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How many times this week have you ordered food from a food delivery app because you are hungry, have no time to cook, and/or are just plain lazy? Bombarded with the number of meal options available online, we often stress, procrastinate, and struggle to find time to plan what to eat amidst our busy schedules. Most of us end up ordering takeout, which is a contributor to expanding waistlines and can be costly over the long term. In fact, research has suggested that a restaurant delivered meal is five times as expensive as cooking at home from scratch and three times as expensive as a meal kit.
From choosing what you like, shopping for groceries, to eating healthy, people who want to plan their meals face many daunting obstacles and the never-ending demands can be stressful and tedious, especially if you are new to the game. While there is a rising trend of meal kit delivery services in recent years, it is twice as expensive as home-cooked meals due to the exorbitant delivery costs, which is not sustainable over the long term.
Here’s why it matters now – Research suggests that the pandemic has re-sparked a joy in cooking for more than 54% of Americans in a USD 11.7 trillion food and grocery retail market size, and more than half of them intend to continue to cook more even after the world reverts to normal, as they find cooking helps them save money and eat healthier.
Understanding customers’ challenges and why it matters to us now, we aim to find a solution that enables users to plan meals in a simple and intuitive manner, thus encouraging them to continue to plan their meals, form healthier habits, save money, and improve their quality of life.
To validate our problem space, we conducted initial screenings and interviewed 5 users to learn more about their behaviors and struggles when they plan their meals.
Based on our initial survey analysis, we learned that most people plan 1-6 meals each week and most of them struggle with choosing what they want to eat.
When diving the topic deeper during our user interviews, we identified some common themes that influence their meal planning process.
Key takeaway: As it currently takes too long for users to plan their meals while keeping their needs in mind, there exists a whitespace for us to find a way to help users in their meal planning process.
Landing on the solution
How might we simplify the process of meal planning so that cooking a variety of healthy and scrumptious meals is a simple and intuitive activity?
The mission of the product is to help individuals thrive and focus in other areas of their lives without worrying about planning what they want to eat. Our hypothesis is that if we provide an end-to-end solution that simplifies their meal planning process, it will:
- Prevent decision fatigue - It stops people from stressing out and procrastinating when deciding what to eat amidst their busy schedules since meals are planned.
- Promote variety and a healthier lifestyle - It enables variety that not only meets your nutrient needs, but also gives you more control over what you are eating, thus encouraging a healthier lifestyle.
- Save money - Not only does it reduce temptation to impulse purchase takeout food, but you are also able to avoid waste since you are planning meals ahead of time.
To narrow our focus in delivering a minimum viable product (MVP) within a tight timeframe, we decided to prioritize our solutions using an importance-prioritization matrix:
From customizing meal preferences to building a calendar planner, Meals Made Easy is a progressive web application that organizes your end-to-end meal planning process.
The MVP we are building assumes the following:
- Users want to plan their meals ahead of time.
- Users prefer to shop for groceries in-store.
- Users need to use recipes to cook.
With that in mind, the MVP of the product includes the following features:
You will be able to personalize your meal choices based on your desired cooking time, diet preferences, and food intolerances.
The meal choices are generated based on your pre-selected preferences. Currently, the meal choices are extracted from the API, Spoonacular, which provides access to more than 10,000 recipes online.
The recipe book provides a list of ingredients and instructions of your selected meal. You can add a recipe onto the meal planner by choosing a meal type and date.
Provides an overview of your meals chosen for the week. You are also able to add, delete, or change the recipes selected.
Lo-Fi and High-Fi Wireframes
Within our time in Co Lab, we had 2 goals:
- We want to create a working hi-fi prototype that allows users to select their preferences, choose their meals, view their recipes, and build a planner in a simple way. When asked users whether it was easy to complete the tasks, 78% of them voted “Yes”. Some of the items they like most about the app include “simple to use”, “simplistic”, “looks clean” etc.
We exceeded our expectations as we not only are able to build a functional hi-fi prototype that meets the aforementioned criteria, but we are working towards providing all of the hi-fi prototype for the next batch of our updates.
‘Coming Soon’ features
(The full list of product wishlists is available here)
- We want to achieve a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of at least 39. For background, the average NPS benchmark in the meal planning SaaS industry is 39. Based on our usability testing, we managed to achieve a NPS score of 80. While we acknowledge that the sample size and standard deviation of our usability testing should be considered, we take this as a positive indication that we are heading in the right direction to solve our customers’ problem.
As a team, we are excited to continue our product journey beyond Co Lab - to explore the possibilities and enable individuals to plan their meals in a simple, interactive, and intuitive manner. We see a world where balanced meals can be easily planned within minutes by anyone regardless of where you are located.
Product Manager Learnings:
- Communicate and manage expectations to avoid scope creep.
- Prioritize and manage sprint planning to deliver our MVP within a tight timeframe.
- Build good active listening skills when conducting user interviews and be able to translate user pain points into actionable user stories for IT development.
- Test early and test often to ensure best possible user experience and remain on the right path.
- Gain familiarity with the agile process.
- Work in a cross-functional team.
- Learned the planning & prioritizing my tasks.
- Acquired experience with the dynamics of a cross-functional team, learning especially about the roles of the product manager and designer.
- Gained an understanding of the relationship between the designer and developer, and how one reinforces the other.
- Learned to be prepared for unexpected complications, especially those that are non-technical, and the challenges that they pose to product development and the team’s agility.
Full Team Learning
As a geographically dispersed team, we learned to:
- Communicate and provide feedback regularly and timely to ensure we are all heading towards the same direction.
- Stay open minded and flexible so that we can adapt swiftly to unforeseen situations.