Disclosure: This post is peppered with affiliate links and codes that help support Mary Makes Good by earning itty-bitty commissions or freebies. Some of them even get you special deals, so yeehaw!
This post is part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance’s 2016 City Guide. Check out the full guide for local blogger recommendation for the best eats in Austin.
I’m all for a good old-fashioned home cooked meal. In fact, I look forward to my time in the kitchen each day. To me, cooking is almost like meditation. I get to focus on one task at a time, quieting my mind from its usual marathon of anxiety and distraction. On a good day, my spouse entertains our child in the other room and it’s just me in there – slicing, dicing, and frying my worries away.
Then there are the bad days, the days when even making it into the kitchen, much less out to a grocery store seems impossible. These are the days when I am extra grateful to live in a bustling, food-obsessed city.
Thanks to our collective gluttony and technical savvy we Austinites are spoiled for choices when it comes to food. With the push of a button we can have groceries, take-out, or even home-cooked meals delivered right to our door.
Our cars may not be flying across invisible highways in the sky, but the future isn’t completely disappointing.
I’ve created the following guide to make your dining-in experience that much easier.
The Staples: Grocery Delivery
These services are here to rescue you when you can’t make it out for milk, bread, or whatever else you might need. As an added bonus they can also help us impetuous people avoid impulse purchases that harm our wallets and waistlines.
- Instacart – Instacart has been sweeping city stores ever since its launch back in 2014. Order groceries (and whatnot) from nearby stores including HEB, Whole Foods, Costco, Spec’s, Wheatsville, Tomlinsons, and Petco through a handy app on your phone or computer and have them delivered to your door in as little as an hour. Delivery fees vary from $1.99 to $5.99 depending on your total and how soon you’d like your delivery. You can also adjust the suggested gratuity to your preference. The app does up-charge the groceries a bit so that adds an extra cost. However, Instacart just recently started including deals and sale items which helps bring that down a little. Use the following code to get $10 off your first order: MMACNALLY1
- Prime Now – Amazon has branched out into yet another venture by adding one-hour delivery service for Prime customers using the Prime Now app. At first I thought this was some over-the-top bologna, but I have to tell you that this has saved my butt several times now. On top of a small (and seemingly random) selection of usual Amazon-type items the Prime Now app is also offering a similarly small and random selection of fresh produce for folks in Central Austin. The big bonus here is that grocery delivery is either free or very cheap depending on how soon you need it. Don’t have Prime? Click here to try a Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.
- Postmates – This app has a focus on restaurant takeout but also delivers a small selection of groceries and staples from places like HEB, Walgreens, and 7-Eleven. The delivery fees on Postmates range all the way from $1.99 to $20+ so it’s not always the best bargain. However, they do run freebies and specials pretty regularly so that’s fun.
- CSA Deliveries / Farm Shares – There are also businesses that will hook you up with a weekly (or bi-weekly) delivery of local and seasonal produce. For ultra-local and organic produce check out Johnsons’s Backyard Garden. In addition to a traditional Texas produce CSA, Farmhouse Delivery also offers weekly shares on meat and poultry and allows you to add dairy, artisan foods, and other goodies to your delivery each week. Both services are a great ways to bring out your inner locavore.
All the Ingredients: Meal Plan Services
OK, so you want to cook but you don’t want to spend a lot of time planning your menu and grocery shopping… OR, maybe you just want to learn how to become a better cook, or maybe you just really enjoy being told what to do! No matter what your motivation is, the following services will gladly send you fresh ingredients and recipes to create meals at home (with your own two hands).
- Blue Apron – This meal plan program focuses on classic dinners that can be customized slightly to accommodate vegetarian or pescetarian diets. The site offers 2-person and 4-person plans for couples and families. When I looked at their site the menu included recipes such as Steak Tacos, Meyer-Glazed Tilapia, and Goat Cheese & Kale Quiche. Price per serving runs around $10.
- Gourmet by Numbers – This locally owned service claims to share meals that are easy to prepare and ready in 30 minutes or less. A peek at their recipe selection showed simple, but somewhat exotic fare such as Asian Lettuce Wraps, Chicken Tikka Masala and Vegetable Posole. Flexible subscriptions start at just $35. (You can check out Linda’s experience with Gourmet by Numbers on Girl Eats World.)
- Hello Fresh – Featuring dinner plans for vegetarians or omnivores in 2-person or 4-person sizes, Hello Fresh focuses on healthy recipes and adding star-power by teaming up with the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver. When I scoped out their menu, Hello Fresh was featuring recipes including Proscuitto-Wrapped Chicken, Shrimp & Lemon Risotto, and Tunisian Freekeh Stew. Price per serving runs around $9 – $12. Tip: Click here to save $45 off your first 3-box order or click here to save $40 off your first family-sized box.
- Plated – Similar in nature to its competitors, Plated seems to focus a little bit more on appearing gourmet. Offering 3-dinner/week meal plans for two at about $12 per meal, the site claims that you can swap recipes and input personal taste preferences after signing up. When I perused their weekly menu I saw Korean Beef Tacos, Roasted Veggie Bowls, and Sicilian Calamari over Israeli Couscous.
