The Best and Cheapest Meal Delivery Service: What is The Cheapest Meal Delivery Service

article by Nicky Hoseck
September 26, 2019
If you're living on take-outs, tins, and cereal because of time and money restrictions, it’s time to start thinking inside the meal delivery box. Many people are under the misconception that even the best and cheapest meal delivery service is beyond their financial capacity but we’re here to show you that this isn’t true. Although a few cheaper meal delivery services, like Chef’d and Munchery, have fallen by the wayside in recent months, those that are surviving are providing home-delivered healthy, tasty meals at a price that often comes in under what you’d pay for the same ingredients in your local supermarket.

While some meal delivery services really do change the earth, others do an excellent job of delivering value for money as well as fresh ingredients. So let’s compare meal delivery services that pride themselves on high-quality meals at affordable prices.

What is the Best and Cheapest Meal Delivery Service?

The best and cheapest meal delivery services all charge much the same for their meals, whether they’re pre-prepared or designed for you to create at home. What makes the best meal delivery services stand out from the crowd is a combination of affordability, quality, taste, flexibility, and convenience. When we compare meal delivery services, we look for the following elements:

  • Value for Money

As we mentioned earlier, you can, quite literally, spend a fortune on a meal delivery service like Sakara Life, but is that money well spent? Ok, so you’ll get breakfast, lunch, and dinner all delivered to your door and all made up top-shelf organic ingredients. You’ll also get a range of detox teas to, apparently, “support digestion”, as well as supplements and dietary guidance. That’s all well and good if you don’t mind shelling out nearly $30 per meal but, to my mind, Home Chef and Hello Fresh offer much better value for money.

Admittedly, even the best and cheapest meal delivery services don’t guarantee all their ingredients will be organic, but they do try to source the best fresh produce, buying organic where they can, and supporting local and sustainable suppliers. You won’t be getting any detox teas or supplements in your Home Chef meal delivery box,  but do you really want them? Given the hammering they’ve been getting in the news recently, there’s little reason to jump on that bandwagon especially if you’re eating healthy, balanced meals from Home Chef. Your body should be quite capable of digesting a nutritious meal without the added assistance of either detox teas or supplements so, by including them in a meal plan, meal delivery services are, in my mind, effectively leaving you out of pocket.

The cheapest meal kit delivery services simply deliver the ingredients you need to create a meal, without any added extras, giving you the best value for money

  • Recipe Requirements

A meal delivery service that requires you to have a fully equipped kitchen containing everything from lemon zesters to banana slicers isn’t ideal if you’ve only got a small galley kitchen with limited storage space. Before you decide on the best meal kit delivery service for you, check out what’s included in the box and what additional items you’ll need to complete your meal preparation.

Home Chef give details of every utensil and additional ingredient you’ll need in their summary of each meal and, for the most part, these are standard kitchen utensils, like non-stick pans, mixing bowls and baking sheets. Plated offer similar insights but sometimes say you require equipment that, in my 40-odd years in a kitchen, I’ve never owned nor needed. I guess meat mallets have their place in the world, but I’ve always found a rolling pin does just as well. Of course, not everyone has rolling pins either, which is wine bottles come in so very handy!

  • Ease of Use

If you started wondering “what is the cheapest meal delivery service?” because you found you really didn’t have the time or energy for grocery shopping, then a meal prep service with a complex and time-consuming ordering process is not going to appeal. Many of the cheapest meal kit delivery services have introduced apps that are compatible with your smartphone, making ordering, canceling and adjusting your meal plan easier than ever.

It goes without saying that you need a meal delivery service that actually operates in your area. Some of the smaller companies don’t deliver nationwide while others may only deliver to a central collection point in your area, meaning you have to go and collect. Similarly, some companies charge for deliveries under a certain value while others may deliver for free. To find out more details about each service and exactly what they offer, check out our full reviews of each of the best meal delivery services.

  • Allergies and Ingredients

If you’ve opted for a vegetarian diet, some of the cheapest home meal delivery services will prove distinctly uninspiring. Similarly, if you want to experiment with a paleo diet for a week or so using a meal delivery service, you’ll need to do your research beforehand (or just read our guide to the best paleo meal delivery plans). While some companies pride themselves on variety, others focus on weight-loss plans or specific diets and you need to take that into consideration before committing.

Similarly, some of the best meal delivery services like Freshly, prepare all their meals in a gluten-free environment making it perfect for someone with a serious gluten intolerance. Others, like Home Chef, don’t and therefore might not be suitable for someone who’s very sensitive to gluten. On a slightly less serious note, some meal delivery services like to incorporate unusual flavors and ingredients into their dishes so if you’re not particularly experimental when it comes to your diet, you need to choose a company that shares your love of the traditional. Plated, for example, tends to appeal to those with a more adventurous palate, whereas Home Chef offers plenty of classic American dishes for the more conservative.

