Many ingredients are from local farms in New York
Food reheated evenly with boiling water method
Delicious meals ready in minutes
The same menu is pre-populated each week
Not many vegetarian meal options
RealEats is a chef-produced, farm-to-table meal delivery service. Meals are freshly packed via vacuum-seal and pre-portioned for single-serving use. They can be heated up in the packet in just minutes, either in boiling water or the microwave. Many ingredients are sourced from farms in upstate New York and other agricultural centers.
Eager to try this farm-centered meal service, we enlisted a tasting panel to uncover the ins and outs of the RealEats experience. Read on to learn more.
How It Works: Choose Minimum of 4 Meals
RealEats is a weekly meal service, which enables users to select from a menu of 20 or more meals a week. There is a minimum order of four meals per week. Customers can also select extra add-on foods from a bevy of options from main meals, breakfasts, smoothies, and even salad greens from local farms such as Satur. You can choose your meals before late Thursday afternoon ET.
Each week, there are three featured meals that rotate, while the other meals rotate less frequently, so you can usually count on selecting your favorites each week. There is always an emphasis placed on seasonality and organic produce when possible. Many of the ingredients are sourced from the Finger Lakes region in New York, and the food is free of binders, artificial preservatives, and is non-GMO. As of August 2021, RealEats delivers to 30 states plus Washington, D.C., mostly in the eastern half of the country.
Meals arrive packaged and pre-cooked and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to seven days. To heat up your meals, you may warm the sealed packets in boiling water for a few minutes or empty the packages and place food on a microwave-safe plate to heat in the microwave. RealEats suggests keeping your meals in the fridge rather than the freezer and does not offer reheating instructions for meals that are frozen. The plastic is safe to heat and is the same sort of plastic used for sous-vide cooking.
Choosing Meals: Select 4 Mains and then Add On
RealEats offers single-serving portions for hearty dinners, typically featuring a protein, vegetable, and starch. The company also offers breakfasts, greens and salads, soups, smoothies, snacks, cheese, hummus, sides, and proteins.
When signing up, you can choose four, six, eight, or 12 dinners a week. We chose the six-meal option at $13.99 a meal. Meals choices are arranged in a grid pattern with a plus sign below to add to your cart. The cart area is located on the sidebar of the page. If you click on the meal, a pop-up appears with the following: name of dish; the amount of calories, carbs, and proteins; an introduction on the dish; a list of ingredients; and full nutritional facts.
What We Made
Perusing the meals, we observed a medley of poultry, beef, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. Out of the 24 main dishes offered, we noticed the following breakdown: nine poultry dishes, eight beef dishes, five seafood, and just two vegetarian dishes.
To review a variety of offerings, we selected two chicken, two seafood, one beef, and one vegetarian dish. The steak dish we chose had a premium of $2.99 upcharge per meal.
Here is what we ordered:
- General Tso's tofu with garlic rice and honey ginger carrots
- Coconut chicken bowl with gently steamed broccoli and organic brown jasmine rice
- Garlic lime shrimp with fire-roasted Southwest veggies, smoky mozzarella grits
- Chicken tikka masala with cauliflower and potato curry, saffron basmati rice
- Peppercorn flat iron steak with baby carrots, dill, creamy parmesan risotto (+$2.99)
- Citrus miso salmon honey glazed carrots, quinoa with lemon
Support Materials: Thoughtful Instructions
Our delivery box included two note cards. One was a note outlining an “enjoy by” date with details about reducing food waste, and the other was a welcome note from the company CEO and a message about choosing real food over big food, and a bit of history about the mission of the company. The company was started by a single father, Dan Wise, living in the heart of New York State’s agriculture center, who wanted to create healthy, sustainable meals. Wise further explained the impact of buying and supporting local communities, creating job growth in an underserved community, and the importance of eating “real” food.
We really liked the packaging and support materials. Each meal was bundled together in small plastic packages that included the different components of the meals that were then wrapped in a paper sleeve. The paper sleeve contained the following: an image of the finished dish; the name of the recipe; the type of dish; heating instructions; full nutritional facts; recycling information; and even plating instructions, which we loved. We found the content on the paper sleeve to be thoughtful and helpful.
