Meal Deliveries: A Real Challenge for the Eating for Change Challenge

February is my month of what I have come to call my Winter Slump. I don’t get a lot of writing done. This year, I got sick TWICE in one month. I don’t feel like doing hardly anything.

Except eating. I can always eat.

I feel you, Panda…

For my Eating for Change challenge, I knew I wanted to try meal delivery services for one of my months, and fortunately, I picked the right month to do that– the month where I was devoid of motivation, inspiration, and creativity. Have my meals planned for me for the week? Ingredients shipped to my doorstep? Everything I need inside the package?

Yes, please!

The Good with the Bad

As convenient as meal deliveries promise to be, though, they do leave a LOT to be desired. For one thing, while in my Winter Slump, the last thing I want to do is learn about a new eating program and do research, that was probably what my body needed the most. Meal delivery services are not individualized for each person’s requirements. So, they can’t cater to my every dietary need. They can cater to a generalized eating lifestyle, such as Vegan, or Gluten-free, or Dairy-Free, or Paleo, or Sugar-Free, but usually not any combination of two. If you are Paleo, you won’t find many (if any) vegan options. Most of the vegan options had bread of some sort. Vegetarian options included dairy.

Meal deliveries are trying to be a solution to a growing problem in society– not enough time. These services allow you to choose your meals (some allow you to choose how many meals you want each week), and then ship all the ingredients to your doorstep. Easy-peasy. No visiting the grocery store, no combing through cookbooks. Time saved, right?

Well… it depends. See, even when I order all my dinners for the entire week (with leftovers for lunches/snacks), I still had to go to the grocery store for breakfast and for my husband’s snacks. And if I’m being honest, while grocery shopping isn’t my FAVORITE activity, it might be my favorite errand I have to run every week. I like looking for deals, looking at farmers markets and seeing what fresh produce is available, and discovering new flavors from vendors. But meal deliveries also take away my ultimate favorite down-time activity– combing through my cookbooks and recipes to discover what new tastes I can try each week.

Cookbook and kitchenware isolated on white background

Again, I picked the right time to try home meal deliveries. In my Winter Slump, I don’t feel like doing that. And I understand that most Americans (or humans, who am I to stereotype one region over another?) probably don’t love the meal planning nearly as much as I do. This is why my husband eats the same thing for breakfast and lunch, and just eats what I put in front of him for dinner. I just didn’t see a huge difference in saving time for me using the services.

It also didn’t save me a ton of time cooking the meals, either. Perhaps someone who isn’t as used to cooking ALL THE TIME might find having all the ingredients in one package helpful, but I still had to shred the carrots, or peel and dice the potatoes, or zest the lemon. Not hard for me, but when I compared my prep time for a recipe of my own versus one of the meal kits, I think I saved an average of three minutes with the meal kits. I guess if you are a ridiculously busy parent or working adult, three minutes is three minutes, but it didn’t seem like a huge gain to be worth all the negatives associated with meal deliveries.

And what are those negatives? Well, we don’t have ALL day, so I’ll point out my three least favorite aspects of meal kits that apply to every person, and every meal delivery service I’ve encountered.

Number 1: Dear God, the Plastic!

Every. Single. Service. SO! MUCH! PLASTIC!

Once, I complained to a service about the plastic they used for wrapping all the produce (individually), as well as the single-use plastic products like cheese, nuts, condiments, and more. Their response to me was, “Well, you can recycle that plastic.”

Only, you can’t. Most of the single use plastics we bring into our homes are not recyclable, even if they have the recyclable symbol on them. Most people drop plastic in their recycling, hoping it can be renewed. This is called wish-cycling, and telling consumers that they should recycle the non-recyclable products is, well, it’s become the American way, that’s for sure. But it’s like victim-shaming. “It’s not OUR fault the plastic bags got thrown away. They should be recyclable!”

