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Meal prep on a budget: The cheapest meal kits of 2024

As you carry on through this winter season, you probably want to stay inside where it's warm. With a chilly trip to the grocery store out of the question, you may be tempted to indulge in takeout for dinner -- but before you empty your bank account on high prices, delivery fees, and other mysterious charges, consider this cheap, budget-friendly alternative: meal kits

"For people who regularly purchase groceries but don't use them, a meal delivery service is a helpful way to reduce waste," says registered dietitian Melissa Darlow. "The meals specify serving sizes, so if something is two servings you can plan for that or freeze whatever you don't finish."

If you're interested in saving time and money while still serving up delicious and nutritious meals several nights a week, the best meal kit services make it easy to plan everything out with ease. Pre-portioned ingredients mean you won't have to worry about using the rest of that homemade sauce or looking up how to make leftover celery last in the fridge (hint: submerge the cut stalks in water in a covered container and they'll last up to two weeks). 

We did the legwork for you and picked out three of the best and healthiest meal kit services for your budget this year.

The cheapest meal kits of 2024

Leave your grocery store coupons unclipped, stop factoring in gas prices when tallying up your weekly food budget, and check out these budget-friendly meal kit services instead. We fixed our spotlight on some of the cheapest meal kits that serve up a variety of unique and enticing recipes each week.

Ready to start saving money? Check out our picks for the least expensive meal kit services of the year before selecting the best delivery service for you.

Most budget-friendly: EveryPlate

Southwest Pork Flautas with Zesty Crema & Pico de Gallo
EveryPlate

When it comes to price per serving, EveryPlate is tied with another meal kit on our list, Dinnerly, as the cheapest option around. Prices start at $4.99 per serving for both and go up from there, depending on which plan you choose.

To get that lowest price, you would need to select the maximum number of meals per week: six meals, with four servings each.

If you're planning out couples meals -- or live alone -- you might be interested in the minimum weekly box size. This is where EveryPlate takes the lead over Dinnerly: Three weekly meals with two servings apiece boils down to $7.49 per serving for EveryPlate and $8.04 per serving for Dinnerly.

With more than 20 recipes to pick each week, EveryPlate serves up a decent variety with its dishes. You might find a deeper variety with other, more expensive meal kits, but EveryPlate's offerings aim for a sort of mass appeal. From comfort food items with a twist like the Cheesy Tortilla Smash Burgers to zesty options like the Southwest Pork Flautas (pictured above), there's enough here to satisfy even the picky eater.

Total box prices range from $45 to $120 per week depending on serving size and number of weekly meals. Shipping costs are another $10 on top of that. A big draw for most meal kit services is the offer of steep discounts for first-time customers, and EveryPlate is no exception: enter your email when selecting your box size to claim an offer for serving prices as low as $1.49 per meal!


Pros

Cons

  • Lowest prices per serving when compared to other meal kits
  • Fewer weekly recipes than other meal kits
  • Family-friendly meals that are easy to prepare
  • Limited options for dietary restrictions
  • Healthy meal options including nutritious recipes under 650 calories
  • Limited meal variety 

Why we recommend EveryPlate: This meal kit checks all the boxes for a budget-friendly delivery service: affordable plans, nutritious recipes available at low serving prices, and big-time savings for first-time customers.


Best vegetarian: Dinnerly

Cheeseburger with Salt & Vinegar Oven Fries
Dinnerly

Behold, the close runner up (in our books) for cheapest meal kit service: Dinnerly. With serving prices starting at $4.99, this meal kit is a great pick if you want to save on your food budget while enjoying delicious and nutritious dinners throughout the week.

In contrast to that low serving cost, which kicks in when you opt for six weekly meals at four servings apiece, the highest amount you'll pay per serving is $8.04 (two, two-serving meals per week). Either way, you're still enjoying decent savings by signing up for dinners through Dinnerly instead of hunting down your own ingredients at the store or ordering takeout.

"Dinnerly is one of the most affordable meal delivery services of [the year]," says Darlow on the topic of pricing. "Three meals per week for four people costs $74, coming out to $6.14 per serving. Dinnerly features more than 100 meal options each week that are dairy free, vegetarian, kid friendly and more."

Where EveryPlate lacks ever so slightly in meal variety, Dinnerly shines with more than 40 weekly recipes at your disposal. Alongside plenty of reliable (if a bit predictable) dishes like the Smoky Pan-Roasted Steak or Crispy Cheddar Chicken plate, you can find less common meals: there's the spicy and dairy-free Pork Vindaloo, for example, or Pesto Primavera made with gluten-free ravioli.

Total costs for each weekly box range from $45 to $132, while shipping costs an additional $12. If you want to save $140 off your first five boxes, don't forget to check out Dinnerly's discount voucher for first-time customers. 


Pros

Cons

  • The lowest prices per serving compared to other meal kits
  • Limited variety for certain dietary restrictions
  • Over 40 recipes to choose from each week
  • Free shipping and big discounts off your first box for first-time customers

Why we chose Dinnerly: Low prices combined with a decent variety of nutritious recipes each week ensured Dinnerly would have a spot on our list.


Biggest sign-up savings: Blue Apron

Cheesy Mexican Chicken with Broccoli, Rice & Toasted Pepitas
Blue Apron

Thanks to a whopping 75% discount offer for customers building their first Blue Apron delivery box, one of the most well-known names in the world of meal delivery made our list. Now Blue Apron isn't just known for gourmet meals that are fun to cook -- but also huge savings.

In order to bless your food budget with prices as low as $3.74 per serving, make sure to redeem this lucrative offer when selecting a meal plan. Savings also include free shipping on that first order, as well as additional savings across your next four deliveries. 

Blue Apron offers an impressive selection of meals to choose from, with more than 70 recipes to browse each week. This includes low-calorie (500 or less), diabetes-friendly (thanks to a collaboration with the American Diabetes Association), WW-approved (formerly Weight Watchers), and vegetarian choices. You can also find recipes that fit into the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. 

Blue Apron also comes with some noteworthy add-ons and features. There are premium recipes that you can check out if you want access to unique protein combinations or want to learn some flashy new culinary techniques; alternatively, you could avoid these pricier recipes (some cost up to $20 per serving) and still enjoy a wide selection of weekly dinner options. Another perk that may sit outside your food budget is Blue Apron's unique wine pairing service. 

We looked at these and other perks during an extensive Blue Apron review. Thankfully, you can still save big by sticking to the no-frills weekly plan. And hey, if you want to splurge on some of Blue Apron's premium services once in a while, who are we to stop you? You deserve it! Blue Apron also makes it easy to pause services or skip a week.

"Take advantage of this feature when you know you won't be able to use the service for a certain period, such as when you're traveling or have other plans," says nutritionist Mary Sabat. This kind of flexibility is key when it comes to long-term savings on your food budget. 

The normal price per serving for Blue Apron ranges from $8 (for five meals with four servings each) to $12.50 (for two two-serving meals a week), but new customers can save $180 on their first six orders -- plus, that first box ships for free.


Pros

Cons

  • $180 off your first six orders (plus free shipping on your first box) for first-time customers
  • No specific plans for gluten-free, vegan, or keto diets
  • Your pick of more than 70 chef-approved recipes each week
  • Extra services like premium meals that, while enticing, can ultimately lead to high costs
  • A number of optional add-ons and perks

Why we highlighted Blue Apron: Blue Apron is a popular meal kit known for fun and unique recipes with affordable prices that really sealed the deal for this delivery service in our books.


Best prepared meals: Fresh N Lean

fresh-n-lean.jpg
Fresh N Lean

If you want prepackaged meals that cut out prep entirely, Fresh N Lean would make for the perfect addition to your weekly routine. This meal delivery service hooks subscribers up with ready-made meals that are fresh, never frozen, and made from quality ingredients.

With over 100 menu items to choose from each week, Fresh N Lean wins points for variety. This includes a number of low carb, vegan, and gluten-free meals to consider on a weekly basis. 

While not USDA-certified, this company does aim to ship organic ingredients whenever possible. In the event that an ingredient doesn't meet the brand's quality standards, it may be replaced with conventional ingredients. According to the meal delivery company's FAQ page, Fresh N Lean is working towards a year-round menu that's made up of more than 95% organic ingredients.

Prices typically start at $10.50 per serving, but any order over $100 earns subscribers free shipping. First-time customers can also save $20 off their first order by using their email when signing up.


Pros

Cons

  • A large variety of 100+ diet-friendly meals and other menu items to choose from each week
  • Budget-friendliness dips if you order less than 10 meals per week, making this best for large families or meal planning pros
  • Fully prepared meals can be ready within minutes
  • Little to no customization for individual meals
  • Free shipping on every order over $100 


Why we chose Fresh N Lean: Fresh N Lean is a great meal delivery service to turn to for budget-friendly, fully prepared meals -- especially if you order enough meals to earn free shipping each week.


