Good variety of cuisines and flavors
Simple ordering process
Single serving size
Limited or no options for most dietary preferences
Founded in 2012, Freshly is now one of the most popular home meal delivery services in the country, shipping over 1 million meals per week. Unlike frozen “TV dinners,” Freshly provides fresh, fully cooked meals developed by professional chefs that are also certified gluten-free and peanut-free.
The packaged meals are sold in a similar format to other meal delivery services—customers sign up for a plan that includes a certain number of meals per week and then choose a meal selection from a changing weekly menu. Each single serving meal is delivered fresh, not frozen, and is designed to be reheated in a microwave and ready to eat in under 5 minutes. While there is a range of meals from light to more decadent, Freshly strives to prepare all meals with nutrition in mind, promising to deliver food without artificial ingredients, chemical preservatives, or highly processed sugars. We tested several meals from Freshly to see how they measured up.
How It Works: Easy and Intuitive
Signing up for Freshly is done in a few simple steps. First, you are asked to enter an email address and ZIP code to view the menu options available for delivery in your area. You then have the option to sign up for four, six, 10, or 12 meals per week, with 12 meals coming in with the lowest cost per meal ($8.49). Pricing per meal is visible upon signing up, but shipping isn’t added until checkout.
Next, you select a delivery date for your first order. Unlike some other meal delivery services that may only give two or three options, Freshly has a number of delivery date options available, the first one being about one week after you sign up. At that point, all that is left is to choose your meals and check out. Customers have the option to also fill out a Dietary Preferences form to help filter meal choices, but keep in mind that meals cannot be customized. While most meals are designed for single servings, there are some multi-serving options for proteins and sides.
Choosing Meals: Plenty of Options
When it's time to select your meals, customers can view the full weekly menu at once, which includes photos so you can see exactly what you are ordering, plus detailed ingredient, nutrition, and allergen information. Along with 30 different core menu options, there are 13 “Freshly Fit” meals that are designed for those with active lifestyles or people looking for carb-conscious, higher-protein meals. Customers also have the option to fill out a taste preferences survey that will generate a warning symbol on meals that contain certain ingredients you specify you want to avoid.
In addition, Freshly introduced what it calls the Purely Plant menu in August 2021, which includes six plant-based meals.
You can make changes to future orders up to three weeks in advance until about five or six days before your delivery, depending on your location. A personalized confirmation email includes the specific cutoff day and time for changes to your order. Customers also get a reminder email each week on the day before the deadline in case they need to make any last-minute changes.
What We Made
We chose a selection of single-serving meals:
- White bean turkey chili bowl with basmati rice & cheddar cheese (contained pureed kale, peppers, and celery)
- Chicken tikka masala with seven-spice vegetable biryani (flavorful spiced sauce made creamy with Greek yogurt)
- Homestyle chicken with masterful mac & cheese (chicken was breaded with almond flour and oven-fried; mac & cheese was made with brown-rice pasta and the cheesy sauce was made with some butternut squash)
- All-American turkey meatloaf with smoky tomato sauce & cauli mash (turkey-mushroom meatloaf with smoky vegetable tomato sauce, garlicky cauliflower mash, and broccoli and mushroom side)
- Beef & veggie stuffed peppers with oven-roasted cauliflower (topped with parmesan cheese)
- Tricolor ceef lasagna with brown rice & spinach pasta sheets (the bolognese contained extra veggies)
Support Materials: Minimal
Our delivery box did not contain any supplemental materials other than one slip of paper that listed the meals we ordered, essentially serving as an invoice. However, each meal was packed in a cardboard sleeve that contained storage and heating instructions, ingredients, nutrition information, allergens, as well as a “Use By” date. Meals are labeled with some key descriptors such as “Energizing Protein,” “Warming Spices,” “Clean Label,” “More Nutrients,” “Extra Comfort,” and “Fiber Full,” but it's not clear to the customer how these are defined. Each sleeve also has a QR code but, according to customer support, this is for internal use only.