The other thing about plastic, even if it IS recyclable, is that recycling isn’t the answer to our pollution problem. Is it better than throwing trash away? Certainly. But the hierarchy of the RRR’s is REDUCE, then REUSE, and lastly, RECYCLE. Recycle is the last one on purpose. Reduce your waste, if that’s not possible, try your best to reuse it, and if you can’t manage that, THEN recycle it. Wrapping everything in plastic and then telling people they need to do their part to clean up the company’s mess is irresponsible, and lazy.

#2- Exotic Flavors, Exotic Locations

I’ve turned into a simple girl. I don’t need fancy food choices. In fact, I’m downright great with kale, carrots, and potatoes. Because those foods are local for me. It’s why salmon is a staple food in our home. I probably wouldn’t eat seafood if there weren’t delicious, local options for me to enjoy.

But many meal delivery services allow you to choose foods that are nowhere near local. You want some oranges in Washington in the middle of winter? NO problem, we’ll ship them up from California or Mexico if we have to. What do you mean zucchini is a summer vegetable? It’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

I’ll admit, once in a blue moon, I go ahead and get the cucumber in January because I have a hankering for sushi or something. But it’s one thing to splurge once in a while, and another to see ALL your meals having a more decorated passport than you.

#3- Folks, Meal Services are NOT Healthy

Sorry, not sorry. Even the services that claim, “Get healthy meals delivered to your door!” They’re not.

At least, they aren’t nearly as healthy as your meals could be if you bought the ingredients yourself and prepared the food yourself. Are these meals healthier than fast food? Sure, but that’s such a low bar, your freaking cat’s food would be a better option than fast food!

I’m complaining a lot, but it was great to relax my standards and just have some fun with food for a little while. But after we slowly detoxed from meal delivery services, I was glad to have that food out of my home. This type of food is like a night out partying and drinking too much. Sure, it feels good in the moment, but the next morning is not pretty.

Coming Out of My Slump

As we moved out of February and closer to Spring, I could feel my slump thawing. I looked at a couple of cookbooks I got from the library and tried a couple cool new recipes (I now have a DELICIOUS vegan cheese sauce that is to die for– made with sweet potatoes of all ingredients). I began spending a little more time outdoors, and even took a look at my book that I had not touched for over a month.

Meal delivery services can be a life-saver for some, but for me it’s just not worth the hassle.

I will say, having tried several meal delivery services, I do have a personal favorite: Purple Carrot. Purple Carrot is a plant-based delivery service. They have some delicious options, like Creamy Butternut Pasta Bake, Bali BBQ Tofu Sandwiches, Baklava Overnight Oats. I don’t recall ever having a BAD meal from Purple Carrot. They are great.

But they aren’t perfect. They still wrap their products in plastic, send it clear across the country, and have some unhealthy options. Keep in mind that sugar and bread is vegan. Not healthy. Not all the time, at least.

So, have you ever tried a home meal kit delivery service? Which ones? And what were your thoughts? Are you a meal-kitter for life, or like doing things your own way? Let me know, and keep eating clean, living green, and training positive! One bite at a time!

3 Responses

  1. Thanks, PJ–this is brilliant! I keep getting those meal service ads in my on-line feed. Maybe I’m the right demographic for them. But my friends who have tried them–old ladies, like me, who live on their own now–have said that there’s just too much food for a single person. And, as you say, the packaging is formidable. To save three minutes! I don’t think so.

    1. I think the meal services are targeting everyone, Margaret! My friend in the zoo field loves Purple Carrot. She gets just the 2 meals a week, and turns them into her lunches throughout the week, which is great for her. I’m glad it’s working for her, but when I try these services, it causes me a lot of anxiety, I don’t think cooking dinner should cause distress!

  2. Hi PJ, This is an excellent article. My husband and I tried Daily Harvest a few years ago. I liked the idea that they were frozen and had smoothies! They ended up collecting in my freezer… Some were delicious but some not so much and I would forget to stop a delivery when I hadn’t used everything. In the end I threw out a trash bag full because they had freezer burn. About a month later I read about how extremely unhealthy that particular company was so although I hated the fact that I wasted food (my biggest gripe in general!) I was glad that I hadn’t eaten all of them. They also were containers that had to be thrown away. ugh!

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