In times of high stress, there’s something to be said for paying for convenience. Meal delivery services alleviate all the hassle of deciding what to eat, shopping for ingredients, and in some cases, even preparing meals. FreshlyFit is a new brand of single-serving heat-and-eat meals that sells as a weekly subscription, though it’s pricey and really doesn’t live up to the “fit” promise in its name. For about twice the cost of ready-to-heat meals sold at grocery stores, you can get premade, microwavable meals delivered to your door. Considering what you get for the price and the fact that there are much healthier options on the market, it’s hard to recommend FreshlyFit.
Among the meal delivery services we’ve tested, we have four Editors’ Choices, though they are all meal kit services rather than heat-and-eat meal delivery. Blue Apron is our top pick for people who want to learn to cook. If you already know how to cook and are looking to focus on health, Green Chef is the way to go. It sends you plant-forward meal kits that cater to vegetarian, paleo, and keto diets. HelloFresh is another favorite for its all-around excellent menus and quality. One final Editors’ Choice is Hungryroot, an unconventional service that picks groceries for you based on your eating preferences and includes suggested recipes for some of the items.
For premade single-serve meals that are ready to heat-—or some cases, drop into the blender—Daily Harvest is quite good, and so is Splendid Spoon. We think anyone who needs quick, convenient meals and cares about their health will likely prefer either of these two services to FreshlyFit.
How Much Does FreshlyFit Cost?
When you sign up for FreshlyFit, you pick one of four plans, each of which ships weekly:
- 4 meals at $11.49 per meal plus $5.99 for shipping, or about $52 per week plus tax
- 6 meals at $9.49 per meal plus $5.99 for shipping, or about $63 per week plus tax
- 10 meals at $8.99 per meal plus $9.99 for shipping, or about $100 per week plus tax
- 12 meals at $8.49 per meal plus $11.99 for shipping, or about $114 per week plus tax
FreshlyFit is its own subscription service, different from its sister brand Freshly. There is, however, a little bit of cross-over between the two brands. For example, if you’re a Freshly subscriber, you may see some FreshlyFit branded meals on your menu. Additionally, if you pay for Freshly and decide to leave it to join FreshlyFit, you may notice that some of the regular meals you knew from the old brand show up under the new branding, too (chicken livorno, for example). It’s a little confusing but does add some variety.
How Much Do Other Meal Services Cost?
Most meal-kit subscription services cost between $9.99 and $12.99 per serving. The price depends on how many meals you order at a time.
The thing about ready-made meals, which is what FreshlyFit sells, is you can buy them at grocery stores. There’s no shortage of fresh or frozen options. There, the per-meal going rate is around $3.50-$6. Seeing as many of these types of meals are frozen, you can easily cut the cost (compared to a home delivery service) by a third or in some cases half. You also eliminate having to break down and recycle all the excess packaging that comes with a home delivery service such as FreshlyFit. Of course, not everyone has safe or easy access to good grocery stores. This is especially true during the pandemic.
Even so, there are better single-serving heat-and-eat meal delivery services that compare with FreshlyFit on price. Splendid Spoon sells smoothies, soups, and bowls that run $9-$13 apiece. Daily Harvest also sells smoothies, soups, and bowls, plus snacks and flatbreads, and meals cost around $7.99-$8.99 each.
Ramen Hero is a more niche meal delivery company that specializes in single-serve gourmet ramen kits. Rather than microwaving the food, you boil water and heat little sous vide pouches containing the ingredients. It costs a super-pricey $18, but, when you want real ramen, nothing else will do!
Sun Basket has some heat-and-eat meals on its menu, though they contain two or more portions per container. Those cost anywhere from $10.99-$12.99 per serving. In other words, one meal for two people costs $22-$26.
