Lots of support and educational material
Portion size options
Easily recyclable packaging
No minimum order
Very limited delivery area
Glass jars can be awkward
No free shipping
We experienced a significant quality control issue
Methodology is a premium, fully cooked meal delivery service with a narrow focus, presently confined to the San Francisco Bay area and parts of Southern California. The company operates on a subscription basis, delivering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as a curated selection of grocery, snack, bakery, and lifestyle items. It boasts an earthy, wholesome, food-as-medicine approach that promises to clean up your diet, supercharge your microbiome, and give you peace of mind.
With a starting price of $15 per meal, Methodology is one of the most expensive meal delivery services out there, and we were curious to find out if the cost was worth it. We tested five meals, including breakfast, as well as a couple of other smaller a la carte items. Read on to learn more about our experience.
How It Works: Admirable Flexibility
Like most meal delivery services, Methodology asks you a series of questions during the signup process, inquiring into your goals, diet, how many meals you'd like per week, and more. Whatever you enter here can be changed later, and even though you'll be charged for the automatic selections Methodology makes based on your answers, if you subsequently remove items for which you have been charged, you'll be automatically refunded. So don't worry too much about the signup process. If you don't want to make a big commitment, just select the minimum—say, a snack two days a week—and go from there. Note that Methodology charges $9.95 for shipping, no matter how much you order.
If you complete the onramp process, you'll arrive at your account's homepage. In the navbar at the top of this page, you'll see Orders and Settings. In Settings, you'll find the Subscription tab, which is the heart of how Methodology works. You will see all the menu categories, which are:
- Four subcategories of Mix 'N Match meal elements (protein, veg, starch, and sauce)
- Bone broths
- Bakery and snacks
To the right, there are two columns, one labeled Monday, the other Thursday. Those are Methodology's two delivery days. Each menu category has a dropdown menu under each delivery day which allows you to set the number of items from each category you'd like to receive on a weekly basis, from a minimum of one up to a maximum of 100 items. For example, your subscription could be set to receive nothing on Mondays, and one drink on Thursdays; three mix 'n match proteins and four breakfasts on Mondays, and 20 bone broths on Thursdays; or one vegetable, one sauce, and two dinners on Mondays, and one breakfast and seven bakery/snack items on Thursdays. You get the idea.
Next to the Subscription tab, you'll find the Food Preferences tab, where you can select your portion size, note any foods you wish to avoid, and indicate your tolerance for spicy food. A note here: Although you're asked about allergies in the onramp questionnaire, and the company states that "we'll make sure your meals don't contain ingredients you're allergic to," elsewhere in its FAQs it states "though we take care to prevent cross-contamination, if you have an extreme allergy please note that cross-contamination is still a possibility with our food."
Methodology uses all these settings to automatically build your default orders, but you can also choose to customize your orders.
Choosing Meals: Very Simple
Once your settings are to your liking, you can either stop there and just let the system do its thing or head to the Orders page to make your own meal selections. Each order has three basic elements: a Monday delivery, a Thursday delivery, and a deadline for making changes (past which the order will be locked, and, per its terms of service, Methodology is not obligated to refund you). The deadline is 11 p.m. PT on Sunday, eight days before your Monday delivery.
Click on a delivery day and you will see the menu. Methodology's flavors are generally drawn from American, Asian, Latin, and European influences. In the prepared meals area, there are typically three to five breakfast options, about eight lunch/dinner options, and roughly six, 100% plant-based lunch/dinner choices. The mix 'n match category has approximately 35 items across the various subcategories (protein, vegetables, etc.). Just a handful of items can be found in the bakery and snacks category.
There are around 30 selections in the drinks section, from cold-pressed juice to wellness tonics, strawberry-goji berry almond milk to single-origin ceremonial matcha. The Grocery and Lifestyle sections are not part of the subscription service, but if you want raw proteins, pantry items, elegant stoneware, or hand lotion, you'll find these items there.
When you create a custom order you'll override your settings for that week. Alternatively, you can always put your subscription on autopilot and let Methodology surprise you. You can also skip an order if you don't want to receive anything that week. Overall, it's a simple and very flexible system.
What We Made
We tried five meals—including breakfast—sampling the highest and lowest calorie menu items, a variety of different flavor profiles, plus a couple of small extras.
