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
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.
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
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.
#2 Hello Fresh
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.
#3 Blue Apron
Ever get the feeling that you’re living in a box? Then why would eating out of a box bother you? Blue Apron is another affordable meal prep delivery service that’s been around long enough to prove its worth. Since its launch back in 2012, Blue Apron has dominated the market in terms of providing the cheapest home meal delivery service and has one of the biggest customer bases of any of the meal delivery services.
The secret to Blue Apron’s success was its combination of restaurant-quality meals at affordable prices, as well as the unbeatable convenience of having the component for those taste sensations delivered fresh to your door. According to Blue Apron founder, Matt Salzberg, having found it difficult and time-consuming to find recipes he trusted which contained ingredients he could source locally, he realized others were in a similar situation and decided to provide a solution.
Blue Apron lets you experiment with new cooking techniques while giving you clear instructions on who to prepare each component of your meal. The ingredients are delivered in recyclable containers that keep them fresh on your doorstep so you don’t have to be at home to receive your weekly box of goodies.
Free shipping makes Blue Apron one of the cheapest meal kit delivery services you can find and, while some say their meals aren’t quite as tasty as those created by both Home Chef or Hello Fresh, they’re nonetheless a considerable step up from dry cereal and leftover pizza! What’s more, you can even order a selection of wines to accompany your meals and give you something to sip on as you ponder the difference between julienne and chiffonade.
For more information on Blue Apron read our extensive Blue Apron review.
Putting the emphasis firmly on quality rather than quantity, Plated go to extreme lengths to ensure their customers get the best ingredients available. The pork and poultry are all sourced from farmers that shun the use of antibiotics, while even the ground beef contains no hormones. If eating organically and sustainably is your goal, then Plated is of the best and cheapest meal delivery services you should opt for.
Plated prices are consistent with those of our top choice, starting at $9.95 per serving, which is excellent value for money when you consider the cost of organic and sustainable products in the local supermarket. In addition to being full of good stuff, Plated meals are also imaginative and creative, drawing on a range of global cuisine to develop exciting new flavors and combinations.
If you’re stuck in a bit of a food rut and want to get out, why not give Plated a try? It literally takes just a few moments to browse through the weekly menu and place your order, after which you can enjoy delicious dishes like chicken marsala or turkey-stuffed peppers delivered directly to your door.
As with our other meal delivery services, Plated will provide every component and ingredient you require to conjure up a plate full of delectable delights. In the interests of environmental awareness, Plated’s packaging is all biodegradable or recyclable, while the perfect portions help users cut down on unnecessary food wastage.
For more information on Plated read our extensive Plated review.
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.
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!