Freshly Review

Gluten-free meals, zero effort

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4

Freshly

shrimp and sausage paella in a white bowl

Verywell Fit / Abbey Littlejohn

Freshly is a good choice for folks who need reliably gluten-free meals with zero effort involved. It may not work as your primary source of meals if you’re looking for a fantastic eating experience, but if you’re into health-focused, gluten-free food and convenience, it could become part of the rotation.

Pros
  • Certified gluten-free facility

  • Wellness support team

  • Zero prep, quick to cook

  • Good menu variety

Cons
  • No customization

  • Mostly static menu

  • Flavor/texture challenges

  • No sourcing information

4

Freshly

shrimp and sausage paella in a white bowl

Verywell Fit / Abbey Littlejohn

Freshly was born out of its founder’s need to eat healthier in conjunction with a busy lifestyle—thus, he created a company that produces heat-and-eat meals geared toward health. Today, Freshly produces fresh, single-serving meals that require zero prep, most of which are certified gluten-free.

In the meal delivery industry, this level of dedication to safe preparation for medically relevant diets is rare, and Freshly seems to be positioned well in this niche. We gave the service a try to see if Freshly’s health-focused meals also deliver on flavor and customer experience.

While Freshly accommodates a few diets like dairy-free and plant-based, the service is probably most known for its certified gluten-free options.

Pricing: Pay-by-Plan, Shipping Varies

Freshly’s pricing is super simple: Choose the number meals you want and your plan is priced accordingly, no matter which meals you select. The more you purchase, the less expensive each meal becomes. Just keep in mind that the shipping cost will increase as you add more food to your order. Also, as an aside, Freshly does not allow you to view past orders and receipts without contacting customer service, which is unusual, so keep your emailed receipts if you want to look back at your payments. Here’s how the typical costs break down:

  • 4-5 meals per week: 11.79 per meal + 6.99 shipping
  • 6-7 meals per week: 9.99 per meal + 6.99 shipping
  • 8-9 meals per week: 9.49 per meal + 8.99 shipping
  • 10-11 meals per week: 9.29 per meal + 10.99 shipping
  • 12 meals per week: 8.99 per meal + 11.99 shipping

How It Works: Simple Signup, Recurring Orders

Getting yourself a weekly order of Freshly’s heat-and-eat meals truly takes only a few clicks. Simply sign up initially with an email address and zip code, then select which plan you want based on the number of meals. After that, there is the option to choose a date for the first delivery, usually starting about a week out. Unlike most other services, we love that dates for first delivery are available several weeks in advance, so you can really plan ahead. 

After this, Freshly takes you on to meal selection right away where you select meals up to the number provided in the plan. Freshly has a few different ways to sort the menu by diet, categories of meals, and nutrient values. While Freshly accommodates a few diets like dairy-free and plant-based, the service is probably most known for its certified gluten-free options. Freshly also offers some of its own “FreshlyFit” meals designed with certain nutrient thresholds in mind. 

Meal selection with Freshly does not allow for any customization or substitution and really doesn’t include add-ons. Once your meals are selected and your cart is full, the payment screen appears. Freshly is automatically set up to recur weekly, and there's a box you can check that will apply the meals you ordered to future orders.

four freshly prepared meals in packaging on a counter

Verywell Fit / Abbey Littlejohn

Choosing Meals: Static but Varied

Freshly’s menu is largely static with some rotating options that do offer seasonality and variety, but the company does add new meals weekly. The menu overall is quite large, with about 60 options available, and within that the variety of choices on offer is pretty good across flavor profiles, meal composition types, and ingredients. Nearly all of the options are gluten-free, and amongst the other diets accommodated there are about nine entrees that meet the “FreshlyFit” criteria, a similar number of meals that are dairy-free; plant-based have the smaller number of options with just five entrees. 

Customizations and add-ons are basically non-existent. The service does offer some proteins and sides which have some variation, which you can order with the meals you choose.

When it comes to selecting meals, you can filter the menu by diets accommodated, some “signature” items, and even by certain nutrients. Customers can view certain nutrients and meal information from the main dashboard, with lots of additional nutrition and allergen details if you navigate to each meal’s specific page. Simply review the information, choose the meals, add them to your cart, and check out.

What We Made

We did our best to order a mix of items across all the varied diet types and meal compositions available. When testing out this gluten-free service, we gave items that normally don’t contain gluten a try as well as those that incorporated substitutions for gluten ingredients. We ordered the six-meal plan, and ultimately chose five meals to review for Freshly:

  • Zingy buffalo chicken, loaded cauliflower
  • Coconut lemongrass pork bowl, cauliflower rice and roasted veg
  • Shrimp & andouille paella, roasted red peppers
  • Chicken tikka masala
  • Homestyle chicken, mac & cheese

Packaging: Standard Mix of Paper and Plastic

Meals from Freshly arrive in a cardboard box with a plastic-covered insulated liner and several plastic-based ice packs. As is also common for heat-and-eat meals, the individually packaged items from Freshly come in a rigid plastic tray covered with a plastic film and are then wrapped in a paper-based sleeve with all of your heating information. In total, for five meals plus the delivery packaging, we had 23 total separate elements of packaging to contend with.

The cardboard and paper elements can be recycled curbside as can the rigid plastic trays, however, all of the other elements are either not recyclable, need to be taken to a specialized recycling location, or end up in the garbage. 

freshly packaging materials in a cardboard delivery box

Verywell Fit / Abbey Littlejohn

Customer Support: Useful Chat Support

We had quite a bit of dialogue with the Freshly support team as we had questions about multiple areas of the service. We engaged with both the general customer service team as well as the Freshly “Wellness Expert” team via the service’s live chat function. Both groups were super helpful. The response was immediate, and we had a pretty clear resolution to the questions we had.

