Meal Delivery Services Comparison

Someone on FreshChalk asked about meal delivery services, and I wrote up a long enough answer that I thought I’d re-post it here. For context, my partner and I both work a lot, and I’ve been struggling with a back injury. So about 3xs a week we use a meal delivery service. It’s cheaper and healthier than ordering delivery.

So here was the question:
> There are sooo many meal services out there (HelloFresh, HungryRoot, etc.) What are some that you have tried and liked or stuck with or didn’t like so much?

It really depends what you want.
If you truly want a no-cooking solution, avoid Hello Fresh or Blue Apron – they don’t send a meal, they send you a meal kit with ingredients and instructions, you still end up doing prepping and cooking. It was faster for me to cook simple meals on my own. One tip with these two – I sometimes had trouble with getting produce that was not very fresh, but if I wrote them about it, they would always credit me for whatever arrived sketchy.

For good no-cooking solutions, I’ve enjoyed Freshly for a long time but for the last 3 weeks have switched to Cook Unity.

Here’s my Freshly referral link if you want to try them, you get $90 credit and I’d get $30:
Pros: Freshly’s meals are tasty, and the easiest to prepare. Open the seal, pop them in the microwave for 3 minutes, then wait ~2 minutes. Dinner time! There are healthy, low-calorie/high protein choices.
Cons: The meals start to feel repetitive after a bit, like they are all coming from the same chef/restaurant. I hope you like cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles. They come in a box with a LOT of packaging. Frustrating if you’re trying to save the planet. Since the food is all cooked together, there’s not a lot of crisp veggies, it all ends up kind of soggy. If you don’t pro-actively pick your meals for a week by a certain deadline, you get a repeat of last week. OMG, that has happened to me SO MANY TIMES. Once three weeks in a row. Yes, I’m busy.

Then there’s CookUnity. I’ve been trying them for 3 weeks. I haven’t canceled Freshly yet, but I think I’m going to stick with them.
Here’s my referral link, you’d get $50 off, and so would I:
Pros: CookUnity’s meals are tastier, and feel more like you’ve ordered from a restaurant – the options are more diverse and can include things like salad or other crisp veggies. The meat feels like a higher quality too. Servings are super generous, but there are <600 calorie choices too. You can see ratings on meals from other users when choosing, you can schedule your choices weeks out ahead or have them auto-select for you based on preferences, and meals show what chef they are from, so you might find if you like a certain dish, you can try meals from the same chef. The best part: at least where I am, they drop off in a collapsible fabric cooler with reusable ice packs, and the next week they pick it back up again! No crazy packaging, and no filling my recycling with boxes and my garbage with packaging every week! YAY EARTH!
Cons: since the meals have more variety, the instructions for prep do as well: so for example, instead of every.single.meal being “microwave for 3 minutes” sometimes it’s “take the meat out, pour the sauce over it and microwave, then put it over the salad.” it’s always pretty simple though, maybe taking 60 extra seconds over Freshly, and the result (non-mushy veggies) is very worth it. Lastly, their name is weird, I can never remember it.

Notes for both of these:
You can put them on pause when needed, so you could try both and enjoy some discounts, then keep whichever you prefer. I find them filling (5’4″ woman) but my partner (6’1″ man) usually had to add a side – so far, we’ve found CookUnity has larger portions. Both include calorie and protein information, and offer some veggie choices.

Good luck, and feel free to ask me any questions!

Startup Life on a Budget

To rock the bootstrapped startup life, I’ve been living on my savings for a year. This takes a lot of planning. Along the way, I’ve found some budget-version alternatives to former luxuries that pleasantly surprised me. Here are a few examples:

