The Best Meal Planning Service: Convenient Ways to Eat Healthy and Save Money

healthy meal ingredients


When you work full-time hours, it can be challenging to find the time to scout out recipes, go to the grocery store for ingredients, then prepare fresh, healthy meals. And when you factor in time at the gym, your valuable meal prep time becomes all the more tenuous. And yet, whether you're a weekday runner or a full-on triathlete, adequate meal planning is essential for maintaining your physical fitness.

That's where meal planning services (and meal planning apps) come in. These services provide you with the recipes and shopping lists you need to expedite meal prep. And because they guide you through the shopping experience, they can help you save money by reducing waste. Meal planning services can also create options tailored to your athletic goals or dietary preferences. The question is, what's the best meal-planning service? The ACTIVE Reviews Team has compiled a list of recommendations.

Why Trust Us?

ACTIVE.com's editorial team relies on the knowledge and experience of fitness and wellness experts including competitive athletes, coaches, physical therapists, nutritionists, and certified trainers. This helps us ensure the products we feature are of the highest standard. Collectively, the team has spent countless hours researching equipment, gear, and recovery tools in order to create the most accurate, authentic content for our readers. Customer satisfaction is also a key part of our review process, which is why we only feature products that are highly rated.

The Best Meal Planning Service - Our Top Picks

By clicking on the product links in this article, we may receive a commission fee at no cost to you, the reader. Sponsorships and affiliate commissions help support our research so we can help you find the best products. Read the full affiliate disclosure here.

Best Overall Meal Planning Service - HelloFresh

HelloFresh

SPECS

  • Best for: Anyone who wants simple, delicious meals made with fresh ingredients, delivered to their door pre-planned and ready for assembly.

Check Price

Often, when we talk about meal planning services we mean platforms that provide you with recipes and grocery lists, then leave you to do the rest. HelloFresh actually goes a step further, sending the vibrant ingredients you need straight to your front door. Everything comes pre-planned and measured, meaning you just need to open the box and follow a few simple instructions in order to enjoy a healthy meal. There are plenty of options to customize your meal delivery kits, too, including vegetarian menus, kid-friendly options, low-carb selections, and beyond.

What We Like

  • By sending recipes and ingredients right to your door, HelloFresh is incredibly convenient
  • You'll save tons of time by not having to visit the supermarket
  • The meals are flavorful, varied, and easy to prepare
  • Vegetarian, pescetarian, and low-cal options available

What We Don't Like

  • Higher price point
  • No keto, paleo, or vegan options (yet)

BUY: HelloFresh

Best Budget Meal Planning Service - Dinnerly

Dinnerly

SPECS

  • Best for: Anyone looking for meal delivery kits that don't break the bank.

Check Price

Like HelloFresh, Dinnerly is a meal delivery kit, that supplies you with the recipes and ingredients you need to craft delicious home dinners. The difference is that Dinnerly is expressly known for its affordability, making it our top pick for the most affordable meal-planning service. You can enjoy fresh, healthy, and delicious meals for just under $5 per person, a pretty good rate no matter your point of comparison. The recipes are made to be easy and low-effort, and they include family favorites that should appeal to even the pickiest eaters (e.g., your kids).

What We Like

  • More modest price point
  • The meals involve minimal time commitment
  • The recipes are varied, flavorful, and broadly appealing

What We Don't Like

  • Dinnerly doesn't furnish everything; you'll need to supplement with a few items from your own pantry
  • For more experienced home cooks, these recipes will seem very simplistic

BUY: Dinnerly

Best Vegan Meal Planning Service - Hungryroot

Hungry Root

SPECS

  • Best for: Vegans, or anyone hoping to adopt a more plant-based diet.

Check Price

Hungryroot is another service that delivers everything you need for fresh and delicious home meals: recipes, ingredients, and an easy-to-use app interface. The big selling point here is an incredibly high level of customization. An initial quiz allows you to zero in on your dietary preferences and lifestyle needs, making it a cinch to opt in for all-vegan, pescetarian, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, egg-free, or shellfish-free meals. An excellent option for vegans and aspiring vegans, but also for anyone looking to navigate tricky food allergies.

What We Like

  • Very high level of personalization
  • Excellent for those looking to navigate food allergies
  • Most meals take just around 10 minutes to prepare

What We Don't Like

  • Not all of the ingredients are organic
  • Some of the meals may taste a bit like "diet" foods

BUY: Hungryroot

Best Meal Planning Service for Weight Loss - Personal Trainer Food

Personal Trainer Food

SPECS

  • Best for: Those seeking to lose weight via sound nutrition.

Check Price

What if you could talk to your personal trainer every day, receiving guidance, advice, and even recipe ideas to help you lose weight? Personal Trainer Food offers something pretty close to that: Each subscription box comes with weeks' worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, all developed by trainers with the intent of helping you shed some pounds. With full portions and fresh, vibrant recipes, this is a pretty easy way to improve your dietary habits.

