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How many times have you come home after a long day and stared blankly at your refrigerator or pantry, trying to figure out what to eat? Or stopped at the drive-thru for fast food because the thought of coming up with something for dinner was just too much?
You're not alone. For people who'd like the convenience of fast food with the benefits of home cooking, Prepared Meals are the answer. For every imaginable palate and preference, there's a prepared meal service that can help. Several of today's most popular services send you high-quality, often organic ingredients - including fresh produce like shallots and herbs - saving you the hassle of planning your meals and going to the store.
Monday, January 18th
Freshly does it all. Their Prepared Meals consist of fresh, never-frozen ingredients that can be reheated (when needed) in just 3 minutes or less - giving you convenient meals that are also nutritious. Everything shipped by Freshly is gluten- and peanut-free, which is a huge plus for families with those food sensitivities.
Because all deliveries contain fresh food, it's a good idea to keep track of "use by" dates: most of your Prepared Meals should be eaten within 3-4 days of delivery. So, when choosing your plan with Freshly, you'll want to set up a schedule that matches when you'll be eating at home. This provider's delivery calendar depends on your zip code; some places in the US only have options for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday deliveries, so make sure to see what's available in your city, particularly if you're looking for Prepared Meals on weeknights after work.
Even though you won't find any wheat-based items on the menu at Freshly, we doubt you'll miss them. Your menu choices - more than two dozen options each week - include mouth-watering favorites like Shrimp & Andouille Paella and 3-Bean Ancho Turkey Chili. Start by selecting the number of meals you'd like (4, 6, 9, or 12) and then choose from the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that are on the weekly menu. Freshly also gives you the option of using their Meal Planner tool to indicate your dietary preferences, if you'd rather not take the time to choose individual entrees each week. Your "preference profile" will also develop over time as Freshly sees your meal history and tweaks your selections accordingly.
Also, you can choose your meals up to three weeks ahead of time. For those who like to have everything figured out in advance, you can do it with Freshly. You've also got the ability to custom-design your Prepared Meals in other ways. For example, if you need 12 meals in a typical week but your spouse is going out of town, you cut your plan in half for the time that you'll be on your own. Or, if you usually have Thursday delivery but won't be back from vacation until Friday, you can change your normal delivery day as needed (as long as those days of the week are available where you live). Best of all, your Freshly plan can follow you to your work conference, quick getaway, or wherever you may roam: just change your delivery address and you're good to go.
So, how about the cost? Depending on what you order, the average Freshly meal has a per-serving price between $8.99 and $12.50. Every Prepared Meal plan includes free shipping/delivery. Those prices and complimentary shipping make Freshly extremely competitive among meal delivery services.
We were thrilled to see lots of positive comments about Freshly's service. Customers rave about how easy it is to create a plan that works for their needs and schedules, how delicious the entrees are, and how friendly and pleasant Freshly's representatives are when handling any issues that arise.
Freshly offers affordable, convenient, and remarkably allergy-friendly Prepared Meals. They earn our highest recommendation.
Created by Dr. Caroline Cederquist in 2005, bistroMD was developed as a result of her interactions with patients she worked with at her clinic for medical weight loss. Her observations showed that even completely dedicated clients faced challenges when figuring out how to develop healthy eating habits at home. Every Prepared Meal designed for bistroMD is formulated to allow customers to lose weight while resetting their metabolism, through eating foods that contain the proper balance of micronutrients.
You'll find four main menu plans in bistroMD's Prepared Meals: Standard, Diabetic, Gluten-Free, and Menopause. Once you've chosen the plan that's right for you, you'll decide whether you want to have bistroMD entrees 5 or 7 days per week, as well as your preference for breakfast/lunch/dinner or only lunch/dinner on those days. There are also a handful of other menu plans, like Silver Cuisine, Women's Program, and Men's Program; you can find those links at the top of the page, to get more details about the specific nutritional focus of each plan.
Once you've ordered your Prepared Meals, the dietitian team at bistroMD will design a unique plan for your weekly delivery. You'll always be able to see ahead of time which entrees have been chosen for your plan. Find something you don't like in your scheduled shipment? No problem: remove unwanted entrees from your plan and replace them with ones that you like from among the 150 available meals for that week.
There's also no cooking required with bistroMD Prepared Meals: everything delivered by the service is pre-cooked from all-fresh ingredients, frozen in a vacuum-sealed pouch, and then shipped in a container with dry ice right to you. Your tasty-and-healthy meal only requires a few minutes in the microwave to be fully ready to eat.
You won't have to sign a long-term contract when choosing bistroMD. However, a few customers have reported that they were charged for Week 2's deliveries before receiving Week 1, not giving them the opportunity to try the food first. Keep an eye on that, especially if you're not sure how long you'll be using this Prepared Meals service.
