Skipping Grocery Stores Amid Covid Concerns, People Turn to These Meal Delivery Kits for Dinner

Tim Chan
·8 min read

Grocery stores may be feeling the pinch right now as coronavirus fears stop people from leaving the house for their usual errands. But with people becoming increasingly uncomfortable with shopping for long periods of time indoors, a number of meal delivery services are helping to fill in the menu.

“We’ve seen a very dramatic increase in demand from both our current subscribers as well as our new subscribers,” says Vanessa Meyers, SVP of Growth at Sun Basket, which offers home delivery of both full meals and individual items for “all-day healthy eating” (think: protein bars, jerky, nuts and crackers).

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Meyers says the company has “seen an uptick” in orders since last March and continues to fulfill deliveries as new customers come in. “We have food available for delivery, and weekly boxes are continuing to be delivered as normal,” she assures.

Sun Basket, and other meal delivery services like it, were always a novel idea for individuals or families looking for convenience, or wanting to show off their best Top Chef skills. But with shoppers wanting to avoid crowded grocery stores, meal delivery kits have become an easy way for people who may not be able to get to a grocery store to access fresh meats and produce. These services are also a great way to send groceries and meals to quarantined family members, or elderly neighbors who may not have a way to shop for food otherwise.

All-natural meal delivery service, Freshly, has been providing quick and easy meals for people seeking safer food options. The CDC’s current guidelines state that “there is very low risk from food products that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.”

Freshly’s fully-cooked meals come packaged in recyclable boxes, so they’re ready to heat and eat in three minutes or less. Their belief: that meal delivery services nowadays have “a lot of options. Some offer convenience, some offer nutrition, and some offer the foods you crave. We offer all three.”

The company offers clean, wholesome foods, with options for dairy-free, soy-free and those following a gluten-free diets (in fact, all of their meals are certified gluten-free).

See full menu options and pricing at Freshly

Another dietitian-curated service is Snap Kitchen, with a rotational menu crafted by expert chefs if you’re missing the kind of restaurant-quality meals. It hasn’t just been grocery supply chains that have suffering—17% of restaurants are permanently closed due to Covid-19, according to the National Restaurant Association. While the CDC says that the safest way to support restaurants right now is to order takeout, Snap Kitchen provides ready-to-eat meals with high-quality ingredients delivered fresh, so you don’t have to settle for ordering out every night.

All of Snap Kitchen’s meals are free of gluten, soy, artificial preservatives, added hormones, and artificial sweeteners, and plans are customizable to fit a variety of dietary needs. Menus also offer breakdowns of nutritional information and ingredients, so you know exactly what’s going into your food, even if you can’t buy the ingredients from a grocery store yourself.

Snap Kitchen
Snap Kitchen

See full menu options and pricing at Snap Kitchen

Rastelli’s, a direct-to-consumer service that delivers restaurant-quality meats and seafood, said business had gone up “over 1000% in orders and revenue” last March.

Rastelli Foods Group Vice-President Ray Rastelli III, says the rise in demand correlates with a “dramatic shift” in consumer demand towards staples. “To match this need,” he says, “we made a shift in our online offerings, focusing on a product catalog of basic staples – ground beef, chicken breasts, salmon filets, to name a few.” The key: all of Rastelli’s products are vacuum-sealed and blast frozen, allowing the meats and fish to keep for up to a year if necessary.

rastelli's review
rastelli's review

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At HelloFresh, which touts itself as “America’s Most Popular Meal Kit,” a spokesperson says the company has long prepared for scenarios like this, which allows them to meet fluctuations in demand. In a statement, the spokesperson confirms that “there are currently no disruptions to service,” adding that HelloFresh is “working very closely with our network of suppliers and partners to ensure we keep delivering fresh and reliable meals to our customers.”

hello fresh review
hello fresh review

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HelloFresh offers customers 20 recipes to choose from each week, and orders can be personalized based on the number of people you’re feeding, and any dietary restrictions. Pre-portioned ingredients for each meal are then shipped in a single box (one box/week), along with recipe cards and serving suggestions.

