Meal Delivery: From Frozen to Fresh

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In the mid-century Midwest, dinner for my family meant that we sat down together every night. With Mom at home and Dad at work, dinner was served at six, with dinner defined as an entree, two vegetables and a salad.

Our dinner dynamics changed a bit when Dad started his own business out of our home. Mom got a part-time job bookkeeping two days a week while his business settled in. Suddenly, Dad was home more than Mom. His schedule was more flexible, and he began doing most of the cooking during the week. Our dinner menu remained constant.

Until, once a week or so, nobody cooked, because Mom or Dad popped a frozen TV dinner into the oven. In no time at all, we sat down to an entree, two vegetables and a dessert (bonus!) served from a foil tray. About once a month, we had a special treat: fast food, a burger with fries and a Coke. There were no veggies or salad in sight, but no one ever complained on carryout night!

As time went by, we relied on these shortcuts more and more. Otherwise, we couldn’t keep pace with after-school activities, music lessons and sports events. Dinner on the go became the norm during the week, but our family still sat down together for dinner on the weekends.

Do you see a trend? Within a space of a couple of years, our family moved away from preparing meals from scratch and sitting down to meals together to eating packaged food and fast food on the fly. We had fewer meals as a family, and consumed more fat, salt, sugar and preservatives.

Then microwave ovens came on the scene, and everything became instant. Suddenly, one could cook eggs, oatmeal, veggies, meats and fish while doing other things. It was almost like not having to cook at all. It seemed similar to the food replicators in the TV series Star Trek. As a kid, I always thought how cool that would be. With a replicator there would never be a need to fix a meal or a pack a lunch. I confess that, as an adult, I still think how cool it would be to simply state what I’d like and have it instantly appear.

My mom’s 20th century choices included frozen dinners, fast food and microwaved meals. That convenience served our family’s schedule well, even though it established some sloppy eating habits. But at times I wonder what Mom would have thought of 21st century choices; what if you could have an entree and two sides prepared and delivered to your home, ready to warm up and serve? What if you didn’t have to cook at all?

It can be done, thanks to a growing number of meal delivery services. This niche is still expanding nationwide and may not be available in every community, but the market continues to grow. The only limits to meal delivery are service areas and your budget. Here are a few considerations:

Menu, Please
Some services allow consumers to view their menus before signing up; others require you to sign up before you can access a menu. If choice is important to you, look for companies that allow you to browse before you buy.

Fear of Commitment
Some meal delivery companies require a subscription of two, three or four meals a week. Others let you order at your convenience. Do you want to skip a week? Are you bored with the plan you chose and want to change it? If your schedule is unpredictable, or if you travel a lot, choose a plan that fits your needs.

Food Plan or Food Police?
You may be looking for a menu dedicated to the dietary requirements of certain health issues, such as diabetes or weight loss. Companies such as offer a free analysis based on your height, weight, age, gender and activity level. Although some people resent being asked to provide personal information, others appreciate guidance to achieve their goals. Make sure that what you sign up for meets your expectations.

Picky Is My Normal
You want hormone-free meat, he wants sustainable seafood, your daughter is allergic to nuts, and you all prefer non-GMO food. Are there food plans for picky eaters? Definitely. Companies such as Metabolic Meals provide organic and hormone-free foods, omitting ingredients you specify as allergens. Sun Basket offers paleo, lean and clean, gluten-free and vegan meal plans.

What lies ahead for meal delivery in the approaching mid-century? Imagine drone delivery of a meal that matches your food preferences. You’re not charged unless you accept delivery, of course.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if fast food ended up being food that comes to you? Anything is possible.

But personally, I’m holding out for that food replicator. ■

Sources:, and