Meal delivery services – the new way to eat?

Angelique Ruzicka tries out few meal delivery services and asks whether using these companies is the way to go for modern, busy families.

As a busy, married and working mom of two kids under the age of three I feel like these meal delivery services are just what I need. Subscribing to them is a breeze and they do ‘the thinking’, i.e. the buying of the groceries and choosing what you are going to eat as family, for you. All you have to do is click on the type of meal and the number of people you want to cater for, pay and the meal gets delivered to your door (although there are some, like the Daily Dietician, that allow you to fetch them if you want).

What’s not easy is deciding on which service to choose. Comparing the costs for each service is difficult because they’re not all the same but we’ve done our best to compare prices (see below) and services. What makes it even harder from a comparison standpoint is that not all of them cater and send meals every day, while others have a minimum number of days that you need to subscribe to. For this story, I compare five meal delivery services, but I have to point out that I only tested the Daily Dish and The Doorstep Chef. Here’s how they work:

*Daily Dish
I registered for The Daily Dish’s meal delivery service in mid August last year. At the time, the budget meal cost R320 for two people but in 2016 their prices went up and I switched to The Doorstep Chef, which I found to be more cost effective.
But I have to commend the Daily Dish team for well thought out menus that I looked forward to cooking every day. I learned new ways of cooking and their steak with peppercorn sauce recipe was a particular favourite of mine. Their ingredients are fresh (they’re part of Fairview so the ingredients are sourced from the Fairview farm or other local farms in its proximity) and they give you the exact measurements as outlined in their recipes which accompany their boxes – so there’s no wastage. My first order also came with a complimentary bottle of olive oil, which came in handy for cooking and salads.
How does it work? The company’s slogan is ‘Eat fresh, Save time’ and that’s exactly what it delivers. Fresh, wholesome ingredients are delivered to your chosen address. The food is contained in a box with ice packs so even if you get your food delivered to work (like I did) it will still keep until you can pack the ingredients in the fridge at home. Every box contains ingredients for four meals (for two or four people) and you can choose between five set menu options: Classic, Low Carb (Banting), Pork Free, Vegetarian and Budget. Boxes are delivered between 8am and 5pm every Monday.
You can pause your subscription but it must be done before the money is deducted from your account.
Handy tip: Remember to recycle the ice packs and boxes by handing them back to the Daily Dish’s courier.
How much does it cost? You pay by linking a card to the service and the money comes off automatically every week at 11am on a Wednesday. The cheapest offering for two people is the budget box at R660 (R83 per person per meal) and the most expensive is the pork free box at R840 (R105 per person per meal).

*The Doorstep Chef
They offer delicious home cooked meals in generous portion sizes. To give you an idea of the portion sizes I currently subscribe to what they call the ‘low carb small (3)’ for R576 and not only does it feed my husband, toddler and I but there’s usually enough to take some for lunch the next day. The advantage with going with The Doorstep Chef is that you don’t need to cook the food. It comes readily prepared – all you have to do is heat and serve. It’s perfect for busy families like mine. For me this service gives me a much-needed break, as I don’t have to think about what to cook or set aside time to rustle something up over a hot stove.
Handy tip: As the service doesn’t automatically take off money from your account, keep a reminder in your diary to pay them every Friday so that you get your order on a Monday. They do send a reminder text message to ask if you want food delivered for the following week, however.
How much does it cost? Singles can enjoy the food from as little as R260 a week (low carb) and the service caters for families as large as six people at a maximum of R1260 a week (standard menu).

