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We've all got so many tools at our disposal these days when it comes to mealtime: the traditional drive-thru run on our way home, getting our groceries delivered by Instacart, or even having our favorite take-out brought right to our house by DoorDash or UberEats. But, let's face it: many of those options are unhealthy, expensive, or both. And even with getting our shopping done online and our supermarket hauls delivered, we still have to do the cooking. Ugh!
Fortunately, prepared meal companies can help you eat healthy at the end of a hectic day (or even on the job). These aren't your average grocery store TV dinners, either. Sure, you can opt for frozen meals if you prefer, particularly for longer-term storage, but you've also got the option of having freshly-made, refrigerated meals that only need to be heated for a few minutes in the microwave.
Tuesday, November 29th
Never heard of Top Chef Meals? Let's change that. You'll be impressed by the wide range of prepared meal options here, from traditional recipes like spaghetti and meatballs to kid-friendly entrees like pizza with veggies and a fruit smoothie. Also, in contrast with the majority of the prepared meal companies we know. Top Chef Meals doesn't require you to subscribe or to purchase a minimum (or maximum) number of meals in your order. So, if you're only going to be in town for a few days one week and then home the next, it's no problem to order accordingly.
Customize the menu options
Despite being a smaller company, Top Chef Meals doesn't skimp on menu choices for your prepared meals. Our favorite thing about this service is how it lets customers swap out sides. Do you love salmon but hate that it's almost always paired with broccoli? Not anymore -or not here, at least. Need extra protein or more sauce? You've got it.
Filter for dietary preferences
But, you may love your options exactly as they are: whether you're a vegetarian going for the Three-Bean Vegan Chili or the Spinach and Garlic Ravioli Alfredo, or you're a dedicated meat-lover who wants to sample some more exotic choices like Lamb Kofta Meatballs and Ropa Vieja, you'll never be lacking for possibilities. Feel free to filter the selections to match any other dietary preferences, like low sodium, dairy- or gluten-free, and so on.
Get started with a sample package
One of the best ways to get to know Top Chef Meals is by ordering a "Get Started" package. Options include the 10-meal Comfort Foods menu, the 10 most popular meals, or simply select four entrees you'd like to try. Even when you choose one of the 10-meal packages, you can remove any of them that don't appeal to you and double up on another one of the ten that you prefer. See what we mean about you being in the proverbial driver's seat here?
Shipping fees determined by your location
The closer you are to Top Chef Meals' New York location, the more options you have for delivery of your prepared meals. If you're in the NYC area, you can actually get free courier delivery when you buy 10+ entrees. For most customers who are east of the Mississippi, orders will get free 1- or 2-day shipping. Everyone else? Sorry, but you'll usually pay $19.95 for Priority Overnight. You can click on the Shipping link found at the top of the website to get a preliminary idea of the costs in your area.
Small but mighty
Top Chef Meals (and its parent company, The Crystal Spoon) have a small enough footprint that we couldn't even find a listing for them with the Better Business Bureau. But, never fear, there are over 3700 five-star ratings from TCM's happy customers in other places. In fact, they would rate this prepared meal company as "excellent" or "great" about 90% of the time. Time and again, people say that the meals are really flavorful and include top quality ingredients, they praise the ability to customize their meals, and they're thrilled with the consistent nature of the customer service here.
#1 choice for prepared meals
We're really excited to put Top Chef Meals out there as our first-place winner among companies offering prepared meals. We think most customers aren't even aware that they can get ready-made meals made to their specifications without breaking the bank - and that actually taste great. For practically any dietary preference or lifestyle, Top Chef Meals should be at the top of the list.
Sunbasket's mission "to empower people to live their healthiest lives, starting with what's on their forks" is evident in the way they work with fishermen, ranchers and farmers directly - to promote taking good care of our planet's resources. You'll find 100% organic produce in almost every prepared meal here, and your packages will come in recyclable or compostable packaging as often as possible.
Prepared meals - with recipe kits if you want them too
Most of the prepared meal companies we evaluated specialize just in that type of service. With Sunbasket, you'll typically have about 13 ready-made meal options to choose from in each week's menu. But, should you feel like taking a break from heat-and-eat and venturing (back) into the kitchen, you can add meal kits to your order anytime. Because those kits are more prevalent in Sunbasket's selection, you'll want to make sure you select "Fresh & Ready" when shopping here, so that you can see the prepared meals first in the list of options. You can also click on the "<20 minutes" filter to get the same result.
