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Home meal-delivery service? I'd take restaurant takeout instead any day Add to ...

I hate to be a downer, but really? Home meal-delivery services are among the ultimate signs of giving up, worse even than marathon Seinfeld rerun binges, or wearing novelty pyjama pants on international flights.

They’re the dinner option for when you don’t give two toots about what’s for dinner.

There are companies here that specialize in paleo, primal-compliant, organic, grass-fed, local, ketogenic, Whole Life Challenge, South Asian, and “affordable, chef-made, homestyle” meals, to name a few.

And even beyond how dreary a lot of those dinners look (I’m talking to you, chowdy.ca, but really I’m talking to most of them), there’s almost always a deal-killing catch.

A few of those companies don’t actually deliver, but require you to pick up your meals; others do lunch only, or don’t give you meals, but ingredients and a recipe (great idea, but doesn’t this defeat the purpose?).

And almost none of them make your dinner fresh. With most delivery companies, the meals come just one or two times a week, so you freeze or refrigerate whatever you can’t eat immediately.

Which is awfully similar to what you do with TV dinners, except TV dinners don’t cost even half as much. Worse, most meal-delivery services demand commitment: You have to sign up and then order a week, or a month, at a time.

In any big centre with a thriving food culture, this is just about the saddest thing. These meal services are a sad waste of the endless variety, culture, deliciousness and spontaneity that’s out there.

Meal delivery is the equivalent of the missionary position five nights a week, with eyes closed and your socks still on. Well that was convenient, you might think afterward, and all power to you if you can overlook the opportunity cost.

Because there’s this other sort of business that also prepares meals for those without the inclination or time to cook. It costs about the same or less than most of the meal-service companies, is available for pickup or delivery (skip the meal-delivery app and download Foodora, already) and offers infinitely more choice. It’s called a restaurant.

While most restaurants I like may not “target anyone who wants to live a high performance life with premium fuel in the tank,” as one of my local subscription services puts it, they typically do have a specialty: making meals that people want to eat for a price that isn’t insulting. And not a single one requires a “15-minute introductory consultation,” or that you order a minimum four days in advance.

I’ll freeze a few boxes of the handmade, butter-crusted meat and vegetarian pies from Toronto’s The Pie Commission to feed my family before I commit to a week of high-priced, sad-sack subscription-service dinners, thank you. (Or I’ll just buy those pies hot and serve them fresh; the company has two locations.)

I’ll go to the Portuguese chicken place for piri piri-smothered potatoes, a salad and a whole grilled chicken, or to the little spot down the street that does brilliant Cobb salads and sausage sandwiches, or the Polish deli counter with the vibrant borscht and the complexly sweet-sour-savoury bean soups.

If I feel like what I’m bringing home doesn’t have enough vegetables, I’ll make a salad to go alongside, slice some tomatoes and peel a few carrots, open a jar of beets or sauerkraut, or heat some frozen peas and corn. It just isn’t all that hard.

Maybe all this means I’m not a high-performance individual, but that’s okay.

I’d rather take an extra 10 minutes to eat deliciously and at least a little spontaneously than to microwave a convenient but overpriced and insipid dinner, night after monotonous night.

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Follow on Twitter: @cnutsmith

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