Cooking at home is a great way to stick to a healthy diet, spend time with your family or housemates, and save money. One study found that people who cook at home eat healthier diets and spend less than those who eat outside the home or order takeout. What we put into our bodies is important and can affect our mental and physical health. The right foods can support our energy levels and mood throughout the day, and having a workable, predictable food budget can help relieve financial stress.

But cooking at home requires meal planning, grocery shopping, and time away from other activities, such as hobbies or playtime with kids. Meal delivery services can make cooking and eating at home easier by delivering meal kits or prepared meals to your door, lessening some of the stress of buying and preparing healthy meals. “Meal delivery services streamline meal preparation by providing nutritious options, saving time and effort while ensuring access to healthy food,” says Michelle Routhenstein, a registered dietitian and preventive cardiology dietitian at Entirely Nourished.

Though some of the meals from these services can cost more than $11 per serving, a few companies offer cheaper meal kits and prepared meals. Read on to learn more about our findings from hands-on testing and our picks for the most affordable meal delivery services.

EveryPlate: Best affordable meal delivery service overall 

EveryPlate is a meal delivery service offering meal kits that start at $4.99 per serving. The recipes come with preportioned ingredients and yield a generous portion per serving, making it our best budget-friendly meal delivery service overall.

Best overall
Plans include vegetarian, calorie-smart, and family-favorite recipes.
Select plans that feed up to six people.
Beginner-friendly recipes.

Which affordable meal delivery service is right for you?

Compare the best cheap meal delivery services

Starting cost per serving* $4.99 $4.99 Meal kits: $7.99 Prepared meals: $9.99 $9.99
Meal kit or prepared? Meal kits Meal kits Both Meal kits
Meals per week 3–5 meals per week; 2, 4, or 6 servings each meal 2–6 meals per week; 2 or 4 servings each meal Meal kits: 2–5 meals per week; 2 or 4 servings each meal Prepared meals: 4, 6, 8, or 10 single-serving meals per week 2–6 meals per week; 2 or 4 servings each meal
Delivery area Most of the continental United States Most of the continental United States Continental United States Continental United States and select zip codes in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Anchorage, Alaska

* Starting cost per serving for meal kits

Our testing experience

of research
500+   hours
of research
 hand-tested
26+   platforms
hand-tested
surveyed
600   people
surveyed
and tested
200+   meals prepared
and tested

Our Handbook Team tests the top meal delivery programs by signing up as mystery shoppers to try the service and meals for one week each. So far, we have tested 26 of the top meal delivery platforms. During that time, we do the following:

Our meal delivery service testing process
1
Sign up for the service as a new member. Sign up for the service as a new member.
2
Select one week’s worth of meals. Select one week’s worth of meals.
3
Evaluate the program for dietary and food allergy options. Evaluate the program for dietary and food allergy options.
4
Place an order for the meals and set a delivery date. Place an order for the meals and set a delivery date.
5
Track and evaluate the delivery. Track and evaluate the delivery.
6
Unbox package when it arrives and document the condition and quality of all items. Unbox package when it arrives and document the condition and quality of all items.
7
Prepare meals throughout the week following instructions and recipes. Prepare meals throughout the week following instructions and recipes.
8
Evaluate each meal for taste, convenience, portion size, and freshness. Evaluate each meal for taste, convenience, portion size, and freshness.
9
Contact customer support with questions. Contact customer support with questions.
10
Cancel subscription. Cancel subscription.

We become familiar with each meal delivery service to learn how they work, the types of meals they offer, and how much effort it takes to prepare each meal. We specifically ask each tester to evaluate each meal kit for ingredient freshness, convenience, taste, portion sizing, and whether they offer meals with enough food to feed a family of four.

Testers also note the types of meals the brands offer, whether they deliver the ingredients and recipes for you to prepare your own meal, or if they deliver pre-made meals that you heat in the stove or microwave oven. If the platform gives you the ingredients to prepare, we look to see if they offer meals for different cooking skill levels.

We also surveyed 600 meal delivery service users to learn more about their experiences. We use these survey results, our testing data, and insights from nutrition experts to develop a thorough perspective on each meal delivery service we review.

Best cheap meal delivery service reviews

EveryPlate: Best overall

Features

  • Price per serving: $4.99–$7.49.
  • Plans: Three to five meals per week; two, four, or six servings per meal.
  • Types of meals offered: Meat and veggie, vegetarian, family-friendly, fast and easy, low-calorie.
  • Type: Meal kit.
  • Delivery area: Most of the continental United States.
  • Shipping cost: $10.99.

Our final verdict

EveryPlate is the most affordable meal delivery service our Handbook Team reviewed. Its meals start at $4.99 per serving, and even if you’re ordering fewer servings per week, it has the most affordable cost per serving compared to similar orders from the other meal delivery services on our list. EveryPlate is our best overall pick because it’s budget-friendly, comes with good portions per serving, offers a balance of protein, fiber, and carbs, and receives great reviews from our testers.

From Handbook tester

I would recommend this meal service because it’s affordable, and it created delicious and filling meals.

Though EveryPlate’s meal kits can yield hearty portions, our testers note that the total calories per serving may not fit everyone’s health goals. We found some recipes that had almost 800 calories per serving. For example, one of our testers made the BBQ Sweet Potato and Charred Corn Tacos, which has 730 calories per serving, but adding about 10 shrimp could make it 876 calories per serving. Calorie-conscious individuals may have to adjust their meal portioning for some recipes, but EveryPlate also offers meals labeled “Calorie Smart,” which have 650 calories or fewer per serving.

How many calories should I be eating?

How many calories you should eat in a day depends on several factors, such as your health goals and energy expenditure. How much energy you spend in a day can depend on your weight, height, sex, age, and daily activity level. MyPlate Plan is a tool from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that helps you calculate your daily recommended amount of calories based on these factors and gives sample meal plans based on your individualized recommendations.

Despite being a beginner home chef, one of our testers didn’t have a problem preparing the meals from EveryPlate. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, but some recipes required pantry staples other than the typical salt, pepper, and cooking oil that most meal kits ask for.

From Handbook tester

“I definitely found the meals to be well-balanced. They came with lots of fresh veggies, which I appreciated. I'm not an expert on cooking or nutrition, but if you wanted to make them on the healthier side you could definitely control how much butter and other things you included.”

For example, a Sweet and Saucy Soy Garlic Chicken calls for butter, brown sugar, and flour, which our testers happened to have on hand at the time. We recommend checking the “What You’ll Need & Use” section of your EveryPlate recipes to ensure you have all the ingredients needed before making your meal kit.

Pros & Cons

Pros Good for beginners. Generous portions per serving. Great-tasting meals. Cons May require more ingredients than the kit includes. Some recipes have higher calories per serving.
Best overall

Dinnerly: Best for families 

Best for families
Dinnerly

Features

  • Price per serving: $4.99–$8.49.
  • Plans: Two, three, four, five, or six meals per week; two or four servings per meal.
  • Types of meals offered: Gluten-free friendly, low-calorie, low-carb, picky eater approved, quick and easy, vegetarian.
  • Type: Meal kits.
  • Delivery area: Most of the continental United States.
  • Shipping cost: $11.99.

Our final verdict

Similar to EveryPlate, our Dinnerly testers say the meal delivery service offers great value for being one of the most affordable services we tested. However, at $11.99, Dinnerly has the highest delivery fee compared to the other meal delivery services on our list. Despite this, Dinnerly is our recommendation for families because it delivers meal kits with large portions and fresh ingredients and offers a variety of recipes each week.

Dinnerly offers its customers a mix of adventurous recipes with familiar favorites to help make weeknight meals interesting for the whole family. For example, our testers say they liked the Korean Beef Rice Bowl and the Tandoori Chicken and Turmeric Rice meal kits they ordered.

From Handbook tester

“(The Tandoori Chicken and Turmeric Rice) was my favorite meal from the four I tried. It tasted restaurant-level good, yet I made it at home in about 30 minutes. The dish was warmly spiced, vibrantly colored, and super tender.”