Fresh-not-frozen, ready in a few minutes
All of the prepared meals offered by Sunbasket come in a compostable tray that's safe to heat in either the microwave or the oven, ready in just a few minutes when you choose the first heating option.
Flavorful menu choices
Try not to drool as you look through the menu possibilities for Sunbasket's prepared meals. How about Turkey Chili Mac with Cheddar, Chicken Cacciatore with Olives and Mushrooms, or Swedish Meatballs with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Lingonberry Sauce? We'll point out that vegetarian options aren't as plentiful here, when you limit yourself to just the prepared meals and don't include the meal kits as well. By the way, don't forget to use the arrows at the top to switch between menus, to see what's coming up in the future.
Prepared meals serve one person
Another difference to be aware of is that Sunbasket's meal kits always serve at least two people, while Fresh & Ready selections are just for one. Fortunately, that's reflected in the pricing, with prepared meals coming in under $10.
Look for discounts
You might be able to snag some savings, depending on what promotions are available at the time of your visit. We recently got an offer at the top of the site to save a total of $90, spread out across four deliveries, as well as free shipping and a free gift. All we had to do was click to activate it, and the savings were applied directly to our cart.
Be sure to swap your meals - if you want
Sunbasket doesn't automatically select your meals for you, but they don't swap them for new ones either. When you enter the prepared meals you want, you're subscribed to those specific recipes (and some might not be available the following week). Make sure you go in and choose new ones for each week, or double-check that the ones you want to get on the regular are still offered.
Check out the extras
You may not always feel like eating a ready-made meal, right? Sunbasket has quite a few a la carte extras you can tack on to your order. You'll find them under the Menu heading. Maybe you'd like some yogurt, a loaf of bread for some toast, or a handy smoothie you can throw in your bag in the morning? This feature is like having your favorite organic grocery store just a click away.
Excellent reputation for quality and service
The Better Business Bureau has good things to say about Sunbasket, awarding an "A-" rating for only having 14 complaints over the most recent three-year period. Outside of the BBB's listing, we found so many compliments from this company's customers, many of whom have been loyal subscribers for years and say that no other service has prepared meals (or meal kits) that can hold a candle to Sunbasket's. People praise the flavor and quality of the food, the company's commitment to the environment, and the friendly service received from support reps when needed.
Top pick for prepared meals
Although the selection of prepared meals offered by Sunbasket is smaller than some of their rivals, their reputation earns them our recommendation. We really like the flexibility of being able to choose among ready-made meals and recipe kits whenever we want, and we're impressed with the way we've seen Sunbasket's customer service team treat their clients. Who knew prepared meals could be so healthy and delicious? Sunbasket comes up shy of our first-place ranking only because their selection is on the small side.
It should be easy to eat well, and Fresh N' Lean's prepared meals can help you do that. Everything they deliver comes fresh (not surprising, given the company's name), made with free-range, certified-humane animal proteins and organic, non-GMO ingredients. You should refrigerate all of your deliveries within 24 hours of arrival: eat them by the best-by date (usually up to 10 days later) or freeze for use within six weeks.
Expanded menu selections
We were really pleased to see how much Fresh N' Lean has added to the menu since our last evaluation. Plan selections now include Bulk, Mediterranean, Keto, Paleo, Protein +, Whole30-Approved, Standard Vegan, and Low-Carb Vegan. You can choose between a weekly meal plan subscription or placing a la carte orders; you'll save money when using a preselected plan, but that also means your meals will be chosen for you.
Tell them what you want
If you're opting for one of the meal plans, you'll specify if you'd like breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. You can also indicate up to three ingredients you'd prefer to avoid in your prepared meals, along with any food allergies. Finally, Fresh N' Lean lets you add snacks or a la carte meals on any order. You don't have to worry about gluten here, because every prepared meal is gluten-free, and everything but the Keto menu is also dairy-free.
See what's coming for the week ahead
When you click on the Menu option, you can select a plan that interests you (like vegan or Whole30) and preview the week's meals. Satisfy your curiosity about the ingredients list, double-check the nutrition facts, or see the heating instructions while you're at it.
