I have been a takeout queen over the last few weeks. I recently moved into an old house and am in the process of doing some renovations, which means pretty much everything I own is boxed up in storage—including most of my cookware.
Last week, I realized how much money I was spending on getting takeout and then felt pretty stupid for not just signing up for a ready-meal subscription right away—after all, I’ve tried many of them in the past!
Your life doesn’t have to be in boxes for you to have an excuse to sign up for a ready-meal subscription, though. Having a box of quick, easy, healthy meals delivered to your door each week has many benefits.
It saves you time and energy, saves on food waste, and it’s a great way to meal plan, practice portion control, or follow a specific diet. Of course, ready meals are also perfect for people like me who don’t have a fully functional kitchen.
However, once you’ve decided to sign up for a subscription, you’ll have to choose the subscription—and they’re not all created equal.
I’ve compiled this list of the best ready-made meal delivery services to make choosing the right meal plan for you easier.
Bottom Line Up Front
I’m currently using Thistle for my meal subscriptions because it’s summer, and I haven’t installed air conditioning in my new place yet, so I’m craving fresh, plant-forward salady meals.
That being said, the best ready-made meal delivery service for you will be the one that suits your individual dietary needs and provides meals that you actually want to eat.
My Top Picks at a Glance
- Best low-carb/high-protein meals: Factor
- Most interesting meals: CookUnity
- Best plant-forward meals: Thistle
- Best variety of diets covered: Fresh N Lean
- Best frozen: Mosaic
To even be considered for this list, the meal subscriptions I looked at had to meet specific criteria:
- They had to require no prep other than opening a package and reheating the contents.
- The meals had to be able to be made in minutes.
- Meals had to be able to be made without a conventional kitchen—they had to offer meals that could be made in a dorm room microwave, for example.
- At least most of their packaging had to be recyclable or reusable.
- They had to use minimal to no artificial or overly-processed ingredients in their meals.
My Picks for the Best Ready-Made Meal Delivery Services
Every ready-made meal service is slightly different—which is great since everyone’s dietary needs and taste buds are slightly different.
I highly recommend all of these meal services, and you can use this guide to determine which one works best for your needs.
You may have heard of Factor, or at least you’ve probably heard of their parent company, HelloFresh.
Factor is one of several meal subscriptions that falls under the HelloFresh umbrella, but unlike the popular meal kit subscription service, Factor’s meals are all ready meals.
They arrive fresh and fully cooked—they just need to be reheated in the microwave or oven before you eat them.
Factor’s meals tend to be low in carbs and high in fats and proteins, making them particularly suitable for you if you follow the keto diet—you’ll get most of your calories from the fats and protein and keep your body in ketosis by consuming fewer than 10% of your calories in the form of carbohydrates.
All of their meals tend to be “meat and potatoes” style comfort foods, and most consist of an entree protein with two vegetable sides (usually one starchy vegetable and one colorful vegetable.)
You’ll also see a lot of lentil or chickpea pasta dishes, and there are plenty of breakfasts, juices, smoothies, and snacks that you can add on to your subscription each week.
While Factor’s meats tasted freshly cooked, even out of the microwave, I was slightly underwhelmed by their veggie sides. They weren’t nearly as flavorful as the entree portion.
Other than that, I thought everything tasted homey and comforting, and I didn’t miss the carbs—just be aware that the meals tend to run high in sodium.
- Meals arrive and are stored fresh.
- Heat in the microwave or oven.
- Especially good for low-carb, high-protein, and keto diets.
- Options for omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians, and a few weekly vegan options.
- Meals are lunch/dinner entrees with breakfasts, snacks, smoothies, juices, sides, and a la carte protein available to add on each week.
- Factor delivers to the 48 contiguous United States.
- You can view four weeks’ worth of menus in advance.
- The delivery fee is $9.99.
- Many of Factor’s meals meet the necessary macros for the keto diet and other high-protein, high-fat, and low-carb diets.
