Meal delivery reviews or recommendations?
September 10, 2014 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Have you used a meal delivery service?

Pretty much what it says on the tin . . . have you used a meal delivery service? I'm looking at signing up for something that will get food of decent nutrition into my house and my tummy on a regular basis. I'm regularly working 11+ hour days for the foreseeable future and coupled with my natural disinclination to cook . . . well, I'm sick of take-out and grazing and I lack the mental energy to plan a menu, buy the food and put it in my mouth.

I'm looking at Schwan's, Blue Apron and Nutrisystem. (Losing weight would be nice, but I think they look a little chemically and dodgy.) Any guidance, input, experience or ideas would be much appreciated. Thanks!
posted by mibo to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you located? If in SF, I highly recommend Sprig. Founded by Google's original corporate chef, the meals are designed to be healthy AND tasty. They do lunch Mon-Fri and dinner Mon-Thurs.
posted by CruiseSavvy at 4:36 PM on September 10, 2014

Best answer: I can tell you that Nutrisystem is terrible. You'd be better off buying frozen dinners from the grocery store, they'd likely be cheaper and they'd certainly suck less.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:43 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I like fresh ready to eat stuff. In my metro area there are several options. Do an internet search, and give it a try. Some allow you to pick up food, some will deliver to offices. Some have good exclusions (for allergies or dislikes) some can let you sub in an extra lunch if you hate breakfast food.

We tried three local services, did a vegan option on one, paleo on two of them, and standard on all three (one also had a juice cleanse option). It was great, we had reminders on our phone to let us remember to put the ice pack out for overnight drop off (about four am).

You might get tired of the food after a while. We did.

Things to watch out for: enough ice packs, clearly listed meal labels, containers that seal. bonus, save the old containers and DIY your own prepack meals on the weekend when you're tired of the delivered fare.

Kept my sanity when my partner was out of town for more than half a year so I was totally responsible for our small business and my full time job and pets and kids. I could whip up whatever for the kids and me at breakfast and dinner, or eat a fresh prepack.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 4:43 PM on September 10, 2014

I love Plated. Yes, it's more money for slightly worse food than if I planned everything myself and did all the shopping and portioning, but holy crap am I willing to pay the markup for that. I prefer them to Blue Apron if you're looking at something where you're doing the cooking anyway. Most recipes take about a half an hour and are tasty.
posted by brainmouse at 4:43 PM on September 10, 2014

Where are you located, mibo? This is key.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 4:45 PM on September 10, 2014

I tried out Blue Apron, and some of the recipes took a long time to cook or involved a lot of chopping and general effort. I don't think it would be the best solution for after an 11 hour day.
posted by ohisee at 4:49 PM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I tried Blue Apron, and for me (I like to cook) it was just about the right amount of effort on the days when I wanted to cook (I usually did end up right at about the 30min. mark for most dishes) and oh-holy-hell-no on the days when I just wanted something easy, because while cooking on my own also takes about 30 minutes to put together dinner, a lot of that time can be time spent watching tv with a glass of wine while the pasta cooks, and the Blue Apron meals seemed to be more like 30 minutes straight of work. So I ended up not making the Blue Apron meals a great many nights, and throwing away a lot of food.

And I think my rebellious side just kicked in -- I got tired of being told what I had to cook that week.

The quality of the Blue Apron ingredients was consistently impressive to me, though, and I liked the recipes I did make. I would not recommend it if you don't want to invest some time in cooking, though.
posted by jaguar at 4:55 PM on September 10, 2014

I've had Nutrisystem, they are disgusting! RUN AWAY!

Schwan's is the company that brings you Freschetta pizza and their delivered stuff is about the same level. You might as well just buy some Marie Calendars, and stock your freezer.

Blue Apron Would appeal to me, but I like to cook, and their stuff has to be assembled. Is that something you're going to do after an 11 hour work day?

Magic Kitchen might be for you.

Call around to a local gym. A lot of them team up with Meals-to-Go kinds of places doing healthy meals. You order them at the beginning of the week, and then you pick them up.

Another thing is to plan where you're going to pick up meals. Call ahead to wherever, and get them to-go.

You can do well with something like this:

Monday: Outback Steakhouse: Chicken, rice, vegetables, Salad

Tuesday: Italian Place: Spaghetti in meat sauce, Salad.

Wednesday: Mexican: Chicken and veggie fajitas, beans and corn tortillas

Thursday: Wendys: Chili and baked potato.

Friday: Fish Place: Salmon, Rice, steamed broccoli, Salad

Saturday: Chinese Food: Shrimp and veggies, steamed rice (brown if you can get it.)

You get the idea. If you're paying for food, you can get it fresh from restaurants and good planning means that you're not caving at the last minute for a burger and fries.

Just my thoughts.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:56 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another thought. The hot bar at Whole Foods.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:57 PM on September 10, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input so far - - I should clarify though, that I'm in a very remote rural area; closest major town is over an hour away, there's no local gig, Whole Foods, anything. People here eat a lot of casserole and venison, for some perspective.

Great feedback so far, I'll delete Nutrisystem from my options and follow up some of the suggestions, but please keep them coming if you have them!
posted by mibo at 5:07 PM on September 10, 2014

Schwans here (Tampa Bay FL area) is decent enough. They come every two weeks and our rep is great about not bugging us if we didn't order anything/don't want anything. Our guy does evening deliveries from 7p to 9p, which is perfect for us. They have a well laid out website and app that makes ordering ahead of time easy. The beer battered cod is yummy. I like their Livestrong line of foods because I am trying to watch what I eat. Hubby didn't care for their (regular item, not Livestrong) pizzas but my kids and I like them just fine. Tastes better than store brand frozen pizzas to me. Costs more than store brand, but yeah, you're paying for convenience.

