Deliver Us From Mediocre Chinese: Are Meal Delivery Services Worth It?


In Brooklyn, takeout fatigue is a very real thing. There are only so many times one can Seamless the same Thai noodles, you know? So it’s a wonder it’s taken this long for meal delivery programs to become as popular as they have gotten lately.

In many ways, I’m the ideal customer for one of these services. I love to cook, but I have kids and a demanding job, and I don’t always have the time to plan meals or spend hours cooking them once I get home from work. So I was excited to try Sweet Roots, a delivery service started by Marisa Smith, which offers meal options for people with all sorts of dietary needs.The meals I chose to cook one week included Cajun-spiced shrimp and Provençal braised chicken with rosemary polenta—foods that appeal to me in theory but would be a huge pain in the ass to prepare from scratch.

First, the positive. Delivery was prompt and welcome. On a very basic level, it’s nice to know that four nights worth of dinners are taken care of. Also, Sweet Roots doesn’t use a lot of superfluous packaging, and they ship many of their ingredients in reusable glass containers, so I didn’t feel like I was being environmentally insensitive. The food was all super fresh and there was hardly any prep work needed, meaning that from start to finish a complete dinner was on the table in under 30 minutes every night. The portion sizes were ample, and we had leftovers from every meal that were easily repurposed the next day.

But there were also negatives. Some of the recipes just didn’t work. I’m comfortable in the kitchen and I have a good feel for the right and wrong amount of garlic, for example, to use in a dish, so I avoided any major disasters, but for less savvy cooks, dinners would’ve been ruined. And it was expensive! (Dinners are $25 per serving.) Sure, you could argue that takeout is also pricey, but these services are pretty much guaranteed to blow your budget if you compare what you’d spend to make a similar meal from ingredients bought at the supermarket.

There was also something less tangible but still definitively negative: I felt infantilized. I might not want to rely on takeout, but I also don’t want to have to get the ingredients of a grilled cheese sandwich delivered to me to know to make a grilled cheese sandwich. I want to do it on my own. So, in the end, meal-delivery services are not for me (though, if they sound like they’re for you, we have a list of which the best ones in Brooklyn are). My dalliance with Sweet Roots did work in one way though: It inspired me to set aside more time for cooking and shopping and to—at least temporarily—take a break from anyone delivering food to me for a little while, which is really all I wanted.


Which Meal Delivery Service (If Any) is Right

For You?

Sweet Roots
The menu changes weekly and offers options for the Paleo and gluten-free among us. Sample dishes include sesame zucchini noodles with pickled shiitake mushrooms and miso-lime sauce.

Blue Apron
Perhaps the most popular of the meal delivery services, Blue Apron is also the most cost-efficient and has a variety of menu options, including Thai chicken meatballs and butternut squash and goat cheese pizza.

This service delivers a box of farm-fresh, ethically sourced meats and veggies, with recipe suggestions like yogurt marinated chicken with sautéed greens and shiitake soup with chevre crostini.

This service uses environmentally responsible packaging and provides chef-sourced recipes including salmon teriyaki. Best part? You can order meals here without a subscription, making it less of a financial investment.


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