  • Nutrition

Our nutritional needs vary greatly depending on a number of factors, such as lifestyle, age, and gender. The older we get, the fewer calories we require, while those of us stuck at a computer all day naturally burn fewer calories than a yoga instructor, for example. Fortunately, the best and cheapest meal delivery services give detailed information about each meal’s nutritional value so customers can make an informed decision.

Home Chef offer low carb and low-calorie meals which are easily identified by the heart and chef hat graphics shown at the bottom of each meal card. Similarly, Hello Fresh marks selected meals as being “calorie smart” so you know it will be better for your waistline.

For the most part, meal delivery services provide well-balanced, healthy meals that fall into an acceptable spectrum when it comes to carbohydrates and other components. If you need a particularly high-calorie intake each day or have other specific nutritional requirements, you may need to spend a little more time familiarizing yourself with each recipe before ordering.

Home Chef and other leading meal delivery services offer a full spectrum of meals most of which fall on the lean side of the calorie count, making them ideal for those looking to embrace a more healthy lifestyle and give fattening take-outs the slip.

The Best and Cheapest Meal Delivery Services

#1 Home Chef

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Although most of us have to watch our grocery budget pretty carefully, that doesn’t mean we have to compromise on quality, especially with a meal delivery service like Home Chef. Ingredients are sourced from local farmers and producers with strong sustainability practices, giving a little more prestige and “foodie” ranking to the Home Chef menu than, for example, a frozen TV dinner or a tin of ravioli. Similarly, a Home Chef meal will undoubtedly give you a lot more nutrition and pleasure than either of those two options.

Home Chef meals are eminently affordable, with dinners starting at $9.95 per serving and lunches at just $7.95. If you consider that most Americans’ grocery bills amount to around $120 per week, getting seven dinners for just $69.65 is pretty impressive. Obviously, you do still need to cover breakfasts and lunches but these don’t have to cost the earth, especially if you know you’ve got a well-balanced, nutritional evening meal waiting for you at home.

This versatile service allows you to order as many meals as you want which makes it stand out from the crowd who often have a maximum of three or four meals per week. The weekly menu selection includes low-calorie dishes, vegetarian meals as well as meat-based and seafood dishes. After you’ve selected your preferred meals, choose a delivery date and await your meal prep delivery with bated breath. Ingredients arrive packaged according to each meal, with easy-to-follow recipe cards giving step-by=-step instructions on how to prepare the ingredients and create a taste bud-tantalizing experience.

Affordability, versatility and range place Home Chef in the number-one position when it comes to the cheapest meal kit delivery service of 2019.

For more information on Home Chef, read our extensive Home Chef review.

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#2 Hello Fresh

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While the actual cost of Hello Fresh’s cheapest home meal delivery service is less than the Home Chef equivalent, the cost of shipping tends to bump the price rather. Nevertheless, Hello Fresh remains one of the cheapest prepared meal delivery services around, costing around $70 for four meals for two people. When you consider that Hello Fresh’s menu includes slap-up meals such as maple and rosemary-glazed pork chops and Mediterranean salmon, this sounds like quite the bargain… and it is.

Hello Fresh is a simple service to use and its well-designed website makes it easy to place your order, arrange and cancel deliveries as necessary, and even customize dishes to your individual needs. Before ordering, you will be asked to complete a personal taste profile that will give insights into any dietary restrictions or preferences you may have.

To make your selection process even easier, Hello Fresh gives details of the nutritional content of and allergens present in each meal so you opt for what you do like and avoid those components that don’t agree with you.

Although Hello Fresh limits customers to just three meals per week on its vegetarian and family plans and four meals per week on its classic plan, it’s still one of the best and cheapest meal delivery services around. With many people battling to find affordable, good-quality fresh produce in the local supermarket, Hello Fresh is an excellent alternative that will save you time and money while helping you unleash your inner chef and experience a diverse range of exciting and nutritious meals.

For more information on Hello Fresh read our extensive Hello Fresh review.

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#4 Dinnerly

Dinnerly logo 210x100It’s hard for meal kit companies to stand out from the crowd due to the boom of delivery kits at the moment. What is unique about Dinnerly is that it takes just six ingredients for you to create restaurant-worthy dishes for your family. On top of that, it is one of the most affordable meal delivery services on the market with meals costing under $5 each, but there is shipping to be paid at an added fee of $8.99.

Meals take just thirty minutes to prepare and recipes are digitized which is why the price of the meals are so low. You have fourteen recipes to choose from weekly and you can choose to have three, four or five meals delivered for two or four people. There are vegetarian, low calorie, gluten-free and kid-friendly options available.

Whilst there are only dinner dishes available at the moment from Dinnerly, you can count on delicious meals like Tomato Soup, Grass-Fed Beef Burger, Beef and Udon Noodle Stir-Fry and Caprese Ciabattas to satisfy your hunger. The quality of the ingredients is exceptional with free-range chicken and premium lamb cuts as well as organic vegetables on offer.

You can choose which day your meal delivery comes throughout the week and the day before delivery you will get an email notification of your upcoming delivery. The boxes are insulated, complete with ice packs so that your food doesn’t spoil. If you’re not home you can select on the Dinnerly website where you wish your box to be left. The meals are pre-portioned and the boxes are almost completely recyclable making little impact on the environment.

