Best cheap meal delivery services in 2021 – CNET

If you like to cook or want to learn, but don’t love the whole meal planning and shopping part, a meal kit service will knock out those logistical components and leave you to the fun part. If you need a break from cooking altogether, a healthy prepared meal service will give you even more time back. There are some seriously good options for both in 2021 and the best news is you won’t have to drop a ton of coin on either. There are cheap meal delivery services with meals and servings starting at just $5. It’s hard to find a fast food meal for that cheap, and we’re talking about fresh ingredients for a home-cooked dinner or healthy premade meals prepared by real people here.

I know my own takeout and delivery bills have ballooned a bit over the past year and a half. If you’re trying to curb your GrubHub or DoorDash habit, subscribing to an affordable meal delivery service that sends healthy, wholesome ingredients to make interesting recipes can save you some serious dough. And don’t worry about getting bogged down by complicated recipes. Many of these top meal kit services — and especially the budget meal kit operations — have recipes that can be made from start to finish in 25 minutes or less.

Meal kits have seen a serious uptick in customers during the pandemic when having the essentials delivered just makes life simpler. And there are also now more fully prepared meal delivery services than ever before to save you on those days and nights when cooking at all just isn’t in the cards. Meal kits from companies such as Blue ApronGreen Chef and Sunbasket aren’t new, but most of them are on the pricey side, with some clocking in at as much as $12 or $13 per serving. I’m here to illuminate the best cheap meal kit services, and I’ve tested them all to ensure the quality is up to snuff.

If you’re ready to trim some grocery store trips off your weekly routine and employ an easy meal kit subscription or one-time meal delivery order, you’ll want to home in on which service is right for you. There are a lot of meal kit and prepared meal options there, many with niche menus and recipes. For example, if you’re an experienced home cook looking for preportioned ingredient kits to help diversify your monthly recipe rotation, you might want to opt for one of the more sophisticated operations such as Sunbasket, Green Chef or Martha & Marley Spoon. Or, if you have dietary restrictions, you’ll want to hunt down a meal kit service that can cater specifically to those.

But you’re here because you want the cheapest meal delivery service. Look no further, because there are many cheap meal kits out there with easy recipes, starting at as little as five bucks a serving — even less if you snag a sign-up offer. Dinnerly and EveryPlate, both of which clock in at $5 a serving, are the most budget-friendly meal delivery outfits. But there are also midrange options such as HelloFresh and Home Chef. The latter two may cost a few bucks more per serving, but they allow for more customization and have more recipes to choose from each week, so if you have specific dietary needs or are just a picky eater, they afford you more flexibility in your meal choice. Most of these services also offer vegetarian kits or customization for those who don’t eat meat. We’ll also note that there are meal kits out there that cater to a specialized diet, such as keto, paleo, low calorie, gluten-free and more.

No matter your budget, there are affordable meal kit delivery services to make cooking for you or the family as easy as ever. We even tested all the cheapest meal kits operations and prepared meal services on this list, all to help you decide which one is best for your budget, tastes and schedule.

So, for the best cheap meal delivery services available in 2021, keep reading for our top meal plan picks.

Read moreBest meal kits for vegetarians and vegans in 2021

EveryPlate

EveryPlate is the cheapest meal kit service, with recipes starting at $5 a serving — sometimes less if you snag a sign-up offer. I tested EveryPlate recently and was pleasantly surprised. You won’t find a lot of foofy, upscale cuisine or complicated recipes, but you will get a lot of satisfying, rib-sticking meals such as hoisin meatloaf with mashed potatoes, cheeseburgers, umami pork chops and sweet potato quesadillas. 

EveryPlate meal kits are easy to prepare and I loved everything I made, making it my pick for the best budget-friendly meal kit in 2021. For more, read my full review of EveryPlate.

Price: $5 a serving.

Dinnerly

Clocking in at a comparable $5 a serving is Dinnerly, another great cheap meal kit. Much like EveryPlate, Dinnerly has a lot of comfort foods such as ravioli with spinach and parmesan sauce, carne asada tacos and chicken pad thai. 

I tested the affordable meal kits from Dinnerly and all were easy to prepare, although — on average — they involved more work than EveryPlate’s recipes. There were also a few big misses among the hits. But Dinnerly is a bit more dynamic than its cheap counterpart and allows you to add on protein packs of chicken breast, ground beef or shrimp for meal planning along with a small market of snacks and desserts, which you can tack on at an extra cost. 

Price: $5 a serving, plus $9 shipping.

HelloFresh

HelloFresh is a bit more per serving than EveryPlate or Dinnerly — $7.49 a serving if you order meals for four — but this budget-friendly meal delivery service affords you more recipe options and I’d contend the recipes and ingredients are of a higher caliber too. HelloFresh has as many as 25 dinner meal kits per week, so it is nearly impossible not to find something you’ll like. HelloFresh also has five or six plant-based recipes a week making it the best cheap meal kit service for vegetarians. 

When I tried HelloFresh’s meal kits recently, I made the meatloaf a la mom, barramundi with corn and potato hash and pork chops with honey butter. I liked all three. Check out my full review of HelloFresh for everything you need to know about the meal delivery service.

Price: $7.49 a serving.

Home Chef

At just a tick more than HelloFresh is Home Chef. I tried Home Chef a few months back and loved the flexibility and customization the meal kit subscription allows for. For instance, you can swap the protein in just about any recipe or double the portion if you’re expecting company or want leftovers to eat for lunches during the week. Home Chef also has affordable oven-ready meal kits which only need to be assembled in a tray and cooked — no chopping or prep required.

A few Home Chef recipes I tried and liked were the moo shu pork tacos and bruschetta shrimp risotto which had a ton of garlic but was far easier to make than I expected. Read my full review of Home Chef

Price: Most meals are $9 a serving with some even cheaper such as lunch meal kits and entree salads.

Freshly

If you desire to do exactly no cooking at all but want tasty meals delivered at an affordable price, Freshly is where it’s at. Freshly sends precooked meals (fresh, not frozen) to your door in a one-time order or subscription. While this cheap meal delivery service has healthy recipe options aplenty, Freshly is one of the better options if you want the occasional cheat meal or serving of comfort food. 

Penne bolognese, peppercorn steak with mashed potatoes and chicken casserole are just some of the heartier choices you can have delivered and at the ready. But there are also healthier, low-cal Freshly meals to keep yourself honest. 

Price: Freshly is just $8 per meal when you order 12 meals per week. 

Daily Harvest

Daily Harvest isn’t a traditional meal kit company but rather sends healthy, plant-based smoothies, soups and grain bowls to your door, starting at $7 a meal. While the other options on our list are geared towards dinnertime, Daily Harvest is best to have affordable (and easy) breakfast and lunch meals ready to heat and eat. 

When I tried Daily Harvest, I loved the interesting smoothie combos such as a chocolate blueberry smoothie with greens, banana and almond butter. The heartier meals are great too like the cauliflower rice and pesto harvest bowl with cashews and spinach. You won’t need more than a saucepan, toaster or blender to prepare most of the meals and most can be made in as little as 5 minutes. Read my full Daily Harvest review here.

Price: Meals are between $6 and $9 and there’s no subscription required. 

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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