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12 Meal Delivery Services That Will Save Your Food Budget

12 Meal Delivery Services That Will Save Your Food Budget
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Do you find yourself overspending in your food budget category each month? Sticking to a set amount can be difficult when life is busy. You may not have time to food shop or cook, and you’ll turn to fast food or going out to eat instead. While convenient, going against your budget can seriously derail your financial goals, and even your health. When these overages happen month after month, it can have long-term effects. Meal delivery services have both saved us money and time each month!

Going over our food budget has been the top budgeting problem we have personally experienced. With both of us having day jobs and side hustles, as well as being in Masters programs, sometimes it feels impossible to have the time to food shop and cook. These factors, along with daily household responsibilities, have had a huge effect on our own budget. Many months in the past we have found that we didn’t save as much as we could have because we went over budget in our food category.

We knew that something had to change because sticking to our goals is very important to us. While our schedules can’t change right now, we decided to experiment with different ways of shopping and cooking. We have always tried to meal prep in large portions, but sometimes the monotony can become boring night after night.

How did we break the cycle?

We started to sign up for meal services that would bring meals and recipes right to our door in a climate controlled box. This eliminated the need to food shop or even think about what was for dinner most nights because everything was portioned out and simple recipes were provided.

At first, we thought this was too good to be true. We thought that these type of services would actually hurt our budget more. But we were wrong! The difference in price per meal for these meal services helped us keep our budget under control in comparison to the price per meal for going out to eat!

Now you may wonder which meal services to use, what options they have, and how expensive it is going to be. We had the same questions. That is why we conducted an experiment with several companies, and we are going to share the results of months of research with you!

Here are the meal delivery services we tried:

  1. HelloFresh
  2. Plated
  3. Blue Apron
  4. Home Chef
  5. Freshly
  6. Sunbasket
  7. Green Chef
  8. EveryPlate
  9. Marley Spoon
  10. Graze*
  11. UrthBox*

* These are snack services, but still portioned out nicely and are affordable

Meal Delivery Service Recipe Cards


Some of the recipe cards we collected.

The Process

When conducting your own experiment, the most important factor to remember is to sign up using the promotional deals. Then, cancel after the first week and sign up for the next service.

Many times you will find that the companies will send you another promotional deal in a few weeks to come back. This will allow you to cycle between different services and always receive a deal. We did this with a few of the services.

Additionally, you will want to utilize Rakuten (formerly eBates) to receive additional money back on your purchase, like we did. Sign up for Rakuten here. If you’d like to read our review of this cash back program, check out our blog post here.

Why use a Meal Delivery Service?


  • You can select how many nights you want the meal service that week and how many people you need to cook for.
  • There are different options for those with food allergies/preferences (i.e. Keto, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Organic, Dairy-Free, Plant based, Paleo, etc). While other recipes can allow for substitutions of ingredients.
  • If you like to meal prep, you can order the same meal for multiple nights so you can cook all at once.
  • The meals arrive with the perfect amount of ingredients, helping you save on wasted food and make cooking easier.
  • Step-by-step instructions are easy to follow and most recipes accommodate busy schedules.
  • The meals are pre-portioned (yet filling) which allows for portion control. The majority of these healthy meals are significantly less calories than going out to eat at a restaurant.
  • These services are like having a personal chef that sends you a healthy meal delivery when you need it.
  • Even if you’re a picky eater, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye.
  • Did we mention that some of these are ready to eat meals delivered to your door? Super easy and convenient.


  • You need to submit your meal choices well in advance.
  • Each box comes with a ton of packaging! (but it’s recyclable)
  • Without promotional deals, the price per meal can be expensive.
  • The recipe may require you to have common kitchen gadgets (pots, plan, strainer, tongs, etc) or ingredients (olive oil, salt, pepper, etc).
  • Delivery windows can be long – sometimes between 8 AM and 8 PM – which can be difficult for those who don’t want their items sitting on their porch all day or who were planning on making one of the meals for dinner that night.
  • You need to remember to cancel or skip your deliveries in time or you will be charged for the corresponding week. To ensure you don’t get charged full price, try cancelling or skipping the same day you receive your box.
  • You’ll still have to cook except with Freshly (and the snack services)
  • Although you’re eating healthy meals, because some are prepared meals, you have to eat them relatively soon after delivery.

