I Deleted Food Delivery Apps for a Week—and Saved Over $230 in the Process
When efforts to flatten the curve against the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest, I found myself growing more and more dependent on one thing: my Postmates app. I was busy and stressed and constantly doom-scrolling, that the last thing I wanted to do was cook.
Now, eight months after the fact, this is not a habit that I can maintain. While ordering delivery is undoubtedly convenient, it’s also expensive; I was probably averaging around $30, including tip and fees (those really add up, as you’ll see), per delivery four times a week.
Knowing this is a habit that I needed to break, I opted to delete all of my food delivery apps for at least a week. This isn’t a decision I take lightly—whether people are busy with work and kids, and feel like delivery is their only option to getting food on the table on a given night; or rely on food delivery services for health reasons, there are plenty of reasons to be grateful for delivery (and especially for ordering directly from a restaurant, given so many are hurting these days). For me, the decision to break this streak was in my all-around best interest, and seven days is a better start than none.
While I intended to embark on this challenge for mostly financial reasons, it also brought a growing awareness to my eating habits, both good and bad. The only hard rule I gave myself was to go cold-turkey on food delivery apps, and regrettably, I wish I had spent more time prepping for the actual week by shopping for fresh groceries and actually meal planning. But alas.
I deleted my apps Sunday night, so come Monday, I won’t be tempted to roll out of bed and immediately think about finding the nearest avocado toast in a 10-mile delivery radius. Experts have actually said that you don’t need to wait until the beginning of the next week or month to start or kill a habit, but hey, I like what I like.
Day 1 (Monday):
I woke up feeling optimistic about this week. I’m someone who leans into the idea of fresh starts and I was ready to tabulate all the money I was going to save during the challenge. For breakfast, I made myself whole wheat toast with jam and butter, and had a glass of cold brew. Since I’m jumping back into the cooking game, I started really, really simple.
For lunch, I’d normally order a Sweetgreen salad ($25 total, including tip and fees) as a “kick off the week” treat. Instead, I made myself a ham sandwich using my sorely neglected toaster oven: Whole wheat bread, onions, black forest ham deli slices, American cheese, spinach, and mayo. The best thing about sandwiches, in my humble opinion, is you can shuffle through your fridge and decorate your meal with whatever you find.
Dinner was the most intimidating. Since I was just easing back into cooking, I just wanted the day to be simple. I had some Trader Joe’s Clam Chowder that was easily cooked by heating on a stovetop. Overall, I felt confident, and even though I stayed very much within my comfort zone, I did what I promised and did not spend any money on food delivery.
Day 2 (Tuesday):
On Tuesday, I was already regretting not going to the store ahead of time and made a mental note to go after work. For breakfast, I played amateur chef with the remains of the fridge: eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast. I snacked on some dried fruit and “Everything But The Bagel” nuts from Trader Joe’s until lunchtime. I was tempted to order something just because I genuinely did not know what to make, but I ended up making a subpar PB&J and a grocery list. Lesson learned.
After work, I headed to my local grocery store… but I hadn’t thought about making a meal in ages and had more or less forgotten about what I enjoyed. Nevertheless, I grabbed some basic items, like eggs; garlic; fruit; fresh and frozen produce (peas, broccoli, salad mix); and protein (chicken, shrimp, and pork). I also remembered to pick out stuff I liked, like low-sodium veggie straws and hot chocolate.
I don’t know why, but after doing a big grocery haul, I’m always tempted to… not cook said groceries. Any other week, I would have put them aside and ordered some sushi ($35) from down the street. Exhausted as I was, I prepared a very simple protein bowl: jasmine rice, peas, and shrimp with some Trader Joe’s coconut aminos. I learned that half the battle of cooking is just mentally preparing yourself to clean afterwards, but laziness aside, two days down without ordering out.
Day 3 (Wednesday):
I could definitely feel a stronger itch to redownload the delivery apps I had done away with. I woke up later than expected on Wednesday and was too frazzled to make breakfast, which I skipped. I made a mental note to maybe set some alarms for eating periods. By the time lunchtime came around, I was starving and the new groceries in my fridge called to me. I was actually excited to make something.
I took my lunch break to make jumbo stuffed pasta shells that I could eat for leftovers later this week. It was the most elaborate meal I’ve made the entire week and I was genuinely very overjoyed. While I was waiting for the pasta to finish baking, I realized that a week ago, I’d probably be ordering ramen ($25); but instead, I’m making something that I’d never ordinarily eat because most Italian restaurants don’t offer jumbo shells, which felt great.
Not to toot my own horn, but for a surprisingly simple meal, the shells turned out great and I definitely did have leftovers, which I ate for dinner.
