MealPal Review After One Full Year
If you are like me - work from home, don’t want to prepare lunch and need a reason to get out of the house - then MealPal is an incredible way to upgrade the weekday chore of acquiring food. I've used them for a year and wanted to share my experience since I really enjoy it, so here we go...
What is MealPal?
MealPal is a weekday lunch subscription that costs $129.56 per month (after tax) here in NYC. Every day, starting at 5pm the night before your lunch, you open the MealPal app to see what participating restaurants are offering the following day. There is only one option per restaurant and you can’t make any modifications to the order. Once you find what you want, you select a 15 minute window between 11:30am and 2:15pm to pick it up the following day and that’s it - your lunch will be waiting for you at the restaurant at that time.
The selection of restaurants is impressive, and I frequently travel farther than I normally would for a favorite meal. For this same reason, I have discovered restaurants in my neighborhood that I otherwise overlooked as lunch spots.
Certain restaurants on the list, such as Blue Smoke, provide half orders of their normal sandwiches for lunch. Their Shrimp Po’ Boy, a personal favorite of mine, would cost $16.00 from the lunch menu and contains more food than I would be able to eat. The half order is perfect and still comes with the same home-made potato chips and a deviled egg you'd get with the full order. I wouldn’t have even thought to go to Blue Smoke for lunch if it wasn’t for Mealpal, so I’m saving money and experiencing more of what my neighborhood has to offer in the process.
Since I can select my lunch from anywhere in the city, if I need to be in another part of town around lunchtime, it just gives me more of a reason to sample the restaurants in that area.
Below: Every meal I ate during my first month using MealPal
On average, lunch in NYC can cost you between $8 to $12 dollars... minimum. MealPal states that their lunches are $5.99 each (not including tax), but in order to get that price you will need to get lunch every single day it is available to you. Even with a few skips per month, my lunch costs never exceeded $7.05 ($7.62 including tax).
Below: Cost per Meal & Number of Meals per Month (including tax)
The reason you have a pickup time window is so that the restaurant can have your meal ready and waiting for you.
Certain restaurants have high demand for MealPal and just leave your meal out for you to grab and ask you to check your name off a list. Most of the time, since it is lunchtime, there will be a huge line of people waiting to order, and you get to skip the line, get your food, and walk out without ever talking to a person. Other times, you may have to wait while they prepare your food for you, so while you don’t get to walk in and walk out, at least you know it was made fresh.
On average, if I am waiting at all, it's between one and five minutes.
- I ate 218 meals at 43 restaurants.
- My average meal cost $6.72 (including tax).
- I paused my subscription for 22 days at the end of August 2016.
- I missed 23 meals:
- skipped 14 for a variety of reasons
- missed 6 because of holidays
- missed 2 because of snowstorms
- missed 1 because of an account issue, which was handled
My top 5 restaurants:
- 34 visits - Inday
- 25 visits - Fresh & Co
- 16 visits - Choza Taqueria
- 15 visits - Blue Smoke
- 13 visits - Mulberry & Vine
My top 5 meals:
- 17 meals - Bombay Basher with Rice (Inday)
- 13 meals - Mediterranean Bowl (Fresh & Co)
- 8 meals - Fish Sticks & Hand Cut Fries (The Churchill)
- 7 meals - Andina Bowl with Quinoa (Latin Beet)
- 7 meals - Popcorn Shrimp Po Boy (Blue Smoke)
Below: All Restaurants & Number of Times Visited
Below: Lunch By Cuisine Type
The first month I used MealPal, I ate at a different restaurant every day (see photo gallery above), simply because it was possible. These days I use the ‘favorite’ feature to only view the restaurants that I have personally vetted and enjoy.
In January, my partner and I wanted to eat clean and just by selecting the ‘vegetarian’ option from the MealPal menu, I was able to only view meals that were vegetarian. I did it for the month and now continue to try and eat healthier options at lunchtime, primarily because of how easy it is to find and sort by healthy meals. If you are trying to eat healthier but don’t know where to start, it is a hell of a lot easier to pick from a list of healthy options than think about what to make and prepare it.
Waste is probably the only downside to this whole operation, and every day you are picking up another bag with a container that is destined for the trash. Some restaurants use biodegradable bowls and utensils and don’t give you a bag – which I appreciate since I’m eating at home. Other restaurants give you a plastic container, plastic utensils and plastic bag – none of which is biodegradable. I can see that it is solely on the restaurants to decide what they do, but it would be nice if MealPal could push those remaining restaurants to get on the earth tip.
Occasionally, meals will sell out at the good spots, so I have an alarm set for 5pm everyday.
MealPal started as MealPass and then changed their name after a few months. On the exact same day they did this, someone was handing out MealPal shirts when I was picking up my lunch – which is how I got that sweet MealPal shirt.
I honestly don't have anything bad to say about the MealPal service and give it a lot of credit for why I get my lazy butt out of the house every day.
NYC is a restaurant town - if you aren’t eating out at least once in a while, you are genuinely missing out on one of the reasons to live in this city. MealPal allows me to eat out at a time of the day I would rather not prepare food – for less than what it would cost if I bought the same item from that same restaurant – at restaurants I want to eat at!
Unless your schedule is so erratic that you can’t lock down a pickup time the night before, or you are all about the business lunches, I can’t think of many reasons not to use this service if it is in your area.
There is currently a waitlist to signup for MealPal, so if you want to skip the line and get two free meals in the process, please use my referral link: mealpal.com/futur3gentleman.