Review: Freshly’s Low County Bowl

Rating 6/10

I got this meal for my husband. It consists of shrimp and
andouille sausage  with green beans and corn – and a side of roasted potatoes. My husband found it overall tasty, but he thought the shrimp were tasteless and soggy (a problem with all of Freshly’s meals).

The meal had 450 calories, 16 g fat (2.5 saturated), 47 g of carbs & 6g sugar. It had 34 g of protein.

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


Meal Kit Reviews: Which are the Best Meal Kits Out There?

For the last six months I’ve been trying different meal kits, both in order to avoid getting take out and because I just like reviewing things. Having tried most of the meal kits out there (all of them with promos which brought down the price significantly), I think I’m finally done.

Meal kits fall into 4 price categories, which I’ll call budget (~$40 for 3 2-serving meal kits), mid-range (~$60 for the same), premium (~$70) and super-premium (~$80). In order to compare apples to apples, my reviews are organized by price category and they are listed in my order of preference. Please click on the title of each Meal Kit to see a more comprehensive review.

In all of these months, I haven’t really had any major problems with any of my deliveries – I’ve had no missing ingredients, for example. Once a box didn’t come (which was fine, as I didn’t want it and had forgotten to cancel in time) and another time, the box didn’t come until after 11 PM, but that’s about it. Skipping has been a breeze, as has been cancelling.

Budget Meal Kits

There are two of these meal kit services, both products of mid-range meal kit companies. They offer simpler meals, with fewer ingredients that require the use of more of your staples. The menus tend to be very classic American.

Every Plate

Every Plate is HelloFresh’ budget offering. They currently only have 6 offerings, including a “premium” one that costs $6 more per kit, but they’re moving to 8 offerings in mid-March. That’s good, because I often can’t find 3 dishes I want to eat/make in their weekly menu.

I mostly liked what I got – the premium kit was particularly tasty. I really didn’t feel I was compromising too much by getting these kits.

$39 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $20 off your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).

Dinnerly

Dinnerly is Martha & Marley Spoon’s budget offering. They offer 8 choices a week, 3 of which are vegetarian. The meals are less refined than those by Every Plate and I enjoyed them less. In all, I wasn’t a fan.

$39 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promos.

Mid-Range Meal Kits

There are several companies in this category. They tend to have more sophisticated offerings, they may include ingredients that are not as easy to come by (or that you’d have to buy far more than you’d want to) – but they still require that you use some of your staples. Some of these companies offer discounts for larger purchases. Here they are, in my order of preference.

HelloFresh

HelloFresh is the service I’ve tried the most, simply because they’ve sent me the most “come back” offers. They offer a variety of plans, and include one weekly “gourmet” recipe, featuring steak or expensive ingredients, for $12 more per kit.

Most of the recipes have surprised me as to how tasty they are – whoever is responsible for creating them does a pretty good job. That said, I don’t always find enough meals I want to cook in a given week, and lately it seems they’re downgrading their ingredients. Still, it’s a company I like to go back to (with a coupon).

$61 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $40 off your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).

Blue Apron

Blue Apron is actually very similar to HelloFresh, but it offers far fewer discounts. It does seem to have better quality ingredients than HelloFresh, however. The food I had was also tastier than I anticipated, and I would likely re-subscribe if I got another promo – but so far no luck.

$60 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promos.

Home Chef

Home Chef’s offerings are a more middle American than the other two, and I’ve had gret difficulty finding kits that I really want to make. But the kits I did make were very good. While Home Chef has occasional premium meal kits, they also regularly have steak without a premium price (unlike other companies in this price point).

$60 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $30 off your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).

Martha & Marley Spoon

Marley Spoon was the meal kit company that least impressed me at this price-point. Granted, I only got two kits because their promo wasn’t that great, but neither of them was particularly noteworthy. They do have a large menu of choices, including 6 vegetarian ones. In all, I didn’t find a compelling reason to choose it over the other kits.

$61.50 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promo.

Premium Meal Kits

It’s probably not surprising that as we go up in price, the meal kits get better. They either include more exotic and/or organic ingredients. Some companies offer even more adventurous/sophisticated kits – and some actually send you all the ingredients you need save for oil, salt & pepper. Here they are, in my order of preference.

