I hate cooking. Abhor and despise could also be used interchangeably. So when I stumbled across a meal delivery service, Freshly, with a much different approach than season veterans like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Plated, I was eager to give them a try.
Unlike those three, Freshly delivers individually packaged, chef-cooked meals. Literally, you pop the meal in the microwave for a few minutes and it’s ready to eat.
Given how much internal grumbling happens when I have to meal plan, grocery shop, cook, and clean up, I pounced at the thought of having a pre-made meal in just three minutes.
So for 28 days, I outsourced nine meals a week to Freshly.
Here’s what it’s like eating microwaved meals for a month…and whether I would recommend Freshly or not.
- How Does a Microwaved Meal Taste?
- Is Freshly Worth It? Who Is It For?
- How does Freshly work?
- Interesting Observations
- Freshly Alternatives
How Does a Microwaved Meal Taste?
This was my biggest question. The answer, shockingly, is that Freshly meals taste amazing coming out of a microwave (you can also bake them if you’d prefer).
Seriously, if I served a Freshly meal on a plate to the average person, I don’t think they’d ever know it was microwaved. A few of my friends said the same thing after trying a meal.
I’ve never tasted a better microwaved meal in all my years of wandering this earth. And being a bachelor, I’ve eaten a lot of microwaved meals. ;)
What’s even more impressive is all their meals are healthy—gluten-free, high in protein, low in carbs, contain no processed sugars, and are all natural. (Although, some commenters mentioned high sodium content.)
Note: If you order your first box using any of the links in this post, you’ll get a generous discount and I’ll get a small commission. It’s a win-win for both of us! And please know I wrote this review before I knew I could earn a commission. It’s genuinely my honest, unbiased experience.
Is Freshly Worth It? Who Is It For?
Obviously, if you’re like me and hate everything about eating that’s not the actual eating part, then Freshly is worth checking out. But as I’ve talked to friends and family about Freshly, many of them have also been interested for other reasons.
They’re easy meal options for people coming out of the hospital (giving birth, surgeries, etc.). Another friend knows there are certain weeks where she’ll be too busy or stressed to cook for her family, so plans on taking a “cooking vacation” using Freshly. It’s also a worthwhile option if you’re going out of town and need to ensure your spouse/kids stay alive while you’re gone. ;)
For me though, the biggest win is saved time and mental energy. Freshly is uber convenient. If you add up all the time you’d spend planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning, each Freshly meal probably saves you at least an hour (if not more). That’s an extra hour a day to spend with your spouse, kiddos, friends, pursuing your hobbies, etc.
It’s an amazing feeling opening the refrigerator, grabbing one of these meals, and eating a few minutes later. It’s the convenience of fast food but with all natural, healthy ingredients.
Freshly is also great if you need a break from your typical meal rotation. I know I can eat tacos only so many times in a month before I get sick of them.
Having tried it for a month, I can confidently say it’s worth it for me. I have less anxiety, more time, and eat way healthier. I’m not kidding you when I say figuring out what to eat each week was a stressful process for me. And their prices are actually cheaper than similar (pre-cooked) meal delivery companies.
How does Freshly work?
It’s really simple and straightforward—aided by a fantastic website. They get major bonus points for designing a website that’s incredibly easy to use.
1. Pick Your Meal Plan
Your choices are 4, 6, 9, or 12 meals per week. I go with nine meals per week and try to get three chicken entrees, three seafood, and three other (beef, breakfast, pork, pasta, etc.). Shifting up the main protein provides a nice variety during the week.
2. Pick a Delivery Date
Freshly delivers throughout the week. Your first delivery will happen on that day of the following week. I have mine delivered on Fridays and the box usually arrives between noon and 3:00pm CST. If you’re not home when it’s delivered, the box will keep for an additional 12 hours.
3. Choose Your Meals
As of September 2018, you can choose from 26 entrees and 8 breakfasts with new meals being introduced every couple weeks. Although, sometimes they’re calling meals “new” when all they’ve done is make some minor changes (like shift up the side).