Daily Dietitian
If you want to lose weight, why not try the Daily Dietitian? This is a personalised meal delivery company that focuses on providing fresh nutrient dense meals (like in the image above). Customers can select their preferred meal package online and have these meals delivered on a daily basis to their doorstep. “We’re a business focused on addressing the health and time concerns that are becoming increasingly prevalent on both a local and global level. Merging the expertise of a dietician with meal delivery takes away the confusion around nutrition and allows us to help as many people as possible reach their health goals. Our food is fresh and delicious  – so it’s really easy to stay healthy!” says founder Laura Johnston.
Packages include Low Carb High Fat, Pro-Athlete, Pre and Post Natal, or a Healthy Lifestyle formulated diet, as well as an eating plan tailored to the needs of young children between 6-12 years old. You can choose between half day (one meal and one snack) or full day (two meals and two snacks) per day and meal plans range from five to 40 days (weekdays only).
How much does it cost?
Costs are R98.67 – R178.20 per day for the half package and R171, 60 – R316, 80 per day for the full package but at the time of writing this excluded VAT and delivery fees. However, when asked about the VAT being excluded from the price Johnston, founder of the business did say she would change this structure. Delivery can cost up to R9.99 per kilometre and the company is based in Bree Street in Cape Town and Craighall Park in Johannesburg. So this service may be better suited to those living or working in town.
Handy tip: Cut out delivery fees by fetching your meals from Bree street in Cape Town and a Craighall Park in Johannesburg.

The Flying Pan
Browse their menu of healthy, freshly prepared meals and order online by 11am for delivery the following day and choose from multiple payment options. Unlike some other meal delivery services featured here, there are no subscriptions and no minimum orders. Unfortunately, they don’t deliver on a weekend as the service runs from Monday – Friday (excluding public holidays) only.
How much does it cost: According to the website, meal prices vary from R60 per meal (classic menu) to R68 per meal (low carb). Vegetarian meals are also an option at R60 per meal. Delivery is free to Cape Town’s City Bowl or the Southern Suburbs. Northern Suburbs are not yet being catered for but you can be added to the mailing list.

Subscribe to this service and choose between rustic, lean and vegetarian menus or personalise your meal selection using the flexi package. This service caters for singles, couples and families for three days so, for example, singles get given one meal a day from Monday – Wednesday and couples get six meals a week (for Monday – Wednesday), which works out to two meals each a day.
The service is currently available in Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg. “There are plans to go national in two months, which we are over the moon about. Another unique selling point of UCOOK is that we cater to the bachelor market, unlike any of our local competitors. This has proven to be a very successful strategic decision for our business,” adds Chris Verster-Cohen marketing executive and co-founder.
The food is sourced from local farmers and purveyors but not all the food is organic. Ingredients get delivered to your door every Monday, which you then have to cook up yourself. “ Average cooking time is about 30-45 minutes depending on the technical ability of the customer, plus the degree of difficulty associated with the recipes,” explains Verster-Cohen.
How much does it cost? Bachelors can pay as little as R234 per week for three vegetarian dishes to R267 for three rustic or lean meals. Couples pay R438 for six vegetarian meals per week and R516 for rustic or lean meals. Finally, families get 12 vegetarian meals for R612 per week or pay R708 for rustic or lean meals per week. Delivery is included in the price.

Final thoughts
There are pros and cons to using these services. There is, of course, some guilt attached to subscribing to them, as you’re not doing the things (like cooking and grocery shopping) that some in society thinks you should do as a parent. If the meals just require you to heat them up it takes away the fun in experimenting and cooking them yourself. But after a long hard day it can be a godsend to reheat freshly made food – a far healthier option in my mind than picking up the phone to get an unhealthy takeaway.

Another negative is that if you subscribe to a service that caters to you for a certain number of days you are pretty much stuck with that service and the food that it’s prepared for you for the week and there’s little wiggle room for spontaneity. So if you’re the type of family that will decide on getting takeaways on a whim these services may not be for you.

You’ve got to weigh up the freedom these services give you to concentrate on other things with the inflexibility they give you. If the Joneses phone you up to have dinner out with them and you accept, there’s a chance your food could spoil and go to waste. However, if you are busy, know you’re going to be indoors and won’t be accepting any last minute dinner invitations then these services are a big help.


Meal delivery price comparison