Meal delivery services provide fresh or frozen prepared foods for a fee. These services offer meals in packaged plans or individually. Many are oriented toward weight loss, but some are just for individuals and families with busy schedules. Meals are generally ordered and customized online and then delivered to the customer's door. The latest trend is services that delivering ingredients and recipes for customers to cook the meals themselves.

Top 10 Most Reviewed Meal Delivery Services

Blue Apron provides fresh, pre-portioned ingredients and seasonal recipes through its two-person and family meal plans. The company also offers a monthly wine subscription service that delivers wines to complement its meals.
HelloFresh is a subscription service that delivers fresh, pre-portioned ingredients and recipe cards direct to customers nationwide. The company sources its ingredients from a network of local, family-owned sellers.

The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.

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What features matter most?

Cost

The price of a meal or plan is a major factor for most consumers when choosing a meal delivery service. Prices vary from vendor to vendor but usually fall between $8 to $10 per person per meal.

  • Discounts for order size: Most services offer discounts on larger orders. This means if you purchase a monthly or weekly plan, you are more likely to receive discounted prices than if you purchase meals individually.
  • Shipping: Many services provide free or discounted shipping if certain requirements are met, such as if the order is over a certain dollar amount or if the customer purchases a monthly meal plan.

Plan

Many meal-delivery services offer their meals based on a plan. This means that you receive multiple meals at once for a flat fee.

  • Frequency: The frequency with which you need to order depends on what type of plan you have. Some services offer weekly plans, while others offer meals as a package for an entire month.
  • Meals per day: Many plans give you the option of how many meals you want per day. You can choose from dinner-only options to three-meal options with snacks included.

Diet

Some meal services are catered to specific weight-loss plans or even dietary restrictions, which can be especially helpful for people who live far from larger grocery stores.

  • Weight loss: Weight-loss plans include meals of specific portions and food types that are designed to help the customer lose weight.
  • Restrictive diets: You can find meal plans that are friendly toward diabetics or those with other dietary restrictions, such as gluten-free or organic.

Customization

Meal-delivery services often offer customization options to give more flexibility and control to the customer.

  • Meal swapping: For customers who are purchasing a monthly or weekly plan, the customer chooses a pre-made plan, but can swap out meals or portions of a meal and replace them with their preferred dishes so that they only receive foods they enjoy. Food services that sell meals individually will often let customers swap out the included side dishes or desserts as well.
  • Create your own plan: This option allows customers to pay the flat fee of a plan but choose all their own meals, rather than have them chosen by the service.

Frozen or fresh

Meal-delivery services typically ship their food frozen, but some offer fresh food, either for you to heat up or cook yourself.

  • Frozen: Since many meal plans are month-long plans, the food is generally frozen for convenience, longevity and freshness.
  • Fresh: Fresh (non-frozen) meals are available from some services. The prices for these meals are generally a little higher, and they can only be purchased individually or on a weekly plan.

Commitment

Some vendors require a weekly or monthly commitment, while others do not.

  • Commitment: This option requires customers to commit to a weekly or monthly plan that is automatically renewed.
  • Non-commitment: This option means that customers only order when they want to order, and they are not charged until they place an order at the time of their choosing.

What are different types of meal delivery services?

Weight-loss

This is the most common type of meal-delivery service. It offers meals that are specially portioned and designed so that customers are able to meet their weight-loss goals.

Paleo

This option provides meals that are compatible with a paleo diet. This means that meals are generally high in protein and gluten-free.

Gluten-free

Gluten-free plans cater to those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities. Meals may be prepared in a nondedicated facility, however.

Diabetic

Some meal services provide diabetic-friendly meals. These foods are low in sugar to help diabetics maintain consistent blood-sugar levels.

Occasional

Some services offer meals for special occasions such as holidays or family events. Rather than a plan, these are a one-time purchase designed to feed a number of people rather than an individual.

Fresh

Some services ship fresh ingredients, along with a recipe. Customers then cook their own meals.

Who's it for?

Dieters

This group of consumers is actively trying to lose weight, and meal-delivery services can help make the process easier. The preplanned meals are designed to be balanced and healthy so that consumers don't have to worry about counting calories or determining a food's nutritional value.

