Freshly review: Tasty gluten-free prepared meals
Rating as of based on a review of services February 7, 2023.
Freshly lets you choose from a wide variety of prepared meals, including many gluten-free and low-calorie options. This meal delivery service is ideal for those with strict diets and busy schedules but might not be a good fit for very large families or those with bigger appetites. Find out what Freshly is all about here.
Freshly is a meal delivery service that does the cooking and prep for you too. Freshly meals, most of which are 100% gluten-free, arrive fully cooked and ready to eat after a brief turn in the microwave, with convenient single-serving portion sizes and a variety of dishes and diets to choose from.
Whether you’re looking for nutritious meals, individual portions without the leftovers, convenient dinners, or all of the above, you might be able to find what you’re looking for with Freshly. In this Freshly review, we’ll share what makes this meal service different from others, how subscriptions work, and who we think this is really best for.
What is Freshly?
Freshly is a meal service that delivers heat-and-eat prepared meals to your door. They’re fresh and fully cooked so all you have to do is reheat them in the microwave. When your weekly box arrives, you’ll put all of the meals into the refrigerator and take one out at a time when you’re ready to eat.
Most meal kits serve two or more people per recipe, which is a problem if you live alone or simply don’t share your partner’s taste in food (often my situation). Freshly meals are all single-serving, so they can work for singles, large families, and everyone in between. This might make you think of TV dinners, but these are not like the ready-made meals you’d find in the freezer section.
Not only are these dishes never frozen, but they’re lower in calories than your typical prepared meal and higher in nutritious ingredients. They’re also free of artificial ingredients and preservatives and the majority of meals meet FDA gluten-free standards. Freshly is a certified gluten-free food service by the Gluten Intolerance Group.
All meals are cooked in large U.S.-based kitchens. Freshly delivers to the 48 contiguous U.S. states but isn’t available in all zip codes, so you’ll have to enter your address to find out if you can sign up. In late 2020, Freshly was acquired by Nestlé.
How does Freshly work?
Freshly is a meal delivery service that requires a subscription. To get started, you’ll set up your account with your delivery and meal preferences. Then, you can start picking your dishes.
Create your account
The first step to creating a Freshly account is to sign up and set your account preferences. You’ll provide an email address for managing your account and choose a plan a zip code to verify that you’re eligible to receive Freshly deliveries.
To begin, you’ll decide how many meals you want to receive. You can choose anywhere from 4 to 12 Freshly meals per week. The bigger box, and more meals you choose, the more you’ll save.
These plans offer more flexibility than most meal kits. You’re not locked into a certain number of meals and can order more or less from week to week as needed, though your pricing will change. And if you ever need to skip a week completely, you can do so before the deadline from the app or Freshly site.
After picking your number of meals, you’ll choose which day you want to receive them. Unlike other meal kits that give you only one day as an option for deliveries, Freshly gives you a few choices for your preferred delivery day. You’ll see some days of the week that are not available.
Next, you’ll choose your first meals. Instead of requiring you to choose a meal plan as other services do, you’ll just pick from the whole menu each week and can filter for different categories.
You can pick from gluten-free, dairy-free, plant-based, carb-smart, and calorie-conscious meals. Most dishes are gluten-free and many meals fall into more than one menu category.
And you don’t just have to order dinner. Meal options include heat-and-eat breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and some sides or add-ons. For example, you can add a few fully cooked chicken breasts to your box if you want to supplement your meals or use them for something else.
After choosing your first meals, you’ll just enter your home address and your account will be ready to go for all future deliveries.
Choose your meals
Each week, you’ll have over 35 meals to choose from. This is far more options than the average meal kit service, which tends to offer around 30 menu options.
As you add meals to your delivery, they’ll appear on the side of your screen and you’ll be able to see your cart subtotal.
The default setting is to show you the whole (extensive) menu at once. But if you want to search within a category, you can select this option at the top using the button that says “Sort & Filters.” This will pull up a sidebar where you can select dietary preferences such as gluten-free or plant-based, toggle for different categories, or sort by nutritional macros (including calories, carbs, protein, total fat, and sodium).