Not just the continental US
We were surprised to see that Fresh N' Lean is available in all 50 states, not just the lower 48. As you complete all of the information for your order, your cart will update with a guaranteed deliver-by date: you don't get to choose it. We went to make our purchase on a Friday and our given delivery day was a little over a week later on Saturday. However, right below that, it said that we could reach out via phone or email to request an earlier delivery date if needed, and that the company would do its best to accommodate us.
You could save a little
Fresh N' Lean popped up an offer of a $20 discount if we gave them our email address. Compared with some rivals who gave us savings offers of $100 or more, we weren't very impressed here. But, a little bit of a discount is better than none at all, right?
Customers love this service
Starting with an "A+" rating and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau, this company has no problems demonstrating that it's one you can count on. More than 2,000 customers have also given Fresh N' Lean a perfect five-star rating, complimenting the consistent flavor and quality of the prepared meals. Another big plus is that the customer service team here is really on the ball: we could see by their responses across a handful of complaints that they were professional, friendly and apologetic when the occasional issues occurred. Unlike some companies we reviewed that try to avoid taking responsibility, everything we saw from FNL's reps was an enthusiastic "we'll make this right" even if it was a full refund or replacement. Also, their team is available seven days a week (7a-7p PST) with "support gurus and dietitians" at the ready if you've got a question or concern.
A well-deserved bump in the rankings
We're so pleased with the ways Fresh N' Lean has improved its prepared meal service. More customers than ever will find what they need here, and there's never a concern about getting the support that they need. The only thing keeping this company from moving higher is the inability for customers to choose specific entrees while subscribed to a meal plan. But, if you tend to have a pretty well-rounded appetite, that may not even be an issue for you. In that case, we'd definitely say to give Fresh N' Lean a try.
Magic Kitchen specializes in prepared meals for seniors and those with particular dietary needs. There's a wide range of choices here: buy complete meals or purchase mains and sides separately, as you prefer. Every meal comes frozen and just requires reheating in the microwave or oven, though some entrees and sides should be reheated on the stove.
Plenty of choices for your special diet
People with dietary restrictions often have a hard time finding decent prepared meals. Magic Kitchen's got your back. Under the Dietary Interest section, you'll see the list of everything that's covered here, from diabetic- and dialysis-friendly, gluten- and dairy-free, and lots of "lows" (like low-fat, low-carb, and low-sodium).
Want to take a trial run?
A great way for giving Magic Kitchen a try is to start with a sample pack. There are four different 15-meal kits you can choose: two for general diet, one for renal, one for dialysis, all for $120 each (and free shipping). Recipes might include Beef Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Carrots, Cheese Omelet with Peppers/Onions/Potatoes and Diced Pears on the side, and so on. Each trial pack shows you what's included, but you can't swap anything out on these pre-selected groupings.
Subscribe or order on demand
You'll never have to commit to a subscription here. Order as much as you want, as often as you want, no problem. On the other hand, if you decide you love these prepared meals and want to simplify your life and save some money, choose Magic Kitchen's Flex Subscription. The more you order and the longer you stay on the plan, the bigger the savings. For instance, an order of $200/month for three months gets you a modest 4% discount and free shipping. Jump up to an order of $400+ for nine months, and your discount jumps to 12%. (And your shipping is still free.)
Even more ways to save
Magic Kitchen keeps the savings coming, even without a Flex plan. We got a 20% discount that popped up the last time we browsed the site, and all we had to do was click on it to apply the savings to our cart (no email address - and subsequent email newsletters - required). Plus, the Magic Moola rewards program is free to join: why not earn points on the purchases you're already making, and cash them out for discounts on future orders?
Food quality and customer service are first-rate
The Better Business Bureau awards Magic Kitchen its highest accolades: an "A+" rating and accreditation. We were impressed to see that no complaints about this company were filed with the BBB in the last three years. Going beyond that, we spotted 2,300+ reviews from customers who said that this prepared meal company deserves a perfect score. It's one of the best options for meeting special dietary needs in a way that's healthy and convenient, and people describe the customer service as excellent. One customer used this service in a way we'd recommend too: as a sympathy gift for someone whose loved one had died, to make it easier after the loss by having meals on hand for whenever.
