In an ideal world, we’d eat a wholesome, home cooked meal at every sitting. We’d have a perfectly organised kitchen, a well stocked fridge and rows of mason jars in the pantry. We’d prepare our lunch on Sundays, make overnight breakfasts and always have healthy snacks on hand. In other words, we’d be culinary goddesses. But any busy woman will tell you, this is far from reality.
In real life, we skip breakfast, order takeout and frequent the office vending machine. We get busy, lazy, uninspired, *insert excuse here*. And as a result, our health often suffers. Not to mention, we waste a whole lot of food in the process.
It’s unsurprising then to hear that the fresh ready-meal market is now a $600 million industry in Australia and a $1.5 billion industry in the United States and growing. More and more people are turning to these options out of convenience, cost (it stops you wasting food and saves time cooking because time is money, people) and even health.
But with any growing industry comes increasing competition. And with so many options to choose from, how do you know which is best? Well, we’ve done the heavy eating for you. We trialled both meal kits (you receive the recipe and ingredients and you cook it yourself) and pre-made meals to see what truly delivers. In no particular order, here’s how some popular brands compared.
Great for: Weight loss
Following the foolproof formula of protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates at every meal, Thr1ve has a focus on healthy eating. Each dish comes labelled with its nutritional profile—including macronutrients, calories, ingredients and allergens—making it easy to monitor your energy intake and select meals based on your training goal. You can choose individual dishes from their full menu or have it done for you with one of their three programs: calorie-controlled Light & Lean, keto-friendly Ultra Low Carb or simply Beautifully Balanced. With a focus on protein and vegetables, the meals are tasty without being overcomplicated and the portions are well controlled. If you’re looking for a meal delivery that’ll keep you “on track”, this is for you. Price: $9.95 – $13.95 per meal Available meals: breakfast (granola and protein powder), lunch, dinner, dessert and snacks Quality: 5/5 Taste: 4/5
Great for: plant-based eaters
Chances are, you’ve heard a whisper about Soulara. It’s the latest ready-made meal delivery to hit Australia and our first entirely vegetarian one. I tried Soulara when it launched and the food was fresh and the delivery was convenient. At the time, it only had a few meal options however a quick squiz on the website shows it has significantly increased its portfolio—and the food looks delicious! Every meal is free from preservatives, refined sugars, artificial colours and flavours, and the team at Soulara have a focus on sustainability in everything from their seasonal produce to their packaging. Side note: Soulara also provides a nutritional breakdown if that’s what you’re in to. Price: $9.50 per meal (18 meals per week) – $11.50 per meal (9 meals per week) Available meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner Quality: 4/5 Taste: 4/5
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Great for: food intolerances
Woah, where to begin? Eat Fit Food is incredible. The meals are inventive, packed with flavour and very high-quality. For something that comes pre-packaged, it’s insanely fresh—unsurprising when you hear that they deliver three times each week. The meals are expertly crafted to be nutritious—including an abundance of healthy fats, superfoods and essential vitamins and minerals—and wholesome, contain zero additives and no refined sugar. Go improv by choosing off the ‘Healthy Eating’ menu or opt for one of their custom meal plans: 28-Day Challenge, Clean and Lean, Cleanse or 3-day Vegan Reset, all of which are portion and calorie controlled. Plus, the menus change weekly so you’ll never get bored. I tried Eat Fit Food for an entire week and literally didn’t encounter one meal I didn’t like. Only thing is, it’s more expensive than most. Price: Starting from $120 per week (meals range from $9.00 – $25.50) Available meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks…you name it. Quality: 5/5 Taste: 5/5
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Great for: those who love to cook and try new dishes
Unless requested by the consumers, Marley Spoon never offers the same meal twice, literally. They have a team of expert chefs who work tirelessly creating and testing 12 new recipes every week. So it’s no surprise that when it comes to taste, they always deliver. So how does it work? Simply browse the 12 recipes, select what tickles your tastebuds and a meal box will be delivered to your door with all the ingredients (pre-measured to prevent wastage) and recipes (each with six simple steps).
With a focus on fresh produce and interesting flavours, Marley Spoon works with sustainable farmers and small-batch suppliers to source the best ingredients available and support the local community. I loved their meals and everything they stand for. If you want convenience but still love to cook, try a meal box delivery like Marley Spoon. And the best bit? You get to keep the recipes so you can recreate the dishes again and again. Price: $11.65 per meal (for two) or $9.50 per meal (for four) Available meals: Dinner (which turned into leftovers for lunch) Quality: 5/5 Taste: 5/5
Great for: time-poor individuals and couples
Hate peeling back the plastic on a packaged meal? Chef’s Palate is another great meal kit option. The expert chef, Alex Jones, has done all the hard work for you so each meal takes less than 20-minutes to make. And although the recipes are simple, they’re extraordinarily tasty. In fact, that’s the philosophy behind the recipes. With over 20 years culinary experience and a Greek heritage that taught him the importance of paddock to plate eating, Jones’s meals are built on the idea that simple produce can be turned into a feast with unadulterated, natural ingredients.
I tried a tofu and vegetable ramen as well as a Cajun salmon with salad. Both packed a surprising amount of flavour for what seemed to be fairly straightforward meals. With nine dishes to choose from each week (including three vegetarian options), that change weekly, you’ll get restaurant quality in the comfort of your home. Price: $12.48 – $9.50 per meal (depending on number of people and meals per week) Available meals: Dinner (which turned into leftovers for lunch) Quality: 4/5 Taste: 5/5
Great for: time-poor families
If you live in the United States and hate preparing meals, One Potato is a good option. Our founder, Bianca Cheah trialled it and here’s what she had to say:
One Potato delivers organic, pre-prepped ingredients and family-friendly recipes with special pricing for children, weekly. The meals are all quick, nutritious and fresh, and were designed to appeal to the whole family. They source the highest quality organic, seasonal produce, which is all GMO-free.
And the best part, everything they ship is recyclable and biodegradable. Even their insulation in the box is made from recycled denim jeans (really).
All meals are ready in 30 mins or less. The fresh ingredients arrive pre-chopped and pre-measured in a refrigerated box. There is even free cookie dough in every box for the kids. Price: US$11.99 (adults), US$4.50 (children) per meal (Low pricing for kids saves you money). Available meals: Dinner. Quality: 5/5 Taste: 5/5 Editor’s note: To be frank, I was impressed with all the meal deliveries. There really isn’t a bad option. Whether you go for a meal kit or a pre-made meal is really up to you; they both have pros and cons. It was really nice not to visit the supermarket and to take a break from planning dinner. Although some of these meal deliveries are subscriptions, you can stop or pause them at any time. Don’t feel you have to use them every week but they can be good to use if you have a busy week ahead.