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Freshly review – CNET


Freshly

Meal delivery options have ballooned in a big way over the past several years. This is a good thing if you’re searching for a way to make mealtime easier. I mean, way easier. All the competition in the space amounts to more meal subscription options from healthy and vegan meal delivery to those intended for families and some solid budget meal-by-mail options too. You can get meals delivered for under $5 per serving if you look in the right places, in fact. 

Freshly prepared meal subscription isn’t an old service by any means, but it is one of the first to get in on the prepared lunch and dinner game at a national level. Freshly doesn’t purport to be the healthiest meal delivery in the category or focus on upscale recipes or menus tailored to niche diets. It does, however, boast about having some of the freshest, tastiest meal delivery in 2021. Freshly’s meals are intended to be crowd-pleasers aimed at a wider audience versus some services such as Factor 75 or Fresh n’ Lean which have more of a niche audience in mind.

Freshly may be one of the best-known, but is it one of the best meal delivery services?

Be it from skilled marketing, time in the market or just a good track record, Freshly is easily one of the most popular prepared meal subscription services. A quick scan of online Freshly reviews shows it has a growing base of loyal customers. It probably has one of, if not, the best brand IDs along with meal kit services such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh. But just because you’ve heard of a company doesn’t mean it’s one of the best prepared meal services — not by a long shot. 

Pete’s Paleo and Mosaic Foods are two examples of truly excellent and healthy meal delivery services that are not well known. So what about Freshly. Does it live up to its strong public image?

Is Freshly any good? Only one way to find out

To test out Freshly’s prepared meals, I tried eight recipes over the course of a few weeks to give the service a fair shake and rustle up this review of the popular meal delivery service. I went into my tasting not expecting super high-end cuisine — that’s not really what meal delivery is about — but rather hoping the service would make good on its promise of delivering fresh-tasting and flavorful meals that are conveniently packaged and shipped weekly to remove the guesswork — and work-work — out of lunch or dinner on busy days. 

Below is a breakdown of the popular meal delivery service and my firsthand review of Freshly

Freshly pricing in 2021

Meals per week Price per meal (shipping is extra)
4 $11.79
6 $10
10 $9.29
12 $9

How Freshly works

Freshly prepared meals come individually packaged and portioned, so these work especially well for single folks or couples without kids. Meals are assembled much like old-school TV dinners but are far more attractive and — spoiler alert — they taste better, too. Freshly meals arrive cold but not quite frozen, so it’s up to you whether to heat and eat them right away or freeze a few meals for a rainy day. (Note: Some foods freeze much better than others, I found.)

freshly

Freshly

Through the website, you can choose a Freshly meal plan subscription that includes as few as four or as many as 12 premade meals per week. Freshly has plenty of meal choices good for lunch or dinner, along with options for folks with dietary restrictions, including gluten-free, keto or low-carb and low-calorie. There are a few plant-based options too, but not nearly as many as other services. Off the bat, I’d say there are some much better meal delivery services for vegetarians or vegans in 2021. 

Freshly ships to every state in the lower 48 (sorry, Hawaii and Alaska!). You can also change, pause or cancel your Freshly meal plan anytime, so it’s very low-risk if you just want to check it out for a week or two.

Read moreCatch the best seafood delivery services of 2021

How much do Freshly meals cost?

Depending on the plan you choose, Freshly meals clock in between $9 and $11.79 per meal. It’s certainly more expensive than cooking at home, generally speaking, but it’s cheaper than takeout and healthier, generally speaking. There are shipping costs as well that vary somewhat, but generally don’t exceed $10 per box.

Environmental impact and packaging

Freshly is as good as any with regards to recyclability. You can check out this slick video on the company’s website explaining how nearly every piece of your order right down to the ice packs can be recycled.

Read more: How to properly recycle takeout containers

new-freshly-packaging-2021

Freshly

How my Freshly meals stacked up

I’ve tried a good many prepared meal services at this point, and while others like Home Bistro may hit higher highs, Freshly was the most consistent meal service I’ve tested thus far. You can tell it focuses on fan favorites and universally popular dishes rather than attempting those more out-of-the-box recipes. For what it is and aims to be, I’d say that’s a good thing. 

