Now that your home office is filled with gadgets to help you stay productive while working from home, it’s time to turn your attention to other critical needs like, say, food.
“Shelter in place” is easier said than done when your pantry is empty, and that’s just one of several essential services that might force you to go out when you’d rather stay in. Before you grab your hand sanitizer and head out the door, hold on. Here’s how to order and access everything you need, from food to entertainment, online
Many restaurants and eateries have moved toward a takeout or delivery-only strategy. If your favorite local restaurant delivers directly, go with that option; it’s often less expensive than a third-party service. That said, most restaurants switching to delivery rely on a third-party for delivery service that’s accessible through an app.
If you’re looking to have something delivered from a chain, then you’ll want to use Grubhub. You can order food from places like Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s, Burger King, and more. You can order just as you would in person with the mobile app. You can even customize some of the dishes to your liking.
To help local restaurants that are adversely affected, Uber Eats is waiving its delivery fee for orders from independent restaurants. If you’re looking at one of your favorite local eateries, then you’ll want to make sure to leverage this offering. Otherwise, Uber Eats’ delivery fee can be as high as $5.
Another solid option, Postmates can deliver a variety of food options that span franchise favorites and local eateries. This service offers a strong selection and a solid app experience that keeps you up-to-date on your food’s journey. The delivery fees can add up, however, so don’t plan to use this service for every dinner.
Another food-delivery service to keep in your rotation is Seamless, as you may find places that are otherwise not available with the other services. There’s even a rewards system in place that helps users to unlock various perks, such as free delivery or discounts.
Delivery is wonderful when you’re pressed for time, but it’s expensive. Most people can’t afford to have even one meal delivered every day, never mind all three. Grocery-delivery services can fill the gap.
Most of these services aim to deliver within a few hours but, due to the surge in demand, delivery windows are often several days out from the time you order. You’ll need to keep that in mind and plan ahead if you want to avoid grocery stores entirely.
Want groceries? Amazon Prime subscribers have access to Amazon Fresh, the company’s grocery-delivery service. You pick out what you need online and it’ll be delivered to your address, much like anything else you buy on Amazon.
It’s worth noting, though, that it’s only available in select cities. Also, the service has been hit by severe demand, which has led to limited delivery dates in the largest cities.
Residents in the Northeast may want to also check out FreshDirect, an online grocer that delivers to major metropolitan areas such as New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
As its name implies, the service provides users with locally sourced items and organic foods. In addition to fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood, FreshDirect also offers an assortment of beers, wines, and spirits. The only drawback is that FreshDirect has limited distribution, so you won’t be able to order from the service if you’re outside the most populated areas.
Instacart is essentially Grubhub or Postmates, but for groceries. You’re connected with a personal shopper who picks up your items from your choice of local stores. Because this service isn’t tied to any one supermarket, the range of items that you can order is extremely broad. Service fees are charged, but tend to be in line with what you’d pay when ordering directly from a supermarket that offers delivery.
There’s one big downside. Your personal shopper won’t know what’s in stock before attempting to buy what you order, and will then have to figure out what (if any) replacement is available. High-demand items, like toilet paper or eggs, often won’t be in stock. And if they’re not, well, you’re out of luck. You won’t be charged for that item, but you won’t receive it, either.
Our recommendation? Order early in the day, as stores open. You’ll have a better chance of receiving what you want because stores restock overnight.
Local supermarkets and services
While these are the major names, a number of smaller food-delivery services have appeared in the last few years.
The expansion of food delivery across various supermarkets has taken off because brands are often owned by larger companies. Kroger, the largest supermarket company in the United States, now offers drive-up and delivery services. Kroger also owns a number of regional chains, like Dillons, Fry’s (the supermarket, not the electronics retailer), and Fred Meyer. These all offer delivery.
Yet the conglomerates aren’t alone. Premium delivery-only grocery companies have popped up in many large U.S. metro areas. Examples include Good Eggs and Mercato. These companies tend to focus on premium groceries at higher prices. This seems to mean better availability of items, but it will cost more.
