Are you thinking of subscribing to a meal delivery service? You wouldn’t be alone. As of this time last year, the meal delivery industry hit a whopping annual sales figure of $5 billion. By 2027, the market is expected to hit almost $20 billion. If anything, COVID has impacted this market in a very positive way. More people than ever before are opting in to contactless, convenient, and healthy meal delivery services. But before you dip in, here are ten tips to help you decide which one to pick.
1. Decide How Involved You Want To Be
Meal delivery services vary in many ways, but there’s one significant difference that needs to be the first thing you decide on; you can either get fully prepared meals delivered or you can get meals delivered that you have to put together yourself.
Fully prepared meals come exactly like you think; all you have to do is open the package, heat, and eat. Some services even deliver the food in attractive containers that you can bring straight to the table.
The meals that you have to put together vary in complexity. Some just require you to open up a sauce packet or two, stir, and heat. Others only provide you with all the pre-measured ingredients. Then you have to follow the enclosed recipe and cook it up yourself.
So you should first decide how much effort you want to put in. If you just want the joy of having a pre-made nutritious meal waiting for you to heat up when you get home, then choose a meal delivery service accordingly. If you’re looking for an easy shortcut but you still want the satisfaction of actually cooking—not just heating up—then you should consider that kind of meal delivery service.
2. Think About What Your Goal is With a Meal Delivery Service
The commercial meal delivery service industry really took off when it was first introduced several years ago. The reason is that it serves a wide range of needs. People use meal delivery services for lots of different reasons. Before committing to any one meal delivery service company, you should think about what you hope to achieve. Some common reasons that people use meal delivery services are:
- They want to learn how to cook
- They want to save time
- They don’t like to clean up dishes and cookware every night
- They want to eat healthier but don’t know how
- They want a fun project to do with family/children
- They want to get fit
- They want to lose weight
- They have strict dietary needs that they find challenging to meet
- They don’t enjoy cooking but want to eat healthy
- They can’t cook but can’t afford restaurants
- They find processed foods at the market unappealing
- And more…
There may even be some reason you’re considering this kind of service that isn’t listed here. But whatever reason you have, you’re sure to find a meal delivery service that caters to your exact needs. And that is the one you should choose!
3. Figure Out What You Can Afford
Meal delivery services are affordable, but you will still have to review your budget if you’re adding a recurring expense into your life. The good news is that these services come in a wide range of costs. And, once you choose one you think you’ll like, chances are that they’ll offer tiers of service at varying prices. In general, you can expect to pay between $70 and $350 per week. The wide range is due to variables between services like if you’re getting ingredients and recipes only, organic food only, gourmet foods, or if you’re having specific dietary needs met, such as meals for diabetics. The other factor that makes a price difference is how many people you’re ordering for. Make sure you figure out what you can comfortably afford so that you can continue using the meal delivery service that you’ll probably come to rely on over time.
4. Consider the Ecological Impact
If you’re a person who tries to make green-conscious purchases, you should consider the ecological impact of any meal delivery service you choose. Find out what kind of packaging the company uses. Are the meals delivered in plastic or recyclable cardboard? How far away from your home is the actual food processing plant or warehouse? The amount of fuel and carbon emissions expended on fulfilling your deliveries alone will add up over time. Will you be receiving Styrofoam containers and dry iced goods? Styrofoam takes a long time to biodegrade and most cities won’t accept it in household recycling bins. Dry ice uses up electricity and other resources to commercially produce. Again, consider the impact on the environment to make sure you’re okay with it.
5. Review Your Availability
Meal delivery services pride themselves on catering to customers’ schedules. But there are some people whose schedules are so chaotic that it might make it challenging to use a meal delivery service. Review your own availability to accept deliveries on a regular basis. Can you be home to bring in your packages within a reasonable amount of time? If you’re a person who travels sporadically or often, you’ll want to choose a service that can accommodate that. Usually, this means you’d be able to log in to your account and choose to skip or delay delivery as late as the previous night before you have to travel. For a person with an irregular schedule, this would be an important factor to consider when choosing a meal delivery service.
6. Think About Your Regular Eating Habits
Be honest with yourself about your regular eating habits. Are you a person who enjoys trying new flavors and experimenting with exotic fruits and vegetables? Or are you a person who sticks to a handful of standard dishes on a rotating basis? Are you a late-night snacker? Do you eat lots of small things during the course of a day, never really sitting down to a big meal? The reason you should think about this is that there are meal delivery services that can accommodate all kinds of eating habits. You might like one that delivers small portions of a variety of healthy snacks. Or one that offers one indulgent treat with every nutritious meal. Review their offerings carefully and choose one that matches how you eat as well as what you eat.
7. Don’t Assume You’ll Change Who You Are
Healthy meal delivery services really can help you with your goals. If you’re looking to lose weight, there are low carb, no carb, high protein, low fat, low cal services in pretty much an unlimited number. However you want to eat, you’ll find it. But meal delivery services aren’t miracle workers, either. No matter how much you might want to be a vegetarian, for instance, if you crave meat, you should probably get a semi-vegetarian meal service where you can order meat dishes on some days. To get the best value for your money, where you’ll actually eat the meals you pay for, don’t expect that you’ll all of a sudden be satisfied with a petite dish of kimchee for lunch when you really want a jumbo Chef’s salad.
8. Review the Company’s Reputation For Quality
Another helpful tip for choosing a healthy meal delivery service is to review their reputation for quality. Food quality is important, and you can’t assume all services like this deliver high quality meals. When looking up online reviews, make sure you’re not getting them from any place that’s not objective, such as the company’s own website. Also be wary of affiliate sites, which may receive money from a company for positive reviews. Your best source for objective reviews is Google reviews.
9. Consider Their Cleaning Practices
Since COVID, there’s been a spike in meal delivery services ordered. Reportedly, Blue Apron, a popular choice, saw its stock shares rally 400%. There are more reasons than ever to choose meal delivery services because these are contactless deliveries that help keep families safe. When choosing a company, read over their statement about how they clean and disinfect food prep areas. Are workers required to wear masks? Are delivery drivers masked? Ordering meals to be delivered to your home keeps you and your loved ones out of restaurants, but to stay safe, it’s important to choose a company that takes their responsibility for safety seriously, too.
10. Where Is The Food Sourced From?
When nutrition is a top priority, you should also find out where the fresh food is sourced. You may be shocked to discover that much of the food you find in grocery stores comes from far flung places like China. When you’re paying for fresh, nutritious meals, you deserve to know where that food is coming from. Local is best for many reasons, but when that’s not possible, where is the food sourced? The information should be on the company website. If it’s missing, contact their customer service department.
There is a lot to think about before hitting that subscribe button. So make sure you have done your research before you lock into a meal delivery subscription. There are great resources online to help you narrow down your search such as consumersadvocate.org/meal-delivery
When you choose the best meal delivery service for your needs, you’ll be able to enjoy healthy meals, value and service for a long time to come.