- Strawberry rhubarb pie overnight oats
- Chewy ube mochi pancakes
- Pomegranate walnut chicken
- Grass-fed bulgogi beef bibimbap
- Wagyu beef shepherd's pie jar
- Southern chicken tenders two-ways + jalapeno corn bread
- Hormone-balancing sweet potato flaxseed brownies
Support Materials: More Digital Than Physical
Printed reheating instructions are the only physical support materials that come in the box. The rest of Methodology's support materials are digital, mostly in the form of emails. We received many emails, with subject lines such as "Two ways to improve your gut health," "Intro to the microbiome..." "How to heat a Methodology meal," and "How to make the most of Methodology."
Additionally, on the bottom of your account's homepage, you'll find several videos, drawn from a larger collection of content hosted on Methodology's Vimeo account. The videos, hosted by Methodology's founder Julie Nguyen, have titles like "7 Tips to Optimize Your Breathing" and "Julie’s Goal Setting & Tracking System," along with recipes and how-to videos as well.
Methodology has two FAQ sections, one basic and one more comprehensive, and an infrequently updated blog that features recipes, service updates, and random topics like Julie's trip to Crete.
Finally, when we reached out to customer service about an issue with one of our meals (more on this later) we received a reply from a "Wellness Coach." We followed up with a question about Wellness Coaching, and the reply led us to believe that a Wellness Coach in this context was basically just a customer service representative.
Packaging: Mostly Recyclable, but Slightly Awkward
Methodology is known for packaging its food in glass jars with screw top lids. This is nice from an environmental standpoint. Indeed, depending on your local recycling facilities, Methodology's only packaging items likely to end up in the trash (unless you're very dedicated to waste reduction) are the two gel ice packs in every box. All else—the jars, insulation, box, and so on—are easily curbside recyclable and/or compostable.
About half of our meals came in plastic bento trays, which Methodology says is a temporary solution to challenges caused by the global pandemic. The company says it plans to transition to a (nearly) fully reusable supply chain, possibly as soon as the end of 2021.
The jars look nice, and we like that they're made of glass—a natural, recyclable material—but sometimes we found it a little awkward to remove the food for consumption and/or reheating. The little corn muffins packed with our chicken tenders broke apart as we removed them from the jar. The brownies stacked in another jar stuck together and adhered to the paper that was ostensibly there to keep them separated. The overnight oats, on the other hand, were well suited to its jar. We appreciated just popping the lid and diving in with a spoon.
The Cooking Process: Instructions Could Be Better
All of Methodology's meals are fully cooked and only need to be reheated. Methodology provides reheating instructions for both stovetop and microwave, but we found these instructions to be less than adequate for some of the meals. The instructions for the ube mochi pancakes stressed not to microwave them for more than 15 seconds, but we found them to be tastier with closer to 45 seconds of heating. Likewise, our chicken tenders did not warm fully in the prescribed manner and timeframe. This, however, was a minor issue, and it's likely that after subscribing for a couple of weeks, the reheating process would become intuitive.
Flavor, Freshness, and Quality: Good...Mostly
We must say that we were not terribly impressed by Methodology's flavors and expected more for the price point. The meals were good, but not especially memorable, crave-able, or interesting. We enjoyed our overnight oats, but the $15 we paid for them seemed excessive. The ube mochi pancakes were the most memorable (once we'd heated them adequately), but we also felt buzzed by the 48 grams of sugar in the dish—more than you'd get, by the way, from four bowls of Frosted Flakes—and a little unsettled by the $17 price tag.
Freshness and quality were mostly good but for one glaring error. The pomegranate walnut chicken comes with a small plastic ramekin of pomegranate seeds. Our pomegranate seeds were thoroughly brown, shriveled, fermented, and rotten—utterly inedible. Though they are a small component of the dish and separated from the other parts, which tasted fine, it disturbed us that nobody at Methodology had spotted the issue. Clearly, those pomegranate seeds had been in that state for a significant period of time. Of all the meal delivery services we’ve tested, this was the only one that sent an inedible ingredient. The incident did not inspire confidence, particularly in light of the premium cost.