You do not have to order ahead of time, by the way, but that way you get what you want. Otherwise it's "hope he has it on the truck when he comes by." I signed up to get text messages from Schwans and I usually get one about a half hour before he is going to come by. Our deliveries don't need ice packs (altho they have them available) - our food goes straight from the truck to our chest freezer. It's been a lifesaver on the couple of nights that I have to work late every week.. instead of dinner taking a couple hours to fix, we've got something to eat in much less time.
posted by keptwench at 6:08 PM on September 10, 2014

I tried out Blue Apron for a couple weeks. It didn't really fit into our lifestyle (family of three, child with a nut allergy they don't deal with who is also a bit picky) but I did like it. The recipes were really good, in fact we saved a couple and have made them since, and the quality and quantity of the food was just right. If we were just a couple, or maybe a family of four without any picky eaters, we might still do it occasionally.

What I didn't like:

Too much packaging. Everything was in little ziplock bags. Lots of waste and/or time spent washing things that wouldn't really get reused.

Recipes often used two or more pans. Lots of cleanup.
posted by bondcliff at 6:21 PM on September 10, 2014

We tried Blue Apron recently, and it was really excellent. The packaging was wasteful, but I tried recipes that I wouldn't normally pick and was very pleased. Their ingredients were superb. It probably took me about 30 min start to finish for most meals.

You might want to consider trying out some crock pot recipes. Those are my go-to meals when I am working crazy long hours and just want decent nutrition with minimal effort. They require little 'meal planning' and would certainly be less expensive than a delivery service. When I was in vet school and my husband was in grad school, we had this awesome lady cook and deliver food right to our house once a week. Maybe you can find someone like that?

Edit: if you are still located where your profile indicates, I can give you the contact info for the person we used. Also, hi neighbor!
posted by Nickel Pickle at 6:46 PM on September 10, 2014

Seconding what my name twin said. The only advantage Nutrisystem has over frozen microwave dinners from the grocery store is that Nutrisystem food is shelf stable. So I found the Nutrisystem food handy to keep at the office when I was working a ton of hours and couldn't monopolize the freezer space in the shared office fridge. Other than that, they're not very good.

If you just need to feed yourself and don't care a whole lot about variety, my lentils & rice recipe is made entirely from shelf stable ingredients and best cooked in a rice cooker and thus can be made in the office. Cooking is just dumping the ingredients and water into the rice cooker, turning it on, and waiting ~30 minutes and cleanup is just scrubbing out the cooker with a steel wool pad. In addition to requiring less than 5 minutes of hands-on time per day it's also a hell of a lot cheaper than delivered meal systems or frozen microwave dinners.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:09 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

My partner and I have been getting three Blue Apron meals / wk for the last few months and I generally agree with the comments above:

-- Meals will take you 45 min. plus or minus 15 min. to prepare (I'm usually closer to an hour, however I am sort of a slow, meticulous knife-wielder) and there are generally several vegetables to dice.

-- It is really nice not to have to choose meals and assemble recipes, so I do quite like not having to agonize about that and it means we eat things that I would never ordinarily do like fish or quinoa or whatever.

-- There have been several times when we went out of town or ate out a bunch of times and then we ended up with meals going bad because the produce got nasty, but you can cancel your meals for a week if you find yourself getting a backlog.

-- There is, as noted above, a decent amount of packaging but some of it can be composted or recycled, and yeah, you'll use several pans and if you're doing mise en place lots of little ramekins and such. I don't mind though because it makes me feel super-grown-up to have all my little dishes of diced veggies and whatnot :)

-- I started unpacking the three meals directly into grocery bags, with the meats going in the freezer; that way there's none of the scrounging around in the fridge looking for the little packet of cilantro. That probably saves 10 minutes of annoying prep work.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:28 PM on September 10, 2014

Another thought is to farm all of this out to a person who can do this for pay.

Is there someone in your community who is looking to pick up a few bucks on the side? Perhaps a college kid who enjoys shopping and cooking.

You can pay said person to get you groceries and prepare your meals every week. Might be cheaper than a service and you can have what you like.

Here are some quick and dirty grocery store options:

Rotisserie chicken, frozen rice, frozen veggies.

Jar spaghetti sauce, sausages, pasta. Salad in a bag.

Pick up a Wendy's baked potato. Leftover rotisserie chicken warmed up. Frozen veggie and salad.

Salmon (fresh or frozen, whatever looks the best), frozen rice, frozen veggie. Salad.

Sandwiches and pasta or potato salad.

Soup and Sandwiches.

Either way you're warming stuff up, it doesn't have to be complicated, just tasty and healthy. What I've discovered is that the higher the quality of the ingredients, the easier it is to make delicious food. You only need sauces if your chicken is tasteless.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:33 AM on September 11, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks guys! I didn't realize Blue Apron and other businesses like it were still so intense -- part of my time crunch now also presents the problem of cleanup time, where I'd prefer to spend about two seconds eating before just falling into bed.

So, for posterity, I bought a big stack of frozen microwave dinners and am going to investigate this "cook everything on Sunday" thing people talk about. Just not tomorrow Sunday, maybe next Sunday.
posted by mibo at 2:44 PM on September 13, 2014

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