Packaging: Plastic and Cardboard
The meal arrived cold and fresh in an insulated cardboard box with two large ice packs that could be reused or recycled. Everything was in good condition and was easy to transfer to the refrigerator because all of the meals were easily stackable. Each meal was packaged in a rigid plastic tray with a flexible plastic film, designed to be reheated in the microwave. Each tray was inserted into a cardboard paper sleeve with all of the label information.
Most of the packaging was curbside recyclable, although it is recommended to remove plastic labels and adhesive tape prior to recycling. The flexible plastic covers on the meal trays and the plastic bag used for the ice pack are recyclable where plastic bags are recycled.
The Cooking Process: Under 5 Minutes
All meals are fully cooked and designed to be reheated in a microwave for 3 minutes, based on an 1,100-watt microwave oven. Before reheating, simply take the tray out of the sleeve, partially peel back a corner of the plastic film to vent, and then heat for 3 minutes. After reheating, instructions suggest letting the tray stand for 2 minutes before carefully peeling back the rest of the film and transferring to a plate (unless you prefer to eat directly from the tray). The timing worked perfectly for our microwave and everything was warmed through to an appropriate temperature.
Compared to a 5-minute microwave meal, the flavor was as close to home-cooked as possible.
Flavor, Freshness, and Quality: One-Note Texture but Packed With Flavor
At first appearance, the meals did not always look the most visually appealing; since it is fresh and not frozen, some of the food naturally shifts around in the tray during transit and gets on the plastic film or is tilted to one side of the package. Some of the meals were also very monochromatic, or one note in texture.
For example, instead of blanched tender broccoli, expect the texture to be closer to reheated frozen vegetables or well-cooked steamed vegetables, which is generally very soft. Even the breading on the breaded chicken was very soft and not near crispy. The White Bean Turkey Chili could have benefited from some more color such as pieces of multicolored bell pepper or pieces of green kale instead of the pureed vegetables, which made the meal entirely white and light brown.
Aesthetics aside, after reheating and plating and, in some cases, adding some simple garnish such as sliced avocado to the chili or chopped fresh herbs, the flavor was delicious. Nothing was overly salty yet nothing needed additional seasoning; flavors were all well balanced and the quality of the ingredients seemed very good. What we really missed was the “crunch factor”—the variety of texture (as well as color in some dishes) that makes food more interesting as an overall experience. But compared to a 5-minute microwave meal, the flavor was as close to home-cooked as possible.
Nutritional Value: High in Protein With Sneaky Veggies
Freshly offers certified gluten-free meals and the food is also prepared in a peanut-free facility. Otherwise, the meals are not developed for any specific diets or dietary restrictions. The company does generally incorporate nutritious, wholesome ingredients with clean labels, and the meals are free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. There are also some meals that are clearly labeled high-protein and carb-conscious from the Freshly Fit menu.
Of the meals we tried, the lowest calorie content was 290 and the highest was 650, with most falling in the 500-550 calorie range. The fat content ranged from 16g to 36g, with most around 20g to 25g per serving. Protein content varied from 15g to 43g, depending on the meal. All meals contained over 5g of fiber per serving. Sodium ranged from 580mg to 970mg but there were numerous options close to 600mg, which is considerably lower than many other meal delivery services.
While the meals do not disclose exactly how many servings of vegetables are included, it is apparent from the ingredient lists that vegetables are a priority to include in every meal—not just as a vegetable side but incorporated into Freshly’s sauces, ground meat options, pasta, and grains.
Freshly Is Good For
Freshly is good for those who want easy fast meals that are satisfying, flavorful, and contain nutritious ingredients. Think of Freshly’s meals as seriously upgraded TV dinners. Freshly is also great for individuals living alone due to the single-serving sizes or small families that have limited cooking equipment, cooking space, or time to prepare nutritious meals for themselves.
