Meal Kit Review: Freshly

Freshly is not actually a meal kit service. Rather, it’s a 21st century TV-dinner delivery service. What they send is freshly prepared, fully cooked, microwavable meals. Sort of like Hungry Man, but with fresher and better quality ingredients, updated recipes and no preservatives. The meals take 2 to 3 1/2 minutes to warm up and 2 more minutes before you can plate them (though nothing stops you from eating them directly from the tray, they do look better plated).

This service is probably best for people who just don’t have the time to cook or even go out for a meal or order in. While in theory it should work for a household like mine, where we have a vegan, a low carb eater and a picky eater – they don’t really have many choices for people on special diets. They are best for omnivores.


The Plans

Freshly offers a total of 30 refrigerated tray meals which are delivered to your home weekly. You can subscribe to get anywhere between 4 and 12 a week. Meals cost between $9 to $12.50 each, depending on how many you buy. I chose the standard 6-meals deal, which costs $10/meal or $60 a week – which is about the same price as meal kit companies such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh. Shipping is free.

Freshly offers a $20 off discount for your first couple of boxes.

The Food

Freshly offers 30 meals to chose from. These vary slightly from week to week, but they have 4 vegetarian dishes (including a single vegan one – though note it includes honey), a steak dish, and a whole bunch of chicken dishes.

The recipes are modern and classic American fare, plus some things in fashion (like Korean bibimbap). I found most of the dishes to be filling.

I thought the quality of the food was very good (save for one dish). But personally, I don’t think I’d use them frequently simply because they don’t have enough meals that appeal to me.

The meals take between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 minutes to heat up, plus 2 minutes to rest.

The Shipping and Delivery

When I first signed up, they assigned me to get my meals on a Wednesday. That’s not really convenient for type of food which is best suited for busy weekdays. However, I was able to change my preferences to get my meals on Mondays in the future.

The meals were delivered during the day with plenty of time to use them.

The Packaging

Freshly’s meals come in microwavable plastic trays, covered with a film of plastic – just like TV dinner. They do have a recyclable cardboard sleeve around each one that includes information about the meal’s ingredients and nutrition.

The trays come in a recyclable cardboard box. Both the freezer packs and the lining of the box are landfill material. It did bother me that Freshly tries to make itself appear more environmentally friendly by claiming that “most” of the lining – made out of recycled denim – is biodegreadable. That may be the case, but you cannot compost the lining (I called Freshly and confirmed this), and biodegradable matter thrown in a landfill produces methane and other greenhouse gases, for which reason most modern landfills are packed tightly so no biodegradation occurs. Freshly surely must know this, so it’s attempting to deceive its customers which gives me a bad feeling.

Same with saying that their freezer packs are “non toxic’ – well, I guess it’s something – but why not provide compostable freezer packs or those that can be emptied down the drain?

The Results

These are the six meals we tried:

Teriyaki Salmon Cakes with Brown Rice & Spicy Green Beans
Probably as good as it gets for refrigerated TV meals.
Ranch Chicken with Broccoli-Cheddar Cakes
Dry chicken, flavorless ranch, this was a thumbs down.
BBQ Shredded Beef with Roasted Carrots & Cornbread
A pretty solid meal
Rustic Chicken with Mashed Potatoes & Veggies
As good as chicken & mashed gets in a TV tray
Garden Veggie Bowl
A nice veggie bowl
Steak Peppercorn
Surprisingly tasty, juicy steak and tasty mashed potatoes

In all, they were clearly superior to frozen meals, and they were of about the same quality as meals you make from meal kits, and – depending on the restaurant choices in your area – probably about the same quality as takeout/delivery. I think at $10/meal, they’re a bit overpriced – but at $7 (what I paid for each with a promo), they make a lot of sense – at least if you are not a picky eater, and you don’t mind repeating your meals frequently.

I think that if you like enough of their offerings, Freshly is a good solution for people who want a nice meal at work/school and don’t want to go out to a restaurant or get take/out. They are certainly very quick to microwave. They also work for families like mine where it’s hard to know who is going to be eating dinner at home each night. If they had a whole line of vegan meals, I might very well get them for my vegan daughter. And they are definitely a good idea for single people who don’t want to cook for themselves every night.