Meals may have yellow or green tags at the top if they’re from a certain category. These options include:
- Brand New
You’ll find FreshlyFit meals all throughout the menu, but you can choose exclusively from these menu choices by just selecting the yellow “FreshlyFit” icon on the left. In the past, you needed to choose a FreshlyFit meal plan if you planned to choose from this menu. Now, anyone can order these whenever they like and these meals are incorporated into the regular menu.
You’ll also notice calorie counts and upcharges for each meal. If a meal uses more premium ingredients, for example, you might pay a little extra for that serving. For standard meals, you won’t see an added cost.
From the options available, I chose the following:
- Steak peppercorn with sautéed carrots and French green beans
- Homestyle chicken with butternut mac and cheese
- Sausage baked penne with sautéed zucchini and spinach
- Chicken teriyaki with brown rice and veggies
- Chicken and rice pilaf
- Chicken tikka masala with vegetable biryani
Get your box
Your meals arrive on a specific day of the week, packed in ice. If you’re at work or not home to receive your delivery, your meals should stay properly chilled on your doorstep until you get home. If you’re concerned about the length of time your box will be unrefrigerated, you can let Freshly know and they’ll help to arrange a different drop-off or leave your package with your postal service.
Once you get your box of meals, you can unbox them and pop them straight into the refrigerator, which will keep your meals fresh for between three and five days. You can always check a meal’s individual expiration date if you’re not sure. And if you want any of them to last longer, put them in the freezer and heat them from frozen when you’re ready.
When my box arrived on the designated day, I opened it to find it packed with ice packs and padded with cushioning to prevent damage in transit. The meals were cool to the touch and in good shape.
My meals arrived on Wednesday and were stamped with an expiration date of the following Tuesday, which was a day longer than the three to five days mentioned on their website.
With other meal services, you’d be choosing recipes each week and might use things like cook time and skills required to make your decisions. With Freshly, you skip straight to choosing dinners based solely on what you want to eat and not what you want to cook.
Every meal on the menu will give a calorie count as well as any macros you’ve selected. For example, if you’re sorting by carbs, you’ll be able to see how many grams of carbohydrates are present in any given serving.
The meal categories you’ll choose from are:
- Purely Plant – vegan recipes free of meat and animal products
- Signature Collection – chef-curated meals featuring comfort dishes, globally-inspired meals, and more customer-favorites
- FreshlyFit – low-carb meals high in lean protein and low in fat
- Proteins & Sides – this whole category is for ready-made add-ons such as extra proteins or prepared sides
It’s important to mention that because all Freshly meals are pre-made and packaged, you don’t have the option to swap ingredients and customize them to your preferences. The majority of meal kit services offer this choice, usually at an added cost, so you can cook the meals you want to cook. For instance, you could substitute ground beef for ground turkey, add meat to an otherwise vegetarian dish, or choose between carrots and broccoli as your side. With Freshly, what you see is what you get.
Take a look at a small sample of the menu below for an idea of the type of cuisine and variety to expect.
As you choose items for each box, they’ll appear on the right to allow you to review your choices as you go. I chose the following meals for my household:
- Sesame-Ginger Bliss Bowl with Noodle-Cut Hearts of Palm
- Crave-No-More Shepherd’s Pie with Ground Beef & Cauli-Butternut Mash
- Keto-Friendly Chicken Bowl with Super Greens Pesto & Cauli Rice
- Paleo Pork Chop with Rainbow Roasted Veggies & Mushroom Sauce
- Southwest Power Bowl with Grilled Chicken & Roasted Cauli
- Sicilian Style Chicken Parm with Broccoli
Previously, you had to choose between two separate meal subscription services: Freshly and FreshlyFit. Now, Freshly and FreshlyFit meals are together under one menu. You can either choose all Freshly meals, all FreshlyFit meals, or combine the two in each weekly box. You’re never stuck with one or the other.
FreshlyFit meals are low-carb dishes designed by nutritionists to have maximum nutritional value. They’re created with “energy and performance in mind” using carb-conscious ingredients and plenty of animal or plant protein. They may follow diets like keto or paleo and are ideal for athletes and muscle growth.
FreshlyFit meals tend to feature leaner proteins like chicken breast and steak and alternatives to carb-heavy starches like cauliflower rice in place of white rice or cauliflower mash in place of mashed potatoes. Most options are not vegetarian, but some are.