Something Different: Cooked Meal Delivery
These services all offer something a little different. Unlike restaurants, these catering/delivery operations exist for the sole purpose of bringing ready-to-eat food right to your door. In true Austin style our city offers some pretty creative ways to do so.
- MyTable – I have to tell you, I am rather dubious of the legality and safety of such operations, but hey, you live how you want to live, baby. It’s your world. This app specializes in connecting home cooks with neighborhood eaters. These cooks sell dishes by the serving that are either prepared at home or in MyTable’s common professional kitchen. The meals vary based on what’s literally cooking in your neighborhood and you can view each meal’s past ratings and each cook’s profile and cooking background when you order. Cooks choose whether their meals are available by pickup or delivery and the app shows how far they are located from you. I haven’t tried this out, but it intrigues me both as a cook and an eater. If you’ve had experience on either end of the deal please let me know. I’d love to hear about it.
- DemandFood – The mission of this simple delivery service is to make the business of eating more efficient. With small daily menus that include simple meals ranging from $5-$10 (including Soylent!) these folks are making good on their plan. The delivery area currently services central and downtown Austin. Use the following code to get $10 off your first order: MARYHELEN
- NimbleFoods – Nimble Foods also offers a small daily selection of foods for delivery but with a cozier vibe. The menu is made with local and seasonal ingredients and includes both gluten and dairy free options. Nimble Foods delivers to Central Austin and menu items run around $8.
- SuperNaturalFoods – For something ultra healthy, check out Super Natural Foods. These folks specialize in raw, vegan, and organic cooking, offering a meal delivery service that caters to a very specific dietary preference. These weekly plans include 3 meals a day plus fresh juices, booster shots, and herbal supplements. Plans start at $160 and their delivery area is huge.
- The Soup Peddler – Austin’s classic food delivery service, The Soup Peddler started out with the founder literally peddling homemade soup to neighborhood doorsteps. It’s a personal favorite of mine so I wanted to make sure and include it. The Soup Peddler recently handed over their delivery service to Favor which you can learn more about in the following section.
Just Feed Me: Restaurant Takeout Delivery
And now for the big list! Austin is bursting with takeout delivery options. Many restaurants and chains have their own delivery and ordering apps so be sure and check your favorite places to see if they have their own. My list is going to focus on the apps that provide a selection of dishes and restaurants right from your computer or smartphone.
- Postmates – I mentioned these guys back in the grocery section. Their main focus is on takeout delivery and they do a great job (in my humble opinion) of making the whole phone ordering experience very fun and appealing. Their delivery fees can be cheap at time, insane at others, but their regular sales, promos, and freebies keep things fun. Postmates delivers to most of Austin, but make sure and do a small test on the app to see if they service your zip code before trying to place a big order.
- Prime Now – In addition to grocery delivery Amazon Prime is also getting into the restaurant delivery game. Prime users in central Austin can now order restaurant takeout through their Prime Now apps! And, for a limited time restaurant delivery is free for those lucky folks. Use the following code to get $10 off your first restaurant order: EATNOW10. Don’t have Prime? Click here to try a Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.
- Favor – Favor’s big claim to fame is that they will fetch and deliver pretty much anything to your door. Of course, us app addicts tend to prefer ordering from the curated list of partnering restaurants and menus found in-app. It is nice to know, however, that you are free to cook up any crazy request you like – at a price. Favor’s delivery fees and suggested gratuities are not for the fiscally faint of heart. Oh, and their delivery area focuses mostly on central Austin so check that zip before getting your hopes up. Use the following code to get $5 off your first Favor: MARYL4G
- Bitesquad – Bitesquad services a decent portion of the city but the delivery prices climb and availability declines as your distance from central Austin increases. They do have a good selection of popular restaurants on board including fun places like Michi Ramen, Lucky’s Puccia’s, and Daily Juice. Tip: Keep an eye on your snail mailbox for discount codes and freebies.
- UberEats – It’s like an app within an app. UberEats offers a small selection of menu items that change daily and can be delivered to your door very quickly. Just open your Uber app and tap on the little plate icon on the top of the screen to view daily selections.
- Eat24 – This app is connected to Yelp so it makes the whole review sleuthing to ordering transition pretty easy. Delivery fees and minimums vary but tend to be pretty reasonable and the app services most of the city with a decent selection.
- GrubHub – This app seemed to have the lowest delivery fees, so with a similar setup and selection to its competitors it is worth checking out.
- The Rest: Seamless, Delivery.com, Dine on Demand – These apps are all fairly similar in nature, price, and service area. The only really notable differences (to me) would be that Dine on Demand offers gift certificates and Delivery.com allows users to earn points on their orders which is kind of neat. Tip: Save $7 at Delivery.com when you sign up using my link.
So that’s that! Happy eating, Austin! I hope I’ve made the task of acquiring your next meal a little easier. Did I miss something? Have a favorite app or delivery service that didn’t make my list? Shoot me an email, leave me a comment, or Tweet me at @MaryMakesGood and let me know.
This post is part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance’s 2016 City Guide. Check out the full guide to find posts on everything from Tacos to Bloody Mary’s from bloggers right here in Austin.