- Everything tastes like homestyle comfort food.
- All of the meals are free of hormones, additives, and GMOS.
- Factor’s food is high in sodium and saturated fat.
- Most of Factor’s meals contain fat from dairy, so they’re not very paleo-friendly, despite hitting a lot of the right macros.
CookUnity doesn’t have the backing of a major parent company like Factor does, which might be one of the reasons why it’s not as well known.
Just like Factor, CookUnity offers fresh, single-serve heat-and-eat meals, but their focus is on “chef to table” rather than diet or lifestyle.
All of CookUnity’s meals are chef-created, many by celebrity chefs. In my opinion, this results in a menu that’s more interesting and varied than your average meal subscription since chefs specializing in various cuisines create the meals.
Another thing that sets CookUnity apart from other meal subscriptions is the way that they group their menus regionally. Different menus are available for different regions, depending on what’s fresh and seasonal in that area.
Unfortunately, this means that there are several states that CookUnity doesn’t currently deliver to.
They cover most of the East Coast, Midwest, Texas, and California, but there are patches in the Northwestern United States, Florida, and Kentucky down through Alabama that aren’t covered.
(You can check their delivery area here.) CookUnity doesn’t deliver outside the continental US.
It’s easy to sort CookUnity’s menu to only show vegetarian, meat, poultry, seafood, or vegan meals. You can also sort by meals with fewer than 600 calories, low-carb, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sodium, keto, and paleo meals.
- Meals arrive and are stored fresh. Many can be frozen to save for later.
- Recommended that you heat in oven can be microwaved.
- Chef-forward meals, many of which are created by well-known or celebrity chefs.
- Menus are created and shipped regionally.
- Options for omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, and those with certain dietary restrictions.
- Choose from four to 16 meals per week.
- The menu is mostly dinner/lunch entrees with the occasional a la carte chef-created sauce thrown into the mix. Desserts, breakfasts, and cold-pressed juices can be added on to your order.
- You can view two weeks’ worth of meals at a time.
- Shipping is free.
- They deliver to the East Coast, Midwest, Texas, and California.
- Because CookUnity’s meals are created by different chefs with different specialties, they don’t follow a formula. This means there is a lot of variety when it comes to types of cuisine.
- They cater to a lot of different dietary needs.
- I love the free shipping!
- Because CookUnity’s menus are regional, you might see something that you’re interested in that isn’t available in your area.
- There are over a dozen states where CookUnity isn’t available or is only available in certain parts of the state.
Thistle might be one of my favorite meal subscriptions I’ve ever tried, though it won’t be suitable for everyone. They provide fresh ready-to-eat or heat-and-eat meals that are very plant-forward, though they have options for both vegans and omnivores.
Everything arrives super fresh—they’ll only serve three days’ worth of food at a time, maximum, which is great since many of their meals contain a lot of fresh greens and salad-y ingredients that would probably wilt quickly.
Unlike most of these meal delivery services, which are shipped in insulated cardboard boxes, Thistle’s meals are delivered in reusable, insulated grocery bags.
A Thistle-specific delivery driver handed me my order just as if I had ordered takeout. She told me that if I left the bags on my doorstep next week, she’d take them back to reuse them—I love that!
Breakfasts are a lot of smoothies, oatmeal or rice pudding-type bowls, and plant-based scrambles meant to be reheated in a skillet.
Lunches are almost always large salads topped with plant-based proteins like legumes or tofu (meat-added options topped with chicken, turkey, or pork are available), and dinners are generally slightly smaller but filling plant-based or meat entrees that can be heated in a microwave, stovetop, or in the oven.
They also offer daily snack options (some sweet, some savory), as well as optional juices, soups, and salads that can be added on to your order.
- Meals arrive and are stored fresh, though some can be frozen.
- All meals are gluten-free and dairy-free.