But obviously, they cannot replace family dinners – the idea of each one of us eating something from a microwave is sad. If you are a family that sits together for the dinner every night, these are not for you.

If you do subscribe, you can use this referral link to get $20 off your first two boxes ($40 of total).


Review: Freshly’s Teriyaki Salmon Cakes and Ranch Chicken

Here are my reviews of my final two weeks of my Freshly subscription.

Teriyaki Salmon Cakes with Brown Rice & Spicy Green Beans

Rating 8/10

I got this meal for my husband – who, unlike me, likes salmon – and he liked it quite a lot. He liked the spice on the beans, and thought the rice & salmon was very flavorful. It was supposed to be salmon cakes with rice, mind you, but one of them came completely apart as I transferred them from the microwaved trade towards the plate.

I think the fact that you don’t need a knife to eat this meal is also a plus in terms of taking it with you to work.

This meal had 460 calroies, 20 grams of fat (4 saturated), 54 grams of carbs, 12 g of sugar and 560g of sodium, which is relatively low for Freshly. Only 18 g of protein, though.

Ranch Chicken with Broccoli-Cheddar Cakes

Rating 4/10

This was, by far, the worst Freshly meal I got in my first week. The chicken was tough and dry and the ranch sauce was pretty bland and tasteless. I’m not sure how you get Ranch sauce wrong – maybe when you are trying to make it healthier, but it was just so blah.

The cheddar broccoli cakes were only marginally more flavorful.

The meal had 500 calories, 20 g fat (7 saturated), 33 g of carbs & 9 sugar. It had 48 g of protein.

I paid a little under $7 for each of these meals, with a special offer.


Review: Freshly’s BBQ Shredded Beef & Rustic Chicken

These are my reviews of two more Freshly meals

BBQ Shredded Beef with Roasted Carrots & Cornbread

Rating 7/10

BBQ beef (or pork or chicken) is all about the sauce. This one was fairly good, though not among our favorites. It was sweet and tangy, probably more of the latter than we like. My husband, all in all, liked it more than I did. I found it just too sweet. Like most of the sauces we’ve encountered in Freshly meals, this one was too runny as well.

The cornbread was fairly good as well. It was probably less sweet than I like it, but it was just right for my husband.

Now, personally I don’t think this was any tastier than other refrigerated BBQ meat meals offered at the supermarket. But if you’re already subscribing to Freshly, it’s not a bad meal to include in your order.

This meal has 560 calories, and 30 grams of fat, half of which is saturated. It has 51 grams of carbs, including 19 grams of sugar and 760 mg of sodium (1/3 of your daily allotment). I wouldn’t say it’s exactly healthy – but I chose it.

Rustic Chicken with Mashed Potatoes & Veggies

Rating 7/10

My daughter and I split this meal. She got the chicken, and I got the mashed potatoes and mushroom mix that was probably meant to be eaten with the chicken.

She was happy enough with the chicken. I tasted it and found it dry, but that’s what I would expect from a microwaved chicken breast. It would have been far tastier if it was a thigh. The mashed potatoes, OTOH, were delicious. The mushroom mixture was tasty as well, it had a bacony/smoky flavor and I’m sure it’d have gone great with the chicken.

This meal has 470 calories, and 24 grams of fat, 9g of which are saturated. It has 31g of carbs, including 5g of sugar and 700 mg of sodium (almost 1/3 of your daily allotment).

The ingredients in this meal you wouldn’t use if making it yourself include natural shiitake flavor.

I paid a little under $7 for each of these meals, with a special offer.


Review: Freshly’s Spring Garden Veggie Bowl and Steak Peppercorn

Despite all the different companies offering meal kits out there, I wasn’t able to find any that had enough offerings in their menu that appealed to me this week. I thus decided to finally give Freshly a try.

Unlike other companies, Freshly doesn’t send out meal kits – rather, they sell refrigerated meals – basically an upgraded version of TV dinners. They have 30 varieties, each with one serving, but the menu doesn’t seem to change weekly.

Last night, only my vegan daughter and myself were hungry enough for dinner, so we tried two of the kits. They were pretty good.

