While I technically have 2 years and 9 months left until I’m officially an empty nester (but who’s counting?), my youngest and I moved into what I’ll call a transitional empty nest 3 years ago when my three oldest children graduated from high school and flew off into the world — all within a short period of each other. After cooking for a family of five for nearly 2 decades, it’s been hard to adjust to cooking for just two people, especially when the last kiddo at home has activities 7 days a week and doesn’t drive.
When there are only one or two people in a household, it’s tempting to just grab meals out, especially with restaurants from fast-food to fine dining offering order-ahead curbside pickup as an option due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But one restaurant meal can easily contain a day’s worth of calories (or more). When combined with a slowing midlife metabolism, too many meals out can lead to undesirable weight gain.
Fortunately, meal kits and prepared meal delivery services can help you eat healthier in a smaller household. Here are my favorite options for an empty nest (or a nearly empty nest)!
Please note that because each of these meal kits and meal delivery services has unique benefits, and because what’s best for my empty nest household may not be what’s best for yours, I’ve listed my favorites in alphabetical order.
With meals like truffle and fontina burgers, tahini chicken with roasted sweet potato, and grilled pork pita burgers, Blue Apron is an ideal meal kit service for empty nesters who enjoy cooking but want to skip the grocery shopping. Customers can choose two- or four-serving plans, with two to four recipes delivered each week.
While the Signature Plan offers the widest selection of meals each week (typically more than 15 options), the Vegetarian and Wellness Plans focus on four to five meals that accommodate meatless and carb-conscious diets, respectively. Expect to spend about $9.00 per serving.
Pro Tip: Blue Apron has a special offer for empty nesters who are over 55.
With meals starting at just $4.69 per person, Dinnerly is one of the most affordable meal delivery services for empty nesters who want to prepare basic dishes quickly without a trip to the grocery store. Recipes include two-cheese veggie calzone, one-pot chicken and rice, and low-carb grilled chicken fajitas. Choose your delivery day, the number of servings per meal, and the number of recipes per week. When your insulated box arrives, you’ve got everything you need to make home-cooked meals for the week. Oh, and you can make your box vegetarian with one click.
Pro Tip: Are you curious why Dinnerly meal kits are so much less than others on this list? Without skimping on quality ingredients, Dinnerly cuts costs by using digital recipe cards (instead of paper) and fewer ingredients (which translates to less cleaning, chopping, and packaging).
Another “no frills” meal delivery service that’s a good fit for empty nesters who want to prepare straightforward dishes at home is EveryPlate. With recipes like diner-style chicken and gravy, Dijon butter steak with rosemary potatoes, and cheesy corn bisque, customers can choose the ClassicPlate or VeggiePlate meal type and eat for about $5 per serving.
Pro Tip: Like most of the meal delivery services on this list, EveryPlate makes it easy to skip a week if you’re traveling or otherwise don’t want meal kits delivered that week.
This meal delivery service is perfect for an empty nester who wants the convenience of a prepared meal but without the unhealthy saturated fat and high sodium typically found in a frozen dinner. Customers can choose between four and 12 meals a week, with the cost per meal dropping from $11.49 to $8.49 as the quantity of Freshly meals increases.
It’s easy to view the week’s menu according to your preferences or dietary requirements if you filter by category. Crafted Classics includes dishes like homestyle chicken and masterful mac & cheese. FreshlyFit offers carb-conscious meals like a shepherd’s pie with cauli-butternut mash in lieu of the typical mashed potatoes. And the new Purely Plant category provides meatless dishes like an Indian-spiced chickpea curry bowl and an unwrapped salsa verde burrito with Purely Plant crumbles.
Pro Tip: Whether your subscription service is sending prepared meals or fresh items waiting for you to cook up in your kitchen, your food will arrive in a well-insulated box that will keep it fresh for several hours if you’re not home right at delivery time.
With meals to accommodate keto, paleo, and plant-powered diets, Green Chef is a certified organic company that offers one of the best meal delivery services for empty nesters with specific food lifestyles. Personalize your Green Chef plan by first choosing your desired meal type — keto and paleo, balanced living, or plant-powered — then select the number of people and recipes per week. Each week you’ll discover a new selection of delicious dishes for your chosen category, like roasted fennel-cumin shrimp, Cuban chicken with chimichurri, and barramundi with mango salsa.
Green Chef is a little pricier than some of the meal kit companies on this list, but that’s because they exclusively use certified organic and sustainably sourced ingredients. But as you select your plan, you can monitor the cost per serving so you know what to expect.
Pro Tip: Most meal subscription plans allow you to pick the day of the week you’d like your box delivered.
HelloFresh acquired Green Chef in March 2018, and uses a similar on-screen plan personalization experience to help you find the perfect option for your empty nest. Choose up to three meal-type preferences from a list of six options, including calorie smart, quick and easy, and pescetarian. Then choose the number of people and recipes per week. As you build your personal plan, the screen will show you details like the box price, price per serving, and total cost after shipping, so you can budget accordingly.
In addition to tasty-sounding recipes — like crispy chicken and bacon alfredo with spinach, chicken sausage and kale soup, and orchard chicken salad — HelloFresh shows you exactly how much time each dish takes to prepare, accompanied by delicious-looking photos.
Pro Tip: When it comes to sustainability, you may wonder how meal delivery kits compare with cooking at home using ingredients from your local grocery store or farmers market. The streamlined supply chain established by HelloFresh helps you reduce your food waste by 25 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Home Chef (And Home Chef’s Fresh & Easy)
Home Chef is one of the most “all about you” meal kit services on the market. In addition to trying to understand your needs when you select your plan (do you want to try new recipes or just make dinner fast?) Home Chef will also help you steer clear of foods that you specify to avoid.
As someone in a self-proclaimed “transitional empty nest” (meaning I still spend a lot of evenings running my 15-year-old around), I love that Home Chef has a line of oven-ready dishes. Simply pop a pan of Carolina-style steak strip tacos or smothered Swiss turkey meatloaves into the oven, and dinner is on the table with no prep work.
And as someone with a food allergy, I love that Home Chef makes it easy to customize each recipe for the nights when we want to cook dinner. I am allergic to beef and pork, but with a mouse click, I can swap the steak in the Mediterranean-style tzatziki steak for salmon filets, and replace the pork in the orange lettuce wraps with chicken. Because it’s easy to make substitutions, Home Chef accommodates dietary requirements and preferences better than most other meal delivery services on this list.
And for empty nesters who enjoy traveling on their own, check out our list of 11 Tips For Dining Solo While Traveling.
Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon
With a name that’s become synonymous with delicious recipes and elegant hosting, it’s easy to expect a lot from a meal kit company that bears Martha’s name and has award-winning recipes and smart cooking techniques. And Marley Spoon delivers. While most meal kit companies on this list offer about 15 recipes a week, Marley Spoon provides nearly double with 29 recipes each week, ranging from about $9.50–$10.50 per portion.
Search for the best meals for your empty nest in five categories, including health and diet, vegetarian and vegan, and under 30 minutes for recipes like beef pastitsio with spinach salad, crispy pork with fresh mint and basil over lettuce-radish salad, and smoky cod tostadas.
Pro Tip: While meal kits include nearly everything you need to whip up a delicious meal at home, you may need a few staples, like salt, pepper, and cooking oil. You’ll also need basic kitchen equipment, from a knife and cutting board to a set of pots and pans.
Whether you love cooking (but hate grocery shopping) or you like to eat well (but don’t want to spend a few hours a day in the kitchen), a meal subscription service is a perfect way to eat well in your empty nest.
For more tips on how to incorporate food and drink delicacies into the comforts of your own home, check out: