Ding Dong...Dinner is Here...in a Box?
A few years ago, a patient told me of a meal delivery service that he used from Brooklyn, NY. I don’t recall if they arrived daily or once a week, but yes, someone physically drove the meals up to Boston. I thought this would never take off. Apparently, I was terribly wrong and now there are hundreds of meal delivery services that drop off large, insulated cardboard boxes at your doorstep full of foodstuffs. The whole idea of meal delivery to the doorstep boggles my mind, although I know businesses thrive on delivering cooked meals like pizza and Chinese food to homes, everyday.
Most recently, I contacted Foodery Boston, a local delivery service, to exhibit at a dietitian convention next month. Unlike some of the other services, they deliver pre-cooked meals to people’s homes. They have generously offered me a certificate to try their food; I have not done so yet. Besides being a dietitian, I pride myself in being creative. In my moment of Mad Men genius, I pitched them my marketing idea. Picture a June Cleaver clone answering the doorbell when the cardboard box arrives. There she is-all dressed up in her poofy dress and pearls. She picks up the box and turns to Ward and says, “Honey, dinner is here!”
While I may think it’s a great idea, I am doubtful that the concept will transcend the millennial generation. For the millions of us baby boomers, the idea is harder to wrangle. I grew up in an era where families ate dinner at 5PM and dined on steak or roast beef, mashed potatoes and carrots every Sunday after church. I cringe when I hear my patients relay long, tortuous days…up at 5 AM and dinner at 8PM. So, where in between do you have time to plan, shop, and cook?
That’s where these delivered meals come in. The average meal costs between $10 and $13 a person and falls between 600-800 calories a meal. Not really that much different from take-out meals. Full nutrition facts are located on many of the company websites. The meals pretty much work similarly- most come in pairs of two and family style (2, 4, or 6-plates). Recipe cards are included, but can be challenging to follow. The upside to these meal options is that you get to try some new foods and all of the ingredients are there for you to make that happen. I can’t tell you how many times I have torn out recipes in magazines only to let them pile up in a folder. I look at them and realize that I don’t have the ingredients on hand. I never end up making any of them!
Consumer Reports evaluated five meal kit services that deliver nationally. They had professional tasters and dietitians who looked at the nutritional breakdown of the menus. They also evaluated the overall healthfulness of the meals, which included the inclusion of whole grains, legumes, ease of preparation, and portion sizes. They ranked: Hello Fresh and Green Chef as Excellent” and Plated, Purple Carrot, Blue Apron as “Very Good.” According to their report, “Overall scores are based on nutrition, taste, ease of preparation, time it takes to get the meal on the table, price, variety, and ingredient freshness.” They also noted that subscriptions to these services can be interrupted. It makes me wonder how many people stop them or jump between companies to test them out. I suspect attrition rates are high.
Here’s some feedback from actual users that I compiled from some blogs I read. I thought they might provide better insight into the meals:
Consider the value of your time and wasted food.
I'm exhausted. Making these meals feels like a chore.
I love to cook and can afford to spend $70 for 6+ meals.
The only thing I don't like is the packaging waste.
I feel like regular grocery shopping is tough for single people.
It definitely takes away guesswork and getting ingredients in the needed. portions is useful when feeding two people (noted: lots of packaging waste with everything bagged or bottled individually).
It took just as long as cooking any other dinner and still needed to add another veg to it to make it complete.
Maybe I'm not in the income bracket/living situation to understand the usefulness of these services.
It's more about discovering new foods. It's also helpful to automatically have something planned for dinner at least three days of the week (and the rest of the week rely on staples like pizza night).
Part of the fun of using these services is discovering new recipes and ingredients, but it's also good to have a choice of meals.