This can also be a good solution for individuals within a family who have different food preferences since each person can order a meal for themselves. These meals are also great for quick lunches that can be quickly reheated at an office in the middle of a busy workday. The Freshly Fit line is also good for those who prefer lower-carb, higher-protein meals. All Freshly meals are certified gluten-free, so this is an ideal option for those with celiac disease who need to be very mindful of cross-contamination.
Think of Freshly’s meals as seriously upgraded TV dinners.
Freshly Is Not Good For
It is not possible to customize any of Freshly’s meals, so this is not a good meal plan for picky eaters or those with special dietary modifications, aside from gluten-free and peanut-free. Although Freshly offers some multi-serving options for proteins and sides, meals do not come in larger quantities so if you're ordering meals for a family, you will need to order multiples of the same meal in order to all eat the same thing.
Add-ons: Multi-Serving Trays of Proteins and Sides
The only add-ons available are multi-serving trays of proteins and sides. Examples of protein sides include a tray of eight meatballs, three flat-iron steaks, and three grilled chicken breasts. Sides include a 13-ounce portion of Freshly’s Masterful Mac & Cheese, a 16-ounce portion of Cauliflower Rice, or Masterful Cauliflower Potato Mash.
Customer Service: Very Accessible
Customer service was very easy to access. For our question about the purpose of the QR codes on the meal sleeves, we used the live chat feature and were first greeted by a bot agent, but within a matter of seconds, we had the option to chat with a live agent—who was very helpful. Customer service agents can also be reached by phone, after-hours, on weekends, or via email. There is a helpful FAQ section on the website as well.
Making Changes and Canceling: Easily Done Online
Changes for individual orders can be made up to three weeks in advance and can be managed online. Changes can be made to your overall meal plan as well as specific meal selections and the delivery day. Canceling can also be done easily online.
The Competition: Freshly vs. Home Chef
Freshly is designed for those wanting premade, fully prepared meals that are ready to reheat, while Home Chef is designed for those wanting to do most of the cooking themselves with premeasured ingredients and premade sauces and seasoning blends. Even though the meals are entirely pre-cooked when they are delivered, Freshly’s meals surprisingly bear more similarities to a home-cooked meal than the meals we made from Home Chef. Home Chef meals generally vary considerably in terms of nutritional value and many ingredients used to prepare Home Chef meals contain added preservatives and high quantities of sodium, saturated fat, and/or sugar.
Both companies feature high protein meals, but Freshly puts more of an emphasis on incorporating nutritious vegetables into every dish. However, for those who want more customized options and like the option of swapping proteins or increasing portion sizes, Home Chef has much more flexibility. But remember, while Home Chef may offer meals without gluten-containing ingredients, it is not a certified gluten-free facility—so for anyone with celiac disease, Freshly will be the safe bet. Ultimately, while Home Chef involves more cooking on the customer’s part, Freshly still takes the lead in terms of clean labels and wholesome ingredients.
While most “fast foods” come at a cost of one’s health, the same is not true of Freshly. It stands out for its use of fresh real wholesome ingredients that taste like home-cooked food. Its sodium is nearly half that of most prepared foods and the chef-inspired meals use spices and flavorful vegetables for flavor instead of excess salt. The only downsides are the lack of variety in texture and color, plus the inability to customize. Freshly is also a great gluten-free option for those with celiac disease or those with peanut allergies who need to be vigilant about food safety and cross-contamination.
We spent countless hours looking through 48 meal delivery services’ websites, ordered meals and cooked them at home, photographed the process, spoke with customer service representatives from the companies, filled out detailed surveys about each company and their meals, and wrote in-depth reviews and comparison articles. Our expert panel includes dieticians, chefs, and longtime food writers. The one thing they all have in common is their love and knowledge of food.
Among the criteria we used to evaluate each company were:
- The ordering process
- Meal selection
- Packaging and support materials
- The cooking process
- The flavor, freshness, and quality of each meal and ingredient
- Nutritional information
- Customer service
- Product Name Freshly
- Lowest Price per Serving $8.49
- Number of Diets Served 2
- Number of Recipes 48
- Delivery Area 48 states
- Serving Sizes Available 1