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I love to cook, but lately my life has been all over the place. After a long day at work or week of travel, it’s been hard to psych myself up to make something healthy for dinner. I’m sure plenty of folks looking for some semblance of work-life balance can relate.
Because I am nothing if not a sucker for a good podcast ad, I’ve tried to remedy this situation with various subscription meal services: Blue Apron was good, though a little pricey for my taste, and I wasn’t impressed by the quality of ingredients I got in my HelloFresh delivery. More importantly, both of those meal kit subscriptions required me to do the actual work of prepping and cooking meals, two things I didn’t have time and energy to worry about while dealing with a lot of personal and professional stress.
Earlier this summer, I heard yet another podcast ad for a service called Freshly that piqued my interest. It promised healthy, chef-prepared meals delivered to my home that could be heated up and ready to eat in less than three minutes. I scanned my barren kitchen cabinets and sadly pulled up DoorDash to order delivery again, realizing Freshly was exactly what I was looking for: healthier than takeout and, most importantly, really, really easy.
I signed up for Freshly that night over a soggy pile of delivery french fries and got to work sorting through the menu to choose which meals I wanted in my first box.
Like all meal delivery services, Freshly’s pricing depends on the number of meals you choose each week. Options range from as few as four meals a week for $50 to 12 meals a week for $108.
After making my selections, I was ready. Could it really be this easy and still be tasty? I wanted to know if this prepared meal delivery service really was everything it claimed to be. Here’s how my Freshly experience went.
Freshly says its rotating menu of nearly 30 different meals is “crafted by a team of chefs, culinary scientists and nutritionists” to be both healthy and delicious, and I was immediately intrigued by the variety I saw on the site. From chicken tikka masala and Mexican-style shredded beef to homestyle chicken and mac and cheese, I was excited to see whether the food actually tasted as good as it looked in the promotional photos. There are even a few (albeit limited) options for vegetarian, paleo, dairy-free and gluten-free diets as well.
My first box showed up on my front door about a week after signing up, and I eagerly unpacked my meals. I hadn’t been sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. My favorite two meals out of the first batch were a steak and potatoes dish and the chicken with butternut squash mac and cheese (pictured below).
The nontoxic ice packs used to keep the food cold and fresh ended up being my biggest complaint about the service right off the bat. The packs in my first box were leaking. The delivery came with instructions to cut open the packs, pour the liquid into the trash and recycle the bags — a messy clean-up process for each delivery, to say the least. I did it because I am a fan of this planet, but it made my trash exceptionally heavy, wet and hard to carry to the alley without leaving a trail of ice pack filling in my wake.
Putting a pin the recycling issue, I did enjoy the flavors of the meals in my first kit. Over the next few weeks I cycled through nearly all of Freshly’s meal offerings. I learned it was best to avoid the pasta dishes (when reheated, even the most al-dente noodles turned into a puddle of mush) and how to create a restaurant-worthy brunch hash when I added a fried egg to the Mexican-style shredded beef. That became one of my favorite go-to staples, as did the steak and mashed potatoes and the breaded chicken with mac and cheese, which I doused in hot sauce for an extra kick.
The service made meal time effortless, which is what I needed. Knowing that I always had a tasty, healthy meal waiting for me in the fridge at home stopped me from ordering in as often, and it saved me from wasting money at the grocery store buying produce that would end up going bad in my fridge.
Is Freshly Worth It?
After about a month and a half, I did begin to get bored with the menu. Even my favorite Freshly meals were no longer hitting the spot, and I had to force myself to eat everything before each new delivery arrived.
The packaging situation was really getting out of hand, too. I was tired of slogging a 30-pound wet trash bag down my back steps, and I didn’t feel great about the amount of plastic and cardboard I was accruing every week, even if most of it was being recycled.
And, in the end, I actually began to miss the process of grocery shopping and meal prepping. So, after two months and 48 meals, I canceled my Freshly subscription.
I would still recommend Freshly as a good option for busy professionals who need to get a handle on their diet and curb their spending on takeout. The meals did eventually get a little repetitive, but knowing I always had something healthy to eat after work helped to relieve me of some pressure during a very stressful period in my life.
And who knows? If Freshley updates the menu and adds new meal options, I might be convinced to try it out again — even when I’m not too busy to cook.