Dinner to go delivered to your home: A busy mum puts four meal subscriptions to the test

Tired of dishing up endless dinners, Sharon Ní Chonchúir decided to check out four meal-subscription companies. She was surprised by the delicious, high-quality food they supplied. But all this convenience comes at a cost
Dinner to go delivered to your home: A busy mum puts four meal subscriptions to the test

Sharon Ní Chonchúir cooks up a storm at home with minimum effort thanks to a meal subscription service. Picture: Richard Smallwood

I’M THE cook in my family and there’s one question I’ve come to dread over the past year and a half: ‘What’s for dinner?’. Even though I usually enjoy cooking, with everyone stuck at home, day in and day out, lockdown turned meal making into a daily drudge.

I know there are thousands out there like me. People who wish they could eat healthily without having to deal with the hassle of planning, shopping, and cooking meals. Some of us order takeaway food instead. But takeaways are a limited option, from a financial and health point of view.

I have MS and have to be careful about what I eat. So I try to avoid dishes cooked with butter, cream, or hydrogenated fats – lashings of which you’ll find in most takeaway options.

Supermarket-ready meals are another alternative. But from my experience, they often lack the fresh flavour that comes from homemade food.

Meal subscription services seem to offer the ideal compromise. Freshly prepared food delivered to your door, perfectly portioned to minimise waste – surely these are the best answer to ‘What’s for dinner tonight?’.

To find out, my family and I have spent the past two weeks eating food supplied by four meal subscription services. All were chosen because they offer a range of healthy meals designed for taste and convenience.

Kayla’s Kitchen

The promise: Homemade from scratch using the best locally sourced ingredients.

Target clients: Everyone interested in eating healthy and nutritious meals, particularly those who have low immune systems due to illness.

Fresh or frozen? Frozen.

Cost: Main courses from €5.95, sides from €1.95, and desserts from €3.95.

Sustainable packaging: Yes. The meals come in recyclable plastic food trays packed in a cardboard box lined with compostable sheep’s wool.

I’m hungry when this is delivered to the door and immediately defrost a portion of tomato and fennel soup. It tastes clean and fresh. Its ingredients include nothing more than tomatoes, fennel, onion, celery, leek, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. With some crusty bread, it makes a great lunch.

I can’t resist trying the rich chocolate brownie with juicy black cherries and crunchy pecans for dessert.

Other hits include a red lentil dahl with fresh mango, an Irish beef stew, an Indian butternut and organic chickpea dish with spinach, and a Sicilian lemon chicken dish of free-range chicken, fennel, and preserved lemons in an Italian plum tomato sauce.

But the texture of the long-grain brown rice and mashed potato seemed to change when re-heated. And many dishes required a pinch more salt. However, this could be due to the fact that they need to be suitable for those who are ill or recovering from illness.

Verdict: Every Kayla’s Kitchen dish had that freshly home-cooked flavour that is so rare with pre-prepared food. I didn’t feel a single pang of guilt serving them up to my family as I knew they were as healthy as anything I would cook myself.

I’d be happy to always have a few Kayla’s Kitchen dinners in my freezer. In fact, I’m delighted that I still have beef stroganoff and dish of free-range chicken in a buttery and spicy tomato sauce. I’ll pull those out some evening when I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to cook dinner.

Gourmet Fuel

The promise: Hassle-free healthy eating: this company’s website offers a personalised nutrition service that guides you towards the eating plan that is suitable for your needs. There are even qualified nutritionists available to answer questions and help you make the right choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Target clients: Busy people who don’t have time to prepare the nutritious meals their bodies need, especially people who are interested in fitness.

Fresh or frozen? Fresh.

Cost: Breakfasts from €5.45, lunches from €7.75, dinners from €8.95, snacks such as protein balls and cake from €2.95, and sides from €4.45.

Sustainable packaging: Mixed. While the packaging used for the dishes is recyclable, the box they are delivered in is made from polystyrene.

There are so many tempting options to choose from on this website that I’m starving by the time I make my final selection. When they’re delivered a few days later, I immediately change my lunch plans and tuck into the seafood paella.