Garden Veggie Bowl

Rating 7/10

This, as far as I can see, is the only semi-vegan option offered by Freshly. It does contain honey, which my daughter wants to start avoiding – a fact she didn’t share with me until after I made this order. In any case, she ate it and she enjoyed it. Indeed, this was one of her favorite meal kit meals.

The meal is basically a quinoa bowl with veggies: peas, sweet potatoes, radishes and cauliflower. She didn’t like the radishes, though, and there was only one piece of cauliflower. It has a vinaigrette dressing made of oil, vinegar, orange and lemon juice, honey and spices. This was a pretty filling meal and she didn’t finish it. It was a rather substantial meal as well – clocking at 580 calories and 34 grams of fat, but it had quite a lot of fiber and protein as well. She’d have it again, if I didn’t let her know it had honey in it. In all, she’d prefer to make her own bowl and add more cauliflower.

Heating the meal required microwaving for 2 minutes and then resting for another 2.

Steak Peppercorn

Rating 7/10

This is the only steak meal that Freshly offers. It’s not too surprising as steak can both be expensive and it’s hard to keep its quality through pre-cooking and microwaving. Freshly did a fairly good job in this case, though it definitely didn’t taste or had the consistency of a freshly made steak. The flavor was a little off, but I tend to be a purist about my steaks and usually prefer them unadorned by sauces or spices.

The steak was sent cooked medium rare, though I’m sure you can microwave it for an extra minute if you want it more cooked. It had enough juice to bleed into the plate.

The mashed potatoes were pretty tasty as well, sinfully so. They were too thin for my taste. They might have been gummy if not that thin, but the flavor was excellent.

I don’t like green beans, so I served these to my husband who was not hungry enough for a meal of his own, but was happy to get “something” for dinner. He thought they were OK. I wasn’t particularly hungry myself, so I was satisfied with just the meat and potatoes. In all, I think this meal is sized pretty correctly.

It took 3 1/2 minutes to heat up this meal in the microwave, and 2 more to rest.

I was surprised that this meal had both less calories and fat than the vegan one (480 calories & 27 grams of fat), though, of course, it has much more saturated fat (12 g vs 3g).

In all, this is a meal I’d have again though I wouldn’t feel compelled to.

I paid a little under $7 for each of these meals, with a special offer. They normally cost $10 each. I think at $10, they are probably overpriced. You can probably get something tastier for lunch from a restaurant for about that much. At $7, they heat the right balance between what a refrigerated meal would cost at the supermarket (and none of the ones I’ve had, have been that good) and what takeout costs.


Refrigerated Meal Review: Cedarlane Cheese Tortellini with Creamy Tomato Sauce

I had not heard of Cedarlane before I found this refrigerated Cheese Tortellini meal at Grocery Outlet. It turns out that Cedarlane is a 40-year old company that sells frozen and refrigerated food. I couldn’t find this exact item in their website, but they do show several intriguing vegan meals I’ll try to find (they apparently sell this brand at Lucky Supermarkets).

This tray meal of tortellini in tomato sauce was basic but tasty. I liked how soft the tortellini were. There are three servings in this meal, but I can’t imagine that it would satisfy more than one as a full meal.

It was $5 at Grocery Outlet, so I imagine it costs significantly more at the supermarket. At $5 is a good meal, I’m not sure I’d pay any more than that.


Refrigerated Meal Review: Heat.Eat.Done Chicken Marsala with Penne Pasta

Chicken Marsala with Penne Pasta Review

Last week I found this refrigerated tray meal for Chicken Marsala with Penne Pasta at Grocery Outlet, and decided to give it a try. I love chicken marsala. At $5 for what is really a portion for one person (unless you are eating something else), it’s not exactly cheap for a pre-made, refrigerated meal, specially when bought at a bargain store, but I figured it was worth a try. Unfortunately, that was all that it was worth.

The chicken in the dish was incredibly dry. Now, this is very unusual for microwavable meals, but somehow Heat.Eat.Done managed it. The sauce also didn’t actually taste of Marsala wine – it lacked the sweetness of the wine -, and it was too liquidy and tasteless. I would not buy it again.