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making dinner easier…

Oh Joy Kitchen

Oh Joy Kitchen

I am not one of those people who can make dinner from scratch every night. Or even most nights. By the time I get home from work, I have a few hours with my kids before they get to bed and I want to maximize that time as much as possible. We try to cook mostly on the weekends when we have more leisurely time. So during the week, we often use services that help make meal preparation easier and faster. Since there are so many out there and I'm always in search of the best, I have tried a lot of them. I wanted to share my favorites with you in case you're like me and just need a little help every so often…

1. Restaurant food delivered - There are lots of places that offer take-out delivery. But when you just need lunch or dinner right now, there are a couple favorites I use in a pinch. I've used these delivery services way more times than I'd like to admit, but it's been so helpful when I'm home alone with both kids and can't manage to make dinner on my own (or when I want to treat my employees to milkshakes for an afternoon treat). As soon as you load the apps based on your address, they tell you what restaurants you can have meals delivered from and the approximate time it would take. A person who works for the service picks up the food and bring it too you. It's kinda like the Uber for take-out delivery.

DoorDash has the most options (at least in my area). It updates you every step of the way with when the order is placed, picked up and on the way to you. It's usually accurate but I have had handful of times the delivery was late or I've had to check in.

Postmates offers delivery from select restaurants. I find them to has less options than DoorDash, but the timing and consistency is more accurate. With this app, you can track the driver on a map so you know exactly where they are and when they'll arrive.

Munchery

2. Prepared food delivered – This is an option that's in-between restaurant delivery and assisted recipe meals. The food is already made and simply needs to be heated up. This costs less than restaurant delivery and is something you can plan for in advance.

Munchery delivers healthy cooked meals to your door. All you have to do is heat them up and enjoy. This has been super helpful on those days when Bob gets home later than usual from work and it's hard for me to cook while watching both kids. It's more affordable then getting straight delivery from a restaurant and the biodegrable packaging it comes in is oven and microwave safe making it super easy.

Din

3. Cooking Assistance Meals – There are a ton of these types of services these days that try to make cooking easier and faster (yet still healthy).

One Potato offers family-friendly meals (that encourage kids to help cook!) with fresh ingredients delivered to your door. The meals here have bigger portions than other services I've tried and meals catered to the more picky eaters you might have in your family. Inspired by recipes from Weelicious—the focus on family totally comes through.

Din is delivers all the ingredients needed to make restaurant-inspired, home-cooked meals. These days with our busy jobs and schedules, we need to be able to make something within 30 mins or less. With Din, many of the components are pre-prepped for you—that way you really can make the whole meal from start to finish in 20-30 minutes. (They are only available for delivery in California and Nevada right now, but I'm guessing more states will become available as they grow).

Purple Carrot is a vegan option by chef Mark Bittman who advocates for part time vegan living even if you aren't vegan. 

4. Groceries Delivered – When you realize you don't have anything to make for breakfast tomorrow or the day is just too crazy to get to the grocery store, grocery delivery just makes life easier. While I actually love grocery shopping (and can find it relaxing), it's not always relaxing when you have to bring two kids with you. So I cut myself some slack sometimes and have groceries delivered. And, instead of loading everyone up in the car to go buy food, I can spend time with them doing way funner things and pay a small delivery fee for the groceries to come to me. 

Instacart

Instacart offers delivery from your favorite local grocery stores where someone is actually going to your local store (like Whole Foods) and picking out what you want. I love that a real person is shopping so when you ask for ripe peaches, there's a person who will try and pick the ripest peach for you.

And yes, these services do cost a little more money, but for me they're worth the few extra bucks for a delivery fee or service charge to gain that extra time at home with my family. Modern conveniences like this have helped me to worry less about everything I need to do and get a little help when I can.

Have you guys found any other cool apps or services like this that make your life a little easier? Please share your faves as I am always looking for options!

P.S. This post is not sponsored. These are all services I currently use or have tried within the last few months.

{Photo by Casey Brodley, styling by Julia Wester}

31 comments

  1. I swear by Seamless for food delivery in NYC. Use it almost on a daily basis. Not sure if they have that in LA.
    Instacart for groceries is good but I have had issues describing the exact wight and amount for veggies. I don’t have a good estimate of what 1lb tomatoes look like. So sometimes i end up getting more that what i need.
    We have used Postmates too for restaurants that are not on seamless, but i find them to be more expensive in terms of delivery charges.
    Have you tried food services like Blue Apron where they send you all the ingredients measured to the recipe and all you have to do is spend 15-20 mins cooking it?
    Another famous grocery delivery option in NYC is FreshDirect. They have a great selection of groceries.

  2. i’m really curious about one potato and din that you mentioned! won’t be able to try din since i live in nyc but i’ve always wanted to try blue apron which is the same concept
    hammyta.wordpress.com

  3. we try to cook as much as possible from scratch, but keeping things like perfectly portioned meat in the freezer, long-lasting fresh veggies like potatoes, squash, and onions on hand, and frozen veggies that are easy to toss into anything like kale and spinach ready to go in the freezer… we can usually throw together anything, even if we feel like we “don’t have anything to eat”. my favorite meal to make is beef and watercress stir-fry, which uses sliced flank steak that we slice and portion before freezing (for quick thaw time), fresh watercress that my husband can pick up on the walk home (literally take the whole bunch and slice off the ends, and slice in half and it’s good to go), garlic and ginger (which can be purchased in minced/paste versions that last forever in the fridge) and fish sauce (Asian house STAPLE). if we’ve already got rice made and ready to reheat from the fridge, it literally takes 10 minutes to prep. easy peasy!