Nothing exotic here
It's probably not surprising that these prepared meals aren't going to be your pick if you're looking for amazing new foods to try, or recipes that are super-spicy. Magic Kitchen stays in its lane with reliable meals for seniors and specific diets, so that's not really a criticism. But, it's our main reason for not putting this company higher in our rankings: it's just not for everyone.
Best choice for specific needs
We're thrilled to give Magic Kitchen a very strong recommendation for any customer who needs prepared meals that meet certain criteria - namely, meals that will appeal to seniors or that can fit the requirements of certain dietary restrictions. There's nothing wrong with choosing a niche and doing it well, and Magic Kitchen does. Look elsewhere if you're a foodie looking for the convenience of prepared meals with the thrill of something new every night, though.
Freshly packs a lot into their prepared meals so that you can have a hassle-free, healthy dining experience. Their recipes use "simple swaps and sneaky veggies" to boost the nutritional content, lower sugar than a typical meal, and use less-processed ingredients overall. Everything on the menu is gluten-free, but previous Freshly customers should take note that this is no longer a peanut-free service.
3-5 days in the fridge - or put in the freezer
All of your Freshly entrees will arrive fresh, not frozen. Expect them to keep in your refrigerator for 3-5 days; any items that may spoil quickly (and that you should eat sooner rather than later) have a badge on the package as an indicator. Not planning on eating everything that fast? No worries: just stick the containers in the freezer, then add a few minutes to the cooking time (and don't thaw first).
Lots of flexibility in delivery choices
Once you've entered your email address and zip code, Freshly will show you all of the available delivery days in your area. For us, that included Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and we were able to get our first box as quickly as five days from when we placed the order. You can select a future date almost three weeks in advance, if that helps you avoid a time you'll be out of town or get meals ready to go for a busy period in your life.
Order requirements: minimum of 4, maximum of 12
Getting prepared meals here is a little different. You don't have to try and figure out how many servings and how many nights you want them, in order to set up your orders. Instead, you'll choose anywhere from 4-12 entrees in single-serving packages, all with a starting price of $8.99. That's a great perk for one-person households that really don't want leftovers. The more you buy, the bigger the automatic discount: anywhere from $10.80 on six meals, up to $33.60 on an order of 12. We don't think it's smart for Freshly to allow a maximum of 12 meals - what if you'd like lunches and dinners for a whole week? -but it may have to do with shipping efficiency and not Freshly being restrictive just because.
Up to 45 meals to choose from
If you're a foodie who enjoys browsing interesting meal choices, you've got almost four dozen options in every weekly Freshly menu. Or, save yourself a bit of time and apply the sort and filter options to narrow that down: plant based? Carb-conscious? Dairy-free? Take a look and see which parameters will help you get the prepared meals you want. And, don't forget to use the arrows to scroll to other weeks, if you'd like to get an idea of which entrees might be available regularly vs. which are limited time only.
Customer feedback is puzzling
Freshly's reputation varies widely depending on where you look. The Better Business Bureau dropped this company's rating to an "F" for not responding to nearly a dozen complaints. It bothers us to see people taking the time to file a concern, then updating a month later to say that they still got no response from Freshly. On the other hand, issues brought up outside of the BBB seem to get an appropriate answer every single time - not to mention the 10,000+ five-star reviews from happy customers across the globe. The long and the short seems to be this: Freshly has no excuse (that we're aware of) for leaving the BBB folks in the lurch, but they're definitely present and accounted for elsewhere - and that stops this formerly high-ranking prepared meal company from dropping to the lowest spot in our evaluation.
Could definitely meet a need
It's easy to see how Freshly would be the perfect prepared meal choice for some customers. Stock your fridge and your freezer, have healthy entrees on hand, choose just the recipes that appeal to you. We're still not enamored of Freshly's failure to respond to those BBB complaints, but you could still give Freshly a try and see how it works for you.
Chef Gene and Chef Blair are the driving force behind Personal Chef To Go. Their accolades and experience include the Virginia State Championship Competition and working at The Mirage in Vegas. If you like supporting small businesses over big corporations, this prepared meal company should get your consideration.