After scraping the parmesan cheese off the top (I try to avoid dairy), adding a little salt, and scattering some flat-leaf parsley on top, it makes a fantastic lunch.

While I’m enjoying that, my four-year-old son tries the sweet potato bites with taco sauce. His reaction to those is to stand up, raise his arms into the air, and shout ‘best sweet potatoes ever’. I try them for myself and have to agree they are pretty good.

Afterwards, we share the snack portion of chocolate fudge cake. It was so good that we’d have eaten at least the same again if we could.

My family also rated the saag aloo chickpea curry with its nice balance of spices and the chicken pad Thai which zinged with the flavours of fresh coriander, lime, and tamarind.

The fish cakes contained too much potato in relation to fish, and a side dish of nutty cauliflower rice which had a slightly bitter flavour. But maybe that’s what happens when you freeze brassicas.

Verdict: I’d order from Gourmet Fuel again. It offers a fantastically varied selection of dishes, with options for meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. The meals my family tested included all of those options and overall, they were fresh tasting, filling, and made with the healthiest of ingredients.


The promise: Mix and match your favourite mains, sides, and desserts and have healthy and delicious meals delivered to your door.

Target clients: Time-strapped professionals and young couples with children.

Fresh or frozen? Frozen

Cost: Main courses from €5.25, sides from €3.50, and desserts from €4.75.

Sustainable packaging: Yes. Every food delivery uses 100% compostable or recyclable packaging.

The first dish I sample from the range offered by Eatto is a puy lentil bolognese. It’s got such a clean wholesome taste that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t just freshly cooked.

The rice I heat up to serve with it doesn’t fare quite as well. It develops a dry and bitty texture, but this is something I’ve noticed with other meal subscription services too so perhaps it’s simply that rice doesn’t defrost very well.

I treat myself to the vegan apple crumble afterwards and love the mix of sweet, stewed apple and cinnamon and oat topping.

The beef meatballs cooked with Mediterranean vegetables in a rich tomato sauce went down a treat with my little boy and partner. So did the chargrilled Irish chicken breast with slow-roasted vegetables, rich tomato sauce and basil oil drizzle. I’m an experienced cook and I don’t think I could have produced tastier dishes myself.

Verdict: I did have to amp up the seasoning in most of these dishes but that’s a minor quibble and a question of personal taste. The natural ingredients, the combined focus on health and flavour, and the sheer convenience of not having to do anything except put a dish of frozen food in the oven to produce a tasty dinner makes Eatto a great option for those who can afford it.


The promise: Meal kits of ready-to-cook quality ingredients delivered to your door in perfectly portioned amounts along with a step-by-step recipe card telling you how to create a delicious dinner for your family in minutes.

Target clients: Families who want to eat good home-cooked food but don’t have time to plan and shop for meals.

Fresh or frozen? Fresh.

Cost: From €5.41 per serving

Sustainable packaging: Yes. Food is delivered in a cardboard box and wrapped in natural salt-based ice packs.

Eastro offers a choice of eight different dinners every week, the ingredients for which are delivered to your door the following day.

This saves time on shopping. It also saves time on preparation and cuts down on waste as all of the ingredients come pre-portioned. If the recipe specifies 30g of olives, that 30g will already have been measured for you.

I loved the convenience of this. I also liked how it allowed me to customise dishes to my family’s taste. When I was cooking the pork ragu that proved to be a huge success with my partner and little boy, I could season it to their liking. I could also choose to leave out the chilli flakes as neither of them like heat. We had feta and sweet potato tacos for dinner. I added some leftover avocado we had in the fridge, and it worked well as part of a quick-and-easy dinner full of fresh and lively flavours.

Verdict: These meal kits were my favourite. The only planning involved is going online to choose from a menu of dishes. There’s no shopping and very little preparation. All that was required of me was a few minutes of chopping, stirring, and seasoning and I had a freshly-cooked meal for my family.

Would I use these services again?

I enjoy cooking but I’d love not to have to do it quite so often. In an ideal world, if I could afford it, I’d always have a freezer stocked
with healthy dishes chosen to suit the tastes of my family and I’d order a meal kit or two every week. That would definitely take the drudge out of dinner.

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