Packaging: Lots of Plastic
Our delivery box featured the two notes from the company and a large, white plastic bag that was sealed. Within the sealed bag were a plastic insulated liner, two Nordic ice packs, and a clear bag that contained our meals. The meals were organized in packs, and each pack contained specific parts of the meals which were all sealed in plastic and then bundled together with a paper sleeve.
For example, the garlic lime shrimp with fire-roasted veggies was organized in three different plastic bags containing the shrimp, the vegetables, and the grits. Then the three packages were bundled together with a colorful paper sleeve and secured with a round metal button. We liked how each meal component was packaged separately and not mixed together like other quick-heating meals. Although, if you decide to microwave your meal, then your meal components would be mixed together.
The Cooking Process: Quick, but Use Caution
RealEats includes two suggested heating methods for each meal: a microwave method and a boiling water method; the latter is recommended. We liked the idea and concept of boiling the packages in water rather than microwaving plastic, however, despite using tongs, we found this method a little tricky as we kept burning our fingers on steam as we tried to empty and plate our meals. We found the microwave to be easier and safer for our fingers and hands, but still preferred the boiling water method.
Additionally, we noted that as we emptied the packages that were submerged and boiled in the water, some of the remaining liquid from the packages ended up in our bowl or plates, making our final dishes a bit watery. However, our meals that were cooked in the boiling water method were heated through quite evenly. There’s definitely an art to successfully plating your food with this method.
We also appreciated how each individual recipe component that was packaged had the boiling time stamped in the corner. For instance, some meal components, such as proteins, needed six minutes of cooking, while the vegetables and starches may only need three minutes. Everything was clearly marked.
Flavor, Freshness, and Quality: Tasteful and Fresh Overall
Despite being a tad watery when trying to plate, we enjoyed the garlic lime shrimp. The grits had a great creamy texture and we loved the crisp and sweet corn and hint of smokiness. The shrimp were also quite flavorful, with a nice roundness of garlic, and were quite tender. An extra squeeze of lime would have been nice.
We microwaved our coconut chicken bowl and didn’t love this dish. We couldn’t quite get the alluring coconut flavor we were hoping for—the broccoli was a bit mushy and the chicken wasn’t particularly flavorful. This was not our favorite dish.
Our tasting panel really enjoyed the General Tso’s tofu dish. The carrots were lightly sweetened with honey and ginger that was subtle. The tofu had a nice springiness and the perfect hint of spice without being too overpowering. The rice had a good grainy bite and held the sweet and spicy sauce well. All in all, this was a very nice vegetarian dish.
We thought the salmon in the citrus miso tasted a tad fishy and we didn’t quite get the miso flavoring we were hoping for. But that being said, we did find the quinoa to be simple and well-cooked, and we enjoyed the crunchy and sweet carrots.
We were pleasantly surprised by the peppercorn flat iron steak. The steak was medium rare and quite tender. The petite carrots were perfectly al dente and the risotto was creamy and delicious.
When we opened up the steaming pouch of the chicken tikka masala, we knew we’d be happy. Our kitchen was filled with fragrant curry spice from the cauliflower and potato mixture. The basmati rice was moist and tender, and the chicken was rich without being too decadent. Our only wish was that there was more chicken in the tikka masala sauce, as we loved dousing it on the rice.
Overall, we enjoyed most of our meals, but we realized that three out of our six meals had carrots as the vegetable, so we would have appreciated more of a variety in the vegetable sides.
Nutritional Value: Farm-Fresh and Real Food
RealEats has meal options that can cater to gluten-free, paleo, and low-calorie diets, but the company does not consider itself a diet plan, rather a company that creates healthy foods. The company is also working on adding more plant-based and dairy-free foods. Most main meals are less than 700 calories and are meant for lunch or dinner. Users can also add on breakfasts and snacks.
We observed a variety of different vegetables included in the dishes, such as cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, kale, string beans. In terms of starches, we noted quinoa, hearty grains, mac and cheese, a variety of rice, and gluten-free pasta.
Even though the food is farm-fresh, some dishes had high carbohydrates and sugar, such as the General Tso’s with 85g of carbohydrates and 30g of sugar and the citrus miso salmon with 64g of carbohydrates and 29g of sugar.