The FreshlyFit Menu
When choosing meals for your shipment, FreshlyFit shows you images of your choices with a brief description and a summary of how many calories and grams of carbohydrates and proteins they contain. There are no options for filtering the meals based on dietary preferences or allergies, which is a strike against the service. Vegetarian meals are labeled clearly, though we only ever saw two options during the time we tested FreshlyFit. If you’re looking for a vegetarian meal service, GreenChef has a vegetarian option, and the vegan ones we’ve tried are Purple Carrot (meal kit), Daily Harvest (ready meals), SplendidSpoon (ready meals), and Hungryroot (groceries with meal suggestions).
Clicking the image on the FreshlyFit website opens a window with slightly more detail about the ingredients and nutritional facts. You have to click one more time to get a complete list of either the ingredients or nutritional information.
Tastes Like Chicken
If you’re considering FreshlyFit, you’d better like chicken. The majority of their meals contain chicken: chicken parm, buffalo chicken, oven-baked chicken florentine, chicken livorno, and so on.
We were also surprised by how many meals we tried (three out of six) contained parmesan cheese. FreshlyFit seems to use it liberally as a flavor enhancer. Anyone with severe allergies should also know that the production facility that makes the food handles milk, tree nuts, soy, eggs, and other allergens. When specific allergens are in a meal, it says so clearly in the full ingredients list and on the back of the packaging when you receive the food.
How Fit Is FreshlyFit?
Despite the “Fit” in the name, it’s a struggle to call FreshlyFit’s meals healthy. In particular, many meals are high in sodium and many are also high in fat. As a point of reference, the US Food and Drug Administration says a good guideline is to consider servings with 20 percent or more of your daily value of sodium is considered high.
FreshlyFit’s Ultra-Umami Turkey Meatloaf With Creamed Spinach and Carb Swap Cauliflower Mash contains 48 percent daily value of sodium (1,100mg). The Paleo Pork Chop has 47 percent (1,080mg sodium), not to mention 46 percent of your daily fat (36g). A cauliflower and sausage casserole contains 45 percent of your daily sodium allowance (1,040mg) and 55 percent of the daily fat allowance (43g). One turkey meal has 43 percent of your daily sodium and the Crave-No-More Shepherd’s Pie has 42 percent.
The phrase “carb swap” comes up often when FreshlyFit replaces starches, such as noodles and rice, with vegetable-based alternatives. While the total carbohydrates may be lowered that way, and plenty of people who eat a low-carb diet don’t care too much about fat, the sodium levels are still something to beware of.
FreshlyFit insulates and packs your meals so that they stay cold until you get them into the refrigerator. I received a cardboard box lined with recycled denim, which looks like a thick slab of lint, inside plastic bags. The next layer was two cold packs, slightly larger than a legal pad, filled with frozen gel. Each meal comes in a plastic tray, covered in plastic film, and in a thin cardboard sleeve with the description and nutritional information.
You can save and reuse the cold packs by storing them in the freezer, but if you receive FreshlyFit weekly, you’ll run out of space for them quickly. To dispose of them, you’re supposed to let them thaw, cut the surrounding plastic bag open, drain the gel into the trash, and then rinse and recycle the bag. Whether your local recycling center accepts these bags to recycle is another story, as not all do. The gel is heavy and wet, making it difficult to dispose of properly. Some meal delivery services have moved to a nitrogen-based gel that’s safe to drain onto lawns and plants or pour down the drain. Those are a lot easier to manage.
The recycled denim insulation gets similar treatment. You’re supposed to cut open the bags and throw out the insulation itself, then recycle the bag. If you need soundproofing to create a podcast, for example, you could reuse the insulation for that.
The plastic trays that contain the food are recyclable, too, as are the paper sleeves. Recycling, of course, isn’t as environmentally friendly as reducing packaging in the first place or using compostable materials. Daily Harvest has moved to compostable packaging for many of its meals, evidence that it’s possible even with a subscription food delivery service.
