“TV dinners” have come a long way, baby.
If you scan the web, there are currently more ways to get dinner on the table with little to no effort than there are weeks in a year to try them all. Easy meal kit and preparedhave skyrocketed in popularity the past several years and have only gotten more popular since the has kept many of us inside, sometimes for weeks at a time. Of the meal services out there, a few have pushed through the crowded culinary category to earn a loyal following of hungry folks who are short on time, cooking ability — or both. Curious as I am, I decided to taste through some of the best and most popular premade meal delivery services available in 2020 and I’m starting with .
Freshly is one of the most popular of the prepared meal subscription services and a quick scan of online Freshly reviews shows it has a growing base of loyal customers. Freshly is different from meal kits like Blue Apron and HelloFresh in that meals arrive prepared and fully cooked in individual packaging that you simply heat and serve. No prepping, chopping, mixing or measuring involved. I tried several of Freshly’s premade meals over the course of a few weeks to give the delivery service a fair shot and give you an honest review. I went into the tasting expecting not high-end cuisine but hoping the brand make good on its promise of fresh and flavorful meals that are conveniently packaged and delivered to take the guesswork out of dinner a few nights each week. Here’s a breakdown of the popular meal delivery service and my firsthand review of Freshly.
Freshly meals come individually packaged and portioned, so these work well for single folks or couples without kids. They are assembled much like TV dinners but are far more attractive and — spoiler alert — they taste better too. Freshly meals arrive very cold but not quite frozen, so it’s up to you to heat and eat them right away or freeze a few meals for a rainy day. (Note: Some foods freeze much better than others, I found).
Through the website, you can choose a subscription plan that includes as few as four or as many as 12 meals per week. Freshly has plenty of healthy meal choices and options for folks with dietary restrictions, including gluten-free, low-carb and low-calorie. There are, however, almost no plant-based options so this is not a good meal delivery service for vegetarians or vegans. Freshly ships to every state in the lower 48 (sorry, Hawaii and Alaska!) and you can also change, pause or cancel your plan anytime, so it’s very low risk if you just want tofor a week or two.
Depending on the, Freshly prepared meals clock in between $8.50-$11.50 per meal. It’s certainly more expensive than cooking at home, in most cases, but it’s cheaper and healthier than takeout, generally. There are shipping costs as well that vary but generally don’t exceed $10-$12 per order.
Freshly is as good as any with regards to recyclability. You can check out this slick video on the company’s website explaining how nearly every piece of your order right down to the ice packs can be recycled.
Read more on Chowhound: How to properly recycle takeout containers
I’ve tried a good many prepared meal services at this point, and while others likemay hit higher highs, I’d say Freshly was the most consistently tasty meal service I’ve tested thus far. You can tell they focus on fan favorites and universally popular dishes rather than attempting those more out-of-the-box recipes. For what it is and aims to be I’d say that’s a good thing.
Freshly meals are premade and shipped in cooler boxes, so they aren’t likely to win any Michelin stars, but I was pleasantly surprised by how flavorful and, well, fresh most of my Freshly meals were. The culinary team has clearly thought carefully about what sort of meals will both travel and reheat well, and that made a big difference for me.
Here’s a breakdown:
Almond-ginger chicken bowl: These bowls were some of the most successful Freshly meals for me. They all had good flavor, especially the Asian-style grilled chicken and veggies over rice with a punchy ginger sauce. The bowls are also the easiest to heat quickly and well without drying out the ingredients. Plus, they make a rather satisfying lunch or a quick and easy dinner.
Turkey meatloaf: The meatloaf had really nice flavor and was very tender. It was also not overly greasy or salty and the bean salad and cauliflower mash were nice complements. It felt like comfort food but without the heaviness.
Buffalo chicken with loaded cauliflower: This simple dish was also good but felt more like a lunch than a dinner. The buffalo sauce was not too spicy and the grilled chicken stayed moist when reheated.
Cauliflower bolognese: I try to stay away from any prepared pasta and this cauliflower bolognese was a prime example of why. Even when reheated using my preferred method (see below), the end result was mushy and unappealing. The flavors were fine but not good enough to make up for mushy pasta. Nothing is, to be honest.
Steak peppercorn: This steak was another entree I had low expectations for, but I can say it overachieved in comparison with the pasta (mentioned above). It wasn’t a Ruth’s Chris ribeye by any stretch, but it wasn’t inedible either — despite being cooked most of the way through. The sides were also solid and the whole meal was more than filling. My suggestion: Keep this steak — and any steak for that matter — out of the microwave at all costs. Please.
Chicken tikka masala: This is probably my favorite guilty pleasure takeout dish and so my standards are high. Freshly’s might not have totally matched the version I pick up from my favorite Indian restaurant at least once a week, but it was still very good. I reheated it in a skillet and it rendered some tender and tasty chicken in a creamy masala sauce with fluffy rice. A delicious meal I would eat again. And again.
Try not to heat any Freshly meals in the microwave if you can help it, with perhaps the exception of certain sides like mashed cauliflower or roasted potatoes. For chicken bowls, stir-fries and pasta, simply toss it all in a nonstick skillet for a few minutes, covered over low heat along with the sauce before serving. Yes, you’ll have a single pan to rinse — but I promise it’s worth it. I ordered two of each meal and tried heating them a few different ways. Every single time the microwave lost, often in a landslide. For larger pieces of chicken, steak and pork loins you could also use the low and slow skillet method, but add a splash of water or chicken broth to bring some of that life and moisture back, or cover and heat them your convection oven (also on low) or a.
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I liked Freshly more than most of the meal delivery services I’ve tried, to date. I’d categorize the style as comfort food with a slight healthy bent and most everything I tried tasted fresh and well prepared. As someone who cooks often, I don’t see myself eating Freshly meals more than a couple of times a week. If I didn’t enjoy cooking as much or was too busy to make the bulk of my meals, I think it would be a vastly different story.
Now that I’m working from home indefinitely like many of us are, preparing a lunch daily has become a bit more of a time-suck than it used to be (it’s hard to justify ordering in when your stove is four feet away). I can certainly imagine having a few Freshly meals on hand that are ready to rock when the 12:30 p.m. lunch craving hits and I’m tight on time or motivation. Especially those saucy bowls, which make a tasty, healthy reprieve from the humdrum sandwich or salad routine.
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