- All meals have plant-based options; most lunches and dinners also have options with meat added.
- Menus are slightly different for East and West Coast.
- Meals ship twice a week.
- Available weekly meals include breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. Add-on juices, smoothies, salads, and soups are also available.
- Six days’ worth of meals are available to choose from each week, but you only need to order one item (it can even be an add-on!) for each shipment.
- The delivery fee is $4.95.
- Thistle delivers to most of the US’s West Coast, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic regions. You can check their delivery area here. One thing that’s worth mentioning: I recently moved more than an hour from the closest city listed in their delivery area, but I was still able to get my Thistle order shipped to me. I would recommend entering your zip code on their homepage to see if they’ll deliver to you, even if you don’t see your city listed on the page I linked above.
- I have to say, Thistle’s food was some of the tastiest and healthiest I’ve had from a subscription service.
- I love that their meals are plant-heavy but include options for omnivores/flexitarians.
- Thistle’s shipping costs less than a lot of similar services.
- The cost of Thistle can really add up, especially if you want to use it as a meal plan and eat three meals and a snack from them every day or a few days a week.
- They essentially provide one option per meal per day (not counting plant-based and meat versions of the same dish). That means that if you’re getting Thistle six days a week and you don’t like a certain dish, you have to double up on something else or just skip it outright.
- They don’t deliver to a large portion of the United States (or anywhere outside).
While you can tailor Fresh N Lean’s meal delivery to suit your needs, I think it’s best for people following one of the specific meal plans that they offer. Just like many of the other subscriptions on this list, Fresh N Lean ships fresh, single-serve entrees that can be reheated in the microwave or oven.
What sets Fresh N Lean apart from other ready-meal subscriptions is their focus on the seven meal plans that they cater to.
When you sign up for a subscription, you’ll choose to follow a protein plus, keto, paleo, standard vegan, low-carb vegan, Whole 30, or Mediterranean diet.
Their website provides a ton of information on each of the diets, including macros, key ingredients, and which foods are generally avoided.
All of the meals are made with GMO and additive-free ingredients, organic produce, and grass-fed and responsibly-raised, hormone-free meat (when applicable).
- Fresh N Lean’s meals arrive and are stored fresh, but they are freezable if you don’t eat them all right away.
- Meals can be reheated in the microwave for two to three minutes or in the oven for 10 to 15.
- The subscription caters specifically to seven different diets/lifestyles (see above).
- Dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free options are available.
- You can choose to have five or seven days’ worth of breakfasts, lunches, and/or dinners delivered each week. They also offer add-on meals, snacks, and bulk protein.
- They deliver to all 50 states in the US. (Note that shipping to Alaska and Hawaii costs $40.)
- Standard plans are delivered weekly, but Fresh N Lean allows you to adjust your plan to bi-weekly, tri-weekly, or even monthly delivery if you email their customer service team.
- Fresh N Lean is the most straightforward, easy-to-use subscription if you plan to follow one of the seven diets they support.
- They take extra precautions with certain dietary restrictions and allergies. For example, vegan meals are prepared on a different day than meals made with animal products to avoid cross-contamination.
- With the inclusion of Alaska and Hawaii in their delivery area, Fresh N Lean covers the widest territory on this list.
- Certain meal plans won’t have a huge selection of options available each week, so if you choose to receive three meals a day, seven days a week, you may find yourself repeating meals. For example, there were only two options for low-carb vegan breakfasts this week.
- Many of their meals tend to be high in sodium, with more than 20% the daily recommended value in one meal.
Mosaic Foods delivers frozen, meat-free ready meals with a focus on whole ingredients and worldly cuisines.
I don’t normally keep frozen meals stocked at my house (other than the occasional frozen pizza or frozen dumplings), but after trying Mosaic, I see the appeal.
Having healthy plant-forward meals on hand that can be kept in the freezer for ages and then reheated in minutes on a whim is kind of a game-changer when you’re busy.
