By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Meal services may not deliver on expectations
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News

Have you heard about the growing trend of food delivery services that bring all of the ingredients for meals right to your door? Yes, it is a thing.

The appeal is that you don’t have to go shopping, and you have everything needed to cook dinner for your family, without really having to even think about it.

Sound good? Well, before you sign up for one of these services, keep reading.

I have been researching these services for a while, but since I love to plan menus, go grocery shopping and cook, never really considered using them.

Recently I got a coupon code for a fairly good deal from a popular service, and decided to give it a try and report my findings.

I ordered three meals for two people (the least amount allowable) and chose the vegetarian option. I did that because I’m pretty picky about the source of what meat, chicken or fish we eat, so opting for vegetarian meals was perfect.

I also thought that would give me a good idea of the value since vegetables are less expensive than meat.

The first negative was that the company didn’t have the option of choosing organic produce. I don’t buy all organic, but there are certain fruits and vegetables that I try to.

The box arrived about a week later. In the company’s defense, that may have had something to do with a huge snowstorm up north.

The three meals chosen for us were: butternut squash and caramelized onion flatbread; roasted portobello sliders; and southwestern black bean chili.

The ingredients for each meal were packaged separately in plastic bags. So for the flat bread, there was one ball of pizza dough (whole wheat), some butternut squash (peeled and cubed), a little bit of honey, a red onion, a little chili powder, a green apple, a cup of shredded cheddar cheese, and a sprig of sage. I made that meal the first night. It was OK.

The other two recipes really got the same rating from us, although the portobello “sliders” were just mushrooms on small (white) slider buns which had been roasted with a little balsamic vinegar.

When I make portobello burgers, I marinate the mushrooms in a balsamic marinade for an hour before grilling them.

I also add traditional burger toppings, such as onions, lettuce, cheese, etc. I stuck to the food services recipe, so their “sliders” were sort of bland and boring.

The pros of the service include meal planning done for you. If you despise planning meals and shopping, and have a rather big food budget, then one of these services could be for you.

I mention the budget because the meals are not cheap. Even with my 20-percent-off coupon, the dinners still ended up being almost $15 each.

The recipes, which contained pictures and step-by-step instructions, were so clear and direct that even a child could follow them. That is certainly a positive, especially if you are not comfortable in the kitchen.

So now for the negatives. First of all, unless your family has no picky tendencies (and I have yet to meet one that has none), you may end up getting meals your people won’t eat.

Secondly, you lose the ability to choose the food. That means you don’t get to take advantage of what is on sale or what looks fresh.

The red bell pepper the service sent me was super small and soft in several spots. I emailed the company and it immediately credited my account for $5.

While that was good customer service, I was left without a pepper for that dinner.

Another negative is that you are paying for things you probably have in the pantry. For example, they sent a pre-measured amount of chili powder.

Well, who doesn’t have a jar of chili powder in their pantry that costs a mere few dollars?

Also, what if you wanted more than the home service sends? To me that means you’re paying for something you have, and that was true of other ingredients the service sent.

I received shredded cheese, which I stopped buying years ago on account of the preservatives that keep it from caking together. The quality of the shredded cheeses the company sent was definitely not top-notch.

Another negative is that none of the meals were super quick to prepare. If the purpose is convenience and saving time, it fell a little short.

I realized even during that first dinner I would not be using this particular service again. However, there are a lot of these types of places out there, so if it sounds appealing to you, do some research.

There are some that allow more flexibility when it comes to choosing meals, and having them delivered.

One more note. When I went to cancel the service, it was not at all simple. I had to watch the tutorial twice to figure out how to navigate the web site and cancel.

Then, when I did finally get it cancelled, the company emailed me telling me the next delivery would be coming and they were going to automatically bill my credit card.

After complaining, I was able to get that stopped, but it took several emails.

It will be interesting to see if these services continue to pop up and what their staying power is. If you use one and like it, please let me know.

 

Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at contact@adlenrobinson.com.