The lunchtime struggle is real—just ask any desk-bound employee—and each day, the question looms large: Should I stay or should I go? Out to lunch, that is. Obvious barriers to takeout come up on the regular—meetings, a perilously low checking account balance, and the like. But then again, it’s summertime and it’s nice out. So what’s a hungry soul to do?
Well, on the days you chose to stay deskside, whatever your reasons may be, a plethora of options exist to ensure you’re not stuck with a sad desk salad or yet another disappointing Seamless situation. These companies promise to provide you with a healthy and tasty meal to satisfy and satiate. Even better, they’ll deliver right to your office—some even offer weekly subscriptions—so you barely have to lift a finger to guarantee you have something to smile about come lunchtime. Below, peruse our menu of four meal-delivery services we tried and rated in our search for the best happy desk lunch out there. If you end up hungry, you know what to do.
About: Freshly understands the lunch (and dinner) struggle, offering a tasty solution by way of chef-curated meal plans to free up your time to pursue the things that matter—aka not chopping up vegetables for tomorrow's lunch. (If, however, chopping veggies is your passion, you go girl. Chop, chop.) With a team of chefs cooking up breakfast, lunch, and dinner options that are ready in the microwave in two minutes or less, there's a lot to love about these gluten-free meals. Plans vary from six meals per week ($69) to 21 meals per week ($229). It's up to you to determine what you'll do with all your extra free time. (Ed. Note: Freshly currently delivers to 28 states in the continental U.S. and will soon be expanding in the northeast. Stay tuned!)
Taste and Presentation: Each sophisticated Freshly package comes complete with nutritional information, instructions, and the expiration date, and I honestly felt so satisfied when looking at the neat stack of meals in my fridge—stress-free indeed. From three-bean ancho turkey chili to jerk chicken to a BLT omelet, the Freshly meals taste great and leave you full and happy. Vegetarians and the microwave-averse might look elsewhere for their lunch options, but if you're a carnivore in search of some comfort food, you'll be pleased by Freshly's menu offerings. Plus, I love how the brand even takes the extra step to introduce meal hacks via social media. Chili tacos? I'm in.
Final Review: For now, Freshly delivers to fewer states than I’d like, and the meals don’t arrive ready to eat (they need to be microwaved). I gave them a three and a half out of five.
About: Hungryroot is on a mission to get people to crave its veggies and make them the stars of their plates—all in less than 10 minutes, no less. Founded by a group of entrepreneurs who want to uproot the way Americans see vegetables, the company offers intriguing pre-packaged, greens-focused meals (and sweets and snacks) that are both nutrient-dense and comforting. Order the meals à la carte or in bundles; they're guaranteed to last up to eight days in your fridge and can be cooked on the stovetop or in the microwave. Hungryroot is available at Whole Foods along with Amazon Fresh and FreshDirect, or it can be shipped anywhere in the continental U.S. How's that for convenient?
Taste and Presentation: Of the four meals I tried, Hungryroot did take the most effort to eat—you have to actually prepare this one—but the payoff was worth it. The packaging makes it seem almost like an art project, too. It took me just eight minutes to prepare the boniato noodles with fresh bean salsa ($9) and a few more to polish off the bowl. The complex flavors and enticing aroma helped me become a member of the #cleanplateclub, and the few minutes it took to whip it together in the office kitchen were a good work break. I'd gladly repeat the steps again. Oh, and you're not going to want to skip out on the snacks. My corner of the office was oohing and aahing over the coconut carrot cake bites ($7). You will too.
Final Review: Because it takes a bit of effort to make a Hungryroot meal, I rated them four out of five.
Ed. Note: If you'd like to try out Hungryroot yourself, use the promo code mydomaine at checkout to receive a $10 discount on your first order. Offer is valid until July 30, 2016.
About: If you’re in the NYC area or just avidly follow national foodie news, you’ve probably heard of Maple, the David Chang-backed app that brings chef-curated, ready-to-eat meals right to your door in 30 minutes. The “most delicious app in NYC” works with big names like Mark Ladner of Del Posto to create restaurant-quality lunch (and dinner) options for $15 or less and is expanding its menu to offer even more options—think sides like guac and chips, La Colombe coffee, and even vino. For now, only New Yorkers can enjoy Maple, but we’re thinking something this good can’t stay confined to Manhattan for too long.
Taste and Presentation: I tried the pork and chile enchiladas (pictured above), which arrived just after the 20-minute timeslot I chose upon ordering. The first bite was a flavor bomb, and I instantly knew I was in for a good meal. The enchiladas were still warm, the cheese still gooey, and the delicious smell wafting out of my cubicle made jealous co-workers inquire about what I was eating. When the delivery arrived, I felt as though I were being presented with a gift—the packaging felt very on-brand, and the extra touch of Christina Tosi (of Momofuku Milk Bar fame) x Maple cookies was very much appreciated. Christmas in June? I'll take it.
Final Review: Though Maple is NYC only, the price was right, the flavor was bold, and the food arrived warm and ready to eat. Five out of five stars.
About: We're no stranger to Sakara Life here. The organic meal delivery company's two founding BFFs, Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise, inspire us on the regular. Sakara Life's philosophy centers on the idea of living clean and empowering people through plant-rich, gluten-free, superfood meals, plus fun additions like Beauty Water ($24) and watermelon jerky ($11). Not an à la carte service, Sakara Life primarily works on a subscription basis where a week of pre-selected healthy lunches costs $120. The best news? The company ships anywhere within the continental United States.
Taste and Presentation: The first thing you'll notice about Sakara Life (besides the stylish reusable cooler bag that comes with your delivery) is the vibrancy of each meal. In the salad of Jungle Curry Noodles With Coconut Rice that I tried, the bright purples and greens immediately stood out as a reflection of the healthiness of what I was about to eat. Maybe it was mental, but with each bite of the crisp, tangy salad, I felt revitalized and energized. I did end up wanting more coconut rice and fewer greens, but I'm a little greedy that way.
Final Review: With a week of lunches priced at $24 each, I had to dock Sakara Life a point for being on the pricey side.
Have another favorite lunch option? Let us know!
Opening Image: Hungryroot