Some of our delicious creations!

The Experiment

Please note that each week we elected for: 3 meals X 2 people = 6 total meals (except for Freshly). The pictures represent what we paid for each delivery.

Each meal service gives you the option to select how many nights you would like to cook and for how many people. They also give you the option for how often you would like boxes to be delivered. Each company provides a different number of meals to choose from each week. For instance, while Plated allows you to choose from roughly 20 recipes each week, Blue Apron allows for 8 choices.

All ingredients are fresh, pre-measured, and packaged well. They all attempt to give their customers quick meals with quality ingredients.

Some of the companies focus on organic ingredients. Others, like Marley Spoon and SunBasket, are phenomenal when it comes to dietary options (paleo, gluten-free, vegan, diabetes friendly, low-calorie, low-carb, among others)!

All of the websites were extremely easy to navigate and make meal selections. The pricing structures were very clearly laid out, so no surprises!

Week 1: HelloFresh

HelloFresh Meal-Kit Delivery Service Pricing

  • Satay Chicken Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce and Broccoli over Rice
  • Gorgeous Greens Farro Bowl with Roasted Zucchini and Asparagus
  • Tilapia with Scallion Sriracha Pesto

Want to try HelloFresh? Click here to save $40 on your 1st order.

Week 2: Plated

Plated Meal-Kit Delivery Service Pricing

  • Dijon-Balsamic Salmon with Herbed Potatoes and Arugula
  • Seared Steak with Bok Choy, Sweet Potato Mash, and Wasabi Butter
  • Sesame-Orange Shrimp with Bok Choy Fried Rice

This food delivery service (Plated) is currently discontinued.

Week 3: Blue Apron

Blue Apron Meal-Kit Delivery Service Pricing

  • Seared Steaks & Roasted Potatoes with Balsamic-Glazed Mushrooms & Shallot
  • Broccoli & Cheddar Quiche with Roasted Potatoes
  • Coconut Curry Noodle Bowl with Mushrooms & Bok Choy

Want to try Blue Apron? Click here to save $60 Off over your first 3 boxes.

Week 4: Home Chef

Home Chef Meal-Kit Delivery Service Pricing

  • Baja Shrimp Bowl with Jalapeno and Tortilla Strips
  • Cali Turkey Burger with Guacamole and Sweet Potatoes
  • Sweet Chili Pork Lettuce Wrap with Crispy Rice Noodles

Want to try Home Chef? Click here to save $30 on your 1st order.

Week 5: Freshly

Freshly Meal-Kit Delivery Service Pricing


  • Buffalo Chicken with Loaded Cauliflower
  • Turkey Shepherd’s Pie
  • Southwest Chicken Bowl with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette
  • Chicken Teriyaki with Brown Rice & Veggies
  • Balsamic-Glazed Turkey with Roasted Mushrooms & Sweet Potatoes
  • Chicken & Rice Pilaf with Green Beans & Butternut Squash

Note: These are pre-cooked meals, so there’s no preparation needed!

Want to try Freshly? Click here for $40 off between your first two boxes.

Week 6: SunBasket

SunBasket Meal-Kit Delivery Service Pricing

  • Tempeh Sloppy Joes with Tangy Coleslaw and Pickled Jalapenos
  • Poached Salmon Salad with Tahini Goddess Dressing
  • Spicy Chorizo and Tomatillo Chili with Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Seeds

Want to try SunBasket? Click here to save $20 off each of your first four orders.

