetarian||between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.||$1.99–4.99|
|Mom’s Meals||those with certain health conditions||low sodium, heart-friendly, diabetes-friendly, gluten-free, renal-friendly, pureed, vegetarian, cancer support||no information available||from $6.99|
|Daily Harvest||people who consume a dairy and gluten-free diet||dairy- and gluten-free diets||varies by location||from $5.99|
|Mosaic||people on vegan and vegetarian diets||vegetarian and vegan||between 1–2 days||from $6|
A person can explore the following options to help make meal planning easier if they do not wish to use a meal delivery service.
Meal planning services
Services such as Platejoy can help people plan meals.
This platform provides the customer with a shopping list and recipes to try. This may be especially helpful for busy people, those new to cooking, or people who are getting used to a new diet.
Meal preparation help
There are many resources available for preparing meals in advance.
A person may wish to prepare several meals ahead of time, so it is easier to provide individual meals throughout the week. However, preparing even a few meals or meal components for the week ahead may 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 may help save time.
Community Supported Agriculture baskets or meat shares
This option may suit people who want to be creative in the kitchen.
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. Using these ingredients, people can follow whatever recipes they choose or create their own.
Below are some common questions about affordable meal delivery services.
What is the most inexpensive service for families?
Dinnerly and EveryPlate are two of the cheapest weekly meal delivery options that offer three recipes of two servings each.
For large families, people can select the Dinnerly family box, which costs $76.06 per week and features three recipes of four servings each. EveryPlate offers a family plan with child-friendly recipes starting from $59.88 weekly for three recipes of four servings each.
What is the cheapest meal delivery service for single people?
Dinnerly and EveryPlate may offer the cheapest meal delivery options for single people.
How should I choose the right meal delivery service for me?
If a person has specific dietary preferences or requirements, they can check that the service they want to use offers meals that suit their needs. It is also best to consider how often they would like to eat ready-made meals or use meal kits, as some services can become expensive depending on the options people choose.
A person can also consider the environmental impact a meal delivery service may have and choose companies that reduce emissions or packaging.
People should also make sure that a service can deliver to their area.
Cooking does not have to be a time-consuming activity. However, some people may have difficulty finding the time to grocery shop or plan and prepare meals. Others may not have confidence in their cooking abilities.
Individuals may wish to consider signing up for a meal delivery service to save them time and build their cooking experience. This may be a healthier, cheaper, and quicker alternative to store-bought ready meals and takeout.
Meal kit 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.