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I Tried Thistle Meal Delivery: It’s Like Sakara Life, Only Much Cheaper


Pros

  • Tasty fresh salads, stir-fries and snacks delivered by hand
  • Cheaper than other similar fresh meal services
  • All meals are gluten-free and can be made vegan
  • Many ingredients sourced from local farms
  • Delivery was easy and on time

Cons

  • Still pricier than other healthy meal subscriptions
  • Menu is limited each week
  • Salads lose a little oomph after a day or two

There are dozens of healthy meal delivery services to choose from and frozen, prepared meals to thaw and eat others send meal kits that require cooking. Thistle is a healthy meal service that sends mostly prepared, fresh food that requires almost no prep. It’s one of the healthier meal services I’ve tried with a variety of salads, stir fries, snacks, juices and protein-packed breakfast meals to choose from. 

stacks of thistle meals on table

Thistle meals are as healthy as they get and show up fresh. Here’s what I thought of the prepared meal service.

David Watsky/CNET

If you’ve tried or have been tempted to try Sakara Life, the Instagram-friendly fresh food delivery service Thistle is modeled after that concept. I reviewed Sakara Life in 2021 and while the vegan food was outstanding, the cost (more than $70 a day) was prohibitive. Thistle fresh meal delivery is markedly cheaper than Sakara Life (about half the price) and follows a similar model. That said, it’s still not “cheap,” ranging from $12-$16 per meal, depending on how many you order. 

To see if Thistle was worth the price of admission, I tried a few day’s worth of its healthy food. My delivery showed up on time, and the meals were healthy, tasty and took just seconds to prepare. It’s the best option for anyone seeking truly fresh meals delivered, but there are still some healthy meal services I rank above Thistle.

Hand holding thistle salad

David Watsky/CNET

Where does Thistle deliver?

As of this writing, Thistle is delivering to select cities on the East Coast and West Coast. 

West Coast: San Francisco Bay Area, Napa & Sonoma, Sacramento, Davis, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Orange County, Inland Empire, Ventura County, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Las Vegas, Portland and Seattle-Tacoma

East Coast: New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Arlington VA, and parts of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

To see if you are in Thistle’s delivery zone click here.

How does Thistle work: Signup, ordering and delivery

After signing up for Thistle, you’ll plug in some dietary preferences, including which types of ingredients or foods you avoid in your diet, as well as what sort of protein you’re eating plan. There are options for meat, eaters vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians alike. 

thistle meal plans from website

Thistle meal plans

Screenshot by David Watsky/CNET

You’ll also choose how many meals you want per day. You can order any combination of breakfast, lunch, dinner meals and snacks for up to five days per week. Typically Thistle sends a delivery of curated meals for the week but you can view the order and make changes ahead of delivery. Thistle also has cold-press juices and wellness shots to add to your weekly haul.

man carrying thistle bag

Thistle bags can be reused or picked up by the messenger at your next meal drop.

Thistle

Meals are delivered by hand in an insulated bag via messenger on the day or days of your choosing. If you sign up for text alerts, you’ll be cued into the arrival, down to the minute so you don’t miss them. You can leave last week’s insulated bags outside and the delivery person will pick them up during their next meal drop. 

Because the fresh food is not meant to be frozen, Thistle delivers food either once or twice per week, depending on the number of meals you choose. 

thistle menu

Thistle’s weekly menus are laid out for you on the website.

Screenshot by David Watsky/CNET

One thing that separates the song from the rest of the pack is that they deliver only fresh food, nothing is frozen or premade and vacuum-sealed. Everything can be eaten as is, or there is the option to heat certain meals in a skillet and mix in the sauce if you prefer a hot lunch or dinner. 

Thistles meals are healthy, full of whole ingredients and gluten-free, even the pasta. The food has minimally processed foods and contains lots of superfoods, such as sweet potatoes, ancient grains, nuts, fruit, veggies and lean meats. 

What I ate and how I liked it

I tried two full days’ worth of thistle meals which included two salads, two stir-fry meals, two breakfast meals and three snacks. 

I thought everything was good and some were better than good, but nothing blew my socks off. The produce was fresh, but by day three, some of the greens weren’t as crisp and the veggies lost a little of their snap. The stir-fry meals, which I heated in a frying pan along with the sauce, never lost their oomph.

Pan with thistle meal being heated on stove

I heated my Thistle vegan Panang curry in a skillet.

David Watsky/CNET

Kale Caesar pasta with garlic and garbanzo beans:  This meal was tasty with a knife, light, Caesar dressing and lots of garlic.

hand holding thistle meal

I’m a sucker for a good Caesar and Thistle’s healthy version delivered. 

David Watsky/CNET

Crispy chickpea, Greek salad with pulled chicken: The salad also had quinoa and toasted garbanzo beans. I thought the Greek dressing was sharp and delicious and the salad overall was good but the chicken was dry.