Fortunately, bistroMD's satisfaction guarantee promises, "We'll do our best to make it right or refund your money", and most customers report that the business keeps that promise - although some were only offered partial refunds for less-than-perfect deliveries. On the other hand, bistroMD has a good "A" rating with the BBB, and company representatives are very proactive when responding to customer complaints.
One very compelling reason to choose bistroMD for Prepared Meals is their price. When we visited the site most recently, there was a limited-time discount of 25% on the first week of any plan. Promotions aside, bistroMD tends to be the most affordably-priced on the market while still providing high-quality entrees.
See for yourself: the default plan has 7 breakfasts/lunches and 6 dinners ("My Night" is a once-per-week dinner where you're expected to practice your healthy eating habits when cooking for yourself or eating out) and has a regular cost of $179.95. With the 25% savings offer on the first week, those 20 Prepared Meals would only cost $134.96. Competitor services usually cost $9 or more per serving.
bistroMD also gives you access to support through individual and group sessions, dietitian consultations, and weekly wellness emails from their trainers, doctors, nutritionists, and the "resident foodie".
Naturally, bistroMD won't be your go-to Prepared Meals provider if you're looking to spend time in the kitchen learning how to cook new things, or if you're not trying to lose weight. On the other hand, if you really like the idea of having nutritionally-balanced, delicious meals delivered to your doorstep - and weight loss is your goal - bistroMD is a terrific way to help you make that happen.
What's the greatest food on earth? If you said "Plants!", Veestro is going to be your match made in heaven for Prepared Meals.
Over time, Veestro has come a long way with an excellent selection of 100% vegan Prepared Meals. Whether you're trying an all-plant lifestyle on for size or you're fully dedicated to eating vegan, Veestro has you covered. Take a look at some of the options they offer:
Trying to lose weight? Veestro does that too, with options for 3-, 5- and 7-day packages. You'll get about 1,200 calories each day, with prices from $209-$369 each week. Gluten-free packages are also available.
Veestro also offers a Juice Cleanse package, with 100% organic vegetable and fruit juices. Before you decide to order their 3- or 5-day option, it is recommended that you read through their Juice Cleanse Success Plan to make sure that it's a good fit for you and your nutritional goals.
If you're not sure you want to commit to a full package of Prepared Meals, Veestro has a fantastic array of a la carte options. Sort through all of the possibilities by browsing the categories: Breakfast, Soups, Entrees, Desserts, Juice, and What's New - or simply browse All Products to see what catches your eye (and your appetite).
No one will ever tell you that it's cheap to go vegan, but Veestro wants it to be as economical as possible for you to make the leap. They offer a rewards program on every order; earn points that you can use to get discounts on future deliveries. You'll get additional points for referrals and on your birthday, too. And, when you sign up for Veestro's newsletter by providing your email address, you may get a 10% discount on any a la carte Prepared Meals in your next order.
Unfortunately, the cost of delivering your food many not be as affordable, unless you live in California (where all orders under $198 ship for a flat rate of $12). If you live somewhere else, you may want to think large for your order: shipping is free for orders over $199, $19 if your order is $99 to $198, and a hefty $35 if it's less than $99. Veestro's Prepared Meals are usually delivered on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, based on your delivery address.
Veestro's customers are a happy, helpful bunch. Click on any of the available menu options and you'll find not just reviews but also suggestions for modifying recipes to add flavor or make them more filling. We were impressed with the number of entrees that earned 5 stars from customers; two of the most popular are the Chick'N Nuggets and the Breakfast Burrito, if you're looking for a likely winner to start with.
Aside from the spendy delivery fees on smaller orders, there's only one obvious drawback to getting Prepared Meals from Veestro: their menu is strictly limited to vegan recipes. We're big fans of services that meet the needs of customers who often aren't able to buy meals elsewhere - like peanut-free prep facilities for people with nut allergies or diabetic-friendly entrees for those who are managing that condition - especially when those companies create meals that actually taste good too. But, only offering 100% plant-based meals doesn't make them a likely choice for individuals and families who are picky eaters or who want eggs, dairy, or even meat in their meals.
However, if you are vegan - or giving it a try - Veestro is probably the only provider of Prepared Meals that is guaranteed to fit the bill.
Home Chef has one of the longest histories among businesses that provide customers with regular deliveries of fresh ingredients and simple-to-prepare recipes. They deliver over 10 million meals a year, definitely establishing Home Chef as a recognized service in the Prepared Meals marketplace - and with their growing relationship with the Kroger brand of families, you're likely to see even more of this company in the future.