No commitment needed - but it'll save you money
Let's be honest: not everyone wants to make a commitment to a meal plan before they actually try the food for the first time. Right? Personal Chef To Go understands this, and they let customers buy meals in sets of 5, 10, 15 or 20 whenever they like: weekly, monthly, once a year, you get the idea. It puts your per-serving price at $13.50, but you can always subscribe to an every-week or every-other-week plan later if you like what you get and want to save money (going down to $10.50 per serving). By the way, you'll also pay a fee of $6.95 for "eco friendly packaging" : a shipping fee under another name, that's all.
Limited choices the more you order
One tricky aspect of getting prepared meals from Personal Chef To Go is the menu selection. 24 choices sounds pretty broad - and when you're only ordering five entrees, it is. But, if you're jumping up to a 20-meal package, that only leaves four for you to leave aside. Otherwise, you'll have to double up on a few of your favorites - which is fine too. Also, there are no breakfasts here, so if you're choosing 20 meals to cover a week, that's a lot of savory foods first thing in the day.
Where are the details?
We were a little frustrated by the lack of information about each prepared meal here. Nutritional info? Ingredients? Included sides? All you get in advance is a photo. Does the Omega-Rich Pecan Salmon come with the lemon slice in the photo, or was that just for the presentation? Is that rice but no veggies in the background of the Saute Chinese Beef? Every meal has that labeled on the package itself, but lots of customers expect to have that information beforehand. This is especially important for people with food sensitivities (or who hate things like edamame or brussels sprouts and avoid them at all costs).
Not many prepared meals for vegetarians
Many prepared meal companies make it a point to include ample entrees for vegetarians. With Personal Chef To Go, you can check the boxes to exclude pork, shellfish, fin fish, or beef (as well as soy, gluten, dairy, and tree nuts, if needed). That's nice, but from what we could see, that only left the Veggie Pasta Bake as an option.
Few reviews but good reputation
All issues aside, this is a reliable company. The Better Business Bureau has received zero complaints about Personal Chef To Go and gives them an "A+" rating. There isn't a ton of customer feedback to mention, but across 100 or so reviews (both on the PCTG site and in other places), almost all of them are four or five stars. People say these prepared meals are tasty and fresh, and they love that the menu changes over the weeks while still leaving plenty of tried-and-true favorites.
A decent option with room for improvement
We enjoy lending our support to small businesses, and Personal Chef To Go has a long-enough history and clientele to reach the middle of our rankings. We'd like to see them make some changes to be on par with other prepared meal providers, especially by providing information about ingredients and nutrition, giving greater meal choices to vegetarians, and expanding the menu to include traditional breakfast foods. We don't think there's any reason to avoid getting prepared meals from Personal Chef To Go, but there's a good chance you'll find higher-ranking options more appealing.
There are lots of people trying to use food to support their health and fitness. Factor's prepared meals are along those lines, with menus that include Vegan and Veggie recipes, Keto, Protein Plus, and other nutritionally-balanced options. Each meal comes fresh, not frozen, and should last under refrigeration until your next box (approximately seven days). And, there's no complicated heating instructions: a few minutes in the microwave (or a few more in the oven, if you like) and it's ready to eat.
See what's on the menu for the next two weeks
Want to know what Factor's got for you? Click on the Current Menu tab and take a look. Each week has about 30 "healthy, restaurant-quality" choices. Some of their most popular recipes include:
You can't filter for allergens here, so be sure to check out all of the nutritional info and ingredient lists if there's something you need to avoid (or that you just don't like).
Can be spendy without a discount
Factor's per-serving price is usually about $11 to $15. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to get a discount on your first few purchases here. Initially, a pop-up told us we could get $120 off for entering our email address. That sounded incredible - until we got further into the order process and found out that the savings would be spread out over our first five shipments. However, that offer was updated later to give us $241 off those same five boxes - as long as we completed the purchase in 30 minutes. We're not huge fans of the time-pressure marketing tactic, but whatever.
Your preferences can help you get set up
Ready to try Factor? The first step is to choose a menu preference: Chef's Choice, Keto, Vegan & Veggie, Calorie Smart, or Protein Plus. Those recipes will show up first in your selection list, but you'll always be able to see the other meals too. Then, set how many meals you want each week: 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, or 18. You'll make specific choices after you've paid for the first order.
