I decided to quit the delivery apps at the start of this year. It felt like the right time: 2020 was done, the pandemic was over (it wasn’t) and lockdowns were a thing of the past (they weren’t). With the exception of that day in January when the future of democracy was hanging on a thread, 2021 was shaping up to be a pretty good year.
I had a lust for life and a determination to get back to being like the 2019, pre-Covid, version of me. That guy was a pretty cool dude! He had a lot of potential!
And one way to get back to being that person was to stop using delivery apps so much. 2020 redefined my relationship with delivery food – it did for all of us, right? Whereas before we only used to get together for the occasional night of carb-fuelled passion, one lockdown after another had made us a lot more committed to one another.
I had become hooked – like, actually quite dependent – on these apps and delivery services. So I decided to go cold turkey. The plan wasn’t to quit the apps for good, I’m just not usually one for weaning myself off things (anyone who’s witnessed my pathetic annual coffee “quits” can attest to that). It was more about putting the choice back into my own hands.
And, like any self-respecting writer, I immediately started to think about ways I could take this earnest attempt at self-improvement and turn it into content and monetise it. Luckily, Broadsheet started its first podcast: FYI. I was going to kick a lockdown habit and get paid to make a podcast episode about it. Easy money.
It was not easy money. What I thought would just be a two-week detox turned into a six-month odyssey of failed home cooking, drunkenly sliding into Deliveroo’s DMs, food epiphanies and more. It did, though, result in this episode.
Here are just a couple of the lessons I learned on my journey – and perhaps they’ll help you too, if you get what I’m talking about.
There are some pretty great home-grown alternatives to the big apps
A big part of the reason I decided to take a break from the delivery apps is that, more than ever, I wanted to support local where I could. And one of the few silver linings of this pandemic has been the sheer quantity of exciting, novel ways that the Australian hospitality industry has found to keep the money coming in during these extraordinary times.
Here are just a few of my favourites that I’ve come across. I’m sure there are so many more; it’s really been inspiring to see. There’s Cookaborough, which helps cooks with the logistics side of preparing and delivering ready-made meals; Make Out Meals, which is like Hello Fresh but you’re cooking well-known meals from restaurants; and apps like Food Street, which lets you buy delivered meals from local home cooks and chefs (you can literally buy someone’s caramel slices baked to their family’s recipe). And then there’s also Providoor, which delivers finish-at-home meals from some of Sydney and Melbourne’s best restaurants.
I no longer get food Fomo
Have you ever been in the middle of eating lunch, only to think to yourself, “I wonder what I’m having for dinner?” Back at the start of the year, my food attention span was at an all-time low. Just like how I can’t watch an episode of Seinfeld without checking Instagram at least three times, I couldn’t get through – or really enjoy – a meal without thinking about all the other dishes I could have been eating. I call it “food Fomo”, and before I tried to quit the delivery apps I would get it constantly.
I’d order a burger or a pizza, then about 20 minutes later, just as the food was getting picked up, I’d think to myself, “Yeah, should have gotten a burrito.” For me personally, the apps gave me too much choice. A bit like when you open up Netflix and you just spend 20 minutes scrolling through it, before half-heartedly committing to something you’re not even sure you want to watch. My delivery-app quit experiment really broke that cycle for me: having fewer options to choose from made me enjoy what I ate more. Every time.
It was way harder than I expected
Thanks to the Delta variant – which, just like a piece of gum stuck to your brand new shoes, refuses to go away – the whole thing was much, much harder than I expected it to be.
I had truly underestimated the extent to which I’d become reliant on these apps. The pandemic torpedoed a lot of routines, particularly my food habits. The road back was a lot longer – and had a lot more potholes – than I’d anticipated.
So, did I end up pulling it off? Did the experiment work? You’ll have to listen to the full episode to find out. So instead, I’ll leave you with this: delivery apps are great, and if you can use them without becoming dependant on them, more power to you. But you’ll never regret cooking for yourself, or getting off the couch to directly support the businesses in your community.
Listen to episode five of FYI, “Delivery, I Love You, but You’re Bringing Me Down” here.