There’s this idea that as a college student, you should be happy with whatever the food hall in your dorm is dishing out or pay too much to order takeout every night. Enjoying healthy, nutritious meals at home is an essential part of early adulthood, and meal delivery services are a great option for making it happen.
While meal delivery services have soared in popularity over the past few years, they’re not all cut out for the collegiate lifestyle. Some are too complicated, too bland, or designed for busy families rather than student life.
We’ve tried and tested many food delivery services. From our experience, we’ve come up with a list of the best meal delivery services for college students. Take a look at our top picks.
As a college student, you don’t have much time to fuss around in the kitchen, but that doesn’t mean you don’t love delicious eats. Cafeteria food is subpar, takeout is too much money, and the frozen meals from the grocery store are just plain blah. Freshly can reintroduce delicious meals back into your life.
Freshly meals come to you prepared, in individual serving sizes, but unlike frozen meals, these are delivered fresh and full of flavor. All you have to do is heat and eat, which seriously takes about three minutes.
Freshly meals are made with high-quality ingredients. Their food philosophy centers around eliminating processed ingredients and packing meals with nutrition while reducing processed sugars that zap your energy and do nothing for your health.
With Freshly, you get well over 30 meal choices per week, and they make it easy to meet your dietary and taste preferences by placing their meals into four categories. Choose meals from a single category or all of them.
- Crafted Classics: Great for pickier eaters and those who love classic, comfort food style dishes
- Signature Collection: Treat yourself to something a little more sophisticated and explore new flavors
- FreshlyFit: Calorie and macro-nutrient controlled meals for your healthy collegiate lifestyle
- Takeout Twist: Restaurant-style meals, except more nutritious, less expensive, and super-quick
If you have special dietary needs or preferences, chances are Freshly has something for you. Their meals are gluten-free, with dairy-free, soy-free, and other healthy options. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you might find options limited with Freshly.
Freshly offers a student discount of 15% off any meal plan for four weeks. You have to sign up to get the discount code, and you must be at least 16 years old, a full-time student, and have a valid student email address.
Here are a few more reasons why Freshly ranks as our top choice.
- Wide variety of flavors
- More affordable than takeout, plus the more you order, the more you save
- Great reviews for taste
- Excellent customer service and flexibility options
- Recyclable packaging materials
- The Freshly App makes it super easy to choose meals, switch up your subscription, or connect with customer service
For college students, SunBasket is another great meal delivery service company that we love. If you’re ready to give up eating junk food and dig into tasty, nutritious meals, you’re going to love SunBasket.
Sun Basket offers both prepared meals and meal kits, making them a good all-around choice whether you want quick, heat & eat meals, or like the idea of tooling around a little in the kitchen.
Sun Basket uses the highest quality produce and other ingredients when preparing their meals and meal kits, plus they’re a certified organic handler.
SunBasket’s menu selection is massive, with 20 choices for prepared meals, 20 options for meal kits, and a selection of quick extras for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. They get rave reviews for the flavors of their prepared meals, which feature choices like Shrimp Paella, Cauliflower Mac & Cheese, and Vegan Kimchi Fried Rice.
The one downside of SunBasket is that they don’t offer a discount for students. Prices for meals start at $8.99 per serving, with some meals costing more.
To recap, here’s why SunBasket wins the spot as runner up and best-prepared meal delivery:
- Great variety and flavor
- Commitment to quality, ethics, and sustainability in their choice of ingredients
- Certified organic handler
- They donate an average of 1,000 pounds of food to charitable organizations every week
- Wide variety of dietary options, including paleo, gluten-free, DF, diabetes-friendly, soy-free, vegan, and calorie-conscious
As a college student, you have a lot of demands on your time and your health. If you’re invested and committed to living a healthy lifestyle, you know exactly how important optimal nutrition is. You also know how hard it can be to eat healthy meals at affordable prices, with so little extra time on your hands.