Plated

I love Plated. It’s one of my favorite meal kits and, if I could afford it, it’s the one I would stay subscribed to. The offerings are pretty sophisticated, and they often include ingredients that I wouldn’t want to buy myself. More importantly, they include all the ingredients I need – including butter! I have greatly enjoyed almost every meal I’ve had from them.

Plated is also available at select Safeway supermarkets. The kits there usually vary in price depending on the ingredients, but they’re generally cheaper than with the subscription. They have a much lower selection, however.

$72 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promo.

Sun Basket

Sun Basket distinguishes itself by providing a large variety of meals catering to special diets – from paleo to vegan. Most importantly, they don’t ask you to subscribe to a specific plan, but you can chose from any meal they provide. This is cool for families like mine that have members with very different food preferences. Sun Basket also sends more organic produce than other companies – and they’re probably the most environmentally friendly meal kit service.

Still, I wasn’t awed by their kits and I haven’t felt a compelling reason to re-subscribe.

$72 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for $40 off your first box.

Purple Carrot

Purple Carrot is an all-vegan meal kit company. Having a vegan child at home, I gave it a try. Unfortunately, she didn’t like any of the three meal kits I got for her – and would not even eat the leftovers.

$72 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Google for promo.

Super Premium Meal Kits

In addition to the kits listed below, there are two other meal kits services which fall in this category. As neither offers good promo codes – and their offerings don’t seem particularly enticing – I’ve decided I’m not going to try either. Do comment if you do. Peach Dish – a Georgia based company – specializes in local ingredients and offers both international and classic Southern food. One Potato specializes in family-friendly fare.

Gobble

Gobble sends out meal kits that can be put together and cooked in 15 minutes. They manage this by sending pre-sliced vegetables, prepared sauces and some pre-cooked sides (like rice, lentils and sweet potatoes). Still, most kits require you to do enough that you do feel like cooking. Their meals are generally pretty good – one, specifically, was great – and I love how quickly they are to put on the table. This is a kit I’d definitely stay subscribed to if I could afford it.

$79 for 3 kits with 2 servings each. Use this referral link for 1 free meal kit in your first box (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).

Green Chef

Green Chef distinguishes itself by offering a variety of plans catering to special diets – everything from keto, to gluten-free to vegan. Unfortunately, they only offer five choices per plan, and you cannot mix and match between plans (though they do have an omnivore plan, still with only five choices). Once upon a time, Green Chef was fully organic, but since being bought by HelloFresh, they now send out non-organic meats.

The dishes I tried were pretty good, though they seemed overpriced for what they were.

$67 to $85 for 3 kits with 2 servings each, depending on plan (omnivore is $79). Use this referral link for 2 free meal kits in your first box
(I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).

Ready Made Meals

In addition to meal kits, a number of companies have entered the market offering ready-to-heat, microwavable meals. Basically, an upscale version of your parent’s TV dinners. I’m not sure I’ll try enough of these to merit their own category, but I’ll list the one I’ve tried so far (I will also be getting Thistle next week – use promo code https://www.thistle.co/referral/MARGARI98F for $30 off your first order).

Freshly

Freshly offers fresh, refrigerated, microwable meals that you can heat up in just 2-4 minutes. Quality wise, they are way above any frozen meal I’ve tried. Indeed, taste wise they are as good as most meal kits. They do suffer a little texture-wise.

The biggest issue is that their menu doesn’t change much from week to week, so if you’re craving variety, you won’t find it here. They also don’t offer vegan meals. Still, it’s a good choice for when you have a busy week and you can’t make time to cook.

$60 for 6 meals (1 serving each). Use this referral link to get $20 off your first and second week (I might get a credit if I’m subscribed at the exact moment you subscribe).

Non-Subscription Meal Kits

In addition to the meal kits above, there are a couple of companies that sell meal kits that don’t require a subscription. I have not yet tried these ones, but I might in the future. Good Eggs, a Bay Area company, delivers 3 and 4 serving meal kits from an extensive set menu and Amazon.com sells kits through their Prime Fresh service (which costs $16/month).


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 6/10

Update: I got this meal again and I was nowhere as pleased. The steak wasn’t as red or as juicy and it was underseasoned. The consistency was also a bit weird. The mashed potatoes were the same, tasty but a bit too salty.

Original Review

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.