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Fresh Direct Truck
Photo: <a href="LPhoto: arvindgrover on Flickr

As readers of this column (hi, Mom) are well aware, I’m a guy who loves food, hates spending money, has no idea how to cook, and tends to be more than a little lazy. All of which not only makes me a great date, but also keeps me on high alert for cheap, easy grub that doesn’t make me feel terrible about myself after (Dollar Menu, I’m talking to you). I’m no health freak, nor am I even remotely in shape. But I do have an acute sense of guilt when it comes to the food I eat. As happy as I feel when that Whopper’s going down, it’s not quite worth the subsequent self-hatred.

The challenge is finding food that satisfies each category on my checklist:

  • Cheap
  • Convenient
  • Tasty
  • Not outlandishly unhealthy

Which brings us to Fresh Direct, one of the great miracles of modern civilization. If you don’t live somewhere that has Fresh Direct, you should move. It’s pretty much that awesome. In fact, here are the top 10 achievements in human history, just off the top of my head:

  1. The wheel
  2. The zipper
  3. The Internet
  4. Chapstick
  5. Penicillin
  6. Baseball
  7. Agriculture
  8. Moon landing
  9. Fresh Direct
  10. Coffee

We’re talking about the 9th greatest achievement in the history of humankind here. Not too shabby. If you think I’ve ranked Fresh Direct a little high, let me ask: Have you ever been to a supermarket in New York City? The deli counter at my local Fairway is a lot like Europe during the Plague, only way worse. With Fresh Direct, I just log onto the website (or the app), select my groceries, and voilà: food shows up at my door the next day. It’s like magic, and the Fresh Direct delivery guys are way less surly than you’d imagine. Fresh Direct is easy, convenient and the food appears to be fresh and of high quality. Only thing is, it can sometimes feel a little pricy, at least as far as my weekly grocery needs are concerned. I’ve come to regard Fresh Direct as a splurge, an indulgence I allow myself only from time to time, as a reward for several months of  “good” behavior, i.e. schlepping to the grocery store and buying the cheap stuff.

Infrequent usage might be the reason, then, that it took me so long to make what might be the culinary discovery of a lifetime. I speak of Fresh Direct’s game-changing selection of 4-Minute Meals. Check it out.

I took my first 4-Minute Meal for a spin last night—Grilled Shrimp with Butternut Squash & Coconut Rice Pilaf from Tabla—and I’m happy to report that it was downright edible! Did it look anything like the photo on the website? Absolutely not. Did I particularly care? No. Here’s why: It was a random Wednesday night following a somewhat crappy day of work. I was tired, worn out, and thoroughly devoid of either imagination or energy. All I wanted to do was shove some food in my mouth as I stared at the TV. I didn’t want to call anyone. I didn’t want to cook (not that I know how). I didn’t want to shell out 50 bucks on crappy takeout. What I wanted was instant gratification.

Lo and behold, I’d recently been paid a visit from the Fresh Direct fairy. My fridge was brimming with foodstuffs, including several 4-Minute Meals purchased on a whim. Now, I realize I might just be falling for a marketing gimmick here. I actually work in advertising, and if I were to get the 4-Minute Meals account, the first thing I’d want to do is make them appear like a fresher, better option to typical frozen or pre-prepared food. I’m pretty savvy. I get it. But seriously…when I opened up my fridge and saw the Tabla logo staring back at me, it was a marvelous feeling.

Fresh Direct has totally nailed it with the advent 4-Minute Meals. They’ve managed to combine the sensation that I’m eating food from a restaurant I’d actually dine at (Tabla) with the laziness of zapping it in my own microwave and the cheapness of paying $10 for my entire dinner. Brilliant! And as if that weren’t enough, they’ve really hammered home the fresh angle. If their website is to be believed, 4-Minute Meals are prepared fresh each day, which I guess probably means no preservatives and stuff. They also throw the word “wholesome” around quite a bit. Good enough for me!

Tonight, I’ll be microwaving a hopefully delectable entrée from Rosa Mexicana. Olé!


Read last week’s installment of The Unemployed Gourmand: A Cheap Eater in Paradise