We got the pricing breakdown information we needed from the customer service team since, as mentioned, we couldn’t view past orders and invoices on our customer dashboard. We also had some questions about what exactly qualifies a meal to be “FreshlyFit,” and the Wellness Experts were able to get us the information we needed there as well.

We loved the idea of having specific “Wellness Experts” on the customer service team, and given their expertise, Freshly succeeded in answering some questions that other services couldn’t. However, we would have liked to see licensed professionals in this area instead of the more vague “health science background” that’s listed.

Nutrition: Gluten-Free and Health Focused

We really like Freshly’s approach to both ingredient safety as well as general health. While it may be common to find restaurants offering “gluten-free” options, it is more rare to come across certified gluten-free kitchens. Freshly specifically works with the Gluten Intolerance Group to achieve its “safe spot” status, giving the company a powerful third-party certification. Managing ingredients and cross-contact is critical for gluten-related safety in commercial kitchens, and it can be at significant cost and effort, so we appreciate this level of dedication to safety.

When it comes to emphasis on health, Freshly doesn’t really push overly restrictive diets, rarely resorts to diet culture-based marketing, and the actual food options and ingredients showcase a fair amount of variety. Generally, meals run around 500 calories, 20g of fat, and 700mg sodium, and offer some health-oriented ingredient swaps like beef meatballs made with hidden veggies. While these substitutes definitely aren’t fooling anyone, and we believe that traditional versions of dishes can be part of a healthful life, we like that Freshly’s meal composition feels balanced and the emphasis is on nutrient density rather than following trendy diets and total restriction.

Aside from the gluten-free options, Freshly does offer a few diet-adjacent labels, such as carb-conscious, plant-based, and its own “FreshlyFit” meals. While there is some basic information on what these labels mean, we would have liked to see what the criteria is for “FreshlyFit” or “carb conscious” listed on the website.

The Cooking Process: Microwave in Minutes

One of the main advantages of heat-and-eat services like Freshly is the minimal cook time. The meals simply pop into the microwave and are ready to go in about 3 minutes, give or take. If you don’t mind a longer cook time, which varies by recipe, you can opt for some of the more cook-heavy instructions for reheating on the stovetop or in the oven.

Directions are short but clear, and you don’t need much more. We found that the meals reheated evenly with the instructions given, though we recommend trying the non-microwave cooking techniques if you order items that you want to have a more crispy texture, like breaded chicken dishes.

However you choose to cook it, Freshly is a fast and easy way to get food on the table. The fresh, heat-and-eat nature of the meals makes the service ideal for cooking newbies or folks who just don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

chicken tikka masala in a black container

Verywell Fit / Abbey Littlejohn

Flavor, Freshness, and Quality: First-rate Ingredients, Flavors and Textures Need Help

While there were some meals from Freshly that were better than others, we would file about half under “needs improvement” in the flavor and/or texture department. We do always view foods specially crafted for dietary needs with a different lens as it can be impossible to replicate certain elements, but even with that in mind, we think there are other services that simply did the job better with tastier food.

We will say that the meals all seemed fresh and highly edible upon arrival, even if some of the flavors and textures disappointed in execution. Ingredients all seem to be good quality, and the meals maintained freshness for the amount of time stated. We do think Freshly could do a bit more to disclose sourcing information for those who desire it, but we take that to mean that conventional products are being used and don’t see that as prohibitive to creating healthful and delicious food. 

Freshly Is Good For

Folks who really need to be cautious about gluten (i.e,. individuals with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity) could really benefit from giving Freshly a try. While it may not be the most gourmet option, we really appreciate the effort Freshly puts in to produce certified gluten-free meals that are also promote health and require minimum effort to heat up. However, folks who don’t need to be gluten-free may find other options in the marketplace that offer better customization and a more enjoyable eating experience. 

However you choose to cook it, Freshly is a fast and easy way to get food on the table.

The Competition: Freshly vs. Factor

Freshly and Factor both offer heat-and-eat meals that are ready in minutes. While the services both cater to certain dietary needs, overall they offer different approaches to health, vary on pricing, and gave us very different eating experiences.

Freshly’s main focus is certified gluten-free options served in a stealth health kind of way with some “keto-ish,” plant-based and “FreshlyFit” options. Factor is mainly about keto meals, and although the service offers plant-based and calorie-smart options, the composition of ingredients and nutrition make it less health-focused overall than Freshly. In addition, Freshly’s minimum price of $8.99 per serving, is a bit less expensive than Factor’s starting price of $11 per serving. However, Factor was the more delicious choice for us, and it also offers a free session with a licensed registered dietitian.

Final Verdict

Freshly ticks a lot of boxes for health and attention to safety for gluten-free eaters, but flavor-wise, it wasn’t a lot better than other microwaveable meals you find in the frozen food section of the grocery store. We do think it’s worth a try for gluten-free folks who enjoy a stealth-health approach to food, but we wouldn’t say it’s going to be a win for everyone.

Methodology

We ordered, cooked, and evaluated meals from 27 meal delivery services to get a sense of each one’s offerings, nutrition profiles, prices, and, of course, flavors. We contacted the customer service teams at each of the companies, collected data, and wrote detailed reviews about each one.

Our writers are all registered dietitians and relied on their research and its resulting data to inform their reviews.

Specs

  • Product Name Freshly
  • Lowest Price per Serving $8.99
  • Number of Diets Served 5
  • Number of Recipes 60
  • Delivery Area 48 states
  • Serving Sizes Available 1
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