Greek salad with garbanzo beans and squasj

Thistle’s Greek salad was just OK. The garbanzo beans were hard and the dressing was very basic.

David Watsky/CNET

Butternut squash and pear pasta salad with garlic and garbanzo beans: This meal was just OK. The pasta was a little mushy and garbanzo beans could have been cooked more. The dressing was a simple balsamic vinegarette.

panang curry in container

The panang curry was on the small side, but very tasty and fresh.

David Watsky/CNET

Panang peanut curry with togarashi seeds: This penang curry was more tangy and less sweet but all the flavors worked for me. My favorite meal of the lot.

panang curry in container

You can eat the stir-fries as is, but I chose to cook them for a few minutes in a skillet with the sauce.

David Watsky/CNET

Snacks and breakfast: smoothies, protein bars and crudite: The peanut butter and banana smoothie was tasty, but on the small side I make smoothies most mornings for breakfast, and they are about twice the size of this one. 

oat bowl in container

The steel-cut oat bowl was good but the sauce was pretty sweet.

David Watsky/CNET

The steel-cut oat bowl with granola and dulce de leche was fine but the sauce was a little sweet for me. The granola meant to be put on top of the smoothie was very good. There was also included a vegan crudites platter with gherkin pickles, carrot sticks, tomatoes and vegan cheese dip. 

chunky monkey smoothie next to granola topping

Thistle’s smoothie was good but not enough food to keep me full until lunch.

David Watsky/CNET

My favorite of the snacks were Thistle’s homemade protein bars. One was peanut butter and chocolate ganache and the other a mango-granola bar. Both were excellent and they gave me a solid energy boost around mid-afternoon. 

peanut butter chocolate bar in container

Thistle’s peanut butter and chocolate energy bar was dynamite. 

David Watsky/CNET

How much does Thistle cost? 

If you choose 16 meals per week the cost breakdown is about $11 for breakfast and $12 for lunch and dinner the fewer meals you choose the more expensive they become. There’s a minimum order of three meals per week which would cost you more like $14 for breakfast and $16 for lunch and dinner. 

Snacks are additional and optional and cost $6.50 per snack no matter which plan you choose.

Thistle cost per week:

  • 3 meals per week: $45.31 ($15.11 per meal)
  • 6 meals per week: $87.62 ($14.60 per meal)
  • 12 meals per week: $162.9 ($13.52 per meal)
  • 16 meals per week: $199.33 ($12.46 per meal)

Thistle’s meal containers are plastic but are fully recyclable as are the dressing containers. The only part of this whole delivery that isn’t recyclable or the ice packs but you can return those with the bags or reuse them yourself.

person opening thistle salad on counter

My Thistle meals were all solid, but there are other meal delivery services I’ve tested in this price range that I liked more.

Thistle

Who is Thistle good for?

If you’re looking for easy lunches and dinners, but don’t care for fully premade food that was cooked days before and frozen or vacuum-sealed, Thistle is a good bet. The service focuses on healthy and whole foods with lots of salad greens, nuts and roasted vegetables. While some meals have meat, most of them are plant-based and all of them can be made vegan so this is a good option for someone cutting down or eliminating meat from their diet. 

Who is Thistle not good for? 

Even if you choose the largest (cheapest per-meal) meal plan, Thistle meals are still an expensive way to eat so this is not a good option for anyone on a tight budget. Thistle is also not great for those with unpredictable schedules. Since the food does not freeze well, you’ll want to eat your meals within a few days of delivery. Portions are on the small side, so this probably isn’t the right meal subscription for a big eater. 

Final thoughts on Thistle 

I thought Thistle’s healthy meals were often good but rarely great. The produce was fresh and the sauces and dressings were light and flavorful. In comparison to other wellness-focused meal subscriptions I’ve tested in the $12-$15 there were a few I liked better overall, including Fresh N Lean, CookUnity and Mosaic Foods

If you’re interested in having truly fresh food — not frozen or vacuum-packed meals — delivered weekly that includes preassembled salads and stir-fries, Thistle is your best option. If you choose one of the larger meal plans, the price per meal comes in at a reasonable $12. Choose a smaller meal plan and you’ll pay more like $15 per meal, which doesn’t seem worth it. 

Thistle vs. Sakara Life: Which is better?

sakara life foods

Sakara Life is roughly twice the cost of a Thistle meal subscription. The food is a bit better and more interesting but not worth that price jump.

Sakara Life

Thistle and Sakara Life operate with very similar business models delivering fresh food for your week while Sakara’s meals are of a higher quality. The price for Sakara — more than $20 per meal — is astronomical and Thistle offers a more approachable version of fresh food delivery with meals as low as 12 or $13 if you choose one of the larger plans. 

If money is no object, go for Sakara, since the food is better and more interesting. If you like the concept of Sakara life but don’t want to spend hundreds every week, Thistle is the better pick.



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