While Thanksgiving dinner itself is a time of family, gratitude, and relaxation, the time leading up to it is anything but.
On average, Thanksgiving meal providers will spend $310, multiple trips to the store, and a half-day prepping the Turkey Day feast (according to NBC). Granted, that’s for a meal for 10, but even if you’re only cooking for yourself and your significant other, putting Thanksgiving staples on the table is never cheap, easy, or convenient.
Given all that’s going on, you might just want to enjoy an authentic Thanksgiving meal without the time, stress, or risk of venturing into crowded stores or restaurants. If so, a meal delivery service might be precisely what you need.
But which meal delivery service is best? Which can offer the best bang for the buck, and which can cater to your dietary needs?
Let’s investigate meal delivery services for Thanksgiving.
Overview of the best meal delivery services for Thanksgiving
|Meal delivery service||In a nutshell||Starting price per serving||Best for|
|Home Chef||Lightning-quick, affordable recipes||$6.99||Busy people who want a quick home-cooked meal|
|Blue Apron||Hour-plus recipes with delicious payoff||$8.99||Omnivores who love to cook|
|HelloFresh||30-minute recipes with tasty payoff||$8.99||Omnivores who like to cook|
|Purple Carrot||Plant-based recipes with generous portions||$9.99||Vegans|
|Freshly||Pre-made meals with modest portion sizes||$7.99||Busy people who don’t want to cook and clean|
|SunBasket||Pay a premium for organic, healthy recipes||$10.99||Healthy omnivores|
Home Chef, by contrast, offers no vegan options (only vegetarian). Purchased by Kroger in 2018, Home Chef offers a few key advantages over the stiff competition at Blue Apron and Hello Fresh.
First, Home Chef offers a “Customize It” option alongside 40%-50% of its meals, most commonly to let you swap out your protein. For example, you may think that Caprese Chicken Penne with Fresh Mozzarella sounds divine, but you prefer good ol’ juicy Italian sausage with your pasta. Or maybe you’ve gone pescatarian and would like to swap steak for salmon in your salad. No problem! Just click “Customize It” from your dashboard and make the switch.
Home Chef meals are a little less fancy than most you’ll find at Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, but simpler meals bring three advantages. First, Home Chef meals are more affordable, starting at just $7 per serving. Second, fewer ingredients mean less packaging, so you feel less wasteful. Fewer ingredients also mean simpler recipes, which means that Home Chef meals are much quicker to make, averaging around 25 minutes to competitors’ 45. Home Chef even has a <30 minutes search filter on their menu, so during busy weeks, you can handpick meals that take as little as 5 minutes to prep.
For Thanksgiving, Home Chef has broken down the week’s menu into multiple “Thanksgiving Favorites.” This gives you the option to fill your box with all of them, or, if you’re only tasked with bringing or supplying a single dish, you can simply choose one and wow your family with your “homemade” creation.
In total, if you’re the kind of person who just wants a quick and tasty home-cooked meal without having to babysit your skillet for 90 minutes, Home Chef may be ideal for you.
Blue Apron is like the Target of meal delivery services; you’ll pay a little extra, but receive consistent quality in return. While $9 to $10 per serving is slightly more expensive than most competitors, I’ve never once had a bad meal with Blue Apron. In fact, of the recipe cards I’ve saved over the years, most are from Blue Apron.
That being said, Blue Apron’s quality comes at the expense of both time and money. Most of their recipes call for about 45 minutes of prep. Now, I’m no cook, but I’m good at following directions, and most of Blue Apron’s recipes took me at least an hour and 15 minutes.
With Blue Apron you’ll pay a little more and work a little harder, but have a restaurant-quality meal to show for it. Plus, they’re offering a Thanksgiving meal for the first time this year, complete with turkey, gravy, and other staples.
HelloFresh is Blue Apron’s closest competitor, offering farm-raised ingredients and restaurant-quality meals for around $9 per person.
Differences between the two are subtle. HelloFresh uses slightly less packaging so you’ll feel less wasteful. The service also tends to pre-slice ingredients where possible, which you could construe as a pro or a con; it saves time, but for connoisseurs, may (ironically) lead to a loss in freshness.
HelloFresh is offering a Thanksgiving meal this year, albeit at a premium of $16 per person. Still, I have no doubt that the volume and quality of the meal will justify the expense.
All in all, HelloFresh’s ingredients may not be as obsessively fresh as Blue Apron’s, but you’ll save time and packaging in the process.
- Premade meals or meal kits? Meal kits.
- Offering Thanksgiving dinner? Yes.
- Pricing: ~$9.99 to $11.99 per serving plus free shipping.
- Current promotion: Get $25 off your first box.
As the name implies, Purple Carrot is completely vegan, offering an impressive array of plant-based meals at a reasonable price. As an omnivore myself, I must admit that even some of Purple Carrot’s menu options this week made my mouth water, such as Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Black Bean Avocado Melts.
Purple Carrot charges a bit more than the competition per serving, but those portions are surprisingly generous. Plus, unlike other meal delivery services, Purple Carrot has an option for delivering snacks and breakfast for an additional charge.
Since many recipes involve more “assembling” than “cooking,” Purple Carrot meals can be put together in under 30 minutes. The inherent drawback to vegan ingredients, however, is that fresh produce needs to be consumed quickly, so you may not want to schedule your box for Monday delivery if you like to cook on Saturdays.
Impressively, Purple Carrot is offering a massive Thanksgiving feast with butternut squash, stuffing, and all the fixins’ – entirely plant-based, of course. $75 for four servings is steep, but to replicate such a vegan feast would surely be an uphill battle on your own.
So if you and/or your significant other are already adhering to a plant-based diet, or are trying to cut down on your meat intake for a few meals a week, give Purple Carrot a shot.
Freshly offers single-serving meals that you simply pop into the microwave for a few minutes and voila. No fussing about with excessive packaging or 45-minute recipes that actually take 94 minutes: just delicious, chef-inspired meals in minutes.
Through Freshly you can order as few as four meals per week for ~$12 a pop to 12 meals per week for just $8 each. Neither price includes a small shipping fee, so you might be wondering whether $9 to $13 per serving is really worth it.
Personally, I found Freshly meals to be just as delicious and convenient as advertised, but not large enough to fill me up. Granted, I’m a 6’3 male who consumes calories like a stressed-out Olympian, but objectively speaking, Freshly is the only meal delivery service where one “serving” didn’t satisfy.
However, Freshly is still undeniably convenient. They haven’t announced Thanksgiving meals on their menu page yet, but they’re almost certainly coming. So if you don’t mind modest serving sizes so long as they’re ready in minutes, Freshly might be the right meal delivery service for you.
Sun Basket caters (literally) to health-conscious omnivores. If you like to eat farm-fresh organic food, but you’re not restricted to a vegan or vegetarian diet, Sun Basket might be the right service for you.
Meal plans start in the high range at $11 per serving, but Sun Basket offers generous portions of delicious, organic meals. Plus, they conveniently offer additional extras with your boxes like breakfast and snacks.
The service is also friendly to various diets and dietary preferences; if you’d like to go pescetarian or paleo for a while, just toggle the switch in your dashboard and see all of the options available to you for that week.
What’s lacking here, of course, is high-calorie “comfort foods.” Don’t browse Sun Basket looking for belt-stretchers like artisanal burgers or cheesy sausage pasta. Menu options are still pretty mouthwatering, from Chicken Tikka Masala to Black Angus Steak, but if buttery decadence is what you seek, you’ll probably be happier with one of Sun Basket’s less calorie-conscious competitors.
Curiously, Sun Basket has offered Thanksgiving meals in the past, but I couldn’t find anything on their site to indicate plans for 2020. Their Thanksgiving week menu options do, however, offer two turkey-based alternatives to die for: Eggs in Purgatory on Spicy Turkey, Mushroom, and Kale Hash, and Southwestern Turkey and Sweet Potato Skillet.
If you don’t mind paying a few extra bucks for 100% healthy and organic meals, Sun Basket may be the best service for you.
Why should you consider a meal delivery service for thanksgiving?
Take a moment to mentally plan out your Thanksgiving holiday. How many people are you preparing a meal for? What kinds of dishes will they expect? How much will that cost you, and how many hours/trips to the store will it take?
Chances are, none of those answers brought you calm and relief. Thanksgiving dinner might be the most demanding and expensive meal of the year on paper, but it doesn’t have to be. A meal delivery service could wipe away most of the time, stress, and cost of Thanksgiving without sacrificing the quality of the meal.
For the uninitiated, here’s how meal delivery services like Blue Apron work:
- Enroll online, and ensure you’re taking advantage of the ~$20-$80 introductory discounts most meal delivery services offer.
- Choose how many meals (usually 2, 4, 6, or 10) and servings per meal (usually 2, 4, or 8) you’d like delivered.
- Watch out for your delivery! Soon, a refrigerated box containing all of the necessary fresh ingredients and recipe cards will arrive at your door.
- Cook and enjoy your meals, recycle what packaging you can, go online to pick your next week’s meals, and rinse and repeat!
Now, all of the meal delivery services on this list are offering a traditional Thanksgiving meal option (or at least delicious-sounding turkey-based substitutes) and each one costs less than $20 per serving. So ordering Thanksgiving dinner through a meal delivery service cuts down on price, trips to the store, and wasted leftover ingredients without sacrificing quality.
