Perhaps you’ve already figured out that I like to cook. But meal planning is hard for me. It takes too much brain power I’d rather use for other things. For the last year, I’ve had a subscription to the Fresh 20, which is a meal planning service that uses twenty fresh ingredients or less every week (plus “pantry staples” like rice, pasta, oils, and spices) for five weeknight-friendly meals. They offer various meal plans, but we subscribe to the “classic”, which provides shopping lists, prep guides, recipes and nutritional information for three meat or poultry meals, one seafood meal, and one vegetarian meal each week.
Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with it. It works out to about $5 a month, with I think is worth it for someone to tell me what I’m making for dinner five nights a week. Some of the recipes are duds, but as I become more experienced with their menus, I can usually spot those and either skip them or adjust to our tastes. But mostly, the meals are at least as good as what I’d come up with, and offer enough variety to keep us from getting into a rut.
Though I plan to continue using the Fresh 20 at least through the end of our subscription, and may renew for another year for a different plan (paleo is a possibility), I’ve been interested in meal delivery services. I’d heard positive things about both Blue Apron and Home Chef. A friend had a code for $50 off the first order from Home Chef, so I decided to give it a go!
For us, home delivery meal service is a splurge, but with the credit applied, our first two meals (each for four people), came to just under $30. We hardly ever eat at restaurants, and even getting a coffee or muffin is something special, so I wanted to try this as an alternative to dining out.
The meals all sounded delicious, but for nearly $10 a head (prior to discount), I wanted to choose something that sounded particularly special. I chose omnivorous options, and specifically: sirloin steak with bleu cheese butter compound butter with green beans and fingerling potatoes; and cider beurre blanc pork tenderloin with parmesan-roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts.
The box arrived today, on schedule. I opened it up and was pleasantly surprised that the ice packs are eco-friendly and recyclable, and the insulation is made from recycled cotton, and is recyclable or compostable. The ingredients for each meal are grouped together, so I didn’t have to worry about separating them. There were a lot of bags, but I plan to reuse some of the zipper bags after washing, and recycled the rest.
The instruction cards are a full sheet, which is larger than I had anticipated. The visual instructions are nice, and I assume extremely useful for people who cook rarely. I particularly appreciated the notes explaining which ingredients should be used in two different places, as with the Fresh 20 I often accidentally use all of an ingredient in one dish, forgetting that I will need to save some for another dish.
I chose to make the steak tonight. I was super excited to give it a try, and was particularly looking forward to the bleu cheese butter compound. The recipe card said everything would take about 50 minutes, and that was spot on. The potatoes came out well, the green beans with grape tomatoes were tasty, and the steaks were a good quality. However, they must have still been a bit frozen in the middle, despite seeming to be ready to cook, because they came out quite rare in the middle, even after additional cooking. Though I must admit that I am not particularly skilled at cooking steak, so that may have had something to do with it. The portions were generous, and even with Walters-sized adult appetites and the small fry dining as well, there was a full portion left over for Chuck to take to work tomorrow.
I plan to try to pork dish tomorrow night. If it turns out as well as today, I will likely order from them again, though I am not sure how often. It was a treat to have a really special meal at home, and the price with the credit could not be beat at the grocery store. Paying full price ($80 for two four-person meals) is less clearly a good bargain, but given that I don’t have to worry about finding ingredients or having wasted product left over, I can see myself using this service at least every once in a while, especially for recipes or techniques that are new to me. And, looking at the upcoming menus, there are plenty of dishes I’d love to try!
Have you tried a meal service? I’d love to hear your experiences!