Day 4 (Thursday):
Thursday was hard, as Friday Eves often are for me. As a political reporter covering the mess that is 2020, I have since realized how much I depend on eating as a coping mechanism. I more or less forced myself to make an omelette with baby spinach, mushrooms, and onions to avoid skipping breakfast again.
My afternoon was busy, and I did end up skipping lunch, but munched on small snacks (dried fruit and nuts, again). I was beyond exhausted by the time dinner rolled around, so I made my version of a summer salad: tomatoes, lettuce, feta cheese, cucumbers, red onions, and Trader Joe’s green goddess dressing. If I was ordering out, I would have ordered some comfort food from McDonald’s ($30) but I knew the delicious combination of sugar and sodium would have made me feel worse in the morning, so I held off from downloading the app that would connect me to my beloved Golden Arches.
I remember feeling disappointed that I didn’t do anything more today, but all in all, I was still making food for myself (even if not going through the elaborate process of cooking cooking), and giving myself fuel when needed. Small victories.
Day 5 (Friday):
I’m not going to lie: I thought Friday would be the day that I broke my streak. There’s nothing more tempting than saying “screw it, it’s Friday!” and indulging in French toast or eggs benedict ($35). It came to my attention later that I didn’t need to order out to treat myself with nice things and made a note to get pancake mix during my next grocery trip. I had cereal for breakfast, which sounds simple, but eating Lucky Charms made me feel like a happy little kid again.
I wanted to go into the weekend with more creative culinary ideas, so I used the remains of my salad ingredients for lunch and ate the rest of my jumbo pasta shells for dinner. And since Los Angeles is still extremely high risk for the coronavirus, I tried to limit my time out of my house and just rewatch episodes of “True Blood” until I fell asleep.
Most notably, I didn’t feel as stressed about finances at the end of the week as I normally would have. Four to five delivered meals add up and suddenly, I wasn’t missing $120+ from my bank account like I normally would have. I was accomplishing my main goal of saving money, but the challenge was also making me reflect on my relationship with food. Though that isn’t something that be figured out in a week, the challenge showed me that it is possible to repair that relationship and closely examine why—either through therapy or more self-reflection—food holds so much power over my day to day.
Day 6 (Saturday):
Saturday felt like every other Saturday in quarantine: an endless, “Groundhog Day”-ian loop. I realized that I had started to order food in the beginning of the pandemic just for the anticipation I felt for my impending delivery. And while there’s nothing wrong with occasionally treating myself, I was ordering food to avoid looking at my own self-care habits, of lack therefore of.
Did I want to order something from Jon & Vinny’s? Yes. But instead, I resolved to practice other ‘feel good’ acts instead, like doing my laundry for the first time in weeks and cleaning my house. I even journaled and took a bath. For breakfast, I made egg muffins that I saw from an Instagram recipe. I also made a mushroom based bowl with cauliflower rice, sausage, and tomatoes for lunch, and doubled the recipe for dinner.
At this point, I had realized that I had a habit of eating the same thing throughout the day; while it may seem boring or repetitive to some, I was just trying to ground myself in the habit of cooking for myself.
Day 7 (Sunday):
Oh, Sunday. Remember when brunch was a thing? Sundays are the hardest part of the week for me because I struggle with “productivity guilt,” i.e. feeling like I should have gotten more done last week. Without a food delivery to distract me, I had to really examine that fear.
By the time lunch came, I made a big chef’s salad with all the leftover ingredients from my previous meals: ham, hard boiled eggs, shrimp, avocado, mushrooms, and peas. I felt slightly better knowing that my food waste, at least, will be minimal.
Sunday night, I was happy that I made it through the week, but also scrambling to make something that wouldn’t take too much effort. I settled for a breakfast-for-dinner type situation with scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, fresh fruit, and inexplicably, spam. Last Sunday, I ordered delivery twice: Once in the morning ($29) and once in the evening ($48), so comparatively, I saved $77.
Like with any challenge that’s meant to better you, I didn’t enjoy the process so much as I enjoyed the result. I felt more energetic, I had avoided plenty of scary, “you’ve gone over your restaurant budget” notifications from my banking app, and I was able to say I made it a week without food delivery apps.
While I saved over $230 in comparison to my eating habits the week prior, my biggest takeaway didn’t end up being financial at all, but rather an acknowledgement that I had a lot of work to do in terms of my relationship with food. I realized that left to my own devices, I’m very hesitant to branch out due to a lack of trust. This is something that I’m still working through and will definitely take more than seven days to work out.
Will I never order delivery again? Of course not. But have I learned that I can successfully moderate myself and change my habits, even if for a week? Absolutely and during this time, that’s enough for now.