What We Like

  • Very convenient
  • Tailored toward weight loss and general wellness
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner items included

What We Don't Like

  • Higher price point
  • Some of the meals may taste a bit like "diet" foods

BUY: Personal Trainer Food

Best Variety Meal Planning Service - Thrive Market

Thrive Market

SPECS

  • Best for: Those who want a variety of organic foods delivered to their door each week.

Check Price

Thrive Market provides a wide selection of foods, including affordable organics, that can be filtered according to lifestyle: Choose low sugar, whole30, keto, or whatever else. You can even get eco-friendly cleaning products! We should note, however, that Thrive Market is really just a great online grocery store; when it comes to developing recipes and portioning your ingredients, you'll have to do the work yourself.

What We Like

  • Huge variety of organic items
  • Affordable prices
  • Lots of ways to filter by lifestyle or preference

What We Don't Like

  • You'll have to come up with your own recipes
  • Membership required

BUY: Thrive Market

Best Customizable Meal Planning Service - Sunbasket

Sunbasket

SPECS

  • Best for: Home cooks looking for personalized meals made from farm-fresh ingredients.

Sunbasket delivers meal kits assembled from farm-fresh, organic ingredients, creating still another easy way to eat well every night of the week. The draw here, beyond ingredient quality, is the high level of individualization: Choose meals and extras, sort by level of prep time, and ensure meals that you and your family will actually like. And the number of dietary filters is sky-high: Opt for paleo, vegetarian, gluten-free, low-carb, etc.

What We Like

  • Great quality of ingredients
  • Some meals can be prepared in as little as 5 minutes
  • Tons of customization

What We Don't Like

  • Higher price point (at least $10 per serving)
  • You'll also need to pay for shipping

Best Meal Planning Service for Families - SideChef

SideChef

SPECS

  • Best for: People cooking for whole families.

Looking for a meal planning service that's widely appealing and reasonably kid-friendly? SideChef is a great pick, loaded up with staples that the whole family can enjoy. There's no better option for easy, convenient, and high-quality meals that won't cause too much of a ruckus with your little ones.

What We Like

  • Lots of widely appealing options
  • Focus on fresh ingredients
  • New, seasonal selections added frequently

What We Don't Like

  • Not everything is super healthy
  • Price point can vary quite a bit from meal to meal

Best Simple Meal Planning Service - Green Chef

Green Chef

SPECS

  • Best for: Anyone who wants clean, healthy meals without a lot of fuss.

Green Chef provides healthy and organic meal kit deliveries, but more than that, it offers simplicity. Simply mix and match between a predetermined recipe list, which you can filter by dietary preference, and select the menu items you want to make. That's more or less all there is to it, making Green Chef a great choice for the busiest among us who still want to eat right.

What We Like

  • Emphasis on healthy and organic ingredients
  • Incredibly simple to use
  • Filter by dietary preference

What We Don't Like

  • Higher price point
  • Not quite as much variety as other meal planning services

How to Choose the Best Meal Planning Service

In seeking the best meal-planning service, there are a few factors to consider.

Dietary Restrictions

One of the most important things to look for in a meal-planning service is customization. When you sign up for the service, there should be an easy way to personalize your meals and to make certain that they comply with any dietary restrictions you or your family might have. For example, you may need meals that are dairy-free, gluten-free, or plant-based.

Food Preferences

Similarly, being able to customize food preferences is a must. You may not have a specific dietary restriction, but as an athlete, you may prefer dishes that avoid pastas and other rich carbs. Or you may just dislike certain ingredients, whether that's fish, Brussels sprouts, or certain spices.

Cost per Meal

While meal planning services typically aren't cheap, they can ultimately help you save money by reducing food waste and cutting back on your eating-out habits. Additionally, by calculating the cost per meal, you can determine the most budget-friendly meal-planning service.

FAQs About Meal Planning Services


Are meal planning services worth it?

Meal planning services make it easy to enjoy fresh, healthy meals each day while reducing your food waste and also minimizing the money you spend eating out. They can be effective in helping you reach your fitness goals, but also effective in helping you control your food budget.

Which meal planning service is the easiest?

For simplicity, we recommend Green Chef. For overall ease of use, HelloFresh is our top option.

How do I make my own meal plan?

There are plenty of DIY methods for home meal planning, but the easiest option is usually just to get out a calendar and a recipe book, mark a meal down for each day, and compile an accompanying shopping list.

About the Author

Josh Hurst

Josh is a journalist and writer whose work has appeared in magazines and local newspapers such as Christianity Today, IMAGE Journal, Relevant Magazine, FLOOD, The Nashville Scene, True Tunes, Rise Up Daily, and Looking Closer with Jeffrey Overstreet. Josh is an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast.

See More from Josh

Josh is a journalist and writer whose work has appeared in magazines and local newspapers such as Christianity Today, IMAGE Journal, Relevant Magazine, FLOOD, The Nashville Scene, True Tunes, Rise Up Daily, and Looking Closer with Jeffrey Overstreet. Josh is an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast.

See More from Josh

Discuss This Article