Every delivery comes with fresh, already-portioned ingredients to be used in recipes that are ready for the table in 30 minutes or less. Feel free to browse their available entrees before signing up for the service; you'll find Creamy Parmesan Steak Penne, Wood-Fired BBQ Chicken Pizza, and Korean Fried Chicken among the customer favorites. You will have to enter your email address in order to see your specific choices for Prepared Meals packages.
As you begin that process, keep an eye out for pop-ups; we got an offer of a $30 discount on our first order if we gave them our email address, so you may get a similar promotion. Later, while we were getting our account set up, there was another "flash sale" discount of $10 on a future order.
To get started, you'll need to select how many Prepared Meals you'd like to cook each week, from 3-6. Home Chef is one of the only services that has options for larger families: each of your meals can serve 2, 4, or 6 people, depending on what you choose. Another convenient feature of Home Chef's Prepared Meals is that you can plan your selections as far as five weeks in advance, allowing you to sit down and figure out more than a month's meals in a short time.
Another part of customizing your Prepared Meals is choosing your menu style. Do you like to eat meat? Vegetables? Seafood? You can select any or all of them to be included in the entrees you receive. You'll also be able to specify if you're looking for low-carb or low-calorie options, or if you want certain ingredients to be avoided (like milk, soy, red meat, mushrooms, shellfish, wheat, or pork).
Finally, enter the address where you want your Prepared Meals to be delivered and select the day you prefer. Make sure not to miss that step, because it defaults to Tuesday if you don't choose another day of the week. In our area, available delivery days were Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.
In the past, Home Chef was criticized for not making their cancellation and refund policies abundantly clear - but comparing those policies with their competitors', Home Chef's are very similar. Weekly deliveries can be cancelled or paused anytime, with no long-term contracts. If you're not completely satisfied with their Prepared Meals, you can request a refund or credit. Be aware that if only part of your delivery had a problem - like a bruised apple or wilted basil - Home Chef may issue a replacement or a credit only for that part of your shipment, not for the entire package.
It seems that the Better Business Bureau also thinks that Home Chef is doing a good job in responding to customer complaints: at the time of this review, the BBB still rated Home Chef as an "A+". Looking at customer reviews presents a more mixed picture. Several of the more recent comments mentioned issues with the new delivery service chosen by Home Chef; packages were delivered late or to an incorrect address multiple times. Other customers had problems pausing or canceling the service, still receiving shipments even after submitting the request to put it on hold. Even customers who report being very satisfied with Home Chef sometimes mentioned missing ingredients - even essential ones like fish or chicken, and not just smaller components like cinnamon or garlic salt.
Home Chef continues to be a solid option if you like cooking but want the convenience of having ingredients and recipes delivered to your home. They're especially likely to be your Prepared Meals company of choice if you have a big family and don't want to order two packages just to feed everyone at your table. But, we recommend that you inspect every delivery carefully to make sure that all of your ingredients came in the box, and that you get in touch with Home Chef representatives right away if anything comes up short.
Headquartered in CA, Sun Basket brings you whole grains, "good fats", high-quality protein and nutrient-dense produce in every Prepared Meal they offer. You probably won't even miss the processed ingredients and added sugars that are so common in foods these days, because Sun Basket's entrees are delicious and healthy too.
Like many of the Prepared Meals providers in our review, Sun Basket's deliveries come with fresh ingredients and recipes to follow: no reheat-and-eat entrees here. For that reason, you should plan on having some basic pantry staples available, such as:
Sun Basket keeps it simple when it comes to Prepared Meals: choose between the Family Menu or the Classic Menu. What's the difference? If you've got kids, chances are good that you also have a picky eater in the mix. The Family Menu includes a number of kid-friendly entrees that also invite you to have your child help with the cooking. Even if your child follows a vegetarian diet, Sun Basket has a meal plan for him or her too.
On the other hand, if you prefer a wider variety of flavors, you'll want to consider the Classic Menu. Choices include the following varieties:
In this plan, it's no problem to select entrees across various cuisine types. Maybe you are a pescatarian and your partner has diabetes; feel free to customize your Prepared Meals plan to include recipes that meet both of those preferences.
Sun Basket keeps their pricing simple too. On the Family Menu, servings cost $10.99 each, and you decide if you want 2, 3, or 4 recipes to prepare every week. Each recipe in this plan makes four adult-sized portions. With the Classic Menu, you'll get 3 recipes each week, with your choice of 2 or 4 servings; each serving costs $11.99.
