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
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.
|Read 12 Reviews|
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.
|Read 11 Reviews|
Based in New York, Top Chef Meals offer nutritious, chef-prepared meals with no chemicals, preservatives or trans fats. Meals are hand-plated by professional chefs and delivered to customers throughout the eastern U.S.
|Read Expert Review|
Founded in 2005 by Caroline J. Cederquist, M.D., BistroMD is a customizable weight loss program that delivers doctor-designed, chef-prepared meals and individualized weight loss support to customers nationwide.
|Read Expert Review|
Healthy Chef Creations has been delivering fresh, gourmet prepared meals without chemicals, pesticides or additives nationwide since 2001. The company offers all-inclusive Meal Programs and an À La Carte Menu.
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MagicKitchen offers healthy, chef-prepared meals created using fresh, high-quality ingredients sourced within the U.S. Meals are flash-frozen and shipped nationally from the company's distribution center in Kansas.
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Diet-to-Go provides nutritious, portion-controlled meals to customers looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. The company delivers in the continental U.S. and offers a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
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Send a Meal has been delivering individual foods and fully prepared, gourmet meals to customers nationwide since 2004. Located in Austin, Texas, the company offers a best price and 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
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Headquartered in Chicago, Home Chef provides all customers need to cook restaurant-quality meals for two, four or six people in 30 minutes or less. The company caters for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free diets.
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Founded in 2012, Plated is a subscription service that provides fresh, seasonal ingredients and chef-designed recipes. The company ships from California, New York, Florida and Illinois, and delivers to 95 percent of the U.S.
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What features matter most?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 plans cater to those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities. Meals may be prepared in a nondedicated facility, however.
Some meal services provide diabetic-friendly meals. These foods are low in sugar to help diabetics maintain consistent blood-sugar levels.
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.
Some services ship fresh ingredients, along with a recipe. Customers then cook their own meals.
Who's it for?
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.
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.
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.
- High nutritional value: The meals prepared by Top Chef Meals are all free of chemicals, preservatives and trans fats.
- Flexible plans: Customers can order packages that contain several meals all selected by Top Chef Meals or customize a package by selecting individual meals.
- Specialized diets: Top Chef Meals offers packages for accelerated weight-loss plans and paleo diets.
- Unique meals: Meals are all planned and prepared by chefs, so the food is both unique and delicious.
- Affordable: Meals average less than $10 a plate and are even more affordable when purchased in a package or on a monthly plan.
- Best for Busy individuals, dieters and people who enjoy gourmet food.
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.
- Developed by a physician: bistroMD's weight-loss programs were developed by a weight-management physician, so the foods are scientifically planned and balanced to be ideal for weight loss.
- Specialized plans: The company offers a variety of plans targeted for men, women, menopausal women, seniors, diabetics and more.
- Customizable: Customers can pick their own meals based on a program created by a registered dietitian.
- Expert support: bistroMD's plans come with expert support to help individuals with any problems in achieving their weight loss.
- Chef-created foods: The menu is planned by a chef to ensure that each frozen meal is unique and delicious.
- Best for People trying to lose weight, seniors, menopausal women and those with restrictive diets.
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.
- All organic: Healthy Chef Creations' foods are all organic and free of chemicals and pesticides.
- Plan variety: The company's wide variety of plans appeals to dieters, individuals, families, expectant moms, new moms and more.
- Kid friendly: Healthy Chef Creations offers school lunch options for children, adding another dimension for busy families.
- Fresh food: Meals are prepared and delivered fresh each week.
- Chef-prepared foods: Foods are "spa-inspired" and created by chefs for unique, delicious meals.
- Best for Busy families or individuals, new mothers, mothers-to-be and dieters.
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.
- Individual meals: MagicKitchen.com sells frozen meals individually for flexibility.
- Friendly for people with dietary restrictions: The site offers a wide variety of options for people with special dietary needs, including diabetic-friendly meals, low sodium, dairy-free, gluten-free, renal diet and more.
- Auto-ship meal programs: It offers an auto-ship meal program at a discounted price for people who want to buy meals on a weekly or monthly basis without having to reorder.
- Gift options: You can also send meals as gifts.
- Food variety: Customers can choose entrees as well as accompanying sides, desserts, soups and breads.
- Best for Busy individuals and families, seniors and people with special dietary needs or restrictions.
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.
- Frozen or fresh: Diet-to-Go ships frozen meals to anywhere in the continental U.S., but it also offers three locations on the East Coast and two in California where customers can pick up fresh meals.
- Three different plans: In addition to its main "Balance" plan, Diet-to-Go also offers a plan for diabetics and pre-diabetics and one low-carb plan.
- Chef-prepared: The meals are planned and prepared by a chef for top-quality taste.
- Customizable: The plans offer customization options so customers can swap in meals to suit their tastes.
- High tech: You can sync up your plan with a FitBit or smartphone to more easily track calories.
- Best for Anyone trying to lose weight, those who prefer simpler options for meal plans and diabetics.
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.
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.
- Large meal sizes: Send a Meal's portions serve 4-6 people so they are perfect for families, or the leftovers can be frozen to make multiple meals for one individual.
- Food variety: The service offers a wide array of food options, including special occasion and holiday foods.
- Perfect for gifting: The company's meals can be delivered anywhere in the U.S. so they are ideal for sending as gifts for family, friends, people who are ill, new parents and more.
- Meal plans: Send a Meal's food can be purchased individually or as part of a weekly plan. It also offers a "meal of the month" subscription.
- Frozen for convenience: The meals are shipped frozen, and customers can select the day of the week they want their food to arrive.
- Best for Busy individuals and families, people who are ill or housebound and parents of newborns.
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.
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.
- Easy subscription: Home Chef is a subscription service, meaning that each week new meals are automatically shipped to the customer unless they opt out.
- Various size options: Customers can select box sizes for two, four or six people for perfect portions.
- Gift meals: Meals can be sent as gifts to friends and family.
- Gourmet menu: Their menu options are unique and provide gourmet meals that are easy to cook.
- Special diet options: They offer low-calorie, gluten-free, soy-free and other restricted-diet options.
- Best for Busy individuals and families, people looking to expand their cooking knowledge and people with dietary restrictions.
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.
- Antibiotic-free: All meats come from animals that were not given antibiotics.
- Easy delivery: Food is delivered in refrigerated boxes so ingredients stay cold in case the food is delivered when you're not home.
- Subscription service: Plated's subscription service automatically renews weekly unless you choose to opt out.
- Plan variety: The company offers plans with two, three or four meals weekly so customers can tailor the service to their budget and schedule.
- Unique meals: Plated's menu offers unique, chef-designed, out-of-the-ordinary meals to expand your food horizons.
- Best for Busy individuals and families and people looking to expand their cooking horizons.
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