Best for breakfast and lunch: Daily Harvest

daily-harvest-meal.png
Daily Harvest

Do you like healthy fruit smoothies for breakfast? What about harvest grain bowls or soups for lunch? If you started salivating at the mention of even one of those options, then Daily Harvest is the meal delivery service for you.

With a menu packed full of whole fruits and vegetables, Daily Harvest is great for finding the perfect meal for breakfast or lunch. There are more than 20 unique, flavorful, and nutritionally-packed smoothies to choose from including the dragon fruit and lychee smoothie, pineapple and Matcha, and our personal favorite: the strawberry and peach smoothie.

Don't worry, there are plenty of dinner options to consider here as well. Daily Harvest's menu includes hearty soups, forager bowls, flatbreads, and pasta recipes -- so there's truly something for everyone here.

Deliveries are put together one item at a time, so you have the freedom to build your own meal plan each week. Pick anywhere from nine to 24 items each week. Prices for Daily Harvest start at just $6 per item. 

Use promo code DH65 when signing up to earn up to $65 in additional savings.


Pros

Cons

  • The entire menu is dairy-free and uses more than 90% certified organic ingredients for recipes
  • Dinner options are limited compared to other meal kits
  • Tons of whole fruits and organic vegetables in nearly every recipe
  • Some menu items are notably high in sugar or sodium
  • The best choice for lunch and breakfast meal options
  • Smoothies can seem a bit pricey at $8.49 a pop

Why we highlighted Daily Harvest: Despite smoothie prices that are higher than you expect, Daily Harvest is still a top contender for healthy meals and treats on a budget, especially if you're interested in the variety of breakfast and lunch options here.


Why switching to meal kits can be better for your budget

Admit it: It's a bit of a flex to have a delicious, homemade meal ready and waiting multiple nights throughout the week. It takes time and a bit of planning to pull this off, especially if you're cooking for a busy family.

If you need a good reason to make the switch to meal kits, behold: Families that regularly rely on home-cooked dinners have been linked to reduced food expenses of up to $60 per month. And that's not even factoring in high prices that come with eating out. If you live in New York City, for example, your food budget would likely benefit from a change to meal kit delivery.

"The median price of a restaurant meal in NYC is $46.14; meanwhile a serving of a meal delivery service is less than $10," Darlow says. "Therefore, a meal delivery service or kit can be a great way to save money."

But wait -- we already know your next question: "With so many meal kits out there, how do I pick the best one?" We looked at things like the price per serving, meal options, and bonus savings for first-time customers when deciding on which meal delivery services would make the cut. 


The best meal kit service for your budget

Choosing the right meal kit for you comes down to a few things. In addition to hunting down the lowest prices per serving, you should always keep an eye out for added discounts. First-time customers can typically find some level of savings right from the plan selection page. Instead of signing up for the first appealing price you see, shop around a bit to make sure there aren't other better deals waiting for you elsewhere.

"Compare prices," says Sabat. "Research and compare different meal delivery services to find the most cost-effective option. Take into account factors such as portion sizes, number of meals per week, and any additional fees for shipping or customization."

That note about shipping fees is worth mentioning again. It's not always easy to see how much a meal kit service charges for shipping until you get into the plan selection process. Keep in mind that the average cost of shipping is around $10 per box and most first-time customer discounts only waive that fee for your first delivery.


How we ranked the best and most affordable meal kits

In order to make the best selections possible, it's important to pull out all the stops when reviewing meal kit delivery services. We considered a number of factors when choosing the best meal kits for affordability and the biggest ones were:

  • Price per serving: We made sure to find the cheapest meal kits with affordable serving costs.
  • Sign up bonuses: Don't you just love a good bargain? Us too! That's why we found some of the most impressive first-time discounts to help you save big by switching to meal kits.
  • Meal variety: A budget-friendly meal kit service won't mean much if you cancel after a few weeks. That's why we looked for companies that offer an impressive selection of weekly recipes that will keep you coming back for more.
  • Flexible plans: Sometimes, life throws you a curveball and you simply have to make some changes to what you're spending money on. Which is why we prioritized meal kit companies that make it easy to pause or skip deliveries whenever needed. 
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