Watch out for the automatic renewal
Notice the fine print when you click on the "place order and select meals" button. See how it says that you're signing up for a weekly auto-renewal, either at the current regular price or with the discount you might have gotten earlier? Yes, you can cancel (or skip) anytime, but it has to be at least five days before your next scheduled delivery.
Get some variety with add-ons
It wasn't something we noticed right away, but Factor also has a selection of a la cart extras you can use to round out your eating. Who doesn't need the occasional treat, a savory snack, or a smoothie for those busy mornings?
Need some guidance?
This prepared meal company goes a step further by giving you a complimentary 20-minute consultation with a dietitian. Sign up for this online session anytime. Factor also offers to connect you with a 1- or 3-month nutritional coaching program (paid) that comes with food and lifestyle journals, several consultations, unlimited messaging for additional support, and complimentary nutrition courses.
Solid BBB rating
Factor's reputation starts out strong, with an "A-" from the Better Business Bureau. There were 36 complaints registered there in the three years leading up to this evaluation. That's not a huge number, but the majority of them came from the most recent one-year period.
Recent feedback is almost always poor
Unfortunately, that trend continued when we looked at comments from Factor customers elsewhere. Yes, there were more than 15,000 five-star reviews since 2011, but almost all of the ones left in recent months said the prepared meal company was "poor" or "bad" . And, it's not about the food itself: the problems seem to be consistently related to delivery and the customer support response. When people's food doesn't arrive when promised, and they have to go to the store to feed themselves (or their family), they're going to be unhappy - and the best customer service response is usually "we're so sorry, let's fix that" . However, Factor's "fix" tends to be a $5 credit - on a $15 meal that got spoiled by a leaky gel pack or a delivery so delayed that the food wasn't even cold anymore? That's not going to lead to happy campers.
We're all about healthy meals for healthy lifestyles, and we really want to like Factor. While acknowledging the company's numerous five-star reviews, we still caution prospective customers to look at other services because of the more recent reviews. You could keep Factor in mind if you're not able to find the prepared meal types you need with another company, but we wouldn't make this our first choice.
With a name like Diet To Go, it's no surprise that this company's prepared meals are centered on weight loss. In business for over 30 years, Diet To Go wants to make it as easy as possible for you to eat healthy, with nutritionally-balanced entrees that come frozen and can be eaten whenever you need them.
What does it cost, exactly?
Diet To Go isn't really what we'd call straightforward with respect to pricing. Yes, we got some pop-up discounts: 50% off our order if we gave them an email address and an extra 5% if we included a mobile number and consented to marketing texts. Those offers didn't give us any savings on the regularly-priced shipping fees of $19.98/order, though. And, we were well into the sign-up process before Diet To Go gave us an inkling that we'd be paying $200/week or more on our prepared meals.
When you start the process of ordering prepared meals here, you're asked for your age, gender, activity level, height and weight. That seems to be for the purpose of calculating your BMI: we were briefly given a page that displayed that information (though it looked incorrect), but then it disappeared without a trace or an explanation anywhere else.
Set your meal preference
Once you've verified via zip code that Diet To Go serves your area, you'll choose a meal plan. These include Balance (no pork or red meat), Balance-D (the option for diabetics), Vegetarian, or Keto-Carb30 (30 net carbs daily). The Balance and Keto menus ask you to indicate if you'd prefer original or "no seafood" entrees. Next, choose either the men's or women's plan, depending on how many total calories you want each day (1200/women, 1600 or less/men). Last, you set whether you want meals for five or seven days per week, and if they should include just lunch and dinner or breakfast as well.
Swap out any meals you don't like
Once you've finalized your choices and paid for your first week, you'll customize your plan. All of the prepared meals go through a five-week rotation, which you can preview on the Diet To Go site before you make a commitment (whew). If you get any selections you don't like, it's no problem to swap them with other options in that week's menu. That can be done online or on the app through Diet To Go's menu management feature.
Hard to find recent, positive customer reviews
It's fantastic that the Better Business Bureau still offers an "A+" rating for Diet To Go, and that only one complaint was filed there in the past three-year period. That listing is found under DTG's parent company, New Century Food Corp. So why are there many more negative reviews elsewhere? We found references to low-quality packaging, disappointing food, and struggles to get help from the customer service team with such problems. Positive or negative, most comments were from several years ago and not recent at all. Maybe that's why the BBB grade is so high.