Compared to Freshly meals, FreshlyFit dishes are a little lighter, but the difference in calorie counts isn’t always dramatic. FreshlyFit meals might come in at around 450 calories or less while Freshly meals could top out at anywhere from 500 to 660.
I enjoyed this FreshlyFit keto-inspired chicken bowl:
But that doesn’t mean you can’t also eat low-carb and low-calorie from the regular Freshly menu. Many Freshly meals are more balanced, healthier versions of dishes you know and love. For example, you can choose from lighter, less calorie-dense takes on popular takeout dishes. If you have a specific health goal, you can use the menu filters to find what you need.
If you only want to receive FreshlyFit meals, just select this filter to browse these options.
You’ll pay a different price per meal depending on how many you order in a week. The more meals you have delivered, the less you’ll pay per serving. Here are the prices.
- 4 meals: $12.50 / serving
- 5 meals: $12.40 / serving
- 6 meals: $11.33 / serving
- 7 meals: $10.71 / serving
- 8 meals: $10.37 / serving
- 9 meals: $10.22 / serving
- 10 meals: $10.00 / serving
- 11 meals: $9.81 / serving
- 12 meals: $9.58 / serving
While Freshly is a great choice for people living alone and couples, you’ll actually pay more per meal if you order less. For better value, consider ordering more meals per delivery and skipping every other week, freezing the extra meals in between. Just remember that if you do live with anyone, you’ll need to order more than one of anything you want to eat together.
There is an additional charge of between $9.99 and $11.99 for shipping. This is $9.99 per delivery of four to eight meals, $10.99 per delivery of nine to ten meals, and $11.99 per delivery of 11 to 12 meals.
Take a look at the meal savings below. When you use our discount link, you can save even more:
Read more: Can a meal delivery service save money? What about time?
Pros & Cons
- Allergen-friendly — Freshly is one of the most accommodating meal services for people with dietary restrictions and allergies, with a wide range of gluten-free meals.
- Convenience — There’s no cleanup with Freshly and you can get dinner (or lunch or breakfast) on the table in less than five minutes, no matter how many people you’re feeding.
- Variety — Freshly makes it easy to choose meals to fit your dietary needs and health goals, offers plenty of options for vegans and vegetarians, and has an incredibly diverse menu each week.
- Not customizable — You can’t pick and choose ingredients and sides like you can with most do-it-yourself meal kit services.
- Price — Freshly costs more than many people probably spend on groceries and more than many meal delivery services at a minimum of $9.58 per meal. This is comparable to the price of takeout in a lot of regions.
- Small portions — Some may find the single-serving, low-calorie portions to not be filling enough. You can try to select heartier meals from the menu, but if you have a healthy appetite, you might not be satisfied with Freshly.
There’s a lot that’s easy to appreciate about Freshly’s meal delivery service. Here’s my take on the best features of Freshly as an actual user.
Speedy, easy preparation
It doesn’t get much easier than a premade, microwavable dinner. Even waiting in line at the drive-thru takes more time and energy than making one of these meals.
When you arrive home after a long day of work, you’ll love that dinner is already made. You won’t have to worry about following recipes or even cleaning up dishes. Just microwave and enjoy.
With meals that are planned by nutritionists, you’ll be able to easily stick to your nutrition goals. You won’t have to measure ingredients, count carbs, or calculate macros for yourself. Simply choose the meals that fit your daily health plan and track them how you normally would.
There’s no shortage of healthy selections on the menu each week, no matter what the term “healthy” means to you.
Easy meal planning
If you’re like me, half the battle of meal prepping is figuring out what to make for dinner seven nights a week. Freshly has more options than many other meal delivery services, which means you’ll always have something new to try. This will drastically reduce your time spent grocery shopping and thinking about what sounds good.
For me, the biggest selling point of Freshly is that you don’t have to eat the same dinner as everyone else in your household. My husband would be happy with pasta every night but I would get tired of it after one night.
Instead of compromising, I just pick out my three meals and hand my phone over to my husband to let him choose the three he wants. The only challenge is making sure someone else in your house doesn’t eat your meal before you can.
Easy meal selection
Freshly makes it easy to pick meals and sort through the menu to skip right to the food you want to see. There are tons of filters you can use to speed up the process, but choosing your meals is most likely something you’ll look forward to each week. You can even change the number of meals from week to week hassle-free.