The fact that Mosaic’s meals are frozen may seem like a con compared to some of their fresh-meal-distributing competitors (and if you’re super picky about texture, it might be), but it can also be a pro.
Frozen meals keep exponentially longer than fresh ones, providing added flexibility that you won’t always get with other meal subscriptions.
The meals themselves are interesting and worldly, covering cuisines from at least five continents.
Their flagship meals are their veggie bowls, which are grain or pasta bowls with veggies and plant-based proteins, like their green curry noodles with roasted tofu or their jerk lentil and plantain bowl over basmati rice.
They also have a selection of cauliflower-crust pizzas, breakfasts like oat bowls and smoothies, chef-created “Mosaic+” meals, and family meals, which are packaged in oven-safe aluminum trays and serve four.
Unlike the quick-cooking microwavable veggie bowls, the family meals take about an hour in the oven, but it’s completely passive hands-off time, and I love that they give you an option that feeds multiple people.
- Meals arrive and are stored frozen.
- Everything is vegetarian; many meals are vegan and/or wheat-free.
- The menu is the same every week (sometimes, a few dishes are added/swapped seasonally).
- Most meals can be heated in the microwave; some must be heated in the oven due to aluminum packaging.
- The available meals include veggie and grain bowls, personal pizzas, soups, smoothies, oat bowls, and large family meals.
- The menu does not change weekly, but a handful of new dishes are added/swapped seasonally.
- You can choose to order six, 12, or 18 meals per box.
- Shipping is free for orders of 12 or 18 meals.
- According to their website, Mosaic delivers to “most major metro areas in the Eastern and Western US,” but they don’t provide any sort of territory map. You can enter your zip code here to see if they deliver to your area.
- The frozen meals are super easy to stock up on and store in your freezer.
- I love that they have a variety of types of meals, like their pizzas, oat bowls, and family meals.
- Their meals tend to run a dollar or two cheaper than other ready-meal services.
- I found many of the mosaic meals I tried slightly under-seasoned for my liking.
- The fact that they don’t change their menu often could mean you get bored with what’s available, especially if you have dietary restrictions that might further limit your options.
- Very few of the meals are low-carb, so Mosaic isn’t really an option for you if you’re on a high-protein, low-carb diet. For example, nearly all of the items have more than 50g of carbs, which is the daily maximum many people following the keto diet allow themselves.
Question: How does prepared meal delivery work?
Answer: Unlike meal kits, prepared meals don’t require you to prep or cook anything yourself (other than maybe reheating the meal.) They’ll arrive at your door each week, either fresh or frozen, and can be stored in the fridge or freezer (respectively) until you’re ready to eat them.
Many can be reheated in the microwave or oven, some require no reheating and are eaten fresh, and most prepared meals are single-serve and can be eaten right out of the package.
Question: Do meal delivery services actually save you money?
Answer: It is possible for meal delivery services to save you money, but it’s not guaranteed.
If you’re someone who tends to impulse-buy a lot of your groceries, or you end up throwing a lot of ingredients away because you didn’t have a plan or were too busy to cook, a meal delivery service can save you money.
However, if you have the time and energy to shop for ingredients and prepare the meals yourself, it will almost always be cheaper to make a similar meal to one you might get delivered.
Question: What is the difference between meal prep and ready meals?
Answer: Meal prep is when you make several days’ or a week’s worth of food in one big batch to reheat and eat later. It can save you time and energy throughout your week.
Ready meals are meals that come ready to eat (or reheat and eat).
You could absolutely use a ready-meal subscription service in place of your weekly meal prep—it’s just like having someone else do the prep for you!
Best Ready Made Meal Delivery Services: Final Thoughts
The best ready-made meal delivery service for you will depend on your dietary needs and personal taste, but I think you’ll be happy as long as you choose one of the subscriptions on this list.
All of these services provide quality, interesting meals that are a good value for their cost.