  • Joining a Buy Nothing Project group on Facebook has saved me hundreds. It’s a neighborhood-based gifting economy.  I’ve been given my office desk, haircuts, a yoga mat, clothing, and my most favorite, a brand-new dutch oven. It’s also allowed me to give away a lot of perfectly good items that I just wasn’t using.
  • Cooking at home has allowed me to save money and also eat healthier. Using the aforementioned dutch oven, I’ve learned to make delicious and easy bread with no sugar. And when I do eat out, it’s more of a treat than “ho-hum same ol’ same ol’ routine.”
  • I learned $3.39 mascara is just as good as $20 mascara. Past Cassie was just dumb.
  • Our Seattle Public Library is an amazing resource that I leaned on heavily as a kid. This year I’ve gone back to my roots and rediscovered the library. They now also now provide eBooks, music, audio books, and streaming movies. Having an SPL card means free membership to courses.
  • Starbucks provides free refills on coffee and tea to go with your free wifi. Instead of spending $4-5 on a fancy, sugary drink I spend $2-3 on a drip and refill once or twice. Drip at home is even cheaper.
  • I quit going to my fancy schmancy gym and found an alternative solution: running outside and doing free weight training group classes at 24 Hour Fitness. This saved me $1400 in a year.  (Again, what was past Cassie thinking?)
  • And, finally, a one hour massage can be had for $35 via reflexology massage places like this one in Fremont. I’ve only done that once (and it was honestly a gift) but it was awwwwesome.

In addition to spending less, this lifestyle change has lowered my sugar intake, caused me to have fewer items that I don’t really need, and taught me to appreciate the wonderful free activities in life like going on walks, reading a good book, exercising, learning something new, or of course, spending time working on moving your business forward.  While I look forward to making a salary again some day, I’m hoping these priceless lessons will stick with me forever.

Side note: remember time is money, especially when working on launching a startup, so be careful not to always over-optimize for the cheapest option. This topic could be a whole additional post.

Movies to see in 2024

They say a startup takes 5-10 years, so let’s say in about 7 years I can watch movies from 2016. Here’s a short list of what I’d like to catch up on then:

Hail, Caesar!
La La Land

I made time to see Rogue One and Hidden Figures and they were both well worth it.

The Problem with Blogging

I learn new things and change my mind. But the blog, she is eternal.
Is it better not to speak for fear of inadvertently speaking ill? Probably not, but it seems unnecessary to overexpose oneself to critique unless there be some large gain worth the risk.
What does one get from blogging? Self-expression, I suppose, but that can be gained through good conversations. And with good conversations, there comes an inherent understanding that this is my position now, knowing what I know now, and that is all. There is more empathy from the listener, more of a desire to reach understanding – the gentle grace of giving one the benefit of the doubt because you trust their good-willed nature. Alternatively, everyone on the internet is some hideous fiend that needs to be proven wrong and argued with at length, or so it seems.
Aside from a more approachable attitude between people engaged in face-to-face conversation, there’s also the ability to have context. For example, in the future someone can say, “In 2016 Cassie Wallender wrote, ‘everyone on the internet is some hideous fiend that needs to be proven wrong’.” And they would be technically accurate, but missing the flow of my statement entirely.
So I struggle baring my soul online. Because I enjoy writing, but this seems like an abysmal trap.

Risk and Privilege

To quit one’s job and start a company is a terrifying thing, a huge risk.

But let’s reframe that with gratitude: to be able to quit one’s job and start a company is a huge privilege.

I feel so lucky for this opportunity to embrace the risk, not that I haven’t worked for it, but there are so many things that could have worked against me but did not. Along the way I had amazing family, friends, colleagues, bosses, and mentors who believed in me and helped me gain the confidence to take this plunge.  Because those who said, “You can!” out numbered those who said, “You can’t!” the later became the exception rather than the rule.

So thank you, dear ones, for all your support and encouragement. You’ve changed my perspective on what I can accomplish.  And thank you to the founders I’ve worked for, for showing me by example what can be achieved.

Please be patient with me as I may be mostly unavailable for the next ten years.  And never stop telling others they can do it. 🙂

Never Check Out

I see so many people check out their last two weeks (or months!) on the job.  I have a personal policy against it. Why?

1.) Empathy
You wouldn’t want someone checking out on you.  If you are somewhere, be there. Help smooth transitions, document tribal knowledge, and set those you leave behind up for success as much as possible.

2.) Reputation
You’ve established a reputation for years.  Don’t blow it away in your last month. Once I’ve left a company, I want to be remembered fondly as a person of great work and high integrity.