Not a satisfying way to lose weight
We're not convinced that Diet To Go is a great way to shed some pounds. There are so many weight loss strategies out there, and portion control is one of them - but that doesn't mean you have to settle for poor quality food (and maybe even worse customer service) to do that. TV dinners from the grocery store can do that, and for a lot less money. We don't think Diet To Go is a prepared meal company you'll like.
Trying to lose weight? That's what bistroMD's prepared meals are about. Design a plan customized to your needs, get meals for weekdays only, or go full-on with 20 meals (and one dinner on your own) every week, because the choice is yours.
Which menu and how many meals?
There are several selections you need to make for your bistroMD prepared meals. Do you want a menu that's heart-healthy, diabetic-friendly, keto-focused, gluten-free, or that offers menopause support? Also, would you like all of your weekday meals covered and freedom on the weekends, or just leave a single weekend meal for your own choice? Depending on all of these selections, you can expect a minimum per-meal cost of $8.24.
Man or woman?
While creating a bistroMD account, you're asked to indicate if you're male or female. They don't provide any explanation as to why, though we'd guess it's for total caloric purposes. Still, in this day and age, there should be a reason - especially out of consideration for those who may prefer to say "none of the above" and need to know the effect of clicking one button or the other.
Snacks are optional
Also during the signup process, you get the offer of including two snacks a day for an additional cost. We weren't impressed by the heavily-processed chips and granola bars; most nutritionists would recommend whole foods like carrots or apples, but we guess these would do in a pinch.
Need to make any changes?
After you've paid for your first week of prepared meals, you'll see which ones were selected for your plan. If you see any that just aren't appetizing, you can swap them with ones you prefer. Vegetarians will have to take the extra step of reaching out to bistroMD's customer service department to have beef, pork, and chicken entrees manually removed prior to shipment. Be aware that if you're a vegan you're more or less out of luck here unless you want to eat the same thing for almost every single meal.
Spendy on the shipping, and no choice of delivery date
If you're still convinced that bistroMD is the way to go, sign up for their email list to get a 25% savings on your first order. That includes free shipping, which is usually $19.95 per delivery. By the way, you don't get to pick when your prepared meals arrive: they get there when they get there, because we all love not knowing when the food we are counting on is going to be delivered...
Steep reputation drop
Which is more surprising to you: that bistroMD's rating from the Better Business Bureau is currently an "F" , or that it was an "A" the last time we evaluated them? The drop from the BBB comes from bistroMD's lack of response to three of the 13 complaints filed there, which in all honesty is not a big deal (you'll see other meal delivery companies with hundreds). However, customer reviews beyond the BBB tell a story of disappointment too: a full 30% of ratings call this service "average" , "poor" , or "bad" , saying that their meals were "bland, watery and slimy" and that they tasted very much like "cheap hospital food" . Hardly a ringing endorsement for these prepared meals. Might be a great way to lose weight after all, if you can't even stand to eat.
Wrong approach to customer service
In addition to the poor food quality, people frequently mentioned issues with bistroMD's customer service. When a company ships the wrong product (like a meal that should have been swapped or from a different menu category), the response should be along the lines of "we'll replace that right away" , "sorry for the inconvenience" , and "can we make it up to you?" That's not what customers seem to get, with support reps trying to lay the blame on the client. Pass.
A big disappointment
We struggle to find a single reason to buy prepared meals from bistroMD. You've got so many options for weight loss that don't require you to choke down disgusting food and be treated rudely by a customer service rep. We wish you bon appetit - somewhere else.
A restaurant-quality meal you can microwave? That's the idea behind Home Bistro's prepared meals, which in recent years have expanded to include recipes by Ayesha Curry, Cat Cora, Richard Blais, and other top chefs. Heat them in the microwave for two minutes or 12-14 minutes in the oven and you're good to go.
Strange site issues
We were glad to get a pop-up discount as we browsed the Home Bistro site, giving us 10^% off on our first order if we provided our email address. At the top of the page, we initially saw a promo sale of $15 meals storewide and $20 for shipping - but the date on the sale was three days earlier (and thus shouldn't have been visible). Then, after we were shopping for a while, the promo switched to announce that all Home Bistro meals were now priced at $19, all the time. It didn't really give us much confidence in the professional nature of this prepared meal provider.