Freshly packs its meals with plenty of ice packs and cushioning so you don’t have to rush to get everything to the fridge or freezer. Meals are ready to eat and heat in the packaging they arrive in, and you don’t have to worry about taking care of any frozen meat, washing veggies, or finding places in your pantry for ingredients.
My experience using Freshly
I can’t say enough about how easy Freshly is. We used another meal subscription box for more than a year and I grew accustomed to starting meal prep as much as an hour before dinnertime. At best, with the “express” versions of those other kits, you can expect at least 15 minutes of prep time and more for cooking.
With Freshly, you don’t even have to pull a pan out. Just unbox your meal, pull the plastic back to vent the dish, and cook for about three minutes. You’ll then let it rest for a couple of minutes before eating. Most meals are flavorful and you can trust that everything has been cooked perfectly.
But if you’re expecting the food to taste exactly like you just prepared it yourself or like what you might order in a restaurant, you may be disappointed. The food was surprisingly tasty, but you can sometimes tell that it’s been reheated in the tastes and textures. For example, the vegetables weren’t quite as crisp as I would have expected. They’re moist and tender without being mushy, but they don’t have the snap cooked veggies have when they’re freshly made.
But these also won’t be like the frozen microwavable meals you might reach for when you find yourself at the store after a long day. The quality of ingredients seems higher, meals are generally more satisfying, and the portion sizes are more appropriate for proper dinners. It’s sort of something you have to try for yourself.
More than anything, what really impressed me were the healthy meals. When I think of the word “healthy,” sad salads and teeny portions come to mind. But FreshlyFit and low-calorie Freshly meals didn’t taste like they were missing anything or make me crave something else an hour after eating. My husband may not have liked the cauliflower substitutions, but I found myself enjoying them because it wasn’t obvious they were cauliflower instead of the real deal (i.e. potatoes or rice).
Who is Freshly best for?
This meal service is ideal for the following people.
With most meal kits, you can only make dinner for two or more people, depending on the plan you choose. Freshly is unique in that it gives you that one-serving option.
Whether you live alone or simply want to eat what you want, Freshly gives you the option without requiring you to worry about what others in your household like. You may pay more per serving, but you’ll waste less and won’t have to deal with leftovers piling up in your fridge.
Read more: The best meal delivery kit services for one
Setting time aside to cook even your quickest recipe can be tough, especially in the middle of a workweek. Freshly gives you the convenience of ready-made dinners without the empty calories.
And if you’re challenged in the kitchen like I am, the meals will probably be better than you could do yourself and you won’t have to learn anything as you go. There’s no question that Freshly will save you time, even compared to kits you cook yourself that save you time on grocery shopping and meal prep. You won’t even dirty any dishes because you cook the meals right in their containers.
Those with dietary restrictions or food sensitivities
If you have someone with food sensitivities in your household, you already know what a challenge it can be to come up with a wide variety of tasty meals to fit. Gluten-free consumers will especially love the fact that the company is certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group. Most meal kit services are not gluten-free-friendly let alone certified, so this is our top pick for people who want to avoid gluten.
Freshly also offers many dairy-free, plant-based, and vegetarian options.
Who is Freshly not good for?
There will be people who can’t get past the idea of prepared meals. Here are a few types of people we wouldn’t recommend Freshly to.
People who like to cook
It should go without saying but Freshly isn’t ideal for people who actually want to cook their own dinners. Freshly won’t be the service for you if you look forward to your time in the kitchen every night and want to practice different skills and techniques. This service is convenient, but you won’t grow as a home chef or get better at cooking because of it.
For these people, Freshly meals are little more than TV dinners. Other meal delivery services that let you do the cooking yourself and give you step-by-step instructions along with pre-portioned ingredients would be a better choice.
Large portions seem to be standard fare these days. If you find that you tend to pile up your plate, only to go back for seconds, you may be disappointed by the amount of food in Freshly meals. You may also be bummed by the low-carb swaps you see all over the menu if you like your grains and starches.
As a meat and potatoes guy, my husband wasn’t a fan of cauliflower as a substitute for starches, but he did like the chicken parmesan meal and the FreshlyFit paleo pork chop dinner.
