I have to confess I’m not much of a cook – it’s so complicated from the shopping to the planning to the making, etcetera, etcetera. And, unfortunately, my husband is similarly “cooking challenged.” We eat a lot of peanut butter.
However, there may be hope for us, because one of our cheese making sistas, Cateland White has found a solution to the whole “cooking supper nightmare.” She is so happy with it, she volunteered to tell us about it and to take pictures to go along with it.
Note: Cateland is a very talented writer who resides in Las Vegas with her husband and her adorable 11 year old daughter, Bugsy. In previous articles, she has shared her recipes for Green Tomato Salsa and for Cheese Cookie Appetizers with us. For more about her, click here.
Healthy Home-Cooked Meals…
(In a Box!)
by Cateland White
Having been raised on a Texas cattle ranch, eating fresh organic food was something we took for granted. Of course, this was in the days before the average American diet became all about fast and easy. Today, without the benefits of growing it yourself, eating healthy, fresh and organic requires a monthly grocery bill about on a par with a monthly payment for a new luxury car. In addition, it takes a savvy shopper with the time and energy to read and understand confusing and often misleading labels. As a disabled home-schooling mom, I’m short on both but finding a way to make sure my family eats well is really important. That’s when I discovered meal kit delivery.
Called ‘dinner kit delivery service,’ the last couple of years have seen a boom in the business. Several different companies offer different things; some specialize in diets such as the Paleo while others may focus on vegetarian or vegan meals. I was intrigued! Not only could I cook healthier but there was the added bonus of trying new things and spending a lot less time shopping. Imagine opening your door every week to find a refrigerated box full of ready-to-prepare nutritious, delicious dinners: recipes, fresh organic fruits and vegetables, certified organic meats, poultry, fish, shellfish and spices all included. All I have to have on hand is olive oil, salt and pepper. Sounded like something I just had to try, so I let my fingers do the walking on Google.
We are a family of three who aren’t too picky but don’t care for lamb, nor do we eat a lot of fish, but we do eat meat. Expense was also a consideration. I wanted to be able to have at least five dinners a week and still stay within my monthly, preordained grocery budget. After a little bit of online exploration, I finally decided on two companies: HelloFresh and Blue Apron, two of the dinner kit pioneers, who between them, raised over 100 million dollars in startup money back in 2014.
Both offered weekly menus that appealed to us, but in choosing two services we can have an even broader weekly menu choice. Neither company requires a long term contract and allows you to cancel or skips deliveries as you want. You can choose your day of the week for delivery (we picked Saturday) and don’t worry if you aren’t home when it comes, as both companies designed their shipping materials just for that. As it stands right now, we alternate the two on a weekly basis. Usually. Next week though, Blue Apron’s Seared Sirloin with roasted potatoes and creamed kale was just too good to miss, so we chose it instead.
Our very first box came from HelloFresh. Opening it up, we found a detailed recipe prep booklet, then three labeled white boxes nestled inside a silver insulating wrap. Underneath the boxes were the meats for the meals, lying on four large freezer packs. Each of the boxes contained everything to make it’s particular dinner – veggies, fresh herbs, spices, different ingredients such as tahini paste, soy sauce or honey in little glass jars. Last week’s Thai Beef Satay even came with the bamboo skewers. We are on the family plan, receiving three meals for four people each week. So I cook three meals, refrigerating the fourth serving for a leftover’s night. The portions are generous enough that sometimes we’re able to have five dinners a week.
Blue Apron’s box is set up a little differently and more environmentally friendly. The recipe cards are still there – as is the separate layer for meats – but the veggies and herbs aren’t sorted into individual cardboard containers. Extra ingredients however, are sorted into small brown bags made from recycled paper. Another big plus is that unlike HelloFresh, Blue Apron will send a prepaid shipping label allowing you to send everything back for recycling every two boxes. I’m hoping HelloFresh starts offering this service, soon, too. Their eight freezer packs a month are taking up a lot of freezer space!
HelloFresh deals and coupons are easily and readily available. We got our first box free and pay $105 a week. I haven’t found any for Blue Apron which was a bit surprising as their simpler packaging costs must be far less that HelloFresh. Their meals are pricier, too. We pay $69.95 for two four person meals a week as there is not a three meal per week option.
After three months, I can’t imagine cooking dinner any other way. The added value is in how much less I now spend on an average grocery trip. All in all, we are under budget by almost $100. Putting that savings aside every week pays for a pretty sweet summer vacation!
Update: Cateland sent us this news a week after we posted this article:
After equal and careful consideration, I’ve cancelled Blue Apron because:
Portions are smaller/skimpier, and the ingredients are less appealing. (For instance, BA sent chicken thighs for a recipe. HF always sends chicken breasts.)
After comparing cosst per serving, HF is simply the better value of the two.