Not an intuitive customer experience
That impression continued as we tried to sign up to order meals here. There's not a lot of direction offered to help you know how to shop. Should you start with a chef? What if you don't know any of them? What's the difference between a SUPERBowl and Chef's Choice? Even when you choose one of those (maybe at random?), you're not given any options for sorting them by ingredients (like allergens you can't have), preferences for meat vs. seafood vs. vegetarian, and so on.
Best Sellers package is an easy starting point
One way to avoid all the confusion and just get started with Home Bistro's prepared meals is by choosing the Best Sellers package of 10 meals for $166. This gets you one serving each of the following:
Click on any meal to read the nutrition facts and ingredients list, check the heating instructions, or see any available customer comments on the meal.
A la carte is also an option
If you'd rather just try a few meals at a time, Home Bistro lets you buy them a la carte. You'll pay more that way, but if the new banner was accurate, it'll never be more than $19. As we went to check out, we were also invited to add desserts to our order at a 10% discount.
Shipping is expensive and depends on your order
You won't know how much you're paying for shipping until you go to check out - and it's not likely to be cheap. For that 10-meal sampler we described earlier, we were quoted a delivery fee of $24.89 for Priority Overnight via FedEx. Your costs may be different.
What do customers really think?
If you look just at the "verified buyer" ratings on Home Bistro's website, they're all four- and five-star scores. Hmmm, filtered, maybe? Who knows, maybe that switch to celebrity recipes really has boosted the food quality of these prepared meals? We had a hard time finding any recent comments outside of the HB site, however. The BBB lists Home Bistro as out of business, and its parent company DineWise is simply listed as "Not Rated" .
Is "all sales final" how you really want to go?
Up until this point, we might have still given Home Bistro a tentative recommendation. But, since their approach to customer satisfaction is still "all sales are final" , we just can't. Yes, you can add "Route package protection" to your purchase, but most reputable companies will automatically help you if your order is lost, damaged or stolen en route. Why should you have to pay extra for that? We're equally unimpressed that Home Bistro tells you that you only have 24 hours from the delivery date to report a problem. What if you go to eat a meal two days later and find that it's spoiled? "All sales final" ? That's a huge negative compared with rival providers of prepared meals who want you to feel like your business matters - and who work with you until you're satisfied when there's an issue.
Difficult to reach Home Bistro support
And, to top it off, you're going to have to hope that your message to Home Bistro through Facebook, Instagram, or the online form on their website actually gets somewhere - because they don't provide a customer service phone number. Good luck if you have a serious food safety issue. You can always try the contact email that's somewhat hidden in Home Bistro's FAQ, but...
Avoid these prepared meals
It should be obvious why Home Bistro is our lowest-ranked provider of prepared meals. They're one of the most expensive companies we evaluated, and they don't offer the customer reassurance and support we'd expect for a $19 meal. Don't waste your time or money here.
Prepared meals are especially useful if you're trying to follow a special diet. Getting used to "going keto" , managing diabetes-friendly foods, or knowing what to eat on a renal diet can be frustrating and time-consuming. When you choose a prepared meal company, it relieves some of that burden from your shoulders - until you feel confident doing it on your own, or for as long as you like.
Some customers order prepared meals to help out in a time of need. For families of seniors who are struggling to get adequate nutrition - because they can't get to the store, their mobility or cognition is impaired, or they've got other challenges - these services offer them the peace of mind that their loved ones are consistently getting meals that are well-balanced and easy to prepare.
How does it work? Many companies require you to sign up for a recurring subscription: you choose the number of meals per week and the servings per meal, and they'll be delivered regularly unless you pause the plan, skip a particular delivery, or cancel the service. Others allow you to place orders as needed, but you'll often pay a higher per-serving cost for a la carte prepared meals.
Not sure which provider to pick? Don't worry. Here are a several criteria you can use to narrow down the options for prepared meals:
TopConsumerReviews.com has made it easier for you to find the right prepared meal company for your needs, by evaluating and ranking today's most popular services. We hope that this information will help you spot the perfect menu and take advantage of this fantastic time-saver. Let's eat!
Select any 2 Prepared Meals to compare them head to head