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- Meal delivery service Freshly fills the gap by offering healthy, gluten-free, ready-to-eat meals that can be heated up in three minutes or less.
- I tried the service for a month and, while I don't think it will ultimately work for my lifestyle, I was impressed with the sustainable packaging, healthy options, and how tasty the meals were — there's even a Thanksgiving dinner with juicy turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, garlicky gravy, and sauteed green bean "casserole."
- One major con is that there aren't many vegetarian or vegan options — but if you eat meat, this may be a good option for you.
- If you're looking to expand your culinary skills and palates, here are the best meal kit delivery services to try.
I love cooking. From chopping vegetables to experimenting with seasonings, every aspect of making a meal is a fun adventure. I even enjoy going to the grocery store to scavenge for the perfect ingredients.
Yet, even as someone who genuinely likes to cook, a busy schedule can make cooking feel more like a chore than an enjoyable activity. There's always takeout, but most delivery apps hit you with a number of fees making ordering in an expensive pursuit, not to mention that I usually default to something less than nutritious — pizza, anyone?
What is Freshly?
Freshly is a meal delivery service that sends healthy, sustainable, ready-to-eat meals right to your doorstep. After seeing the branded boxes pop up everywhere around me, I was intrigued. I tried the service for a month, so I'll take you through how Freshly works and what I thought about the service below.
What are Freshly's weekly plans?
Freshly makes good on its mission to make healthy eating easy. All of its meals are gluten-free, but you won't miss it anyway.
Here's how it works: First, pick out your plan. There are four options with prices starting at $8.49:
- 4 meals per week: $49.99/week or $11.49/meal
- 6 meals per week: $59.99/week or $9.49/meal
- 9 meals per week: $89.99/week or $8.99/meal
- 12 meals per week: $107.99/week or $8.49/meal
Once you've picked your plan, you get to pick your desired delivery date. Rather than sending the whole weeks worth of meals to you on Monday, Freshly lets you choose to receive meals any day of the week, so you can pick a date that best fits your schedule.
Once you've picked your delivery date, Freshly will show you the menu for that given week, and you get to select which meals you want (you can even double-up if you want to order one of them multiple times). A typical week has 30 options, give or take. The selection always includes an array of cuisines and dietary preferences, but not many vegan or vegetarian options. This service is definitely heavy on animal proteins.
With its emphasis on making healthy meals, Freshly makes it easy to find all the nutrition info you could want for each meal. Under every meal is an array of icons that tell you if the meal is paleo-friendly, dairy-free, and high protein, among other facts. If you want to do a deeper dive into a particular meal, click on it and you can find even more information — down to every ingredient and calorie count.
How are the meals delivered?
The meals arrive as pre-made single portions packed in one big box. Inside the box is a layer of biodegradable recycled denim insulation, which keeps your meals fresh, and two big ice packs, which can also eventually be recycled. Actually, everything inside the box (even the box itself) can be recycled, so points to Freshly for sustainability efforts. If you're worried about ordering food when you might be out of town, just know these ice packs stayed frozen for almost 48 hours.
Meals are meant to be kept in the fridge — not frozen — and are all marked with an expiration date, though in general most meals will last a week.
How long do they take to make?
Freshly meals should take three minutes or less to heat up in the microwave. Freshly suggests you plate these meals rather than eat right out of the container, which I did when I had a little more time and clean dishes. For meals that could be "made" in three minutes or less, I was impressed by the flavor these meals packed.
Review of Freshly
The homestyle chicken with butternut mac and cheese was a hearty, indulgent dish that snuck in plenty of protein and veggies. While zucchini noodles are usually a sad, limp alternative to pasta, Freshly's take in their pesto turkey meatballs with zucchini noodles was zesty and flavorful — the perfect balance of protein and veggies for a midday lunch. Unfortunately, this meal is no longer available as an option.
I appreciated Freshly meals most on days when I came home late starving and not wanting to cook. Knowing I could get a healthy, satisfying meal in minutes kept me from getting hangry.
After trying the service, here are three things I think Freshly does best, in no particular order.
- Convenience: Coming home to a ready to eat meal makes life easy. Pop it in the microwave and have a full dinner in less than three minutes. The packaging also makes these pretty portable, so you could bring them with you as packed lunches for work too. Plus, the meals come right to your door. It doesn't get more convenient than that.
- Nutrition: When you order from a restaurant, you usually don't know what's really in your meal. So, you may think you're ordering a healthy dinner, but you don't know what cooking oils, sugars, or other hidden ingredients could be making that meal less than ideal. Freshly, on the other hand, is transparent about health. Everything is always natural, gluten-free, and follows the brand's specific health guidelines. If calories or dietary preferences are important to you, picking out your meals on Freshly and being able to see exactly what is inside is helpful.
- Taste: Convenience shouldn't come at the cost of taste — after all it's still a meal. Freshly works with talented chefs to dream up and cook all of its meals. It's not just grilled chicken and broccoli, Freshly dabbles in all kinds of cuisine — from chicken tikka masala to a low-country boil, there are plenty of adventurous options.
Here are three things I think Freshly could do better with, in no particular order.
- Vegetarian options: I'm not a vegetarian, but I wanted to try some of the vegetarian meals to get a sense of what the service is like for everyone. The vegetarian selection is pretty small, and most of the veggie-based meals didn't seem as appealing, to be honest. If I was a vegan or vegetarian, I'd probably get bored with the selection, especially if I wanted to order six or more meals a week.
- Price: I don't think Freshly is noticeably more expensive than other meal delivery services, but I was surprised that four meals a week land each one at $11.49. I understand why the price is what it is, but I still found it a little pricey. Of course, you're paying for the convenience of not having to do anything but open your microwave. And, Freshly's emphasis on sustainability makes me more apt to support them than competitors. But, I feel like I'd be remiss not to mention that this isn't the most affordable option out there.
The bottom line
Freshly is a great service, but I think it's better suited for some types of people than others. If you're someone who hates cooking, grocery shopping, and often finds yourself too busy to even whip up pasta or scrambled eggs, this service will make your life so much easier. No thought or effort, just pop a meal in the microwave and you're set.
If you're someone who likes to cook, go out to dinner often, or are more particular about what you eat, you may be better off trying a meal kit instead. Personally, I found six meals a week to be too much. When dinners came up as spontaneous social outings, I didn't want to refuse, but I also didn't want to waste my meals, which made me feel lukewarm about eating them. And, sometimes I didn't want to eat the meals I had chosen a week earlier. I like to eat what I feel like eating at any given moment and pre-planning all of your meals kind of takes that control away.
I really do like cooking for myself, though, and when I don't, I like to treat myself to meals out. Since my schedule usually gives me enough time to do those things, I probably wouldn't commit to Freshly again. But, I see why Freshly has been gaining so much traction recently. For anyone that wants quick, healthy, and convenient meals with little effort, I'd recommend the service.