There’s a lot to consider
By Jim Walker
Are you tired of your fruits and vegetables going bad before you get around to using them? Or maybe you’re tired of facing grocery shopping and/or meal preparation at the end of an already-grueling day. Maybe you really want to eat “fresh” and low-cal/low-carb/low-fat, but don’t have the will and skills to get off the Hamburger Helper. Well, there comes a point where time/effort equals money, and we don’t mind spending a little more if it makes things more convenient. Not fast food, not restaurant delivery, here we consider meal delivery services, where you can order delicious, healthy meals shipped regularly to your home – and where you pay for the privilege.
Now, we’re not talking about the Meals on Wheels program, available in California to people “60 years of age or older, regardless of income, who are homebound because of illness, disability, or have difficulty obtaining food or meals for themselves.” For more on that, visit https://myscvcoa.org/. No, we’re talking about meal delivery services for those of any age who could make use of any of the meal options available out there, but are most interested in those that are “healthy,” and yet require minimum effort. And, expanding on that thought, for the purposes of this article, we will only consider meals that are delivered premade. You just heat them up. Kit meals, where all the good stuff is provided, but you still have to cook it, are great, and fun, but also for those a little less tired that we.
If you search for the “best” prepared meal delivery services online, you will get varied results, probably heavily influenced by the services’ advertising. So, don’t take anything at complete face value, and compare the comparisons. With that said, a very informative comparison can be found at https://bit.ly/3UeC0ZS. It puts Factor at the top (9.9 score) and on down to Purple Carrot (8.4 score). So, all those rated come in near the top. But their primary comparison criteria might not be yours. In general, you might consider the following:
The estimated average per person, per meal cost of a prepared meal delivery service is around $7 (and it’s easy to go much higher). So, will a meal service actually save you money? Depending on the type of food you purchase at the grocery store, what you spend there can vary tremendously. Therefore, real cost comparisons are hard to make. But you will definitely waste less food with a meal service than when you shop and cook (and forget to use). And you will save on fuel by making fewer trips to the grocery store. Beyond that, if you dine out regularly, replacing those meals with a service will definitely save you money.
The meal service you select will certainly depend on your diet. Do you need vegan or vegetarian options? Do you have other special diet considerations? These things might limit both your service choices and the menu choices within a service. You might also consider the portion sizes available. They won’t be overlarge, but that’s to the point, right?
Ease of use
The “time is money” adage only applies if your meal service does, indeed, save you time and effort over shopping and cooking. From signing up for a meal service, to operating its app, to selecting meals, to the ease and dependability of delivery, to billing and customer service, the devil is in the details. And, some of those details you won’t experience until you are already using the service. However, you can always cancel the service and pick up another – some dollars and frustrations later. To that end, check out their cancellation policy before signing up. It’s best to go into a plan with an open mind and a thick skin. The most important things are that the meals show up on time, taste great, and aren’t too expensive.
There may be other little peccadillos. For example, there may be a constant on-screen bombardment of proposed deals, discounts and reminders, plus come-ons to order more, and more varied, items. Everything is designed to keep you ordering and to increase your order. But you didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, and can deal with that.
And, finally, there are environmental considerations with a food delivery service. In addition to imagining the fuel used by the delivery truck, you might be a bit taken aback by the amount of packaging involved. And who knows how much food was wasted in your meal’s production? So, compared to shop and cook, how big and/or wasteful is the carbon foot print of your delivery? You will see extensive re-quoting of the following: “Results indicate that, on average, grocery meal greenhouse gas emissions are 33% higher than meal kits.” The study where this originates can be found at https://bit.ly/3NOPYzs. But you should know that this study compared meal kits to shop and cook, and not prepared meal delivery. The results with prepared meals might be similar, or they might not.