The Best Prepared Meal Delivery Subscriptions, Reviewed By A Picky Eater

Prepared meal delivery services can be a godsend. Whether you're a burnt-out WFH workaholic, a busy parent, a stressed-out student, or you're simply overwhelmed by the traumatizing ordeal of living three years in a pandemic. Meal kits (Sakara Life, anyone?) are great if you actually enjoy cooking, but this is for those of you looking for low-effort meals that'll give you all the nutrition and flavor of a homemade meal with the ease of takeout. We get it — sometimes all you have the energy for is pressing some buttons on the microwave.

When I did my big move from my family home in New Jersey to Brooklyn last year, I decided that I would become a “cooking person.” That lasted two weeks at most. Between my new job, new city, new roommates, and no friends; my anxiety levels were so elevated that I couldn’t even muster the energy to put some Trader Joe's frozen fettuccine alfredo on a skillet. (“Not feeling like cooking tonight?” asked the Trader Joe’s cashier as they scanned my cart, which was filled with almost every frozen offering in the store’s inventory. I was grocery-shamed into avoiding that location forever.) When I wasn’t busy ignoring my freezer, I was eating out every single day. That was great and delicious, but pretty bad for my bank account. I knew I needed to change some things, but every time I'd try to meal plan and stock up on groceries, they would just go bad.

There are multiple layers to my lack of cooking motivation — as someone who lives with chronic pain and struggles with depression and anxiety, ordering Doordash will always be easier than going through the seemingly Herculean effort of preparing a meal. An added complication is that I’ve been a picky eater since childhood. I can't stand foods with specific textures and can't tolerate anything spicy. This is common for neurodivergent people (i.e., those on the autism spectrum, or who have ADHD or another learning disability). Because it’s such a big part of my everyday life, these issues are impossible to ignore when trying to choose a take-out alternative. If you identify with any of these issues, then trust me to give you all the deets on which subscription services I found to be worthwhile, any drawbacks that I observed, and which types of eaters it could work for.

While pre-made meal subscriptions aren’t necessarily designed with us neurodivergent peeps in mind, they offer an added layer of convenience for anyone who is struggling with meal planning — from gorgeous, gorgeous girls with seasonal depression to busy bees looking to fit a nutritious meal into their day. Ahead, I took four popular options for a weekly spin — read all of my thoughts below.
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Dijon Mustard Steak from RealEats
Best For: Folks who want to feel like they cooked a full meal.

Existing in that middle grown between meal kits and frozen meals, RealEats delivers fresh, nutritious dinners using sous-vide, a technique that's found in many gourmet restaurants. The 100% food-safe, BPA-free, Plasticizer-free pouches lock in the flavors for food that' feels free and vibrant.

If you want the flavors of a homecooked meal — plate and all — RealEats is for you. Out of the three subscriptions I reviewed for this story, this is the one where I felt like I had my life together. I was eating out of a plate and everything! While I had more personal misses with it than the others, when it was good, it was good good. It felt like I was enjoying a high-end restaurant-quality meal right at home. Plus, the menu changes weekly! You definitely won't feel like you're eating the same thing every week.

Drawbacks: It's relatively low-effort, but not low-effort enough for me. While you can empty the pouches onto a plate and microwave the meal, it's recommended that you boil them for the best results. When choosing my meals for RealEats, I had the issue of only being interested in the main protein and one side. I would often leave the other side because I didn't like it — not that the side itself was bad, but that I didn't like the ingredients' taste or texture to begin with (although they just introduced Mix & Match to their roster, so you could build your meals with your own choice of sides and protein). Caution if you're recovering from an eating disorder, the online menu's display of caloric intake might be triggering and they're right next to the meal's information so you can't miss them.
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Best For: Busy foodies
Factor75 is a dietitian-designed, chef-crafted, ready-to-eat meal subscription service with a weekly rotating menu. Take your pick from 29+ meals (From keto to vegan) that will please the palate of even the most discerning foodie. You can also hoose from 35+ add-ons to include in your box — everything from keto cheesecakes and truffles to smoothies, juices, and plant-based bars. 
I can't lie: Factor really stole my heart. These meals are absolutely delicious. I was impressed with everything from the perfectly seasoned chicken to the delightful keto vanilla cheesecake. Second only to Sunbasket in their flavor profile, these meals do not taste like those frozen microwavable ones. You get a perfect balance: meals are ready in under 4 minutes with a quick zap in the microwave; they’re super tasty and the menu changes every week so you don't have to keep eating the same thing every week, and the portions are filling.
Drawbacks: The only drawback I could see to Factor75 is the price point. You need to order 15 meals to pay the lowest price of $11 per meal. (If you order 8 meals — the most popular option — it bumps up slightly to $12.38 per meal.) If you're triggered by caloric intake information, you might want to be cautious — when you click on the meal for more details, the nutritional values are right there.
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Spaghetti & Meatballs In Basil Marinara from Sunbasket
Best For: Flavor Chasers

Sunbasket is a meal-kit subscription service with health-conscious and sustainable values that recently made the jump to instant meals with its Fresh & Ready microwaveable plates. The meals come in recyclable or compostable packaging, and use responsibly-sourced ingredients from farmers and fishermen.

The first already-made meals subscription service I tried, Sunbasket set my expectations high. Being a connoisseur of the old-fashioned frozen meals from the likes of Stouffer’s and Marie Callender’s, I thought I knew what to expect: weird textures and passable flavors galore. But Sunbasket was the exact opposite of that, it was insanely flavorful and delicious. I felt like I was eating the best leftovers! (Plus, the nutritional info isn't in your face if you're not interested or get triggered by calorie counts!)

Drawbacks: Because Sunbasket's Fresh & Ready meals are new, there are very few options to choose from every week. There are even fewer options if you're anything like me — picky and spicy-intolerant.
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Protein-Packed Chicken Parm from Freshly
Best For: Fans of having lots of options without doing the work

Freshly is the expertly created microwaveable meal subscription service I'm sure you've seen in all your Instagram ads — I know I have! Whether you're looking for gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, keto, or soy-free, Freshly has so many meals to choose from.

Don't be fooled by the visuals! While being the closest to resemble traditional frozen meals. With a wide variety of meals that consider dietary restrictions and preferences, the likelihood of choosing the same few meals every week is low. And even if you choose the same ones (because you're comforted by routine), they're so good you won't even mind. Depending on the calorie count, some meals are good for lunch and others for dinner, but both filled me up surprisingly well. With Freshly, the likelihood of loving at least most of my meal was very high. This hit all of my must-haves: full of calories, low-effort, texture-friendly, and delicious.

Drawbacks: It took a while to see what I actually liked from the menu and what I didn't. There were lots of times that I didn't enjoy the sides at all, but the main protein of the dish was good. If you're recovering from an Eating Disorder, the calorie count on the online menu might be triggering — It's not as in-your-face as RealEats was though, you have to scroll a bit more.
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