As entrepreneurs, we're often too busy to shop for groceries on a routine basis, let alone prepare a meal from scratch. It's a luxury that was viable decades ago, but in a fast-paced startup environment, efficiency is a bonus (even when you're done working for the day).
Recently, I tried testing out seven different options for having meals delivered to your home. Two of them (DoorDash and Grubhub) deliver a hot meal to your doorstep within minutes. Another two (Blue Apron and Sub Basket) send all of the food to you so you prepare the meal yourself. And three of them (Healthy Meal Supreme, Top Chef Meals, and Territory Foods) send a fresh meal that is frozen or refrigerated, so you just heat it up in a microwave or in an oven.
Each of these services provide a few nice perks and advantages. I'll cover what I liked and didn't like about each one, and also which meal I liked the best.
This well-known delivery company has been around since 2013 but is definitely gaining more traction. It's been in my area for a while now, but I've never tried it. DoorDash works in over 4,000 cities all over the world in the U.S. and also in Canada and Australia. Prices depend on the restaurant. In my area, just about every eatery was listed in the app. In my tests, the one thing that stood out is how technically advanced the app was. I received notifications about my order originating, when the driver picked it up, and when it was dropped at my door. In one lunch order, I selected homemade pie from a local deli and a representative called within minutes for me to clarify which pie I wanted. It was the fastest service, although I'm not a fan of the extra charges (both the percentage fee that goes to DoorDash and the delivery fee). Overall, it was fluid and easy. I also liked the monthly DashPass club that costs $9.99 per month for free deliveries.
Comparing Grubhub to DoorDash was quite interesting. I noticed some of the fees are lower with Grubhub, especially the extra fees and delivery costs. (There's a report about this that goes into much greater detail.) Grubhub works in 2,700 cities. In my area, I found that although most restaurants showed up, my favorite deli and a few others were not available. Both DoorDash and Grubhub do something a little annoying--they tend to list a shop as "closed" when it means the delivery is not available. So Taco Bell was listed as closed in my area even though I knew it was open. My test orders worked perfectly, although I didn't notice as many high-tech features. In one case, I requested a pick-up order and the app only gave a general time-frame for when I could arrive. DoorDash alerts you when the order is available. To save on some fees, Grubhub is a great option. The service was fast and reliable and ended up costing a bit less.
This popular, nationwide service delivers all of the ingredients you need--including the main meat or fish item--so that you can follow a recipe and cook it yourself. While I initially thought this might be time-consuming, I was pleasantly surprised by how clearly everything is marked and had no problem following the instructions. The meals tasted quite nice. Because you're the cook, everything is fresh and tasty. One of my test meals included asparagus that had so much flavor I overlooked the fact that I hate asparagus. Blue Apron ships to anywhere in the lower 48 states. They offer 17 recipes per week; costs are $10 per serving. Meals were diverse and healthy, and everything arrived fresh and ready to cook. I also liked that some meals have a two-person serving size. My favorite meal of any of those I tested from all services was the Italian Pork Sausage & Broccoli Pasta, which seemed like it was cooked by an actual chef and not by me.
Similar to Blue Apron, the meal prep service Sun Basket also sends all of the ingredients you need to cook the meal along with a simple, easy-to-follow recipe. My overall sense was that Blue Apron is a bit more eclectic, but I liked the quantities with Sun Basket. When I cooked a meal for everyone in my family, they were all full and there were plenty of leftovers. Unlike Blue Apron, Sun Basket actually ships to Hawaii and Alaska, so that's a nice perk. They have 18 recipes available per week; prices start at $10.99 per serving. Like Blue Apron, the food arrived fresh and not frozen, so that improved the taste and quality. (The only service I tested where the food arrives fresh, fully cooked, and ready to heat up was Territory Foods.) My favorite recipe was a salmon meal with scallions and a carrot salad that tasted wonderful. Overall, Sun Basket exceeded my expectations.
There are quite a few companies that can send frozen meals, but Healthy Meals Supreme is different because the meals are prepared by actual chefs. We're not talking mass production here. I could tell by the quality and taste. I liked how easy it was to pull out a meal from my fridge after thawing and pop it in the microwave without the typical grocery-store, frozen food taste. This service ships to 14 states and offers 20 different meal options per week. Prices are reasonable. Breakfast meals cost $5 each and both lunch and dinner cost $8. (For free shipping, you do have to select a minimum of 10 meals per week.) As you can guess, while the meals are outstanding and chef-prepared, both Blue Apron and Sun Basket meals were fresher because I cooked them myself. The trade-off is in time. Healthy Meals Supreme was my top frozen pick.
The one thing that really stood out to me with Top Chef Meals, which also sends fully cooked, chef-prepared meals that arrive frozen, is that there are quite a few meal options-- they offer 70 different choices. I noticed many lunch and dinner meals cost the same as Healthy Meals Supreme ($8 each), but a few are a little more expensive than that. This service ships to the lower 48 states as well. I was impressed by the quality and would say it compares to Healthy Meals Supreme with a bit more variety and eclectic choices. My favorite meal was Seared Salmon with brown butter and green beans.
An outlier at least in terms of how this service works compared to the others in my test group, Territory Foods sends refrigerated meals that you heat up. Unlike frozen foods services, the meals are fresher, yet you still benefit from being able to pop them in the microwave. The downside is that the service is still branching out. You can order meals in seven states, including regions in New York, Texas, and California. (To send my meal, the company had to make special amends.) Meals cost $11 and there are about 50 different meal choices each week. What impressed me was how the service works--the meals were fresh and tasty but took less time because I could heat them up right away. It's essentially a mix of the recipe-prep services and frozen meals. One meal I really liked was the Bison Sliders with some (yet again) asparagus and some tasty potatoes.