Sun Basket's Prepared Meals all come well-packaged to stay fresh, even if the box sits on your porch for a while. But, the company recommends that you refrigerate your ingredients as soon as they come out of the box (when appropriate). If you've ordered a Prepared Meal with shellfish or seafood, you'll want to eat it within 3 days of delivery, and recipes with mushrooms/delicate greens/poultry/meat should be prepared and eaten within 5 days. Because of those guidelines, Sun Basket doesn't offer delivery in Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, or some areas in New Mexico.
What do customers have to say about the Sun Basket experience? Some clients have enjoyed the Prepared Meals service for years. They've stuck around because almost every recipe has been a success, and Sun Basket reps have been helpful with sending timely replacements for those that didn't go over as well. Given that Sun Basket advertises a 100%, no-questions-asked refund policy, we'd expect that level of service.
However, there were also more than a few complaints from customers who said that getting that refund - or even a replacement or store credit - was not as easy as promised. Plus, some people who tried Sun Basket in addition to other companies offering Prepared Meals said that this service seemed to send recipes with smaller servings while charging higher prices.
Sun Basket gets points for having so many menu options, and for making kids a part of the process. You may need to be proactive in getting help for missing or spoiled ingredients, though, and you should expect that your portion sizes might be smaller than you'd like.
HelloFresh is in the group of Prepared Meals services that caters to customers who like to cook but don't want the hassles of planning or grocery shopping. Every delivery comes with farm-fresh ingredients and step-by-step recipes; spend a little time putting them together and wind up with a healthy, tasty meal.
There are three basic plans offered by HelloFresh: Classic, Veggie, and Family. For the widest variety of meals, you'll be best-suited by the Classic package. It's no surprise that the Veggie plan is ideal for vegetarians, and the Family option tries to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.
Once you've chosen one of the 3 menu plans, you'll choose how many meals you'd like to cook each week, and how many serving sizes you want each recipe to yield. All of the plans can serve either 2 or 4 people, for a total of 2-4 meals per week.
In the past, HelloFresh sent a predetermined set of Prepared Meals to customers - not ideal if you like to have some say in what you eat! Fortunately, their service now allows you to choose from among 15 weekly recipes, all carefully created by their chefs and dietitians. But, if you'd prefer to let HelloChef do the choosing, you can still opt into that too, with meals being selected based on the food preferences you put in your profile.
All of the Prepared Meals included in HelloFresh's plans have an average serving cost of under $10, keeping them competitive with other services. Also comparable with similar companies, HelloFresh doesn't require a long-term commitment, and you can cancel or pause your deliveries whenever you want.
Even though we didn't find a well-defined satisfaction guarantee on their site, HelloFresh makes it clear that they'll help if anything is less-than-awesome with your Prepared Meals. And, it looks like they're making good on that offer, with lots of customer reviews describing a quick response from the customer service department when problems came up.
In general, customers are usually happy with what they get when ordering Prepared Meals from HelloFresh: quality ingredients and a healthy, tasty finished product after spending a little time in the kitchen. Portion sizes are particularly generous, even allowing for some leftovers with some entrees. HelloFresh is a solid choice for Prepared Meals, if you like to cook but want someone else to handle the shopping.
Blue Apron wants "to make incredible home cooking accessible to everyone." With more than 8 million meals prepared by customers each month, this company's farm-fresh ingredients and unique recipes are definitely making that happen.
As you create your account, you'll begin by selecting your dietary preference: omnivore, pescatarian, or vegetarian. Every Prepared Meal will then be selected to fit your choice. You'll also be able to let Blue Apron know if you don't want a specific meat - fish, beef, shellfish, lamb, pork, or poultry - in any of the recipes they send. Also, all of the ingredients you receive will be pre-measured, whether that's paprika or peppers. All meals are best suited for lunch or dinner, so you won't see any recipes geared towards breakfasts, desserts, or side dishes.
Blue Apron keeps your taste buds guessing by never repeating a recipe within a calendar year. Still, if you don't think you'll enjoy a recipe that they've preselected, you can replace it with one you find more palatable. You simply go to the Upcoiming page to view the recipes that you're scheduled to receive. If you decide that you'd rather not receive a certain recipe, you can replace that meal by choosing a different meal preference and selecting a different recipie. You just need to make sure you make all changes before the "Changeable before" date.
You may find a limitation with Blue Apron's serving sizes: 2 or 4 servings per meal. This might leave you with leftovers for a smaller family - or still-hungry people at your table if your family is larger.
On a positive note, Blue Apron has addressed what used to be their most commonly-received complaint: their pricing. Since our last review, Blue Apron has dropped their prices to keep up with the competition:
Sometimes, Blue Apron offers discounts. On our most recent visit, we got a pop-up offer after browsing the site for a while: "Get $50 off your next two orders if you order within the next 30 minutes." While we don't necessarily like that kind of time pressure, we definitely appreciate the savings.
As with most businesses offering Prepared Meals, Blue Apron doesn't require a contract to sign up. You can skip any deliveries you like - maybe you're heading out of town or just want to take a break - and there's no penalty for canceling the service. You can also request a new delivery date at any time.
Blue Apron does a good job of selecting top-notch ingredients and recipes. In our first delivery, we loved the attention to quality: everything we received was high-end, nothing generic or cheap, from the fresh shallots to the canned tomatoes. All of their recipes make the effort to include in-season ingredients, which naturally lead to a better-tasting final product. All of the recipes we got were easy to follow, and every ingredient was clearly labeled (which was helpful for one of our more novice "chefs", who couldn't recognize a few things by sight alone). We liked what we got enough to want to make it a second time!
Blue Apron delivers quality ingredients and good recipes at a competitive price point. If you can live with their selections of serving sizes, this is is a strong prepared meal service worth consideration.
If you want to slim down while still eating food that tastes good, Diet-to-Go could be the best fit. All of the meals prepared by their chef/dietitian team are ready-to-eat and are created "to make losing weight taste great".
Every plan they offer includes free access to a fantastic array of resources, from registered dietitians and nutritionists to certified health coaches who are available to help you set and reach your goals. They also offer an online community of fellow members, giving you programs and resources to keep up your motivation and inspiration while pursuing better health.
Are you thinking that "diet food" can't possibly taste good? Think again: Diet-to-Go's Prepared Meals won a first-place award from Epicurious, a distinction not earned by a number of well-known brands in the weight loss marketplace. Some of their most popular entrees, as rated by their customers, are the Blackened Salmon, Eggplant Parmesan, and Chicken Marsala, if you're looking for some tried-and-true meals to start with.
When creating your plan with Diet-to-Go, you'll choose among four main menus, which have recipes in a five-week rotation. And, if there are meals in your plan that you would rather not receive, you can swap them out for more appealing entrees.
Every Prepared Meals package is priced based on the options you select:
Going through all of the plans, the lowest option seems to be the Balance package for women (or for those who want a limit of 1200 calories/day), with 2 meals per day, 5 days a week. This was priced at $122/week, and an additional $19.98 for shipping. Certain areas in the US - greater LA, Baltimore, NJ, or metro DC - have pick-up options available if you'd like to save money on delivery.
To save a little more, look for discount options; we saved 15% on our first order when we subscribed to Diet-to-Go's email newsletter. You may see this pop up while browsing the site, or look for it as a promotion.
All of your Prepared Meals need to be refrigerated or frozen once you've received them, because they are flash-frozen and shipped in coolers packed with dry ice. If there are any entrees that don't need refrigeration, you'll find them in a separate box included with your delivery. Unless you freeze your meals (for up to 30 days after delivery), expect that they'll have a 7-day shelf life in the refrigerator.
Diet-to-Go is comparable with top-ranked Prepared Meals providers when it comes to customer-friendly policies. There are no long-term commitments. Plans can be placed on hold or cancelled anytime. You can request a credit, refund, or replacement if you're unsatisfied with their service, no questions asked. Customer comments show that the business is doing a great job of responding promptly when any problems come up. We also saw a pleasantly-surprising number of compliments about the food quality: even though all of the meals are prepared by reheating in the microwave, people say that the food keeps its flavor and doesn't get watery.
Diet-to-Go isn't the service of choice for customers who want to spend time in the kitchen, making recipes from delivered boxes of ingredients. It's also not going to be the first-place winner for those who don't want a calorie-restricted diet. But, for people struggling to lose weight that want to enjoy what they eat - and who prefer not to do the cooking - the Prepared Meals from Diet-to-Go will fit the bill.
When it comes to making an impression, Harry & David has your back. Well known for having a gift for every occasion, especially with respect to food, this store sells gift baskets, gourmet treats, and more - ideal for personal or professional presents.
It might surprise you to learn that Harry & David also carries a decent array of delicious entrees, appetizers, and other meal options, with even the most complicated menu items requiring only that you reheat them before serving at your company dinner or family gathering.
Of course, because their focus is not solely on Prepared Meals, Harry & David doesn't carry as many options as other services in our review. Still, you'll find over 3 dozen options from appetizers like an Antipasto Wine Pairing Collection to premium main courses like Surf-and-Turf or Salmon Wellington. Be sure to look at the customer reviews on the items you choose; some of them may not taste as good as they look, according to the comments.
