Why aren't you eating free food?

A couple of months ago, my friend told me she had been gifted a free box of food from Hello Fresh, a meal delivery service similar to Blue Apron. Upon receiving her free box, she was granted free boxes to send to friends, one of which she sent to her husband. They took the free boxes, canceled their subscriptions, and were emailed with a code for 70% off to entice them to come back. In all, I think they paid something like $50 for six boxes of food. So, naturally, I asked for a referral code. 

I am NOT the kind of person to sign up for a service and then cancel - it seems like a lot of work to get free shit. However, in the meal delivery service world, the free shit is a week's worth of food (and y'all know how I feel about free food), and canceling is super easy (you don't even have to talk to a human! And talking to humans is the worst!). Thus, I've spent the last two months subsisting on my media dinners and free trials of delivery services.

I've found I really enjoy the meal delivery services. Honestly the biggest problem for me, other than some recipes that sucked, is that I'm often not home for dinner enough to make the food. I love to cook, but buying an entire bottle of rice wine vinegar when I only use two tablespoons is annoying, so the portioned meals work well for me. Having the food delivered directly to my door is also a huge plus, and as a #sadsingleperson, the two-serving size means I have lunch for the next day (I am terrible about lunch). I also get to try recipes I might not ordinarily make.

But what I enjoy even more is the FREE-ness of it all. So, here are four delivery services you can try for free (or very cheap!) and what I think of them.

1) Hello Fresh

How to try it for free: 1) Check with friends - after your first box, you get four referrals to give away 2) Walk around Austin - I've seen Hello Fresh people at The Domain and Downtown and I bet they will give you a free trial. 

Cost if you want to continue: $59.94 for 3 meals (2 servings each)

Recipes I tried: Sweet n Spicy Apricot Chicken, Winner Winner Chicken Orzo Dinner, Crusted Dijon Cod, Pump Up the Jam Chicken

The Verdict: 6/10

The first delivery of HelloFresh that I got showed up covered in some kind of mysterious juice - I think the chicken got punctured somehow - and for sure this colored my perception of them forever. I called and they sent me a new box the next week, but that was kind of a big fail on their part. The next box was a big fail on my part - I just wasn't home enough to make all the food. So my third attempt I actually paid for, but HelloFresh is pretty cheap.

The food is basic and simple - a little too basic, if you ask me (like the names of the dishes - holy fuck can you not?). I mean, I get it, Americans love chicken + starch but seriously, enough with the couscous. Even though they were simple, these meals took longer to make than the recipe called for. Granted, this is a factor of the menus I chose, but idk, the other options didn't seem super appealing (meatloaf? pass.). The chicken orzo dinner was great, the cod and the jammed chickens (which are basically the same recipe), less so. Also, if you want steak ever, that's a "premium" option. That said, I did pick up some things (like how to make craveable roasted broccoli) that have stayed with me.

So, after the wonder of having food delivered to my door subsided, I felt pretty meh about HelloFresh. 

2) Sun Basket

How to try it for free: For half off, you can use Google ads, Instagram ads, maybe this link

Cost if you want to continue: $74.93 for 3 meals (2 servings each)

Recipes I tried: Sesame chicken, Black Bean Chilaquiles, Italian Sausage and Peppers with celeriac mash

The Verdict: 6/10

The huge appeal of Sunbasket is they have food to accommodate all dietary needs (Paleo, Gluten Free, etc.) and the produce is organic, non-GMO, and super fresh.

Now, if only the food could taste good. 

Admittedly, this was likely a problem on my end. The sesame chicken on udon just did not turn out - the udon was slimy and there was too much of it. Sausage and peppers was...fine...but it turns out I definitely do not like celeriac root, and did I really want to pay $11.50 for that? That said, the black bean chilaquiles were BOMB AS HELL. 

Looking at the menu now, it seems really delicious and there are lots of options, so it's definitely worth trying, especially if you have special dietary needs. But it's a little bit more expensive than the others and I probably wouldn't recommend it if you're just starting out, as the recipes can be a little tricky.

3) Blue Apron

How you can try it for free: Your friend who gets Blue Apron gets FOUR free boxes to give away with every order, so hit them up. Otherwise, you can get half off your first box

Cost if you want to continue: $59.94 for 3 meals (2 servings each)

Recipes I triedPersian-Style Chicken & Crispy RiceCreamy Lumaca Rigata Pasta (I was supposed to have steaks too but other free food got in the way)

The Verdict: 8/10

I found out about different delivery services from this BuzzFeed article, which ranks them all, and did not think highly of Blue Apron. Plus, it seemed, I don't know, super basic of me to have Blue Apron delivered.


That Persian-Style chicken is not something I would cook normally but turned out SO DELICIOUS. Toasting half the rice for a crispy element? GENIUS! The pasta sounded plain but turned out FABULOUS. I felt incredibly fancy and also well-fed. 

So, I was eager to try my next round of Blue Apron. I checked the menu (there are like eight options to choose from each week)...and checked, and checked. I didn't see a weekly menu with three options that I wanted to cook for over a month. So, definitely make sure that you choose a week that sounds appealing to you.

4) Marley Spoon

How to get it for free: I got half off my first two boxes from an Instagram ad, and then got two free boxes to give away. I'm sure you can find similar!

Cost, if you want to continue: $61.50 for 3 meals (2 servings each)

Recipes I tried: Pollock in Tomato Broth, Chicken and Butter Bean Salad, Sirloin Filet & Potatoes; Fried Chicken on a Biscuit, Whole Wheat Noodle Salad

The Verdict: 8/10

Marley Spoon is Martha Stewart's meal delivery service. And let me tell you, Martha got it wrong the first week I ordered. The Pollock in Tomato Broth was weird and the chicken was fine but boring (no complaints about the steak though!). I was mildly dreading my second delivery, when our girl came through in a pinch. 

Y'all. I made (tasty!) biscuits in 5 minutes. I couldn't believe it. I also FRIED CHICKEN, which I've never done before, and it turned out AMAZING. Then the whole wheat noodle salad? I wanted to forward the recipe to all my friends. I'm sad I'm not eating it right now. Another huge plus - the recipes weren't overly fussy, and came together in the time on the recipe card. 

My one minor complaint with Martha is some of the necessary ingredients weren't included. Like, yeah, luckily I had enough oil lying around to fry chicken, but you'd think it wouldn't be too hard for her to send some of that. And when you call for half a stick of butter, that shit should be in my box too. 


The biggest lesson from all of this was how much you're at the mercy of the recipes (and how boring chicken can get). If you look at a weekly menu and there aren't 3 recipes you're excited about, DON'T ORDER IT! Going forward, I will likely be alternating between Marley Spoon and Blue Apron on an "every now and then" basis - my life is just too hectic to try to account for three meals at home in one week (which is kind of sad). 

Have you tried meal services? Which ones do you like?