Which Food Service Is Right for You?

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Those of us in the Midwest know that going to the grocery store is 100 times more awful in the middle of winter than it is any other time of year. It’s basically scientific fact. Even people who consider grocery shopping date fodder (me) can admit that the allure of a delivered option is strong in March. Receive food without putting on pants or a scarf? Count me in. Here are a few options for the grocery-phobic.

(Image credit: Kaitlin Flannery)

Option 1: Meal Kits

The Good

You literally don’t have to think. Countless companies now bring everything you need (ingredients, recipes, and an unlimited supply of ice packs) directly to your door. These kits count your calories, provide a balanced diet, force variety into your routine, and provide that you’ve-got-mail high that comes from new packages. An added bonus? The fresh ingredients (that could go bad at any time) guilt you into eating at home.

The Bad

These giant boxes can’t be hidden in the door or mailbox, and are at the mercy of third-party delivery services. (Snow storm in Chicago? Better have a plan B.) Also, there are not many options to pivot to if you don’t feel like Adobo-Style Chicken with Roasted Bok Choy & Jasmine Rice tonight.

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Option 2: Online Grocery Delivery

The Good

Freedom! Don’t want to be pigeon-holed into cooking recipes that other people provide? You can pretty much choose anything you want, usually from a well-curated selection of goods, and therefore, eat what you want. Shopping with companies like Good Eggs, Foxtrot, and Peapod pretty much allow the grocery store experience without the unpleasantries of heavy traffic in front of the seafood sale or the need to sanitize the shopping cart. (Although shopping from home isn’t much better; you really should clean your keyboard every once in awhile.)

The Bad

You can’t feel or see your food in advance. There’s something about picking up an apple, squeezing an avocado, and pointing to the exact cut of salmon you want. With the online groceries, you lose that part of the shopping experience. You also lose the option to make a quick change if what you’re looking for isn’t available. Unless you clearly state in your order to sub brown rice for quinoa and to select the greenest of bananas, you’re up to the whimsy of your surrogate shopper. And some sites only offer shelf-stable products, which means you’re still on the hook for a grocery run for produce and protein.

(Image credit: Cambria Bold)

Option 3: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

The Good

Whether you subscribe to a meat CSA, veggie CSA, or a single-ingredient CSA, you likely have the best and freshest of ingredients to work with. And you’re eating in season, which means you can try the recipes from all your favorite food blogs. (Ahem.) CSAs often have hard-to-find items you won’t find in a conventional grocery (like artisanal celery, say, or whole pig’s head), which makes cooking and eating an adventure.

The Bad

So. Many. Radishes. You literally can’t control what you get, especially when it comes to produce-based subscriptions. So dust off those ingredient-based cookbooks, or learn how to freeze your food. CSA subscriptions also generally require a regular pickup or drop off, so spontaneity in schedule is out on CSA day.

What’s your favorite non-grocery option?