Dinnerly also offers meal plans of up to six meals per week, and having more weekly recipe choices can help prevent meal kit fatigue for busy families.

We like Dinnerly for families looking for meal kits with larger portion sizes. Our testers say Dinnerly serving sizes were large enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day. That’s why we also like Dinnerly for busy families that might not eat large portions but could benefit from the convenience of cooking once and having two meals. One of our testers notes they were excited to make these meals and chose ones they felt were well-balanced and protein-focused or diet-specific (like pasta for vegetarians).

Similar to our testers’ experiences with EveryPlate, Dinnerly meal kits ask for ingredients that may not be kitchen staples for everyone. For example, the Korean Beef Rice Bowl one of our testers made asked for brown sugar, white wine vinegar, garlic, and eggs, none of which were included in the meal kit. Again, we recommend checking the “What You’ll Need” section on each Dinnerly recipe card before you start cooking so you can gather all the ingredients you’ll need to make the meal.

Pros & Cons

Pros Large portions per serving. Good variety of recipes to choose from. Great ingredient quality. Cons May require more ingredients than the kit includes. Higher delivery fee.

Blue Apron: Best prepared meals

Features

  • Price per serving: $7.99–$12.49 for meal kits; $9.99–$10.99 for prepared meals.
  • Plans: Two to five meal kits consisting of two to four servings, or four to 10 single-serving prepared meals.
  • Types of meals offered: Meal kits are available in vegetarian, fast and easy, family-friendly, wellness, chef’s favorites, keto-friendly, low-calorie, high-protein, and low-carb; prepared meals are available in keto-friendly, 600 calories or less, 30 grams of protein, or carb-conscious.
  • Type: Meal kits, prepared meals.
  • Delivery area: Continental United States.
  • Shipping cost: $10.99.

Our final verdict

Blue Apron is a meal delivery service that offers plans for both weekly meal kits and prepared meal deliveries. Though its meal kits are part of why it’s our best overall pick, we also like that its prepared meals are affordable, convenient, offer a healthy balance of foods, and taste great.

The prepared meals from Blue Apron are refrigerated, not frozen, which our testers reviewed positively for its taste and convenience. We also recommend Blue Apron to people looking for convenient heat-and-eat, single-serving, and affordable prepared meals.

Blue Apron allows customers to add prepared meals to their meal kit plans if they want the flexibility of cooking their meals on some days and reheating their meals on busier days.

Its “Prepared & Ready” meals are categorized under health-forward labels, including “600 calories or less,” “keto-friendly,” and “Mediterranean.” They may be good for people looking to stick to a certain diet. The single-serving portion sizes can also be a convenient way to control meal portions.

Blue Apron’s meals contain considerable sodium, like most prepared or frozen meals. For example, a Cheesy Mexican-Style Beef & Riced Cauliflower meal from Blue Apron contains 1,220 milligrams of sodium, which is 53 percent of the recommended daily value for adults—and higher for those with reduced sodium needs. Depending on your health goals, you may want to keep this in mind when eating prepared meals regularly.

Yaa Boakye, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Chicago, Illinois, says she looks for lower-sodium meals (600 milligrams of sodium per serving or less). Otherwise, people consuming high-sodium meals can balance their daily intake by consuming lower-sodium dishes at other times of the day.

About sodium in the diet

High sodium in the diet can contribute to high blood pressure and worsen conditions like kidney disease. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest a maximum of 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day for people over the age of 13 to minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

One of our testers says they would order their prepared meal again, citing bold flavors. However, while they felt satisfied after their meal, they say they prefer more protein. If you have a protein goal, Blue Apron also offers prepared meals labeled “30 grams of protein.”

Pros & Cons

Pros Prepared meals were fresh, not frozen. Great tasting and convenient single-serving prepared meals. Can add prepared meals to weekly meal kit plans. Cons Protein servings in prepared meals can be small. Prepared meals can contain high amounts of sodium.