Looking for a best-seller? Search for the Sliced Ham and Turkey. Priced at $64.99, this main course has over 60 reviews and an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
When it comes to customer satisfaction, Harry & David leads the pack. Their commitment to their shoppers means that refunds and replacements are easy to get, if your Prepared Meal is anything less than stellar. Another customer-friendly perk offered by Harry & David is the Celebrations Passport. With an annual membership fee of $29.99, you'll get free shipping for one year - not just at this store, but across several brands like 1-800-Flowers and The Popcorn Factory. Given that you can spend up to $11.99 just to ship one item from Harry & David, that membership would easily pay for itself after a handful of gift-giving occasions or dinner parties.
If you're looking for a healthy, fresh-ingredients meal after a long day at work, or a meal plan to help you lose weight, you won't find it at Harry & David. On the other hand, if a special event is on the horizon and you want to put together an impressive meal - without all the planning, shopping, or work in the kitchen - this is one of the best choices you'll find.
For more than 15 years, Magic Kitchen has made it their goal to offer Prepared Meals for seniors and more. Especially for those who don't have access to pots, pans, or a full kitchen, their flash-frozen, TV dinner-style meals are convenient and come in a variety of menu plans for different dietary needs.
Looking at the options provided by Magic Kitchen under the "Dietary Interest" part of the site, you'll quickly see why this service is so useful for seniors. Menu options include:
No matter which one you choose, each Prepared Meal typically consists of two sides and an entree. Salmon Caponata with Orzo & Spinach, Eggplant Parmigiana with Polenta & Spinach, and Basil Chicken with Rice & Zucchini Saute are some of the more popular entrees on the menu.
You'll find options for purchasing meals a la carte or as part of a package. If you'd like or order individual Prepared Meals, you'll find them categorized by Mains, Soups, Sides, Desserts, and Snacks. Some of those are listed as "family size", so if you need to have a cake big enough for visitors or want to serve a meal to guests from out of town, you'll be able to do all of your shopping in one place.
To get started with Magic Kitchen, you have to reach out to them by phone or email. While that's definitely less convenient than companies that let you sign up for Prepared Meals online, it's part of their process for getting you a customized package that perfectly meets your needs.
What will it cost? That depends on your unique plan, but here's the sample package offered for reference:
Signing up for the Magic Kitchen email newsletter could also be helpful. They give you information about special deals, and when we signed up we also got a 10% discount off our next purchase.
As with most Prepared Meals providers, there are no contracts or commitments with your plan. Deliveries can be shipped automatically on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. And, you can select the individual entrees in your plan or have them selected for you by Magic Kitchen staff according to the dietary parameters you've indicated.
All of your meals are prepared in and shipped from the Magic Kitchen warehouse in Kansas; they come packaged in dry ice in a recyclable, reusable Styrofoam container. Unfortunately, you have to pay at least $18 to $20 in shipping costs; your final cost is determined by the weight of your package and your zip code.
We appreciate the company's satisfaction guarantee. Should any of your meals arrive in bad condition or spoiled in any way, it will be replaced at no extra charge. And, if any of the Prepared Meals aren't 100% delicious, you can either ask that it be replaced in your next order or that you receive a store credit. Magic Kitchen aims for round-the-clock phone coverage for any questions or concerns, with primary business hours of 7:30A-11:30P Central every day.
Now, for the most important question: how do the Prepared Meals actually taste? Customer responses are a mixed bag. For some customers, especially within Magic Kitchen's primary audience (namely, senior citizens needing healthy meals that are simple to prepare), they and their caregivers say that it's been a good fit. But, others not in that particular group have complained that the meals get watery after being reheated, and that the unappetizing photos of the entrees are an accurate representation of how they taste. Plus, given that the meals have an average cost per serving of $12 or more, they're often disappointing for people wanting more than a reheat-and-eat Prepared Meal.
Magic Kitchen is a good resource for seniors and people who have a specific dietary plan to follow, who want the convenience of TV dinner-style meals that are also healthy. But, their Prepared Meals are priced on the higher end of the spectrum, and they're probably not too appealing for younger customers who want fresh ingredients and new recipes to try in the kitchen.
Created in 2003, Personal Chef to Go aims to bring you healthy Prepared Meals that are ready to eat in 3 short microwave minutes - no need to plan menus, spend time at the supermarket, or even slave away in the kitchen.
Over the past few years, though, this provider seems to have reduced the number of available options for delivery. Several years ago, their menus included choices targeted towards individuals, couples, and families. During our most recent ordering experience, however, their Prepared Meals packages were limited to the following:
Doing the math, Personal Chef to Go's cost per serving is much higher than almost every single one of their competitors, at $13.80 to over $15 per meal.