Nutritional Value: You'll Get Your Veggies
In the "Two ways to improve your gut health" email we received, founder Julie Nguyen states that "the consumption of 30 different plants per week [is] the greatest predictor of gut microbial diversity" and "this is why Methodology designs menus each week to include the largest possible plant variety." Based on our experience, this is fairly accurate. From our week of testing, we had strawberry, rhubarb, oats, cauliflower, peas, collard greens, flaxseed, beets, carrots, pearl onions, rainbow chard, mustard greens, potato, pea tendrils, hazelnuts, caulilini, broccoli, and shiitake mushrooms. That's a nice variety.
Methodology's prepared meals are mostly calorie-controlled, with moderate amounts of fat, protein, and carbs. The majority contain somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 calories for the standard serving size, but there are a few outliers with closer to 700 or even 1000 calories.
We were surprised to see sugars included so frequently among the meals' ingredients. While Methodology does not use refined sugars, sweeteners like maple syrup, date syrup, honey, coconut crystals, and the like, are employed with some regularity.
In terms of dietary accommodation, Methodology has options for vegan, vegetarian, paleo, Mediterranean, keto, low fat, and pescatarian diets; and the Mix 'n Match section of the menu is great for creating custom meals.
Methodology Is Good For
Methodology is good for very busy professionals with plenty of disposable income looking for an easy way to "eat clean."
Methodology Is Not Good For
If you're on a more modest budget and/or you have time for meal prep, you might want to look at the competition.
Add-ons: Programs, Grocery and Lifestyle Items
As mentioned, Methodology has two categories of products that aren't included in the subscription settings: Grocery and Lifestyle. (There is, however, one item in the Grocery category that is in the subscription settings: Bone Broth.) The Grocery category features a small curated menu of groceries, from raw proteins, to nut butter, to Iio jozo Japanese honey-sweetened purple sweet potato vinegar. The Lifestyle tab holds a collection of tableware, personal care items, and an "Every Day I'm Trufflin'" T-shirt.
Methodology also appears to periodically offer diet programs. For example, the "4-Day Signature Reset" is available for $120 and includes four meals, ceremonial grade Paru matcha, and a fasting instruction: "Please consult your doctor before beginning this program."
Customer Service: Email Only
Methodology only provides customer service over email. We reached out about our pomegranate seed issue and received a reply in about three hours. The representative apologized and said that Methodology had issued a credit for the cost of the meal, which would be applied to future orders.
Methodology provides reheating instructions for both stovetop and microwave, but we found these instructions to be less than adequate for some of the meals.
Making Changes and Canceling: Contact Support
As mentioned, you can make changes to the content of your order until the deadline of eight days prior to the Monday delivery. For example, the deadline for an order scheduled for delivery on Monday the 16th would be Sunday the 8th. Thursday deliveries lock at the same time.
To change your address or to cancel your account, you must email customer service.
The Competition: Methodology vs. The Good Kitchen
The Good Kitchen and Methodology are both premium services delivering fully cooked meals, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. While Methodology only delivers to a few cities, The Good Kitchen ships nationwide. The Good Kitchen's meals cost up to $15, whereas Methodology's start at $15. Methodology offers individual and couple-sized portions, but The Good Kitchen's meals are only single-serving. Methodology's food ships fresh. The Good Kitchen ships its meals frozen. The Good Kitchen is a bit more down-to-earth, meaning you won't find edible flowers, mochi pancakes, or Oaxacan chintextle steak on its menu. For most people, The Good Kitchen is probably a better option than Methodology. On the other hand, if the thought of microwaving frozen food makes you wince, then Methodology is definitely the better choice.
We were excited to try Methodology. The concept, the menu, and the photos were intriguing. But ultimately, we felt let down by the experience. The pomegranate seeds left a bad taste in our mouth, and we found little else that impressed us enough to make up for it. That said, we only tried prepared meals. If we were to give Methodology another shot, we'd stick mostly to the Mix 'n Match category. Methodology clearly isn't for everyone, but if "eating clean" and convenience are high priorities for an urban Californian, it might be worth a try.
We spent numerous 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.
The criteria we used to evaluate each company included:
- 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 Methodology
- Lowest Price per Serving $15
- Number of Diets Served 7
- Number of Recipes 19
- Delivery Area 1 state
- Serving Sizes Available 1, 2