Food & Drink

It’s easy to get hooked on fresh, easy meal delivery services

Meal delivery services, such as Blue Apron, can be worth it for the time and energy they can help you save.
Meal delivery services, such as Blue Apron, can be worth it for the time and energy they can help you save. New York Times

Meal delivery services seem to be all the rage these days, and in my opinion, rightfully so. It seems like almost daily another company sprouts up. I think there are well over 12 companies to choose from now. These come-to-your-door meal prep boxes are time-savers, energy-savers and get a lot of people back into the kitchen who would have otherwise eaten fast-food or takeout. I love anything that comes delivery to my back door. Several of my friends laugh that a cook like me would use this type of service. Let me tell you why: I used to spend two to 2.5 hours each night cooking from scratch and cleaning because we like fresh, flavorful food. I now usually spend 30 minutes cooking and another 30 minutes cleaning.

Last summer, when the days were packed and the evenings pretty busy, I thought I’d give Blue Apron a try. I used it for four weeks and overall was quite pleased with their service. The food was fresh and tasty, and the menus were diverse. I even navigated my food allergies pretty easily with this service with a few pantry items to swap out for the more conventional ingredients like gluten free-panko for my serving. There was a panko-crusted cod dish on top of a mustard vinaigrette-dressed arugula that was out of this world.

I went online to do some research on other options because I’d heard there was a service that offered gluten-free food. I signed up for Plated and used it for a couple of weeks. It was good enough but a little too simple for our tastes. I think Plated would be a great option for people feeding families, for that exact reason: Its ingredients aren’t too exotic, and it’s more for everyday tastes.

On to my tried-and-true: Green Chef. This is the all-organic service that has so many options: omnivore, carnivore, gluten-free, vegan, paleo and vegetarian. They have two-person plans and family plans for four. I love many things about this service, first that the food is so delicious and the flavors are so bold and layered, it’s about as good as my own cooking. It’s broadened Randy’s horizons, too. I didn’t realize he’d never had Tuna Poke until we had it one evening.

A major draw to Green Chef is that a lot of the prep work is done for you when it arrives in its neatly packaged box. Sweet potatoes are finely diced, sauces are already made and ready for drizzling, and ingredients are color-coded and correspond to the recipe card. I made up a little system to keep it neatly organized in my fridge with clear plastic shoe containers that fit all the ingredients and the recipe card. The containers are stored in the basement fridge to help keep them fresher longer (that fridge isn’t opened 40 times a day), and I can easily transport one up to the kitchen fridge for cooking that evening.

Green Chef recipes are so good, I hoard the recipe cards to repeat them. I have a folder where I keep the recipes we like and stand the recipes we love vertically in the folder. That way I can locate the recipes we’re super crazy about when I’m going to the store. And, yes, I still go to the store. I get only enough for three meals from Green Chef each week. To name a few of our favorite menus: Moroccan chickpea tagine with sauteed chard, rainbow quinoa and creamy mint sauce; rosemary chorizo linguine with radicchio, frisee and snap pea orange salad; and Tuna Poke Bowl with sushi rice, ginger-scallion relish and bok choy slaw.

The drawbacks to meal delivery service are two-fold: all the packaging you have after you’ve unloaded all the ingredients, and the cost. Although I find it actually saves me money because it keeps my grocery bill even, I don’t waste produce and I don’t buy on impulse, which, for me, always equals spending more. I pay $89 a week for three meals for two people. Often I can get two meals out of my serving, too. Lunch for the next day is always a welcome outcome.

Another fun meal-making option I discovered recently is Wild Tree, an organic meal solutions company. Last weekend, I hosted one of their freezer meal prepping parties at my house. A dozen women came over armed with coolers of meat and veggies all prepped and ready to spice up. The kits we ordered from Wild Tree had seasonings, sauces and oils that we measured and added to the already numbered bags. It was a blast to chat it up and taste some products, and everyone left with 10 meals to fill their freezers. The 10 meals feed four to six people, too, so that was a huge plus for the women feeding families. The two options for the kits that I chose were Primal Goodness and One Stop Crock. Example menus from it are slow cooker lasagna, ranch chicken chili, honey hoisin chicken wraps, Mediterranean roasted vegetables and chicken, adobo steak tips, and sauteed shrimp with spinach salad. It’s another fun meal-prepping, time-saving option for time-starved people who like to feed their families wholesome food. I made both kits so I could gift some meals to some family and friends. Two thumbs up for anything that gets people to eat healthier and two thumbs up for the ease of prep-it-all-at-a-party system.

Instead of a recipe this week, I’m going to give away to the first six people who e-mail a free two-meal trial for two people. You just pay $9 shipping. And in full disclosure, you need to go online and skip the next week because it automatically signs you up for the service. You can try it without ordering ever again, but you might just get hooked like I did.

Adriene Rathbun is an enthusiastic Wichita cook who offers cooking classes through her business, Social. Reach her at socialcookingclasses.com or ar@adrienerathbun.com.

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