Week 7: Green Chef

Green Chef Meal-Kit Delivery Service Pricing

  • Beef Saltado Patties with Bell Pepper & Red Onion, Aji Verde Sauce, and Sweet Potato Fries
  • One-pan Pork Stir-fry with XO Sauce Cremini Mushrooms, Carrots, Ginger & Cabbage
  • Steaks & Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Porcini Mushrooms & Onion Pan Sauce

Want to try Green Chef? Click here to receive 4 free meals (up to a $51 value).

Week 8: EveryPlate

EveryPlate Meal-Kit Delivery Service Pricing

  • Hoisin Glazed Pork Meatloaf with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans
  • Cheesy Chick Sausage Skillet with Bell Pepper
  • Diner-Style Patty Melts with Caramelized Onions and Carrot Fries

Want to try EveryPlate? Click here to save $20 on your 1st order.

Week 9: Marley Spoon

Marley Spoon Meal-Kit Delivery Service Pricing

  • Chick Puttanesca with Zucchini & Orzo
  • Shrimp & Tomato Panzanella with Carmelized Lemons & Spinach
  • Steak & Mustard Pan Sauce with Roasted Sweet Potato & Kale

Snack Services:

We figured if we’re going to try a bunch of meal delivery services, we might as well try some snack services too. We tend to eat our normal go-to snacks over and over again, so mixing things up a bit was a nice change for us.


Graze Snack Meal Delivery Service

What we ordered: FREE Box of 4 Snacks

  • Fantastic Forest Fruits
  • Smokin’ Protein Kick
  • Snickerdoodle Dip
  • Anytime Energizer

Want to try Graze? Click here to receive your 1st and 5th box free.


Urthbox Snack Delivery Service

What we ordered: Small Vegan Box of 12+ Snacks, PLUS FREE BOX

$29.99 – $0 Shipping – $10 Honey coupon code = $19.99

Want to try UrthBox? Click here for a free snack box.

Our Results

Total Spent: $233.56

Total # of Meals: 54

Average Cost Per Meal: $4.33

Cheapest: HelloFresh ($1.66/meal)

Most Expensive: Green Chef ($7.49/meal)

Favorites: Freshly, Plated, UrthBox

  • Freshly: Pre-made meals made things super convenient and they didn’t taste like a microwaved dinner!
  • Plated: We loved the meals we got from plated – not complicated to make and introduced us to some new foods!
  • Urthbox: We really enjoyed having a variety of different snacks available – John even got some dairy free chocolate!

Least Favorite: SunBasket

  • The meals were a little bit more complex which meant slightly more time consuming to make. Although it gave us a challenge, we didn’t care for the slightly fancier meals and ingredients. We see this being great for someone who has dietary restrictions/preferences though!

All of these meal services met our expectations overall. We wouldn’t steer someone away from any of these. We were definitely hesitant before starting this experiment but found that we really enjoy having meal delivery services.

Our Experience

In comparison to going out to eat or grabbing take-out, this experiment certainly helped our food budget! Our average cost per meal was $4.33, and it is considerably less than the price of a meal at a restaurant.

It was definitely a luxury picking meals online and having the exact amount of ingredients shipped right to our door. Not only did this eliminate an immense amount of food waste, but it took the thought out of preparation. There was time saved in not having to food shop as much and the meals themselves required short preparation times.

If you took a look at the pictures of some of our meals above, you would think they look like plates you would get at a fine restaurant. However, we never would have made some of these dishes if it weren’t for the meal delivery services challenging our tastes and cooking ability.

The experience pushed us out of our comfort zone by enabling us to try new foods, like bok choy, and improve our cooking techniques with easy to follow recipe cards. We now know how to cook with different kinds of foods and spices that we hadn’t used before.

With John not being able to have dairy products, we were initially worried that it would be difficult to find recipes that he could have. However, we were pleasantly surprised that many of the food delivery services gave options based on food preferences or allergies. For those that didn’t, it was easy to make substitutions based on the recipe.

Additionally, we have had great customer service from each company we’ve contacted. They’ve been efficient, proactive, and courteous. They even have requested feedback and did everything in their power to make sure that we were satisfied.