From our review of meal delivery services, we like Meal Pro the best for quick, easy, healthy meal options. They specialize in nutritionally optimized meals, all made with non-processed, natural ingredients for people living their healthiest possible lives – whether you’re a time-starved student who’s too busy for nutrition or a collegiate athlete who pushes themselves daily.
Students can choose from more than 30 menu options and have them delivered to their dorm or off-campus residence. All meals are prepared, heat & eat, and delivered vacuum-sealed for extra freshness. Most meals come with the option to add extra protein or swap out the carbs for extra veggies. Note that there aren’t a ton of vegan/vegetarian options each week.
Meal prices average from $8.99-$12.99. There is a shipping discount when you order the 20 meal box, although this can present a challenge if your sharing refrigerator/freezer space with roommates.
- Recurring orders are optional, but there are perks for signing up for a subscription
- Flexibility in customizing meals to meet your needs and preferences
- Delicious meals like Cuban Chicken and Asparagus Steak are well-liked
- Recyclable packaging
- Prepared fresh
- Great for athletes, people who are physically active, and those following high-protein diets
Sometimes, you just really want homemade meals, especially if you’ve grown tired of takeout or are feeling a little homesick. Meal kit delivery services are slightly different from pre-portioned, prepared meals that you just stick in the oven. With meal kits, you do the actual cooking but without grocery shopping or spending a ton of time in the kitchen.
Home Chef is one of our favorite meal kit delivery services for college students because of its great selection of easy-cook meals. They offer a nice range of flavors, from classics like Garlic Thyme Chicken with Green Beans and Apples to something a bit more exotic, such as Thai Style Peanut Crusted Salmon.
We also like that Home Chef has meal kits for a range of cooking levels. Some are super easy and quick, taking only 15-minutes on the stovetop, with no oven required. Others are a bit more complex, which might be fun for students living off-campus that want to explore their culinary side.
More reasons we like Home Chef meal kits:
- Healthy meals with little food waste
- Some meals come with customization options, such as swapping out different proteins
- One of the most reputable brands in the meal kit industry
- Meal kit prices start at $6.99 per portion
- Makes enjoying home-cooked meals easy
- Calorie-Conscious, Carb-Conscious, and vegetarian meal kits available
- Perfect when cooking for one person
When you’re living in the dorm, you don’t have access to a regular kitchen, making mealtime challenging if you don’t want to the dining hall or have yet another sandwich stacked with mystery lunch meats. If you have a microwave and a small refrigerator in your dorm, you can enjoy healthy food and amazing meals with Factor prepared meal delivery service.
Choose from a rotating menu of fully prepared dishes that are packed with flavor. You can filter meals by special diets, like keto, paleo, vegetarian, high-protein, low-carb, low-calorie, and plant-based.
One of the main reasons we like Factor for dorm life is the range of plans they offer. If you happen to be living in a magical unicorn-style dorm where you actually have refrigerator space, you can order up to 18 meals and receive the best pricing. For the more typical dorm experience, you can choose the four or six meals plan, which is perfect for dorm-sized refrigerators.
The downside of Factor is that they are a little pricier than other services that offer oven-ready meals. The four meal plan is $15.00 per person, with no discount incentive for students.
Some more reasons why we like Factor:
- Focused on nutrition, without fluffy, processed ingredients or overloaded with refined sugars
- Great for health-conscious college students
- Super fresh ingredients go into each meal
- Good variety of dietary options
- You can skip weeks (up to 4) when you’re away on break
- Meal plan options that are exactly what you need when living in the dorm
Ok, we’ll be honest. There are meal delivery services that are more affordable than Hello Fresh, but you’re sacrificing some in quality, taste, and customer service by choosing them.
Hello Fresh receives good reviews for their quality, and the regular price of their meals starts at around $7.99 per serving, which is less than what you’ll pay for even the typical fast food meal these days. To sweeten the deal, they also offer a discount to students. Simply sign in, verify your student status, and receive 15% off every order.
We also like that there’s no commitment whatsoever with Hello Fresh. If your budget is running a little tight, you don’t have to worry about how you’ll pay for a meal subscription box that month.