Our Test Meals
While testing FreshlyFit, I tried six meals:
- Sesame-Ginger Bliss Bowl With Noodle-Cut Hearts of Palm, the only vegetarian option on the menu that week,
- Crave-No-More Shepherd’s Pie With Ground Beef and Cauliflower-Butternut Squash Mash,
- Keto-Friendly Chicken Bowl With Super-Greens Pesto and Cauliflower Rice,
- Sausage and Peppers With Carb Swap Cauliflower Rice,
- Very Verde Chicken With Super Greens and Roasted Cauliflower, and
- Sicilian-Style Chicken Parm With Broccoli.
The company accidentally sent an extra box, so we asked some friends to try the meals for themselves and share their thoughts, too. In all, the opinions about how the food tasted come from four people’s experiences (the author, the author’s family member, and two friends).
Heating and Eating
All the meals have more or less the same heating instructions. You peel back a corner of the plastic film to allow heat and vapor to escape; microwave it for however long the instructions say, usually around three minutes; and then let the meal sit for about two minutes before eating. The instructions also tell you what internal temperature the food should reach if you have a probe thermometer and want to check that you’ve heated it through. The food is all precooked, however, so you don’t have to worry about raw or undercooked meats.
Some of the meals, such as the chicken parm, have two compartments that keep one part of the meal separate from the other. Others, like shepherd’s pie, are served all together.
Of the meals we tried, everyone liked the Very Verde chicken best (see the first photo in this review). The serving of greens—kale, spinach, beet chard, escarole, swiss chard, plus shredded parmesan—had good flavor and a nice kick of bitterness, despite being tiny and thoroughly limp. The cauliflower tasted like it was steamed and left mostly plain, rather than dressed in a heavy sauce. The consensus on the chicken was “fine but not memorable.”
A distance second favorite was the Keto-friendly chicken bowl. The greens pesto lightly coated the fluffy cauliflower rice, peas, and sliced mushrooms. Again, the chicken was fine. It didn’t taste salty, but this recipe contains 700mg of sodium, or 30 percent of your daily allowance. Again it has parmesan, good old parmesan.
The sausage and peppers picked up sweetness from tomato sauce, though it reminded everyone of an economy class airplane meal. We laughed when we peeled back the film on the chicken parm to find a puddle of melted parmesan cheese next to the chicken. At least that way we had the option to dip into the melted cheese rather than have every bite overwhelmed by it.
No one enjoyed the sesame-ginger “noodles” made of hearts of palm, a mush of vegetables stuck together with a gluey sesame-almond sauce. The ginger flavor came through but it was watery, not sharp and bright, the way fresh ginger tastes.
This last illustrates one of the problems with FreshlyFit and most precooked meals: Nothing is fresh. By contrast, meal kits that require a little preparation and cooking give you fresh ingredients, some of which might stay raw and fresh, like a garnish of cilantro, parsley, or chopped nuts. Additionally, sauces usually come separate in kits, letting you control not only how much you add, but when you dress your food, which also keeps it fresher tasting. Fresh and raw foods add texture, too, like the cool crunch of bean sprouts and pop of mint on top of soft, warm noodles.
Furthermore, because all FreshlyFit meals are precooked and premade, everything comes out the same temperature and nearly the same texture. A sprinkling of pecans on top of the shepherd’s pie held up in the microwave well enough to give it some toothiness, but it would have been better if the nuts were kept separate so that you could add them at the end—or skip them if you have a nut allergy. We think FreshlyFit could improve by including small garnishes that are kept separate and not microwaved, like pouches of chopped scallions, lemon wedges, or something—anything—to bring the food to life.
Better Options Abound
Given the high price, high sodium, excess packaging, and mediocre taste, we find it hard to recommend FreshlyFit to anyone except those who need the utmost in convenience. Daily Harvest is a better option for ready-to-heat meals, and so is Splendid Spoon. If neither of those works for you, you’re probably better off ordering grocery delivery and filling your cart with fresh or frozen ready meals.