Who should consider a meal delivery service on thanksgiving?
Busy or stressed-out people who still want a traditional Thanksgiving
Ordering Thanksgiving dinner through a meal delivery service, and having fresh ingredients delivered right to your door, saves a little money, a lot of time, and a ton of stress. Plus, you’ll save a trip or two to the store, which during a pandemic, could reduce your risk of catching something unpleasant just before family time.
People with a special diet
Are you a vegan or vegetarian who’s tired of being told “oh, well we have plenty of potatoes” at every family Thanksgiving? Purple Carrot offers an entire plant-based Thanksgiving feast for less than the cost of date night.
People with limited cooking experience
If you want to impress your family or significant other with your Thanksgiving dish but lack the cooking prowess, ordering Thanksgiving dinner through a meal delivery service is a pretty foolproof recipe for success. Because ingredients arrive in precise amounts, it’s much harder to mess up the stuffing than with a traditional recipe and grocery store ingredients.
People with family coming in town
Even Alaska is asking its denizens to stay in a social “bubble” to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within families. If you’re nervous about having family come over for dinner, you can minimize your own risk of infection by skipping the trip to the store and ordering a meal kit instead.
The environmentally conscious
Perhaps the #1 criticism of these meal delivery services is that they’re extremely wasteful. Each refrigerated box of meals seems to produce endless amounts of single-use plastic, from liquid vials to lettuce containers. However, meal delivery services actually produce 33% less waste than equivalent grocery store meals, since perfectly portioned ingredients produce significantly less food waste.
Who shouldn’t consider a meal delivery service on Thanksgiving?
People with a family recipe they love
If you already have a tried-and-true Thanksgiving recipe, you might find little reason to deviate and try a stranger’s interpretation (and risk offending the fam).
The detailed recipes and perfectly portioned ingredients provided by these services are specifically designed to remove the guesswork from cooking. But if you love the culinary arts and see Thanksgiving dinner as a welcome challenge, you may prefer to purchase your own ingredients and improvise!
Savvy grocery shoppers or those on a strict budget
If you’re skilled at finding deals on groceries (either out of joy or necessity) you might be able to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for less than the $20 per serving you’ll pay these meal delivery services.
What are the benefits of using a meal delivery service on Thanksgiving?
With meal delivery services, precise amounts of every necessary ingredient arrive right at your doorstep, refrigerated, and ready to cook. This saves hours of browsing grocery store shelves and performing mental math to calculate serving sizes.
Roughly $20 per person for a high-quality Thanksgiving meal is much cheaper than going out to eat.
Step-by-step instructions mean you can prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in under two hours. You can easily spend twice that if you try to portion ingredients yourself or follow a confusing recipe.
Skipping the trip to the store during a busy holiday limits your potential exposure to COVID-19. This could be especially pertinent if you have family coming over, and want to keep everyone in your “bubble” as safe as possible.
Since meal delivery kits arrive perfectly portioned, you’re much less likely to end up with disused or wasted ingredients than you would if you’d purchased an abundance of everything from the store.
What are the drawbacks of using a meal delivery service on Thanksgiving?
A tad impersonal
Some Thanksgiving traditions run deep. Your family or significant other might consider following someone else’s recipe a little less special (or even cheating).
Subject to shipping complications
The popularity of meal delivery services combined with a strained postal system is a dangerous combination. If your family or significant other would find missing Thanksgiving dinner to be unforgivable, consider having a Plan B in place if your box gets delayed.
As mentioned, ordering Thanksgiving through a meal delivery service is cheaper than going out to eat, but you may save even more if you purchase the ingredients yourself.
In my family, Thanksgiving lasts as long as the leftovers. We sometimes cook so much food that we’re still reheating full plates of turkey and stuffing well into December. If you like having a fridge full of leftovers after Thanksgiving, you could buy the maximum-sized meal kit, although purchasing your own ingredients at the store will be cheaper.
Even before the pandemic, Thanksgiving was a stressful time for the host. Whether you’re cooking for a few people or for a whole clan, the Turkey Day meal calls for staples like turkey, stuffing, and cobbler that can be complex and expensive to make. With tightened budgets and every trip to the grocery store presenting a risk for infection, there must be a better way.
Luckily, similar to how Amazon offers 100% safe “retail therapy” during COVID-19, the six meal delivery services highlighted here offer “Thanksgiving therapy.” Between them, they can provide a traditional Turkey Day dinner for any diet or budget while costing less than a restaurant and producing less waste than Publix.
Save time, money, and stress and let Turkey Day come to you.