But so far, here are some of my favorite meals:
- Shrimp & Andouille Paella (one of my all-time favorites)
- Jamaican-Style Chicken with Cauliflower Rice & Mango Salsa (another all-time favorite)
- Pork al Pastor with Cotija Cheese & Mexican Street Corn
- Steak Peppercorn with Sautéed Carrots & French Green Beans
- Penne Bolognese (nothing fancy here but consistently good)
The chicken meals are generally the most filling. While I never finish a meal still feeling hungry, I do wish the portions were larger on some of them. This might not be an issue though depending on how much you typically eat.
As far as the breakfast meals, I don’t feel like they’re worth it. Mainly because they’re mostly egg-based. Unfortunately, I can’t get really excited about eggs. And you don’t get a whole lot of food for your money. The only exception are their porridge dishes (which cycle in and out). Those are good whenever they’re available (the non-paleo variety).
While I originally wrote this post after eating Freshly meals every week for a month, I’ve continued using Freshly—averaging about two orders a month since May 2016. That’s how I stumbled across some of the observations below …
Up first, Freshly’s customer service is top notch and extremely generous.
I emailed them about a meal that was noticeably off from what I’d eaten in the past (the only time it’s happened in over 300+ meals) . Without me asking, they promptly gave me credit. I thought that was a nice gesture. It made me wonder if they’d give you a credit for a meal you didn’t enjoy.
Which led me to take advantage of their text support option one day while I was feeling a little goofy (as you’ll kind of gather from the text thread).
Another time, the deadline to skip a week was earlier than expected because of a holiday. I didn’t realize that and had a box shipped to me when I didn’t want it. After reaching out, they gave me a credit for the entire box! (They’ve actually done this twice now when both times were my fault for not paying attention to when I would be in town.)
From the outside looking in, I’ve been really impressed with how Freshly operates.
A few things have really stood out. The proactive credits I mentioned above. They’ve replied to every question I’ve tweeted at them. They’ve changed their nutrition labels to say 1 serving instead of 1.5 because of user feedback. They rolled out a feature on their website to let you rate meals.
I’ve seen them try different insulation materials, cooling packs, and film. They send out feedback surveys.
All of that communicates a company that values and acts on feedback.
We got a lot of feedback that the 1.5 labeling was misleading/bothersome. :-)
— Freshly (@getfreshly) June 24, 2016
Now that I’ve been a regular Freshly customer since 2016, I’ve found every other week (sometimes every third week—depending on my travel schedule) is the right frequency. It gives me enough variety that I never get sick of the meals.
And it took me awhile to notice it was there, but the inside of each meal sleeve has a two minute read called Nutrition for the Mind. It’s a small detail, but it conveys a company that really cares about their product and user experience.
Also, only having to wash cups and silverware has been one word, glorious!
Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or Plated are the most talked about online. However, you really can’t compare Freshly to those services because their model is so different.
With Freshly, you get chef-cooked meals. Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Plated send you the raw ingredients to make your own meals. While that saves on meal planning and grocery shopping, you still have to cook and clean. I’ve tried all three and they weren’t for me. Each meal took about an hour to prepare and, honestly, just wasn’t worth it. Some meals turned out fantastic, others were gross. Clean up took longer than normal, too.
If you enjoy the act of cooking and want to save time on grocery shopping then Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or Plated are great options. But if you’re looking for simplicity, convenience, and consistency (in quality of food), Freshly is the clear winner.
And it’s cheaper than similar (pre-cooked) meal delivery services.
Another alternative to Freshly would be local food delivery services. It seems a lot of catering business also provide this type of service. Before trying Freshly, I found one in Nashville that was decent. The food definitely wasn’t as healthy or conveniently packaged, but it was still good. Had I not found Freshly, I probably would’ve continued with the local service.
So, think Freshly has a spot in your cooking arsenal? Let me know in the comments how you could see yourself using Freshly.