As useful as meal delivery services are, they start to lose their value when you’re cooking for a house full of kids. Freshly covers an underserved area of the market: households dealing with the challenge of making dinner for just one or two people. If you’re cooking for four or more, you’ll likely find ordering separate meals for everyone gets pricey and far less convenient.
Another reason this might not be the best choice for families is the portion sizes. While the portions may be appropriate for adults, they could be too large for young kids. And you also can’t customize the meals to omit certain ingredients you know your kids won’t eat.
Read more: The 8 best meal delivery services for families
Freshly vs. competitors
Freshly is one of few prepared meal services, but it’s similar in a lot of ways to meal kit services with meals you cook yourself. Here are a few of the most popular meal kit delivery services that may or may not be a better fit for you than Freshly.
Home Chef is in a different category than Freshly because it primarily sells meal kits that need to be cooked. However, it’s a good service for people who want to minimize their prep time and does offer a small selection of prepared meals. Prices start at $8.99 per serving.
Home Chef’s Oven-Ready Meals are pre-portioned, single-serving that you can reheat in an oven or microwave in five minutes or less. But if you’re willing to spend a little more time for fresher tasting meals, Home Chef gives you many choices that come together in less than 20 minutes and even more that take around 30 minutes. Search “Easy Prep Meal Kits” on the menu to quickly browse prepared meals and quick-and-easy kits.
If you have food intolerances or allergies, Freshly might be a better choice. But if you want the flexibility to choose between easy meal kits and prepared meals, and you’re not trying to avoid carbs and have more freedom in your diet, you might like Home Chef.
Try Home Chef - Get $90 off your first 3 orders!
Read our full Home Chef review.
HelloFresh has many strengths from meal variety to customizability, making it the most popular meal kit in America for several years in a row. It’s more family-friendly than other meal kits with the option to substitute ingredients for many meals and it’s also more affordable than Freshly with prices starting at $7.99 per serving.
As far as heat-and-eat meals, HelloFresh has a limited selection, but it does have a selection (which is more than can be said for all services). You’ll be able to choose from about four or five prepared meals of two servings each per week and/or pick from around 30 meal kit dinners (including a number of easy prep, easy cleanup recipes).
If you’re counting calories, you’ll definitely want to choose Freshly as HelloFresh’s meals are more indulgent as a rule. But if this isn’t a problem, HelloFresh is known for easy recipes, quality ingredients, and reliable service.
Try HelloFresh - Get 18 Free Meals + 3 Surprise Gifts + Free Shipping!
Read our full Hello Fresh review.
Blue Apron offers a broad selection of meal kits for somewhat more advanced home chefs as well as health- and weight-conscious consumers. Blue Apron partners with Weight Watchers (now WW) to give customers a number of recipes that come in at less than 600 calories and are carb-conscious. Prices start at $7.99 per serving.
Like Home Chef and HelloFresh, Blue Apron also has a small line of prepared meals that require only microwaving. But if you don’t mind cooking, the recipes on the menu are worth it. Blue Apron gives you a more gourmet-tasting (and looking) finished dish than most other meal kits, with ingredients and flavors from around the world.
If you’re a foodie, you’ll prefer Blue Apron to Freshly. But if you have picky eaters to feed or you just don’t have the time to learn new techniques and prep ingredients, Freshly is likely a better fit.
Blue Apron new customers: Enjoy $180 off across 6 orders—plus, your first order ships free!
Read our full Blue Apron review.
Freshly customer service
Freshly’s customer service department can be reached via live chat through the site between 6 am and 12 am EST any day of the week. You can also call 1-844-373-7459 during the same hours to get in touch with a representative.
Freshly’s customer service is far better on average than that of most meal services. This company gets glowing reviews on consumer sites and real customers praise its one-time deliveries, quality of food, and helpful support representatives.
Whether you live alone or just want to spend less time cooking and thinking about cooking, Freshly is a great option. Freshly meals are tasty and convenient, with plenty of options to choose from on the menu every week and ordering flexibility you don’t get with most services.
This is an all-around great service for those on strict diets, those with food allergies or intolerances, and busy people. But if you’re looking for larger portions, kid-friendly dishes, lower prices per serving, or customizability, you’ll want to try a meal kit service as these are more likely to give you what you’re looking for.