Repeat Offers

We took part in repeated offers from Freshly, Plated, and Blue Apron. Freshly and Plated were by choice, while Blue Apron was due to the fact that I forgot to cancel the weekly plan in time (oops!)! It’s a good thing their meals were delicious!

You may find that the meal delivery service you choose will have their promotion offer on your first box, or even spread out over your first couple boxes. As mentioned above, we cancelled after our first week to avoid ordering a box without a promotion deal. However, we have received dozens of emails with follow-up deals from each service after we cancelled.

If you’re patient, this will allow you to circulate back to each delivery service after the initial promotion while still receiving a deal. Some deals may be identical to the initial promotion while others are less. If you enjoy the service, it’s definitely worth taking up any repeat offers!


We recommend giving a meal delivery service a try if you:

  • consistently overspend on your food budget by going out to dinner or picking up take-out
  • have little time to cook, food shop, or meal prep
  • get tired of eating the same meals over and over and want to try new things!
  • If you want to avoid TV dinners and want to eat healthy


Friday 6th of November 2020

You need to watch the delivery options on the deliveries. I ordered a subscription from Dinnerly for my elderly parents. After my payment was processed and food was enroute, i received an email that the recipes would be available on line only. My parents don't have a computer. They are in their late 80's and are not likely to obtain one. Back to square one.....

Taylor Hansen

Wednesday 20th of May 2020

I'm glad you mentioned how some meals can be good for portion control. Last week I got an assignment for my job so I'll be at the office at night more often. I'll have to order a meal delivery service for food since I'll be at work at night.


Saturday 16th of November 2019 has a printable meal plan for $12 you get monthly menus and shopping lists. It's a good alternative to meal planning yourself when you're too busy to do it. The meals take 20 minutes to make and it's such little effort it actually beats going out or getting takeout. If you combine it with instacart if you're too busy to shop it will be just like these subscriptions.

Sam @ How To FIRE

Monday 18th of November 2019

That's a great additional way to save time and money, Sarah! If someone is in-between the offers mentioned in the article, it's definitely another viable option. The benefit of meal delivery services is that it takes care of both meal planning and providing groceries. Thanks for reading! Let us know if you ever try any of the services - would love to hear your thoughts.

Jannette Bradley

Tuesday 9th of July 2019

Thank you for the reviews, Rakuten suggestion and coupons. I feel you on the grocery spending;) My food bill is killing me these days. One person household, so things should be simple right? Wrong. Tried multiple services in 2017. I wanted the convenience of my ingredients being set out for me and avoiding trips to the store. Your experiences sound just like mine. I also did not enjoy Sunbasket at all. I'd recommend PeachDish though. They are based in Georgia, I think. Their meals were tasty, and they used a variety of ingredients that were new to me. But as I recall they were on the spendy side. I haven't tried HelloFresh but might give 'em a whirl based on your review. I also check these meal services websites for their recipe cards. As I noted my household is small, but I do really, really enjoy cooking and grow tired of the same meals on rotation. One strategy I thought of: a) check the meal services website for recipe cards; b) create a shopping list from them then c) send to Peapod or InstaCart for delivery. This way I can avoid temptation from shopping in the store and still have the convenience of delivery!

Sam @ How To FIRE

Monday 9th of September 2019

Thanks for reading, Jannette! I hear you on this one - it's never easy. We'll have to give PeachDish a try. It sounds like meal delivery services are right up your alley if you enjoy cooking different things! Have you given any of our suggestions a try since you read the article?

Catherine Knab

Wednesday 5th of June 2019

I've been hesitant to try these meal kits because of the price. Your insight into how to get the promo deals might just change things! Thanks for the tips.


Sunday 9th of June 2019

We were so hesitant to try these before doing a deeper investigation into them. It always seemed too good to be true, but it really isn't! We haven't had any issues so far, and we've been doing it for about 5 months now. Everything is always super fresh and well packaged.