While technically I still have 2 years and 9 months until I’m officially an empty nest (but who counts?), My youngest child and I moved into a so-called transitional nest 3 years ago when my three oldest children graduated High school and flew into the world – all within a short period of time. After cooking for a family of five for nearly two decades, it’s hard to get used to cooking for just two people, especially when the last child is at home 7 days a week and doesn’t drive a car.
When only one or two people live in a household, it’s tempting to just eat meals, especially when restaurants from fast food to fine dining are offering roadside pickup as an option due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But a restaurant meal can easily contain a day’s calories (or more). Combined with a slowed mid-life metabolism, eating too many meals can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Fortunately, meal sets and ready-made meal delivery services can help you eat healthier diets in a smaller household. Here are my favorite options for an empty nest (or a nearly empty nest)!
Please note that I have listed my favorites in alphabetical order because each of these meal sets and food delivery services have unique benefits and because the best for my empty nest household may not be the best for your household.
With dishes like truffle and fontina burgers, tahini chicken with roasted sweet potatoes, and grilled pita burgers made from pork, Blue Apron is an ideal meal service for empty nests who love to cook but want to skip grocery shopping. Customers can choose between two or four servings, with two to four recipes delivered every week.
While the Signature plan offers the largest selection of meals each week (usually more than 15 options), the vegetarian and wellness plans focus on four to five meals that incorporate a meat-free and carbohydrate-conscious diet. Expect to spend about $ 9.00 per serving.
Pro tip: Blue Apron has a special offer for empty nests that are over 55 years old.
Photo credit: Dinnerly
With meals starting at just $ 4.69 per person, Dinnerly is one of the most affordable food delivery services for empty nests who want to prepare simple meals quickly without going to the grocery store. Recipes include vegetable calzones with two cheeses, stew 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 will have everything you need to prepare home cooked meals for the week. Oh, and you can make your box vegetarian in one click.
Pro tip: Curious why Dinnerly Meal Kits are so much less than others on this list? Without skimming on quality ingredients, Dinnerly cuts costs by using digital recipe cards (instead of paper) and fewer ingredients (resulting in less cleaning, chopping and packaging).
Daria Nipot / Shutterstock.com
Another no-frills food delivery service that goes well with empty nests that want to prepare simple dishes at home is EveryPlate. With recipes like diner-style chicken and sauce, Dijon butter steak with rosemary potatoes, and cheesy corn biscuit, customers can choose between ClassicPlate or VeggiePlate meals and eat for around $ 5 per serving.
Pro tip: Like most of the food delivery services on this list, EveryPlate makes it easy to skip a week if you’re traveling or otherwise not wanting to deliver food packages that week.
This meal delivery service is perfect for an empty nest that wants the convenience of a cooked meal, but without the unhealthy saturated fat and high sodium content typically found in a frozen dinner. Customers can choose from four to twelve meals per week, with the cost per meal dropping from $ 11.49 to $ 8.49 as the amount of Freshly meals increases.
If you filter by categories, you can view the weekly menu based on your preferences or dietary needs. Crafted Classics includes dishes like homemade chicken and masterful mac & cheese. FreshlyFit offers carbohydrate-conscious meals like a shepherd’s cake with cauliflower and butternut puree instead of the typical mashed potatoes. And the new Purely Plant category offers meat-free dishes such as an Indian-flavored chickpea curry bowl and an unpackaged salsa verde burrito with Purely Plant crumble.
Pro tip: Regardless of whether your subscription service delivers ready meals or fresh produce to be cooked in your kitchen, your groceries will be delivered in a well-insulated box that will keep them fresh for several hours when you are not at home.
With meals for keto, paleo and plant-based nutrition, Green Chef is a certified organic company that offers one of the best food delivery services for empty nests with specific eating habits. Personalize your Green Chef plan by first choosing your desired meal – Keto and Paleo, Balanced Living or Plant-Based – then choosing the number of people and recipes per week. Every week you will discover a new selection of delicious dishes for your chosen category, such as fried fennel and cumin prawns, Cuban chicken with chimichurri and barramundi with mango salsa.
Green Chef is a little more expensive than some of the meal set companies on this list, but that’s because they only use certified organic and sustainable ingredients. But while choosing your plan, you can monitor the cost per serving so you know what to expect.
Pro tip: Most meal subscriptions allow you to choose the day of the week that you want your box to be delivered.
Image credit: HelloFresh
HelloFresh acquired Green Chef in March 2018 and uses a similar on-screen personalization experience to help you find the perfect option for your empty nest. Choose up to three preferred meals 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 create your personal plan, the screen shows you details such as the packaging price, the price per serving and the total cost after shipping so you can plan your budget accordingly.
In addition to delicious-sounding recipes – such as crispy chicken and bacon alfredo with spinach, chicken sausage and kale soup and orchard chicken salad – HelloFresh shows exactly how long each dish takes to prepare, accompanied by delicious-looking photos.
Pro tip: When it comes to sustainability, you may be wondering how food delivery sets compare to home cooking using ingredients from your local grocery store or farmers market. HelloFresh’s optimized supply chain helps you reduce your food waste by 25 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Photo credit: Home Chef
Home Chef (And Home Chef’s Fresh & Easy)
Home Chef is one of the “all about you” meal services out there. Aside from trying to understand your needs in choosing your plan (want to try new recipes or just have a quick dinner?), Home Chef will also help you stay away from foods that you want to avoid.
As someone in a self-proclaimed “temporary empty nest” (which means I still spend many evenings walking around my 15 year old), I love that Home Chef has a range of oven ready dishes. Just put a pan of Carolina-style steak strip tacos or smothered Swiss meatloaf in the oven and dinner is on the table with no prep.
And as someone with a food allergy, I love that Home Chef makes it easy to customize each recipe for the evenings we want to cook dinner. I’m allergic to beef and pork, but with a click of the mouse I can swap the steak in the Mediterranean tzatziki steak for salmon fillets and replace the pork in the orange salad wraps with chicken. Because it’s easy to make replacements, Home Chef caters to nutritional needs and preferences better than most of the other food delivery services on this list.
And for empty nests who love to travel alone, check out our list of 11 tips for eating alone when traveling.
Photo credit: Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon
Martha Stewart & Marley Spoons
With a name synonymous with delicious recipes and elegant hosting, one can expect a lot from a cookware set company bearing Martha’s name with award-winning recipes and smart cooking techniques. And Marley Spoon delivers. While most meal set manufacturers on this list offer around 15 recipes per week, Marley Spoon offers nearly double that with 29 recipes per week that range from around $ 9.50 to $ 10.50 per serving.
Search five categories for the best meals for your empty nest, including health and nutrition, vegetarian and vegan, and under 30 minutes for recipes such as beef pastitsio with spinach salad, crispy pork with fresh mint and basil on lettuce and radish salad smoky cod tostadas.
Pro tip: While meal kits contain almost everything you need to prepare a delicious meal at home, you may need a few staples like salt, pepper, and cooking oil. You will also need basic kitchen equipment, from a knife and cutting board to a set of pots and pans.
Whether you love to cook (but hate grocery shopping) or want to eat well (but don’t want to spend a few hours a day in the kitchen), a meal subscription service is the perfect way to eat well in your empty nest.
For more tips on how to incorporate food and drink into the comfort of your own home, visit: