Sure, meal delivery services sound like a piece of cake… until you realize you have to actually cook the ingredients you receive!
If you're anything like me - a total, absolute novice in the kitchen - you’ll want to know that, before you invest the time and money in receiving a meal kit delivery, how easy is it to actually follow the instructions?
Luckily, I've tried and tested over 10 meal kit delivery services, and have followed each of their recipes - mostly to some success.
Here are my top picks for the best easy to cook meal delivery kits of 2021.
Freshly: The best for absolutely no-cooking involved
Dinnerly: The easiest to follow cooking instructions for meal kits I’ve seen
Fresh and Easy: The best for cooking your meals (with minimal preparation)
Green Chef: Easy step by step recipes, with some dietary preferences plans too
Home Chef: Best for a range of solid but easy to cook recipes
Of course, there are a few different things you need to take into consideration when choosing an easy-to-cook meal kit. To read more about this, check out our checklist below.
Meals starting from $7.99
Single-serve portions only
No cooking required - microwaveable meals
The shipping costs range from $3.99-$12.99
While Freshly isn't the cheapest meal kit on the market, it has one of the easiest preparation methods of all time: just unwrap the meal you've chosen, stick it in the microwave for 3 minutes, et voila: you’ll be eating it in no time.
While other meal delivery services give you prepared ingredients which you then need to assemble and cook, according to a recipe, Freshly cuts out the entire middleman.
One caveat to note though - "microwaveable" is not the same as "cooked” (as anyone who’s eaten day-old pizza can confirm). Be warned that, especially if you're sensitive to taste or flavor, you might notice a sacrifice in taste, in favor of ease.
For someone like me, however, who really hates the time it takes to prep and cook a meal, Freshly is the perfect solution, and despite the microwave, I still found the recipes to be insanely tasty.
Meals starting from $4.99 per week
Range of delivery days offered (including Saturdays)
Very easy to follow recipes and cooking instructions
Shipping costs $8.99 a week
Dinnerly is the cheapest meal delivery service on the market that I’ve found, and with meals starting at just $4.99 per person, you’re really eating for cheaper than you would with takeout. Still - unlike with takeout, you have to assemble the meals yourself.
Luckily (and unlike most other cheap meal kit delivery services that I’ve reviewed), Dinnerly’s instructions are so straightforward, that I produced perfect results with each meal. I really liked that Dinnerly told me very specifically what I’d need and what I’d be using per recipe too.
The actual food prep takes only 5-10 minutes per recipe, and I found myself eating the food within a maximum time of 40 minutes from when I started prepping it.
Plus, you'll also have 16+ options a week to choose from each week, which is actually quite a lot more than some of its competitors on the meal kit market too.
Pre-cut, oven-ready meals delivered straight to your door
Choose each recipe individually, there’s no plan
Get free shipping on orders over $49
$10 shipping on orders under $49 - a little pricey
I love Fresh and Easy (by Home Chef, another meal kit on my list) - because I feel like I’m cooking when I’m actually not, but I still get a sense of achievement.
Unlike other meal kits, you don't really choose a ‘plan’ - you choose each meal you'd like individually, and each has separate price points.
The best bit though, is that Fresh and Easy finds a solid middle-ground between Freshly's microwavable food, and all other meal kits with their “you prepare it, you cook it” methods.
Fresh and Easy will send you everything you need for your recipe, and will even pre-cut the portions, so all you need to do is put them in the (provided) pan in the right order and stick it in the oven. It really is “cooking” without actually cooking, and I can honestly say it taught me a thing or two about food preparation and if I ever choose to make that leap to cooking (and I might!).
Super easy to follow instructions
Paleo, keto and vegan plans available
Only 6-7 recipes available per week to choose from
Green Chef is a really solid meal kit delivery service, especially if you eat vegan, paleo or keto, for which it has dedicated plans.
I personally don't have a dietary preference, but I do have a cooking preference - to do as little of it as possible! That’s what I really liked about Green Chef - although I felt like I was cooking, it was a really, really painless process, thanks to the instructions given.
I also really appreciate the ‘what you’ll need’ box on the side, as well as the hyper-specific instructions and illustrations.
While there are only around 6-7 meal options per week and plan, I’m willing to overlook this, thanks to the easy to cook and follow recipe, as well as the specialized diet plans.
Fool-proof recipe and cooking instructions
Free shipping on orders over $45
Meals start at $6.99, plus cheap ingredient upgrades
Lack of a defined plan means you can easily lose track of what your recipes cost
Home Chef (the parent company of Fresh and Easy, which also appears on my list, above), is one of my favorite meal kit services of all time - I’ve got a lot of time for it and a lot to say about it in my in-depth review.
Why? Because it takes the classic meal kit delivery service model of plans for X amount of people, eating X amount of times a week, and turn it on its head - you choose the number of people you're feeding (either 2 or 4), and then individually select the (variedly priced) meals.
So far, so good - but what I really liked was just how easy it was to follow the instructions, right down to the reminder to get a baking sheet ready.
Coupled with very detailed lists of what you’ll need and helpful illustrations next to each step, I was able to make each recipe absolutely perfectly. Believe it or not, that’s something I’ve never really achieved with straight-up cooking (or most other meal delivery services).
Although you might easily miss it - meal kit delivery services are just that - meal kits that are delivered to your home, which you then need to assemble and cook/heat up yourself.
They’re far easier and more convenient than selecting a recipe yourself, then shopping and preparing the ingredients, but there is still an element of preparation involved.
Some things you need to know about the best meal kit delivery services are -
Not all of them are as easy to follow as others. Depending only on your level of experience in the kitchen, you might find that some instructions just aren’t specific enough - such as “cook the meat to your desired doneness”. On my list above, I’ve only recommended the meal kit delivery services that I’ve personally found to be easy to follow (as in, even I didn't manage to mess them up!)
You might need to use some of your own ingredients, or even buy them especially - salt, pepper and some herbs aren't included, and you might even find other small things - like butter or honey - that you need to buy yourself.
Most meal kit delivery services - even the best meal kit services - won't include the pots and pans (other than Fresh and Easy, but that's a rarity), so you’ll need to have those to hand too.
There are so many factors in choosing the best easy meal delivery service, that it takes some decision making to find the right one for you.
Some of the things I recommend you think about are:
If you have a specific diet or dietary need: Most meal delivery services don't cater to dietary needs, but some have dedicated plans like Sunbasket, for vegans, paleo, keto eaters and otherwise.
Your budget: Meals range from $4.99 at the lower end (with Dinnerly, Easy Plate) to $12.99 at the higher end (Freshly, Sunbasket). There’s a lot of range and options in between those two figures! You need to see which provider fits your budget.
Whether or not you want to pay for shipping: Some providers - Blue Apron, Home Chef - have free shipping if you order over a certain amount. Others - Hello Fresh, Dinnerly - have a $6.99-$8.99 delivery charge. Freshly even has a variable $3.99-$12.99 delivery charge, depending on how many meals you order. Either way, it really counts to calculate the delivery charge, as it can add a significant amount to the bill.
The days that you want to receive your delivery, and the options each service give you: This massively varies between providers, with some offering weekend deliveries (Blue Apron, Freshly), while some offer only one delivery day a week, or only weekdays. It’s well worth checking this before committing.