Busy individuals

Some people's schedules do not leave them with much time to cook or prepare meals, and hiring a personal chef may not be financially viable. For these customers, meal-delivery services are helpful as they provide meals in advance that can be reheated or cooked whenever they prefer.

People with restrictive diets

For people with diabetes, gluten sensitivities or other restrictive dietary needs, some meal-delivery services offer foods that cater to these individual needs. This makes meal planning simpler because consumers do not have to come up with new meal ideas or wonder about a meal's compatibility with their health restrictions.

Company reviews

  • Top Chef Meals

    Founded in Westchester County, N.Y., by caterer Paul Ghiron, Top Chef Meals prides itself on providing gourmet, restaurant-quality meals that are both healthy and affordable. It ships its food frozen and delivers to most of the United States.

    • Best for Busy individuals, dieters and people who enjoy gourmet food.

  • Personal Trainer Food

    Based in Fort Worth, Texas, Personal Trainer Food specializes in meal delivery plans that are specifically designed for weight loss. Its monthly meal plans are created not only to help lose weight but to teach healthy lifestyle choices. Some plans even include personal weight-loss coaching.

    • Best for Dieters with limited time to prepare their own food and those interested in healthier eating.

  • bistroMD

    bistroMD provides frozen low-calorie meals designed by a certified weight-management physician. The company was founded in 2005 by a physician in Naples, Fla., and delivers to all of the continental United States, Hawaii and parts of Alaska.

    • Best for People trying to lose weight, seniors, menopausal women and those with restrictive diets.

  • Healthy Chef Creations

    Founded in 2001, Healthy Chef Creations delivers meals fresh, not frozen, to the customer's door each week. The Winter Park, Fla., based company's gourmet, chef-prepared food is entirely organic.

    • Best for Busy families or individuals, new mothers, mothers-to-be and dieters.

  • MagicKitchen.com

    MagicKitchen.com's founder started the company in Oakland, Calif., to bring busy families together at dinner time, and to provide nutritious dining options for seniors. From its Kansas City, Kan., distribution center, MagicKitchen.com delivers to all of the U.S. It also offers a variety of options for people with dietary restrictions.

    • Best for Busy individuals and families, seniors and people with special dietary needs or restrictions.

  • Diet-to-Go

    Based in Lorton, Va., Diet-to-Go features meal plans to help customers meet weight-loss goals. It offers both fresh and frozen food options, with three different meal plans to accommodate various dietary needs.

    • Best for Anyone trying to lose weight, those who prefer simpler options for meal plans and diabetics.

  • Blue Apron

    Founded in 2012 in New York City, Blue Apron delivers fresh ingredients and recipes to customers who then prepare and cook the food themselves. The company also offers a monthly wine subscription of six wines with pairing notes.

    • Best for Busy individuals and families, those interested in expanding their cooking skills and wine lovers.
  • Send a Meal

    Launched in 2004 in Austin, Texas, Send a Meal offers family-sized meals that customers can buy for themselves or send as gifts. For convenience, the meals can be ordered on an individual basis or as part of a meal plan.

    • Best for Busy individuals and families, people who are ill or housebound and parents of newborns.

  • HelloFresh

    A Berlin-based company with U.S. headquarters in New York City, HelloFresh delivers fresh ingredients and recipes to the customers each week for them to prepare at home. The company even partners with famed chef Jamie Oliver for exclusive recipes.

    • Best for Busy individuals, busy families and people looking to expand their cooking knowledge.
  • Home Chef

    Based in Chicago, Home Chef sends fresh ingredients and recipes to customers each week for them to cook their own meals. The company's algorithm suggests meals for you based on your "taste profile," which details what you do and don’t like to eat.

    • Best for Busy individuals and families, people looking to expand their cooking knowledge and people with dietary restrictions.

  • Plated

    New York City-based Plated sends a box of fresh ingredients and recipes to customers each week for them to prepare their own meals. Each week the service offers nine different recipes to choose from, with dessert options as well. Two of the meals are designated as Chef's Table recipes, with specialty cuts of meat and market-priced seafood.

    • Best for Busy individuals and families and people looking to expand their cooking horizons.

11 – 11 Most Reviewed Meal Delivery Services