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Best alternatives for groceries and meals during quarantine

An affordable list of delivery and meal-prep services during the pandemic

<p>Although it may be frustrating having to plan and budget meals more carefully to reduce time spent outside during the pandemic, these alternatives may help to make mealtime less of a burden.</p>

Although it may be frustrating having to plan and budget meals more carefully to reduce time spent outside during the pandemic, these alternatives may help to make mealtime less of a burden.

The global coronavirus pandemic has left many populations in a state of quarantine, and, in places like Virginia, state-wide lockdown. As confirmed cases are on the rise, the last thing we should do is visit crowded places such as grocery stores and risk worsening the virus’s spread. 

In order to avoid going to these stores in person, these online services have been compiled while keeping your health in mind. This list is a compilation of the best affordable alternatives after comparisons with popular competitors within each service to address your hunger needs through meal-prep, grocery delivery and restaurant delivery services.

Meal-prep services

Meal-prep websites include packages with the ingredients required to make delicious meals, shipped to your door with step-by-step instructions and can be chosen while ordering on the site. Subscriptions for meal-kit services can vary through diverse sets of meals from company to company and stay family-friendly with options to order portions for your preferred number of people. Well-known companies such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh can range from $8.99 to $10.99 per meal excluding shipping costs — which usually can be free or cost as much as $7.99, depending on serving size.

If you’re a first-timer to the world of meal-prep companies, I would personally recommend Home Chef as a subscription service. Home Chef allots many options for meat lovers, vegetarians and pescetarians, as well as accommodations for low-carb or low-calorie diets. There are also options to avoid certain foods, such as pork, wheat, shellfish and nuts, to suit your dietary preferences. A shipment includes meals in sets of two to six meals per week for two, four or six people. Options can range from Chicken Florentine Pasta to Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon and change every week — you decide at the beginning of each week which meals you’d like to have shipped to your door. Even though “subscription” can seem like a hard commitment, Home Chef tailors to your schedule and can be canceled whenever you want to skip a week.

Each meal costs $10 initially — regardless of your selection, and by ordering more than four meals, you are eligible for free shipping. After the initial meal selection and order, pricing can become as low as $6.99 depending on your meal selections in the future weeks. With a range of meals that are sure to suit any taste bud, this service is definitely healthier, more affordable and more diverse than the average dine-in restaurant.

Grocery Delivery Service

If you want to cook your homemade recipes and would rather avoid grocery shopping outside, fresh produce can be delivered to your door from local to chain grocery stores through specialized apps and websites. 

One of the most well-known grocery delivery services in the U.S. — with both chain and local grocery stores — is Instacart, an app-based grocery delivery service. From Asian grocery stores such as H-Mart to budget-friendly stores like Aldi and Costco, the app typically allows same-day delivery straight to your door at the cost of $3.99 for any amount of fresh produce and other household necessities. 

If you plan to frequently buy groceries for the rest of the state-wide lockdown, it might be cheaper to sign up for Instacart Express, which allows free delivery on orders over $35, saving  $3.99 to $7.99 per delivery when you pay a monthly fee of $9.99. Instacart also actively helps its users save by including manufacturer coupons under applicable items, keeping prices low and reducing the hassle of finding coupons yourself.

Additionally, Class of 2019 alumni Nicholas Ehat and Fayez Jabboure have started a free grocery delivery service called Social Distance Delivery, that aids those who are at fatal risk for the novel coronavirus. This no-contact delivery, carried out by members of the delivery service, allows individuals to avoid the risks associated with visiting a grocery store in-person and expensive delivery fees that most grocery delivery services may charge. The service operates in Charlottesville, Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Silver Spring, Md. and Wesley Chapel, Flor. The website includes a Google Form where interested people can request a grocery store and up to 25 items to purchase. 

To maintain further safety precautions, CNN created a video demonstrating a doctor-recommended method for quarantining your groceries and ensuring that COVID-19 won’t spread through contact with delivered groceries.

Restaurant Delivery Service

In the event that you miss the food from your favorite restaurants, or if it is inconvenient to use the kitchen, restaurant delivery service apps are available on your mobile phone to order from your favorite local restaurants to popular chain eateries. Especially in times where local restaurants will appreciate support during these financially difficult times, ordering ready-to-eat meals to your door is definitely a great way to provide income to your favorite local eateries.

If you’re a new user of restaurant delivery services, Doordash is a great option to order your favorite restaurant meals to your doorstep. New members can get 30 days of free delivery from any restaurant partnered with Doordash when they sign up, making it affordable to get you the dishes you may be craving during quarantine.

Especially for families, select restaurants that Doordash has partnered with — such as Bojangles, Chipotle and Chopt — are great to order from through its service where orders $15 or more will have free delivery regardless of whether you’re a new or returning user. 

If you find yourself craving restaurant meals frequently, Dash Pass — a Doordash subscription for free delivery for $9.99 a month — might be worth your while. By signing up, you can get the first 30 days free of delivery fees and you can cancel before the next cycle begins.

These alternatives are definitely a luxury and choosing to partake in one of these alternatives is not one that everyone can be fortunate to afford, especially in less-populated areas where these services may not be available. However, if your circumstances allow you to use these services, it may help diminish the reach of the pandemic for those who have no choice but to venture outside for food and other necessities.

Although it may be frustrating having to plan and budget meals more carefully to reduce time spent outside during the pandemic, these alternatives may help to make mealtime less of a burden. By utilizing this list of services to make practicing social distancing easier, meals can be something to look forward to in light of the pandemic. Not only can you then have access to delicious, affordable meals in the comfort of your home, you can help mitigate the overall time of recovery from COVID-19 by staying inside as much as possible.

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