The one caveat is that Hello Fresh is a meal kit service, so you do need access to a kitchen and some basic cooking skills to make this one work.
More reasons to love Hello Fresh
- Order as few as two, or as many as five meals per week (plans are for two people)
- Choose between several meal plan options to fit your collegiate lifestyle
- More than two dozen chef-created meals each week
- The website lets you take a peek at the menus several weeks ahead of time, so you can start planning early
- Easy recipes for restaurant-quality meals
College Meal Buying Guide
What you consider as priorities when choosing meal delivery services is going to be a bit different than someone who has graduated and out living their full-blown adult life. Here are few things to keep front and center when deciding.
Meal Kits Vs Prepared Meals
This one is huge. Do you have access to a full kitchen or just a refrigerator? Do you like to cook, or do you avoid the kitchen like it’s a dreaded chem exam? Prepared meal services deliver fresh, fully prepared meals to you door. You really only need a refrigerator to keep them in, a microwave, and some utensils. Freshly is our top pick for these types of meal.
Meal kits are something different. You choose recipes and then perfectly portioned kts are delivered to you. The ingredients are fresh, so you will need space to store them properly, and most require at least minimal skill and basic kitchen tools. SunBasket and Home Chef both have great meal kit options.
Level of Cooking Skill
Home Chef is one of our favorites for meal kits because they offer options for different levels of cooking skill. If you’re new to the kitchen, look for meal kits with minimal ingredients, easy, tasty recipes, and shorter cooking time.
If you feel comfortable in the kitchen and want to graduate beyond easy meals, look for kits that are a bit more sophisticated in their ingredients and technique. These kits are a great way to further expand your culinary repertoire without spending a ton at the grocery store or worrying about less food waste.
If you live off campus and have a full size kitchen, you might not mind stocking up with a huge order once a month. If you’re dealing with more modest accommodations, you’re going to want to choose a company that delivers more frequently or in smaller batches. Factor was our choice for dorm life because you can order as few as four meals with their boxes.
Dorm meal plans can be costly, but so can eating out all the time or spending money on groceries you end up wasting instead of eating. Meal delivery services are a great alternative, as long as you keep your budget in mind.
Services like Freshly, Hello Fresh, and Home Chef all offer college discounts. Other companies might charge a bit more, but if you consider quality of taste and ingredients, plus convenience, they’re well worth it if they fit in your budget.
Special Dietary Preferences
Are you plant-based? Keto? Paleo? Just watching calories and carbs? Maybe you have a food sensitivity. Some companies are great about offering lots of options to meet special dietary needs, but others are more limited.
It’s always best to scour over the menu to see how many choices you will actually have each week and also research how they handle common allergens if that’s a concern.
We like Freshly prepared meals for their taste, quality, affordability, and variety. Plus, their heat & eat meals are super easy whether you live in the dorm or off-campus.
Hello Fresh’s regular prices average from $6.49-$12.49 per serving, depending on how many meals and servings you choose. They often run special discounts that slash those prices by about half for new customers, regardless if you’re a student or not.
That said, Hello Fresh does offer a student discount. Students receive 15% off every Hello Fresh box, and shipping is free with your first order.
HelloFresh isn’t the least expensive meals delivery service out there, but they are reasonably priced. Even at full price, you can pay as little as $6.49 per meal, especially if you team up with roomies.
HelloFresh also frequently offers discount incentives to sign up for their service and a nice student discount of 15% on each box.
Many companies offer discount incentives when signing up for your first box. Freshly and Home Chef are two companies that offer discounts specifically for student sign up.
Healthy meals that also taste good and are easy to prepare are a college student’s dream. We’ve looked at details like quality, reputation, taste, customer service, and more to find the best student meals delivered. We choose Freshly as the best overall, but there isn’t a single company on this list that we don’t stand behind.
Leave the dining hall and take out leftovers in the past, and choose meal delivery that fast, healthy, and delicious.