Sun Basket, meantime, currently offers three types of deliveries: oven-ready or microwavable meals (no cooking required), pre-prepped meals (which are designed for you to cook quickly with no dicing or peeling), and classic meal kits, with pre-portioned ingredients and recipes to cook yourself. The company offers organic produce, wild-caught seafood and antibiotic and hormone-free meat. They also offer paleo, vegetarian and gluten-free meals — all of which are still in stock.

See full menu options and pricing at (use promo code ROLLINGSTONE for $35 off)

With COVID-19 still impacting everyone’s daily life, meal delivery providers say they’re also doubling down on safe handling of food and the safety of their delivery drivers. Sun Basket says it’s “increasing sanitization frequencies” in its offices and distribution centers, and offering no-contact deliveries.

New processes are also in place at HelloFresh, where a spokesperson says the company has “implemented additional safety measures such as more frequent hand-washing and sanitation of our facilities along with limited access to our production site.”

Rastelli’s says it has also taken “added precautions” to ensure food safety and employee wellness. Among the new initiatives put in place: “We’re screening employees, ensuring that anyone with any signs of sickness doesn’t enter the facility,” explains Rastelli. “We’ve gone from one ‘breakdown shift’ – where machinery is broken down to the bolts and cleaned – to three times per day. We’ve implemented the use of full-cover protective masks. And finally,” he shares, “we’ve increased the use of ozonated water, which is a highly-effective, chemical-free way of cleaning machinery, belts, and any meat that’s been exposed to the air.”

The Chrissy Teigen-approved Blue Apron, meantime, says it has a “comprehensive food safety program in place,” citing Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) at every step of operation. As a food facility regulated by the FDA, Blue Apron also touts its third-party certification to the Safe Quality Food (SQF) code, widely considered as one of the most rigorous and comprehensive food safety standards in the world.

(It should be noted that FDA releases show no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19).

blue apron review
blue apron review

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Blue Apron meals start at $8.99/serving and the site offers a different menu each week, essentially so that customers don’t get bored of eating the same thing over and over. In addition to vegetarian options, Blue Apron also offers diabetic-friendly meals and Weight Watchers-approved meals as well. They can also deliver wine from an extensive international wine list. New to the site is their “Blue Apron Market,” which delivers everything from pots and pans, to cheese, snacks and pantry items.

Even Martha Stewart has gotten in on the action with her “Marley Spoon” meal delivery kits. The lifestyle guru and TV personality teamed up with Marley Spoon in 2016 and the site now offers 22 recipes every week, with a focus on special diets (think: dairy-free, gluten-free, low-carb, vegan).

Pricing for Marley Spoon starts at $6.16/serving, and the company says all of its recipes can prepped and cooked in “six steps or less.”

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Stewart tweeted about Marley Spoon last March, encouraging her followers to stay at home and get their meals delivered instead of going to the grocery store. Stewart says she worked with Marley Spoon to not only make it easy to get food, but to make it easy to get healthier food too. “You’re less likely to buy junk food if you know you have a fridge full of fresh ingredients at home,” the site says. “Healthy subscription boxes, such as Martha & Marley Spoon, make those convenient but usually high-in-sodium and unhealthy microwaved meals seem far less tempting.”

martha stewart marley spoon review
martha stewart marley spoon review

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As millions of people around the world continue to cope with coronavirus pandemic, meal delivery services are hoping to at least help to ease some of the burden when it comes to staying stocked up and healthy.

“Like the rest of the world, we’re anxiously watching the situation unfold and saddened to see the hardship it’s causing,” a spokesperson for Rastelli says. “But we do take great pride in being a source of comfort for so many people by doing what we’ve always done – providing food to feed your family.”

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