  4. we go through a lot of produce so where possible i often buy cleaned/cut up veggies (eg from trader joes) – easy to throw a packet of broccoli and carrots in the microwave to steam or butternut squash chopped ready for an easy side or soup. it’s also a little more expensive but it does make eating and cooking healthy quicker with the little ones needing attention. i use google express a lot for pantry items which means less trips to the store.

  5. I struggle with the same thing! And use many of the same services but am excited to look into the others. I really love Munchery but lately everything they make doesn’t sound good to me and my family. Otherwise I would use them twice a week for sure. I totally agree that it feels healthier than typical take out. And I also love the idea of Instacart but hate that they are usually out of so much or make so many substitutions. But their customer service is great when you do have a problem. And Postmates rocks! But I make that a splurge when I’m desperate because that delivery fee seems so ridiculously high.

  6. We have Seamless in NYC, and I love it and use it all the time. It’s amazing to me when people visit from out of town, and they are so shocked and amazed at all the delivery options we have here. I forgot how bleak the delivery scene can be in the burbs. Also Blue Apron has changed my life and upped my cooking game big time!

  7. Hey Shruti,
    I have never used Seamless but good to know you like it.
    I have tried Blue Apron and think it’s great but it takes a bit too long for us. It’s more like 45 mins to prep and cook.
    Joy

  8. Dinner is not my strongest-luckily my husband loves to cook and experiment. We’ve been making pot roast and keeping it for a few days and heating it up again. We also use Grub Hub from time to time, it’s awesome! Thanks for sharing other tips!
    Allison http://allisons-eye.com/

  9. i highly recommend signing up with hungry harvest (a type of CSA of reclaimed veggies/fruits)! (they were just on shark tank too!) Their mission to reduce waste, employ homeless, and give to the needy is incredible and the food is fresh too.

  10. As a working mom who dislikes cooking, this was what finally worked for me. I created about 5 different menu plans, and each plan has 3 meals. I make sure that each meal will have leftovers so it can last 2 dinners, usually more. (Sometimes this means marinading two portions, but only cooking one portion at a time to keep it fresh).
    This way, I already have the grocery list typed out, know what’s coming next, don’t have to worry about wasting groceries, and have become a semi-expert with these 18 meals. There’s also enough variety that I can choose week-to-week which menu plan I want to cook/eat. We still eat out more than I want, but taking the stress out of planning has made it easier, and I am actually becoming a better cook (at least with these limited meals).

  11. Joy- I’m M’s friend who is doing Purple Carrot. I can’t say enough good things about it! We’re on our third week and every meal is something that I would make again and even make with company over. I love to cook but it’s really easy to get stuck in ruts in the kitchen, especially on week nights. They definitely send me things that I wouldn’t think to cook on my own… vegan Korean pancakes? Parsnips? I had no idea how good they were. And nothing has taken more than 30 minutes of prep time (with maybe 10 minutes more cooking time). Purple Carrot is awesome!

  12. I’ve tried MyTable, which is like Munchery but features local home chefs and has been pretty good so far. Sometimes the chefs offer ethnic home-cooked dishes and I love trying authentic home-cooked cuisines from different cultures. I haven’t tried it yet, but have heard good things about Gobble, which is like Blue Apron but they promise that cooking the meals take only 10 minutes, which sounds great for this working mom of 2 littles, whose husband is often out of town. But what’s been working best is cooking at home and meal planning, of which I’m a big fan of the Pepperplate app and website. That and a lot of crockpot recipes!

  13. we enjoyed Din’s innovative meals but sadly, they are discontinuing delivery to the OC. any other suggestions for pre-prepped meals?

  14. I actually own a meal delivery service in Chicago, so I have tried so many of these options (competition haha!) ! I actually really like the Blue Apron Meals, but they take sooooo long to make and clean up, its just not worth it for an every night dinner.
    But Grubhub and Instacart? love love loveeeeeeee these services!

  15. Yes! Growing up in a New Jersey suburb the only delivery we ordered was pizza now that I live in NYC I totally take Seamless for granted. It’s definitely a guilty pleasure though since sometimes the restaurants are only a couple blocks away and it’s not like I have young humans to be responsible for 😉

  16. You do you! Time is always more valuable than money.
    I like cooking assistance meals because as someone who really likes to cook (but doesn’t sometimes because cleanup) they give me totally new ideas I would never have thought of on my own.

  17. Thank you for giving me the realization that there are a number of food services out there that’ll enable you to get a good meal on the table without sucking up all of your quality time from your family on weekday evenings. These suggestions sound great but I’m going to look into some services (cross my fingers that we have some!) in my area… I’m in Montreal, Canada (eh!)

  18. how do you manage the kids meals? do they also eat the same takeout etc meals or do you prepare their separately? sorry but since i have two little boys of my own aged almost same as your kids so i was wondering 🙂
    Big fan of your blog and family. first time commenting although been following for years.

  19. Hi Abeer,
    It depends on what we’re getting/making/ordering. We usually have them eat whatever we eat (we don’t make different food for them) unless it’s super spicy. Sometimes we will pick a meal for them to share.
    Hope that helps!
    Joy

  20. Have you tried Sous Kitchen? I LOVE their frozen, prepared meals. Super tasty and they have a nice variety to choose from. The biscuits are amazing. It was a lifesaver for me after my first was born and we were sick of frozen TJs stuff.

  21. I love Postmates! I actually took it off of my phone because I was spending too much money using it when I didn’t need to. What I love about their service is that they’re willing to go anywhere, even if it’s not on their restaurant list.

  22. You had mentioned the food delivery services being similar to Uber for food. Not sure if you know there IS actually an Uber for food 🙂 It’s called UberEATS! It’s a separate app and is generally faster than the other food delivery apps. Hope you like it!

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