Freshly meals are premade and shipped in cooler boxes and so they’re not likely to win any Michelin stars, but I was pleasantly surprised by how flavorful and, well, fresh most of my Freshly meals were. The culinary team has clearly thought carefully about what sort of meals will both travel and reheat well, and this made a big difference for me when comparing it with some other meal delivery services.

Here’s a breakdown of each Freshly meal I had and how I liked it: 

Almond-ginger chicken bowl: These bowls were some of the most successful Freshly meals for me. They all had good flavor, especially the Asian-style grilled chicken and veggies over rice with a punchy ginger sauce. The bowls are also the easiest to heat quickly and well without drying out the ingredients. Plus, they make a rather satisfying lunch or a quick and easy dinner.

ginger-bowl

Freshly

Turkey meatloaf: The meatloaf had really nice flavor and was very tender. It was also not overly greasy or salty, and the accompanying bean salad and cauliflower mash were nice complements. It felt like comfort food without being too heavy.

Buffalo chicken with loaded cauliflower: This simple dish was also good but felt more like a lunch than a dinner. The buffalo sauce wasn’t too spicy, and the grilled chicken stayed moist when reheated.

Cauliflower bolognese: I try to stay away from any prepared pasta, and this cauliflower bolognese was a prime example of why. Even when reheated using my preferred method (see below), the end result was mushy and unappealing. The flavors were fine but not enough to make up for mushy pasta. Nothing is, to be honest.

freshly

Freshly

Steak peppercorn: This steak was another entree I had low expectations for, but I can say it overachieved in comparison with the pasta (above). It wasn’t a Ruth’s Chris ribeye by any stretch, but it was decent despite being cooked most of the way through. The side dishes were also solid, and the whole meal was filling. My suggestion: Keep this steak — and any steak for that matter — out of the microwave at all costs.

Read moreBest meat delivery for 2021: Snake River Farms, Omaha Steaks, Rastelli’s and more

Chicken tikka masala: This is probably my favorite guilty-pleasure takeout dish and so my standards are high. Freshly’s might not have totally matched the version I usually pick up from my favorite Indian restaurant, but it was a solid effort. I reheated it in a skillet, and the result was some very tender and tasty chicken in a creamy masala sauce with fluffy rice. A delicious meal that I would eat again.

chicken-tikka-masala

Freshly

A big hack 

Try not to heat any Freshly meals in the microwave if you can help it, with perhaps the exception of certain sides like mashed cauliflower or roasted potatoes. For chicken bowls, stir-fries and pasta, simply toss it all in a nonstick skillet for a few minutes, covered over low heat along with the sauce before serving. Yes, you’ll have a pan to rinse — but I promise it’s worth it. I ordered two of each meal and tried heating them a few different ways. Every single time the microwave lost, often in a landslide. For larger pieces of chicken, steak and pork loins you could also use the low-and-slow skillet method but add a splash of water or chicken broth to bring some of that life and moisture back, or cover and heat them in your convection oven (also on low) or a countertop oven.

The verdict on Freshly meal delivery

I liked Freshly more than most of the meal delivery services I’ve tried so far. I’d categorize Freshly’s style as comfort food with a slight healthy bent, and most everything I tried tasted fresh and came out well when I prepared it. As someone who cooks often, I wouldn’t see myself eating Freshly meals more than a couple of times a week. But if I didn’t enjoy cooking as much or was too busy to make the bulk of my daily meals, I think it would be a different story.

Now that I’m working from home indefinitely like many of us are, preparing lunch daily has become a bit more of a time-suck than it used to be (it’s hard to justify ordering in when your stove is 4 feet away). I can certainly imagine having a few Freshly meals on hand that are ready to rock when the 12:30 p.m. lunch craving hits and I’m tight on time or motivation. Especially those saucy bowls, which make a tasty, healthy reprieve from the humdrum sandwich or salad routine. 

Want to know more about other meal delivery services? We’ve written about the best prepared meal delivery services for 2021 and the best meal kit delivery service for 2021. And if you’re looking for gift ideas for the food-lover in your life, check out the best kitchen gifts for a home cook or foodie

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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