HelloFresh: Best variety

Best variety
HelloFresh

Features

  • Price per serving: $9.99–$11.49.
  • Plans: Two to six meals per week, two or four servings per meal.
  • Types of meals offered: Meat and veggies, vegetarian, pescatarian, family-friendly, fast and easy, fit and wholesome.
  • Type: Meal kit.
  • Delivery area: Continental United States and select zip codes in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Anchorage, Alaska.
  • Shipping cost: $10.99.

Our final verdict

In our survey of 600 meal delivery service customers, respondents indicated that taste, nutritional value, and variety in meal options are the most important factors in a meal delivery service. HelloFresh offers all three, especially with its wide variety of meals each week. The meal delivery service has over 90 meal options a week, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, and sides. However, breakfast, desserts, and sides aren’t included in the meal kit plans but are offered as pre-made add-ons available to add to your box for an additional cost. Each week, new recipes and customer favorites are called “Hall of Fame” recipes. If you’re looking for a meal delivery service with a wide variety of meal options, add-ons, and cuisines, HelloFresh is worth a try.

HelloFresh offers meal plans to help you find the right meal kit, but you can switch out any of the meals if you see a recipe outside your plan that you prefer for that week. The meals come with tags, like “Protein Smart,” “Carb Smart,” and “Veggie,” to help you choose meal kits that suit your health goals.

Our testers say the HelloFresh meal kits are a convenient way to introduce new foods to their family, which have been well-received. However, time-strapped people should know that, like many other meal delivery services we test, HelloFresh meal kits can take longer than expected to prep.

From Handbook tester

“If I were to test this again, I would also check off the “Quick & Easy” plan when signing up because many of these meals took 30–45 minutes to cook, which is a long time for me to be in the kitchen and away from the kids.”

The “Quick” and “Easy Prep” recipes may be a better choice for busy people because they have faster cooking times or fewer prep steps, reducing the time it takes to cook a meal kit.

HelloFresh offers “Premium Picks” meals with higher-end ingredients like bavette steak or prosciutto. Though we like HelloFresh for its variety of affordable meal kits, our testers note that upgrading ingredients can significantly increase the overall cost of a meal. For example, an upgrade to a steak or fish filet protein in a meal can cost $10 extra per serving, which could mean an additional $40 for one four-serving meal kit.

Pros & Cons

Pros Meal kit options for different lifestyles. Offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Rotating weekly menu with new and “Hall of Fame” recipes. Cons Meals can take longer to prepare than expected. Premium meals can cost substantially more.

Frequently asked questions

Based on our research and testing, we found EveryPlate, Dinnerly, Blue Apron, and HelloFresh among the best and most affordable meal delivery services. The worth of each service depends on your health goals, taste preferences, and household situation.

Meal delivery services can potentially save you money by delivering all the pre-portioned ingredients for a meal. You could save on transportation costs and the cost of food wasted. If you’re trying new recipes, you can save money using meal delivery services because you don’t have to buy the full-size versions of ingredients you may not normally keep in your kitchen.

It depends on your budget and how much you eat in a week. Meal delivery services tend to be more expensive per serving when you order fewer servings per week. For example, Dinnerly costs $4.99 per meal when you order 24 servings per week, which can be a lot of food for one person to eat in a week. Still, even ordering the minimum amount from Dinnerly—four servings per week—costs $8.49 per serving, which may be worth considering the valuable time it takes to plan and shop for a meal. Additionally, people who live alone and dislike meal prep and cooking may find meal delivery worth it for its convenience.

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  3. Shrimp, NFS. (2022, Oct. 28). U.S. Department of Agriculture. Link
  4. My Plate Plan. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Link
  5. Sodium Intake and Health. (2023, Jun. 6). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link
  6. Borrelli, S., Provenzano, M., Gagliardi, I., Michael, A., Liberti, M.E., De Nicola, L., Conte, G., Garofalo, C., & Andreucci, M. (2020, Jul. 3). Sodium intake and chronic kidney disease. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(13): 4744. Link
  7. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. (2020, December). U.S. Department of Agriculture. Link