Shelf-stable goods can be shipped
As a final tip, remember that shelf-stable goods can be shipped. Major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, and Target can ship a broad range of groceries. Need nuts, cereal, or sugar? These are all items that can be shipped. This reduces delivery fees and and can make goods easier to find. Also, the major retailers generally offer free shipping on orders over $35.
Working from home can be a challenge with all of the distractions, but that’s exactly what you need when there’s downtime. The most accessible form of entertainment will come from the various video-streaming services out there, which are handy if you need to keep kids occupied while you’re working. We have a few recommendations below, covering some of the popular streaming services out there — and one that’s free.
There’s no surprise that Netflix continues to be the go-to streaming service for all your binge-watching needs, given that it offers something for everyone. While its catalog covers an array of content, it’s supplemented by the company’s original TV shows and flicks. If you haven’t taken the plunge, there’s a free 30-day trial for new users — with monthly subscriptions starting at $9 per month.
It’s the new kid on the block that’s been making significant waves ever since its introduction. No, Disney+ isn’t just for kids, especially when the service also packages content from ESPN and National Geographic. While popular movie properties from Star Wars and Marvel are sure to keep subscribers occupied, there’s also some original content to check out.
Known for its stellar lineup of TV shows, Hulu has grown over the years to expand its premium content to include movies and live television. What’s also nice is that the starting price for its subscription is $6 — making it an affordable option if you’re able to tolerate watching some ads. If not, there are other plans that are ad-free and can even replace your traditional cable TV service.
While you can subscribe to Hulu on its own, you can also purchase it as a bundle with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $13 a month. That’s one of the best deals in streaming right now.
Monthly subscriptions are what drives these streaming services, but if you truly want a solution that’s free, then check out Crackle. Whether it’s on your phone, tablet, or PC, you’ll be able to watch movies and television shows without paying a dime. Sure, the lineup may not have the latest or most compelling content, but there’s still some decent stuff available on occasion. You’ll just have to put up with ads.
It’s not prime-time television, but don’t count YouTube out. It’s available on almost every device with a screen, and it’s free. And there’s certainly no shortage of content available.
Concentrating can be a challenge when you’re stuck at home, even more so when you have a busy household. Music-streaming services are useful in keeping you focused, or even entertained if you’re just looking for a break. Here are some music services that’ll do the trick.
If you own an iPhone, chances are you’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem. Apple Music is the logical choice for users, with its library of over 60 million songs, the ability to download for offline playback, and exclusive content. You get all of that for $10 per month for individual accounts, but there’s a free 3-month trial period.
Music doesn’t have to be isolated into one particular platform, which is why Spotify has become the most appealing music streaming service on the market. Not only do users get access to millions of songs, but there are also podcasts and videos to keep you occupied. The base service is free, while the $10-per-month Spotify Premium service includes the ability to download songs, ditch ad interruptions, and enjoy unlimited skips.
YouTube is best known for its videos, but it also has an entry in the audio space with YouTube Music. The service doesn’t differ greatly from other music-streaming services, but does offer a free service that’s supported by ads. Subscriptions start at $10 per month, which snags you higher-quality 256Kbps audio quality, unlimited skipping, and an offline mode.
Pandora is a relatively ancient option, mainly supported by ads in between songs. The service is accessible through a host of gadgets and platforms, including a web-based player, where users are able to select stations that best fit their taste. The Pandora Plus subscription, priced at $5 per month, will eliminate ads.
Video chat has become popular thanks to services like Apple’s FaceTime and Google Duo, but mainly limited to one-on-one interactions. Then there are videoconferencing services that multiple people to speak and collaborate at the same time. Most people know these services from the office, but they’re now a popular way to hang out.
Zoom has become the preferred videoconference service for many people. The free service offers plenty of value, including the ability to host up to 100 participants, unlimited number of meetings, and a generous time limit of 40 minutes for calls with three or more participants. If that’s not enough for you, Zoom’s plans start at $15 per month.
Productivity-conscious users will absolutely love what Microsoft Teams has to offer as a videoconferencing service. It heavily integrates with Office 365, offering collaboration in various office documents and video calls with the free service option. You’ll need to sign up for its $5 per month Business Essentials service to gain videoconferencing for up to 250 people.
If you don’t intend on having more than 10 participants, consider the free service with Google Hangouts. Naturally, you’re not going to find any additional features beyond the ability to video chat with multiple people simultaneously. But hey, in this period of economic uncertainty, free goes a long way.
Similarly, there’s Skype, another free solution for conferencing. It’s a step up from Google Hangouts, with additional features such as conferencing for up to 50 people, the ability to send SMS with Skype, and even a background blur to hide any unwanted distractions.
Most popular in gaming communities, Discord is a full-fledged chat application with support for voice chat and videoconferences. It can also be used for livestreaming and screen sharing. In fact, Discord has unlocked or expanded several of its free voice and videoconference features in response to recent events. Check out Discord’s blog for more information.
Just like streaming services, gaming services can be crucial when it comes to being quarantined. There are several to get your gaming fix, with many of them offering multiplayer online support, so you can still play on with some of your best buds.
If you happen to own a Switch, it’s worth subscribing to Nintendo Switch Online. For a single payment of $20 for an entire year of service, you get access to games from its original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System and 16-bit Super Nintendo consoles. On top of that, you also gain multiplayer support online for all of the Switch’s titles.
If console gaming isn’t your thing, then check out Apple Arcade for your iOS devices. For the $5 per month subscription, you’ll have access to over 100 ad-free games in its collection. These aren’t your typical freemium games, as many of them come from top-tier developers. You can expect quality titles with excellent replay value.
Cloud gaming continues to evolve, and one of the services to keep on your radar is Google’s Stadia. You don’t need a physical console to play the quality titles in its library, but you do need to invest in the Stadia Premiere Edition, which includes a Chromecast Ultra and Stadia Pro controller. Once you have those, you’ll be able to stream games directly using the Chrome browser, a Pixel smartphone, or connected television with the Chromecast Ultra. Pricing for Stadia’s Premiere Bundle starts at $129.
Xbox Game Pass
Do you happen to own an Xbox One or Windows 10 PC? With a library of over 100 quality console and PC games to choose from, Xbox Game Pass lives up to its reputation of being the Netflix of video games. Unlike Stadia, which leverages streaming technology, a subscription to Xbox Game Pass allows you to download games directly to your device.
Plans start out at $5 per month for dedicated PC or Xbox One access, but the $15-per-month plan combines both, and is also packaged with an a Xbox Live Gold subscription. However, the first month is only $1.
There are games that are just meant for the PC, which is why GeForce Now is the route to go if you’re a dedicated PC gamer. It’s a cloud gaming service that streams games you own in your library to a supported device in 1080p resolution at 60 FPS — so the action and intensity closely matches what you get with dedicated local play. Instead of having access to a library of titles like some of the other services, you can only stream games with GeForce Now that you’ve purchased and add to your online library. The list of GeForce Now-compatible devices also includes Android smartphones.
You can start using GeForce Now for free, with a game session limit of one hour. Subscribing for $5 per month ditches that limitation, provides priority login access, and adds access to Nvidia’s RTX ray tracing in games that support it.
Shadow Cloud Gaming
Another PC gaming service comes to us courtesy of Shadow Cloud Gaming. The premise is very similar to GeForce Now, since it’s a cloud-based subscription that allows users to stream PC gaming titles to mobile devices and laptops with low specs — or just about any device that can access the internet.
However, unlike Stadia or GeForce Now, Shadow is actually a PC virtualization service. When you log in, you gain access to a fully functional PC, complete with a Windows desktop interface. That means Shadow can play any game that’s available on Windows. Plans start at $12 per month.
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