Maybe we don't have the time to cook. Maybe we never liked it anyway. Whatever the reason, a whole lot of Canadians are giving up the guilt of not serving a home-cooked dinner.
Google searches for meal-delivery services rose 258 per cent from 2011 to 2015, while the market for "home-meal replacements" – prepared foods from drugstores, supermarkets and food retailers – sits at $2-billion, according to market research company The NDP Group, and is expected to grow by 10 per cent by 2022. Sixty per cent of us eat out at least once a week, and restaurant traffic is set to go up about 4 per cent in the same amount of time.
One fairly new player in the feed-me field are meal-delivery services that bring your daily bread right to your door. The menus, for the most part, seem healthier than takeout; some bring recipes and ingredients, but leave the actual cooking up to the customer. The Globe and Mail spoke to three regular users of meal-delivery services to find out the appeal.
Paul Pogue, a freelance writer, and his husband, a grocery store worker, Toronto
Rose Reisman's Personal Gourmet, a daily food-delivery service designed to match customers with specific calorie counts.
Plans start at $31.95 for two meals
Grilled chicken on wild and brown rice with dried fruit alongside pecans with green beans. French peach crepes with creamy cheese filling and a fruit kabob.
"We are usually six or seven days a week on the service," Pogue says. "At least one person's worth of food is delivered every day depending on who's around."
Neither man cooks, and the service "ticks all the boxes of health and convenience and quality of life," Pogue says. "We'd always find ourselves at the end of the day asking where do we go get food. But when you live on takeout and restaurant meals, you just don't know how anything is prepared. I am so continually grateful to open the fridge in the morning and there's the day's food laid out."
To afford the service, the couple raided their entertainment budget. Eliminating the daily discussion about dinner has been worth it. "It's upgraded our quality of life," Pogue says. "There's time to spend together – that's time for Netflix, that's time to actually talk. You really appreciate that it gives in other ways than you would think."
Adrienne Simic, vice-president of a public-relations company, her husband, a mental-health professional, plus their eight-year-old twin girls and five-year-old daughter, Toronto
Chef's Plate, "chef-inspired" recipe cards delivered with all ingredients, prepped and ready to cook.
$10.95 a plate
Za'atar-spiced steak with chickpea and eggplant ratatouille. Pretzel-crusted pork chop with honey mustard aioli and baby greens.
Two nights a week. "It's just enough to make you as the meal preparer feel like you're livening up the menu. And the thinking has been done for you," Simic says.
"We were sick of eating the same old grilled chicken and grilled fish. I know that recipes are not hard to look up, but I didn't have the bandwidth to research and put together the recipes for a different option," Simic says.
The recipe and ingredient set provides the satisfaction of preparing dinner, while removing the stress of planning it. "It provides the estimated cook time, the calories per serving. I'm still cooking. You still feel like you're controlling what goes into your body," she explains. "Sometimes I'm a little embarrassed that they send me a little clove of garlic because I have a head of garlic in my fridge, and I'm like, come on, don't they think we have a clove of garlic at home? But there's that peeled clove and all I have to do is mash it."
Todd Allan, a high school teacher, his wife, plus their two sons, age 11 and 8, Ladner, B.C.
Batch Food, fully prepared frozen meals delivered weekly.
$4 to $26 per menu item
Chicken quinoa chowder bowl, traditional beef lasagna.
"Close to seven nights a week. And I take it for lunches," Allan says. "Once in a blue moon, we'll cook for ourselves. Or if it's Friday night and we're watching a movie, we might order a pizza."
Allan says he has never been good in the kitchen and he and his wife both frequently work long hours. "Her love of cooking isn't over the moon, either," he says. Using the service has been a "lifesaver" when it comes to time. "It's given us a lot more time to do what we want to do, as opposed to doing something we don't, which is cooking," he says.
With their sons in hockey most days of the week throughout the winter and having to be shuttled to baseball in the summer, there aren't enough hours in the day to make healthy meals that taste good. "We ordered fresh roasted cauliflower. Our kids don't like vegetables, like every kid, but they love cauliflower now because of this," Allan says. "If we didn't have it, we'd have more stress."