Kitchen & Cooking

Our favorite pre-made meal kit is the answer to cooking fatigue

These microwavable meals are actually good.

Freshly: the best pre-made meal kit Credit: Freshly

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Thanks to COVID-19 shelter-at-home orders, I have cooked more in the past four months than I have in my entire 31 years of life. I’ve generally enjoyed it—I made bread from scratch, learned how to cook short ribs in my new Dutch oven, and even used an immersion circulator to sous vide a steak. But now, mid-July, I can honestly say I’m tired of cooking.

Cooking fatigue is setting in for many of us, which is why I’ve taken more of an interest in pre-made meal kits. Unlike traditional meal kits that send you the ingredients to cook, pre-made options just need a couple minutes in the microwave and it’s time to eat.

Prior to the pandemic, I tested five pre-made meal kits and found Freshly to offer the best in terms of quality (no frozen dinners here), variety, and portion size. And now, Freshly is offering Reviewed readers $15 off our your first four boxes featuring a Reviewed-approved selection of six meals. Here’s why it may be just what you need to kick cooking fatigue.

About Freshly

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Credit: Freshly

You can eat Freshly meals out of their containers, but I preferred to plate them on my own dinnerware for a more home-cooked feel.

Freshly is a meal delivery service that ships ready-to-heat meals directly to the consumer. Simply microwave for three minutes or less, and you have lunch or dinner with nutrient-dense ingredients. Freshly actively tries to minimize the number of processed ingredients and added sugars. While many favorites stick around, meals can change weekly to reflect fresh ingredients and what’s in season.

Customers select the number of meals they’d like for any given week—four, six, nine, or 12—and can select what they’d like to eat. Meals are delivered packed with reusable and recyclable ice packs and other materials to ensure freshness and minimize waste. If you’re not interested in receiving meals on any given week, it’s easy to pause until you’re ready again.

What I like about Freshly

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Credit: Freshly

The Turkey Mushroom Meatballs were one of our favorite meals thanks to the tasty zoodles.

Ingredients are high-quality and taste great

I’ve tried frozen dinners from the grocery store before—they’re not great. Packed with enough sodium that you can taste it, these meals are typically a poor substitute for a real meal. On the flip side, Freshly’s meals are never frozen; they taste more like reheating really yummy leftovers. The Steak Peppercorn, for example, was a healthy cut of meat cooked so well I would’ve been proud if I had done it myself.

There’s a lot of variety

Freshly offers a variety of meals for those with different tastes and dietary preferences. When you’re ordering, icons indicate if a meal is dairy- or soy-free, low on carbs, high on protein, spicy, or less than 500 calories—and every single meal is gluten-free. Select a meal and there’s even more nutritional information, as well as a thorough explainer about ingredients and preparation.

Taste-wise, Freshly also runs the gamut. Vegetable-forward “market day meals” like Chicken & Spring Pea Risotto are offered alongside hearty “whole comfort” selections like Sausage-Baked Penne, and a spicy Chicken Tikka Masala and Smoky Pork Cubano Bowl both delight.

Portion sizes are large enough for dinner

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Credit: Freshly

Freshly's Steak Peppercorn is cooked well, far better than I expected for a microwaved meal.

With pre-made meals, there’s no option for seconds. I was skeptical that they’d keep me feeling full after an evening workout, or that my boyfriend would find them filling enough considering he usually eats a bit more than me at dinnertime. While we were never stuffed after a Freshly meal, we were perfectly content. Meals felt substantial enough for a dinner portion and didn’t have us raiding the pantry for midnight snacks.

What I don't like about Freshly

Reheated vegetables aren't always top-notch

I truly had no complaints about the quality of Freshly meals, except at times when it came to the veggies. When presented as a separate side on their own, instead of incorporated in the dish, some of the vegetables stood out for being rather bland. While I otherwise would have recommended a yummy Chicken Parmesan dish, the side of broccoli tasted like I reheated it frozen out of a bag. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but it was enough to influence my meal selection.

What’s in Freshly’s exclusive Reviewed box?

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Credit: Freshly

Freshly delivers chef-made, never-frozen meals weekly. All meals are gluten-free and heat up in three minutes or less in the microwave.

With help from my boyfriend, who gave his opinion on taste and portion size throughout testing, I have tried 16 different meals from Freshly. Here are the ones that made us want seconds, in alphabetical order:

  • Cauliflower-Shell Bolognese: A perfect carb-conscious way to enjoy a hearty bowl of pasta that you’d never guess was made from cauliflower.
  • Golden-Oven Fried Chicken & Mash: The execution of these simple ingredients reminded us of a great home-cooked meal from Mom.
  • Sausage & Peppers: Complete with basmati rice, this take on a comfort food staple features marinara sweetened with honey.
  • Smoky Pork Cubano Bowl: Sous-vide pork and black bean relish make this flavorful bowl also high in protein.
  • Steak Peppercorn: Tender and cooked well, this steak stands out as one of the higher quality ingredients we’ve tasted.
  • Turkey Mushroom Meatballs: A light, fresh-tasting take on spaghetti and meatballs with zucchini noodles so tasty you won’t miss the carbs.

Freshly is offering Reviewed readers $15 off your first four boxes, starting with one stocked with these favorites.

To receive your Reviewed box and discount, visit Freshly, enter your email and zip code, and select the plan with six meals per week. You'll then receive $15 off the first four boxes—or $60 off your total for four weeks—at checkout.

Is Freshly worth it?

Yes. Without any discounts, an order of four meals a week costs $11.50 per meal, six or nine meals work out to $8.99 per meal, and 12 meals a week costs $7.99 per meal. Cooking on your own can stretch that dollar further, but Freshly’s prices are on the whole less than you’d pay for takeout or delivery from a restaurant. When you’re cooking for one—or just plain tired of cooking altogether—Freshly can offer a tasty reprieve.

Sign up for Freshly

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