Here is the nutritional breakdown of each of the meals we tested:
- General Tso's tofu with garlic rice and honey ginger carrots: 690 calories, 32g fat, 5g saturated fat, 85g carbohydrate, 30g sugar, 6g dietary fiber, 23g protein, 0mg cholesterol, 840mg sodium
- Coconut chicken bowl with gently steamed broccoli and organic brown jasmine rice: 570 calories, 19g fat, 7g saturated fat, 52g carbohydrate, 4g sugar, 4g dietary fiber, 47g protein, 190mg cholesterol, 780mg sodium
- Garlic lime shrimp with fire-roasted Southwest veggies, smoky mozzarella grits: 430 calories, 14g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 37g carbohydrate, 9g sugar, 4g dietary fiber, 37g protein, 255mg cholesterol, 920mg sodium
- Chicken tikka masala with cauliflower and potato curry, saffron basmati rice: 460 calories, 23g fat, 10g saturated fat, 49g carbohydrates, 8g sugar, 5g dietary fiber, 18g protein, 255mg cholesterol, 880mg sodium
- Peppercorn flat iron steak with baby carrots, dill, creamy parmesan risotto: 560 calories, 31g fat, 15g saturated fat, 35g carbohydrate, 10g sugar, 4g dietary fiber, 32g protein, 145mg cholesterol, 940mg sodium
- Citrus miso salmon honey glazed carrots, quinoa with lemon: 640 calories, 26g fat, 6g saturated fat, 64g carbohydrates, 29g sugar, 7g dietary fiber, 37g protein, 80mg cholesterol, 1270mg sodium
RealEats Is Good For
RealEats is good for individuals who are craving simple but delicious real, farm-to-table food that can be ready in minutes.
We observed a variety of different vegetables included in the dishes, such as cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, kale, string beans.
RealEats Is Not Good For
RealEats is not good for individuals or families on a budget or who live outside of the delivery area.
As mentioned, RealEats does not allow for particular meal customization, but users can select from an array of extra food or beverage items, including juices, snacks, soups, chilis, salad packs, and some interesting additional proteins, such as smoked duck breast and smoked salmon. Hummus, salami, trail mixes, and health bars are also options.
Customer Service: Responsive
RealEats has email, an online submission form, phone, and live chat options for customer service.
We placed our order on a Friday afternoon and realized afterward that our delivery wouldn’t arrive for a week and a half. We decided to reach out to customer service to see if there was any way to expedite our delivery. We sent an email and received an email receipt a few moments later. An hour later we received a detailed response from a polite customer service representative. Unfortunately, our meals weren’t going to be cooked until the following week so there wasn’t a way to expedite our order, but we appreciated the effort in providing a response.
Making Changes and Canceling: Easy in Account Settings
Changes to your order can be made up until Thursdays at 4:59 p.m. ET in your account settings. You can make changes to your meal plans and other subscription details in the same place. Subscriptions renew automatically, but you can pause, skip, or cancel anytime before the Thursday deadline.
The Competition: RealEats vs. Personal Chef To Go
RealEats and Personal Chef To Go both create pre-cooked, fresh meals that are ready to heat in minutes. RealEats is located in New York’s Finger Lakes region and the company tries to source as locally as possible. It ships to 31 states. Meals are packaged in pouches, which can be heated up in boiling water. You can also opt to remove the food from the pouches and heat them in the microwave. Personal Chef To Go meals are designed for microwave heating, and the company ships throughout the U.S. It has a rotating menu of 12, single-serving meals, while RealEats has 24 weekly options. RealEats is also less expensive, with a starting price of $10.99 compared to $13.80 at Personal Chef To Go.
Our tasting panel really enjoyed our RealEats experience. We loved most of our meals and felt that we were eating thoughtfully sourced food that was fresh and flavorful. And once we got more comfortable with the boiling water heating method, we loved how our food heated up so thoroughly. We would definitely order from RealEats in the future.
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 RealEats
- Lowest Price per Serving 10.99
- Number of Diets Served 5
- Number of Recipes 24
- Delivery Area 30 states
- Serving Sizes Available 1