Many customers will be put off by having to enter their email address and zip code to access information about available meal plans and pricing. But, once you've done so, you'll see that your first decision is between the Chef's Choice or Your Choice plans. As you might guess from the names, the Chef's Choice provides you with entrees selected by Personal Chef to Go, while Your Choice gives you the decision-making power according to the meals that fit your preferences in taste. Those are determined by your filter choices; you can ask not to receive any meals that are prepared with tree nuts, dairy, beef, soy, pork, shellfish, fish, or gluten.
The weekly menu consists of a total of 12 options. Depending on the taste preferences you set, your choices could be very limited if you only have a dozen possibilities and you don't want certain ingredients.
The user experience on the Personal Chef to Go site wasn't impressive. The photos for the weekly menu items were unappetizing, and none of the entrees had any customer reviews to give us an idea of how the food tasted. But, we liked that every Prepared Meal showed very detailed nutritional information, from ingredients to calories and sodium content.
All of Personal Chef to Go's Prepared Meals ship on Thursday, with delivery on Thursday or Friday, depending on where you live. Unlike most services, this provider does not allow you to change when your package will arrive. Your meals arrive fresh and are expected to stay unspoiled under refrigeration anywhere from 10 to 12 days.
The most positive aspect of getting your Prepared Meals through this company is that their customers really like them. We didn't find hundreds of reviews to consider, but those we read were almost 100% positive: not only with the food quality but also with the delivery and convenience overall.
But, at the end of the day, you'll pay a higher price for less variety when using Personal Chef to Go. We think you'll probably find a more suitable fit for your wallet and your palate with one of the higher-ranked businesses in our review.
Award-winning recipes and fresh ingredients equal a delicious meal, according to Martha & Marley Spoon. This Prepared Meals service also says that they can help you do that for less than you'd usually pay at the supermarket. But, is that actually the case?
Starting with a database of more than 18,000 Martha Stewart recipes, they're off to a good start. All of their plans include pre-portioned ingredients, including fresh herbs and vegetables, and recipes that can be completed 6 steps at the most.
For your plan, you'll have some choices to make. First, are you serving dinner to 2 people or 3-4? Next, would you like to receive 2, 3, or 4 recipes and ingredients each week? Finally, do you prefer to receive meals that are prepared with strictly vegetarian options?
Once you've made those selections, you'll choose from 10 options in the weekly menu, with entrees like Chili-Lime Shrimp, Warm Tortelloni and Bean Salad, or Steak and Almond Romesco. And, if you like to plan in advance, Martha & Marley Spoon makes their 10-recipe weekly menus available as far out as four weeks ahead of time.
Your Prepared Meals will be delivered according to your geographic area;, in our region, we could choose between Monday and Tuesday. The company promises that your shipments will be usable for a minimum of 4 days after the delivery date; fish is the sole exception and should be cooked within 48 hours of delivery. You'll also need to have some pantry staples on hand, like sugar, salt, oil and eggs.
The moment of truth: does Martha & Marley spoon deliver what they advertise, especially in comparison with competitor providers of Prepared Meals? The answer is "not so much". We encountered so many complaints from customers who said that their orders came days after the promised delivery date - including ice packs that were completely melted, air temperature meats, and damaged shipping containers. The ideal response on the part of the business would be to offer a refund or replacement, or at minimum a store credit.
Unfortunately for them - and for you - there is no satisfaction guarantee or return policy to be found on the Martha & Marley Spoon site. Some customers said that they were offered a discount on a future order, but who'd order again from a company that dropped the ball so significantly the first time? It's good that their representatives were responsive to the complaints we found, but they'd do better to provide a solid, customer-friendly guarantee and return policy - like most of the competition already offer.
As much as we liked the idea of being able to cook like Martha Stewart, this Prepared Meals service just doesn't deliver. With few options to customize plans for dietary needs, late deliveries, and poor customer service policies, Martha & Marley Spoon will probably have you heading to the grocery store - or to a higher-ranked business in our review - for your meals.
Plated takes a slightly different approach to Prepared Meals. Like many services, they send you fresh ingredients and recipes to prepare, but their primary aim is to help you gain confidence in the kitchen by broadening your culinary horizons - and maybe your taste buds, too.
Weekly menu options include dishes like Salmon with Salsa Verde and Steak Gyros. There are also dessert choices, such as Fig Shortcakes and Napoleons. Each recipe can be made in an hour or less.
The main decisions you'll need to make are how many servings you'd like each meal to provide (2, 3, or 4) and how many meals you'd like to prepare each week (again, choosing from 2, 3, or 4). A two-serving, twice a week plan is regularly priced at $47.80. The largest plan, with four servings per meal, four times a week, costs $159.20. When we visited Plated, they were offering a 25% discount promotion on the first week's delivery, for all of their various plan configurations.