For more information on Dinnerly read our Dinnerly review.

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#5 Freshly

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A little different to the meal kit delivery services we have been looking at, Freshly doesn’t deliver ingredients to your door, but rather complete meals that you just warm up and enjoy. Obviously, this has both pros and cons. If you are looking to build your repertoire in the kitchen, then a service like Home Chef will give you the tools and instructions to do so. If, however, you have neither the time nor the inclination to sit down to half an hour’s meal preparation, then Freshly’s pre-prepared meals are the perfect solution.

Freshly’s meals are carefully portioned to give you the nutrition you need without wastage or overindulgence. You can choose from 30 different meals each week and adapt your menu to suit your dietary preferences and allergies. The Freshly website lists details of each dish, including its allergens, carb and calorie content. Freshly is great for those wanting to adopt a more restrictive diet but don’t have the wherewithal to source ingredients and develop meal plans accordingly. For instance, each week’s range of meals includes several paleo-friendly options, as well as gluten-free and vegetarian.

Free delivery keeps costs to a minimum so, with meals starting at just $8.99 per serving if you opt for 12 servings per week, or $12.50 per serving if you just want four meals, Freshly is surprisingly affordable, especially when compared to take-outs and even some frozen TV dinners. All their meals are prepared in a gluten and nut-free environment, making it ideal for those with serious food allergies.

Flexible and affordable, Freshly is a great alternative for those who really can’t stand the heat and prefer to spend a minimal amount of time in the kitchen each day. Furthermore, if your cooking facilities are limited, Freshly can give you well-rounded nutrition and a cornucopia of flavors without requiring a state-of-the-art cooking facility or, in fact, anything more than a microwave.

For more information on Freshly read our extensive Freshly review.

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#6 EveryPlate

EveryPlate logo 210x100This is by far one of the best inexpensive meal plans around at the moment. There is no going past EveryPlate if you’re after value for money as each dish will set you back just $4.99 per meal. You can choose from two different plans including Dinner for 2 or Dinner for 4. If you are single, you can always opt for the Dinner for 2 plan which will ensure leftovers for the next day.

At your front door, you will receive a box with fresh produce inside as well as three recipe cards each week. The menu changes on a weekly basis and you can also select meals depending on what you like. There is a premium meal, usually containing steak, which is thrown into the mix each week and costs around $3 extra.

There are mouthwatering recipes such as Linguine Carbonara, Cowboy Skillet Pie, Honey-Glazed Chicken with Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Zucchini, and Hoisin Glazed Pork Meatloaf with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans. The premium recipes include Pan-Seared Steak, Chili-Garlic Shrimp, Teriyaki Glazed Steak with Broccoli and Wasabi Mashed Potatoes, and Party Thyme Steak with Garlic Ciabatta and Roasted Green Beans.

EveryPlate delivers pretty much all over the US except for Hawaii and Alaska. The only way you can know for sure if they can deliver to your home is by entering your zip code in the checkout process. Orders are delivered between 8 am and 8 pm on the day of your delivery. If you’re not home during that time, do not worry, your insulated box will make sure nothing spoils.

Remember that there is a shipping fee of $8.99, but even with that added cost, EveryPlate sums up to about half of what you would normally pay with other meal kit delivery services.

For such a cheap meal kit that delivers on their promise of fresh produce there has to be a downfall, and that is the fact that EveryPlate does not cater to those with special dietary needs so if you’re looking for vegan, paleo, keto or vegetarian options, this will not be the right meal kit for you.

For more information on EveryPlate read our extensive EveryPlate review.

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Conclusion

If you’ve never tried a meal delivery service because you were concerned about the expense, it’s time to reevaluate. The best and cheapest meal delivery services source top-quality ingredients which they deliver to your door so it’s little wonder many of us expect them to be way beyond our budgets. Surprisingly enough, however, meals delivered by the likes of Home Chef and Freshly, often work out cheaper than sourcing all the raw ingredients from the local store.

It’s worth bearing in mind that, for most us, a trip to the supermarket involved driving around four miles and parking. With the standard cost of business travel now 54.5 cents per mile, that’s already just over a dollar you’ll have saved ordering from the cheapest meal delivery service. Parking for an hour will usually set you back another few dollars, or even more depending on where you live, making meal delivery services suddenly look a whole lot more affordable.

If you’re not yet convinced this is the way forward, just consider the joy of coming home to a box packed with fresh ingredients all ready for you to conjure up a feast in under 30 minutes. You don’t have to shop, so you’ve suddenly gained another hour or so for yourself, and the temptations of unhealthy take-outs have been diminished by the memory of the Chicken Livorno you ordered from Freshly.

The best and cheapest meal delivery services have a lot more to offer than just their affordability so, even if you’re not yet sold on the idea, why not give it a whirl and see if you can live without it once you’ve given it a trial run? It’s time to think inside the delivery box!