Home-cooked meals at your doorstep
The weeks leading up to my annual trip to India to visit family is a frenzy of activity — shopping, packing, and general tying up of personal loose ends. Added to that is the ever-looming thought that I will have to meticulously craft and freeze an array of meals, labeling each portion-sized box, and ensuring that my family is well-taken care of in my absence. I did this for years, but as I get older, my energy and enthusiasm levels are not what they used to be. I am increasingly seeking out healthy alternatives that will alleviate my having to cook/freeze, yet ensure that the family has tasty, home-cooked meals that they can enjoy with minimal effort.
In recent years, the culinary landscape has witnessed a significant shift with meal delivery services offering convenient yet wholesome dining options. What sets apart some of these services is their utilization of home cooks – individuals passionate about cooking who create and deliver delicious meals to consumers.
I am sharing three services that I have tried and used on a consistent basis, even when I am home! They come particularly handy when you want to send food to friends or family who may be sick or just as an “I am thinking of you” surprise. I do this many times with my son who lives an hour away from us.
Shef.com (a combination of “she” and “chef”) was founded by Joey Grassia and Alvin Salehi to help cooks, especially immigrants, earn money from home. “Alvin and I started Shef to honor our own mothers and the cooking cultures that shaped our childhoods,” explains Co-Founder & CEO, Grassia. This online platform became a lifeline for trained cooks during the pandemic, many of them immigrants and most of them women. “Shefs must pass an ANSI-accredited food safety certification exam in order to provide their dishes on the platform, as well as other in-house onboarding programs. Once up and running, the Shefs are required to follow all state and local cooking laws,” assures Grassia.
They have an array of different cuisines, and I have only tried their Indian chefs (you can mix and match from different chefs in the same order.) I mixed and matched from Shef Wayne X, Shef Sukhdeep K, and Shef Seema A. All of them are located in the local community and require a two-day lead time to source and prepare the food, which is then delivered to your doorstep via Doordash in an insulated bag. The order will come with a label that includes re-heating instructions and a “best by” date, which is typically within 2-3 days from the date of arrival. Customers can also choose to freeze meals and reheat as they please. The site operates in the Bay Area, Seattle, Chicago, Austin, Houston, Boston, and New York.
Click here for a $10 off code on your first order.
Neighbors was the first service that let you mix and match prepared meals from hundreds of local chefs and restaurants, all delivered at wholesale prices. “If you think about the promise of e-commerce, we’re supposed to have this vast selection unmatched in the physical realm, lower prices than the store, delivered for free. When you look at food delivery today though, it’s the equivalent of if every time you ordered a single item on Amazon, one truck filled with just your item is delivered to only your home, at inflated prices 50-100% with fees,” says founder Chris Sullivan.
Delivery is free on Neighbors, and Sullivan is passionate about keeping costs contained. “We’re a pre-order marketplace that lets chefs and restaurants plan their production, batch cook during quiet hours, and have zero food waste. We deliver along pre-planned routes, which makes delivery 10 times more affordable for customers and allows food makers to expand into a new radius where they don’t exist, instead of cannibalizing their business,” adds Sullivan.
Most of their food makers joined the platform through word of mouth via their self-serve app neighbors.co/vendor. They currently deliver once per week on Saturdays, and food is prepared the evening before or the morning of delivery and refrigerated at their distribution center until it’s time for delivery.
On the Neighbors site, I tried their Indian meals from Bombay Buzzing which were generously portioned and very good. The other things I tried and loved were Chef Theint’s Tea Leaf Salad, Urban Remedy’s Vegan Caesar, Burma Love’s Burmese Samusa Wrap, and Seeti’s Better Butter Chicken (serves 3 and needs some simple steps to put together).
Chris runs specials all the time, and I have scored some of the Indian meals for under $6 – that’s when I stock up and freeze and reheat as needed.
Founder Amrutha Ragavan started Good2Eat after getting tired of trying to feed her family freshly prepared wholesome meals every day. With both spouses working tech jobs, and with the kid’s evening activities keeping them out of the kitchen, they resorted to takeout, which was definitely not healthy and was a strain on the wallet. Ragavan started researching options that were budget-friendly and offered variety. “I worked with three parameters: onboarding only those food businesses that cook fresh and healthy every day; ordering a portion size that feeds the whole family, and creating a pickup model with conveniently located pick-up points near schools, library parking lots and office building parking lots,” says Ragavan.
Thus was born Good2Eat, a simple platform that aggregates freshly prepared meals offered by home chefs, restaurants, and cloud kitchens. You pre-order the day before and pick it up at a location convenient to you. Currently, they have pick-ups in Fremont, Saratoga, Cupertino, Almaden, Mountain View, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Pleasanton, and San Ramon.
I ordered the Rice Paratha Combo by HomeChef Yogita, which came with tomato soup, black-eyed peas subzi, eggplant potato subzi, masala bhaat and four spinach theplas. It serves three very comfortably, the food is tasty but low on oil and spice, sattvic style.
“I have seen that women are predominantly the primary caregivers of their families. Planning and preparing meals takes a huge amount of time out of their busy lives. Now with Good2Eat, I hope that women get some of the time back for themselves to spend on things that are more meaningful to them,” said Ragavan.
The integration of home cooks into meal delivery services brings an array of advantages that resonate with the modern consumer’s desire for authenticity, personalization, and community support. Here’s to healthy eating without the stress of preparation!