This service doesn't come with specific plans for people who want gluten-free entrees or vegan desserts - rather, you choose from 20 recipe options, including main courses and treats, from every weekly menu. However, you are able to customize your subscription in a few ways, like omnivore or seafood lover, so that you're only shown the choices among the 20 that meet those criteria.
Plated offers the most flexible delivery schedule we've found, with deliveries possible every day except Sunday. Your shipment is expected to maintain its refrigeration through midnight on delivery day, so you won't have to rush home to get your ingredients into the fridge.
Unfortunately, Plated also has one of the weakest customer satisfaction policies in the industry. If something is missing from your package, or if you're unhappy for any reason, Plated says that they may, at their sole discretion, issue you a credit. That would be fine if there were no issues with their deliveries, but with a significant number of customers receiving moldy or otherwise spoiled ingredients, the $12 credit that Plated offered them was nowhere near enough. In addition, many customers said that the recipes weren't anything to rave about, and that the ingredients received were commonly available at their local supermarket - not the high-quality items they expected from a premium Prepared Meals service.
Finally, we saw several complaints that referenced Plated's gift cards. In order to use a gift card, the recipient has to provide their own credit card information to the company - which inadvertently left some of them as subscribing customers to a service they didn't want. That isn't a good way to make gift-givers or recipients very happy.
In comparison with the competition, Plated does have a unique approach to delivering Prepared Meals. However, their reputation with their customers doesn't leave a good taste in our mouth - literally or figuratively - especially with such a lackluster approach to returns and refunds. Choose a higher-ranked service to get fresh ingredients and recipes you'll actually enjoy.
Home Bistro specializes in prepared-from-fresh, delivered frozen meals. They offer a decent variety of menus, such as Individual Meals, Chef's Choice, Meal Combos, and SUPERBowls.
All of the Prepared Meals delivered by Home Bistro can either be boiled-in-bag or prepared in the microwave. Either method has your food ready to eat in 10 minutes or less. Some of the entrees created by Home Bistro are Mediterranean Tapenade Salmon, Artichoke-Lemon Steak with Vegetables, and Roasted Harissa Shrimp with Gratin.
What you pay depends on the plan you choose. The Chef's Choice Plan includes 10 meals for $134.99, for instance. Or, you can select the Table for Two collection and get 20 meals for $259.99. Many individual entrees are available; these start at $16.29.
It's not easy to locate, but there is a filter function that allows you to sort through what Home Bistro sells according to your dietary needs, like gluten-free, paleo, or diabetic-friendly. You'll see that dropdown box on the top left part of the screen after you've selected the meal category you want, such as Combos or Individual.
That's not the only thing that's hard to find with Home Bistro. You also won't find a refund policy - because they specifically don't offer one, "due to the nature of shipping perishable meals". Most competitor services enthusiastically promise that they'll replace or refund any ingredients or entire shipments that don't arrive intact and edible. In comparison, Home Bistro says that customers can email them at their support account within 24 hours if their package has any issues. Especially due to the nature of perishable ingredients, Home Bistro has taken an unacceptable approach to customer satisfaction.
In fact, you should expect to be unsatisfied with this service. Almost every single one of their customer reviews include phrases like "disappointing", "poor customer service", and "horrible food". Is it any surprise that Home Bistro says that "all sales are final"?
In checking out Home Bistro's contact information, we discovered that they operate another Prepared Meals service under the name of Dinewise. Unfortunately, that brand has similarly lackluster customer reviews.
Even though they've been selling Prepared Meals for many years, Home Bistro doesn't deliver in any respect: bad-tasting food and zero customer satisfaction efforts are just two of the reasons you'll be choosing another service.
If you have a loved one that needs to start eating a special diet for diabetes or other medical issues, you can choose a prepared meals company that offers ready-to-reheat meals packaged similarly to a TV dinner and that have been carefully created by nutritionists specifically for that condition.
On the other hand, maybe you've been tasked with bringing a mind-blowing main course to an important company function, but your skills in the kitchen are limited to boiling water and burning toast. No problem: just choose a Prepared Meals service that focuses on gourmet-level, special occasion entrees like chicken cordon bleu or even surf-and-turf.
When deciding which company is a good fit for your delivery of Prepared Meals, you'll soon notice that there's a wide variety to choose from. How do you select the one that's best for you? Here are some things to consider as you look at each service:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Prepared Meals Delivery Companies available today. We hope these reviews help you find the right company to deliver the kind of meals you want, directly to your doorstep!
Select any 2 Prepared Meal Companies to compare them head to head
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