Everyone needs to eat, but unless you’re fortunate enough to have a personal chef, making food takes time and energy. Think about how much effort goes into shopping for food, cooking food, and eating food. Subscribing to a meal-kit delivery service may help you cut down on lengthy grocery trips, but if you want even greater food convenience, feast your eyes on these top prepared meal delivery services. 

What Is a Prepared Meal Delivery Service?

A traditional meal-kit delivery service sends you a box full of ingredients. When you sign up for Editors’ Choice picks, such as Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Hungryroot, Green Chef, or MisenBox, you’ll get everything from raw meat to whole produce to spice packets. Using the included instructions, it’s up to you to then assemble and cook those separate ingredients into a complete meal.

Prepared meal delivery services, however, send you complete meals. You must reheat them, whether it’s in a microwave, in an oven, or on a stovetop. Still, the bulk of the work is already done before the box arrives at our doorstep. You can spend less time planning and more time eating, the true appeal of food in the mail. 

Fortunately, this doesn’t limit the types of food you’ll find on these services. If anything, chefs are free to get more creative with their meals since they aren’t asking you to cook. Our top picks offer everything from BBQ beef with mashed parsnips, tomato flatbreads, breakfast frittatas, healthy smoothies, and complex soups. Sometimes, you don’t need to heat the food; you can eat the cool salad or frozen dessert straight from the box.

Fresh N Lean

These meals come already prepared, so they tend to last longer in the fridge or freezer compared to raw ingredients. These services also pack far more meals into a single package. A traditional meal-kit box may have three meals at max, while a prepared meal box has ten. 

You can find prepared meal delivery services to suit all kinds of tastes and diets. Balanced Bites and Trifecta offer meaty, protein-heavy cuisine perfect for keto. Sprinly and Veestro make it easier than ever to go vegan. Fresh N Lean’s menu has a little something for everyone. 

The Price of Convenience

There are a few reasons why prepared meal services may not be best for you. These services go through the extra work of cooking the food beforehand, so each prepared meal tends to cost more compared to a traditional meal-kit box. For example, HelloFresh costs about $9 per meal, whereas Balanced Bites costs $17 per meal. You’re paying for that chef’s labor.

Traditional meal-kit services also provide culinary education that you won’t receive with prepared meals. Even if you’re just following instructions, when you cook your own food, you’ll learn how to cook. With prepared meals, you have far less room to customize.

Recommended by Our Editors

Blue Apron vs. HelloFresh: Which Meal-Kit Delivery Service Reigns Supreme? Image

Flavor can also suffer compared to truly home-cooked meals. The least appetizing meals we ate through meal services, such as bistroMD, Daily Harvest, Freshly, and Splendid Spoon, reminded us that these are pretty much rebranded frozen TV dinners. The best services make sure to prepare meals fresh just days before they arrive on your doorstep.     

Fast Food

There’s nothing stopping you from mixing and matching when it comes to meal delivery. Get a traditional meal-kit when you have time to cook, get a prepared meal when you don’t. Sunbasket and a few other services offer both options within one subscription. Think of these services as big, online buffets, so dig in. 

If you’re looking for some more ways to get healthier, check out our Ultimate Guide to Health and Fitness Tech.