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Groceries and Meals to Your Door


Bag of fresh vegetables, bread, pasta, and beverages on a countertop.
Photo by Adobe's Firefly AI using the prompt "home grocery delivery."

This opinion piece is intended to provide insight about the process of working with a grocery/meal delivery service.


Two months ago, I signed up for a grocery/meal delivery service. My main goals for signing up were threefold: To diversify my dining options to break myself free of the food rut I occupied; to be intentional with my food purchases for better health; and to familiarize myself with the process so I can advise the older generation in my family—I’m not a caregiver (yet) but I am certainly tech support for parents who plan to age in place.

 

The Sign-Up Process

The sign-up process started as you’d expect with me providing basic contact and billing information, but I also needed to build my profile through a series of multiple-choice questions about:

  • Dietary Needs – omnivore, pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan

  • Allergy notes – dairy, soy, peanut, shellfish, gluten, tree nut, or egg free

  • Nutrition preferences – anti-inflammatory, immunity boosting, high protein, less sodium, gut friendly, carb conscious, less sugar

  • Cuisines – 10 choices…pick as many as you like

  • Preferred flavors  – 7 profiles…pick as many as you like

  • Favored proteins (for the omnivores) – rated by yes, maybe, and no

  • Anything you really dislike – I’m one of THOSE people for whom cilantro tastes like soap, so it went in the text field

  • There were several additional questions fine tuning what you like to eat, and how much you like to cook

 

After the system compiles all the information, the screen shows a “thinking” icon and populates the cart. When the cart is populated, a drop-down cart window opens revealing the meals, snacks, and other groceries on the list for the week.

 

Then the fun part—the opportunity to fiddle with the cart’s content! This opportunity lasts several days. Don’t like a particular meal they’ve chosen? Delete it (tip: make note of the number of points available to spend from that deleted meal) and go shopping in the “meals” menu to find a meal that sounds tastier.

 

The Billing & Timing

The service I picked is a weekly service, and I can “skip” a weekly order and I will not be billed for that week.

  • If I order fewer items in a particular week (i.e., cut a meal, or not receive snacks), I will still be billed at the same base rate for my regular delivery. The service will simply credit my account with points to spend on future orders.

  • Conversely, I could order additional meals or items and be billed for the additional points.

 

Based on the area where I live, I have 3 delivery days available to me—Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. I must finalize my cart contents by the Monday before my delivery.

 

The Pros & Cons

Pros…

First and foremost, I achieved all of my initial goals! My menu has become diverse, I spend enough time fiddling with my cart for better health while also satisfying cravings, and I have a clear idea of the benefits and shortcomings of this service.

 

The grocery boxes are helping me retrain my brain about proper serving size. Meat portions are much smaller than what I would buy in the store. Also, I read the containers to see how many servings are in the package. A bagged salad may be sent as ingredients for two servings but the bag actually contains three servings, and that means I get an “extra” salad…woohoo!

 

The service I use tries to reduce packaging waste in their shipping. A cardboard box with an inner paper-based liner to contain cold is entirely recyclable. They have tried to use a cooling element that is environmentally friendly, too. More on that below.

 

Delivery is reliable and always arrives at a similar time on my delivery day. They provide tracking on the shipment.

 

The “recipes” and grocery list they provide in each delivery are helpful. Aside from understanding what goes with what, they provide insight into how I can change my local shopping habits. For example, I tend to buy 4-5 apples for two weeks at the grocery store, and most of the time I eat them all. The service has changed my perception (more brain retraining) of “plenty” so I can buy just one or two apples and know I will have enough–particularly if I buy one orange and one kiwi or vegetables.

 

My service provides ample opportunity to provide feedback and there is a rating system for the meals/groceries so the algorithm develops a higher sensitivity to what I might like. That said, I think they have a glut of meat jerky sticks because there is always one in my cart, and I always delete it. Clearly, my needs in that instance are secondary to the service’s need to move those jerky sticks off their shelves.

 

Combined Pros/Cons…

The cooling element they use is nitrogen based, and notes on how to use the thawed material to feed houseplants is included. It is a LOT of nitrogen goo–too much for the number of houseplants I have. Also, good houseplant fertilizer is balanced between nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK). Read more about houseplant fertilization at houseplantjournal.com if you are interested.

 

The notes do mention to mix the goo with water, and if you have an extensive garden, the cooling element they use is an elegant solution. It cannot be refrozen once it is thawed, but I do wonder if at least one element could live in the freezer to be used in case a soft cold pack is needed. Once thawed, it can be poured down the drain safely according to their instructions, and then the plastic bag thrown away.

 

The “recipes” I mentioned above include inaccurate cooking times. I regularly find myself extending the cooking times of the meats I’m sent so I’m sure they are properly cooked.

 

Cons…

Some of this food travels a long distance. I received a package of kiwi from Greece! My service is headquartered on the east coast, my groceries are packaged and shipped from Waukegan for delivery to Kenosha. It would be nice if there was a profile option to choose locally sourced food items–even if it limited my choices, it would fall in line with my ecological values.

 

You should eat the food the week you get it to achieve the reduced spoilage they are trying to eradicate. This could be specific to my order because I lean toward fresh produce.

 

There is more packaging overall because many of the grocery items come wrapped per serving. I’m a gardener, and I’ve set aside some of the packaging for starting seeds. There is still too much going into my recycling bin.

 

It is expensive – not necessarily more expensive than going to the grocery store, but by my rough calculation, my meals come to ~$7/meal vs. the ~$5/meal expense I can achieve shopping locally. The dollar to points ratio is roughly 2.35:1. In other words, you get 1 point for approximately $2.35 which can make a single apple (worth 1 point) a bit pricey.


On the other hand, some wraps and greens delivered for meal prep contain more than the quoted two servings, so I get value back that way. Full disclosure, I’m not great at math so please note my “approximate” and “roughly” qualifiers because they are important. I also limited my calculations to the first two shipments I received, so my data was neither broad nor deep enough to understand any cost-equalizing, long-term trends.

 

A Wishlist

Multiple profiles – I would very much like it if my service allowed me to create a second profile, so I could create one for a parent and send them a monthly box of groceries. The service currently allows you to send a gift card, but the recipient must do the rest.

 

Shop local – Add a profile item to restrict my boxes to locally sourced groceries (at least within a 50- or 100-mile radius). The Grecian kiwi fruit were very tasty, but my ecological values do not include that type of shipping extravagance.

 

More informative grocery listings – Each item in the shopping list is clickable to reveal additional information about the item. If the listing for the kiwi fruit included “from Greece,” for example, I could have deleted them from my cart and chosen something grown closer to home.

 

The Bottom Line

I will likely continue to subscribe to the service, but it is also likely I will “skip” every other week and see if I can replicate some of the meals by shopping at my favorite grocery store more wisely and with greater deliberation. My goals have been achieved, but I am still retraining my brain, and it takes a while to change bad habits to good ones. This service is a great aid as I do the work.


The farmer's markets in my area remain available throughout the winter (items available vary by season), and I shop them regularly as well. But that, my friends, is a blog post for another day.

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