I’m getting bored writing reviews of meal kits, but I want to at least finish this project. After trying Green Chef this week, I only have one more meal kit company to try (Marley Spoon), and then I’ll be ready to give my final verdict as to which is the best Meal Kit company. But I’ll give you a hint: it’s not Green Chef. You’ll have to wait until my review of the company to hear why, however.
I made the Chicken Katsu Noodle salad with cabbage, carrots, pineapple & pickled ginger tonight and shared it with my daughter. We weren’t particularly impressed.
First, as the cook, I really resented all the needless preparation. The cabbage, pineapple and pickled ginger had already been processed and cut into strips or cubed – and yet I was told to chop them. Why not go all the way and send them chopped? Most annoyingly, the instructions asked that I cut the chicken breasts horizontally into two thin cutlets. That’s the sort of task that requires sharp knives and knife skills. I did a fairly good job of it, but it shouldn’t be left to the home cook to do this preparation.
I did enjoy the chicken, however. The chicken cutlets were dipped in tonkatsu sauce, breaded with panko crumbs, sauteed on both sides for 3 minutes and then cooked in the oven for 6 more. I really would like to know why I couldn’t just finish the whole thing on the stove (I hate having to preheat the oven), so Green Chef fails for not explaining this. But my daughter really liked the chicken and it looks like the sauce is available commercially and it’s also fairly easy to make.
The noodle salad, OTOH, was a disappointment. It lacked flavor and none of us liked it.
I also wasn’t thrilled that the meal didn’t have any exotic ingredients. At this price point, I expect it to include things I can’t easily get at my supermarket. In all fairness, it did have some very cool looking black & white sesame seeds – but that was just for show – and it did include pickled ginger in the salad, but the salad sucked.
This meal kit had 580 calories per serving. It was on the small side and I was left hungry (but then again, I didn’t want to eat the salad).
The regular price for this meal kit is ~$26. I paid $10 with a discount, and really, I wouldn’t pay more than that.
What I love best about Gobble meals is that it takes only 15 minutes to cook a meal. And yet sometimes, I don’t have the wherewithal to spend a mere 15 minutes cooking. Saturday night was one such night.
So I made the steak and microwaved the rice, and omitted the vegetable stir fry. The steak was good, the sauce was yummy on the rice. The rice was also very good (if Gobble fails, they should go into the business of selling refrigerated rice – they do an amazing job with it). It was a perfectly fine meal. I was left hungry, even though I had the bigger half of the steak and most of the rice (my husband had gone with the kids to ice cream, so he wasn’t hungry), but that may be because I didn’t make the stir fry (though if I had, I’d still not have eaten it, as it’s not my type of thing).
All in all, not my favorite Gobble meal, but acceptable.
I think I paid around $14 for this kit with a “welcome back” promotion. I would not have been happy to pay full price ($26) for this.
Sometimes, often times, it’s in the sauce. Indeed, in this recipe of Steak au Poivre with Crispy Fingerling Potatoes, it was all the sauce.
The steak, sirloin, was fine but unexciting. The potatoes were blah – I mean, good, but just potatoes. But the sauce was very good and therefore, so was everything else.
The dish also included creamed kale. I wasn’t going to eat it, so I didn’t bother making it.
But this kit was another winner.
I paid around $16/$8 for this kit/per serving. Again, I thought it was worth it.
Sauce au Poivre
This sauce is to be served with steaks. I’ve doubled the quantities but it will probably still serve 2.
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 4 tsp Dijon mustard
Add olive oil to pan where steaks were cooked and heat over medium heat. Add peppercorns and shallot and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, until the shallot starts to soften. Add wine and cook for 1-2 minutes, scrapping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and mustard, stir and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
I was pretty lucky with my Plated kits last week – flavor wise, at least. Indeed, this kit for Sherry-Marinated Steak with Potatoes and Creamy Tomato Sauce was much better than I had expected.
I’m not generally a fan of sirloin, as it’s a pretty tasteless and tougher-than-it-has-a-right-to-be cut, but the tomato sauce was good enough to make up for the meat’s deficiencies. It was one of those sauces that was weird at the beginning, but then really grew on you. And while the potatoes were sort of blah on their own, they were great with the onion mixture.
All in all, I really enjoyed this dish. I liked making it too.
All the ingredients were fresh and stayed fresh until I cook the meal. However, while the potatoes pictured in the recipe were baby potatoes that had to be halved, the ones actually provided in the kit were four regular red potatoes – the oven time obviously worked differently for them.
I paid around $16 for the kit, or $8 a portion, for this kit – using a “come back” promo I got in e-mail. That was definitely a fair price given that I got basically a restaurant quality meal out of it.
It is basically a stir fry, with both curry sauce and peanut sauce – but the peanut sauce was particularly tasty. Flavor wise, this was a winner. And, because the only things that came ready made were the curry paste and peanut sauce, I felt like I actually cooked something for my daughter.
I think I paid around $14 for this kit with a “welcome back” promotion. It produced two generous portions.
This Gobble kit for Burmese Shredded Chicken with Coconut Rice & Burmese Salad has to be my favorite (tasting) kit meal so far! It was tasty, scrumptious, exotic, not spicy, just satisfying. It had a great mix of textures, it hit all the right notes and combined perfectly. This very much was a ‘sum of its parts” meal – I would have been very happy with a meal like this at a restaurant.
Even my super picky daughter liked it – she’d rate it 8/10!
My only criticism is that I didn’t feel like I was actually cooking anything. The coconut rice was pre-cooked, the chicken was pre-cooked, the sauce and vinaigrette was pre-made. All I had to do is arm things up and put them all together. Obviously all necessary to get this meal on the table in 15 minutes, but still, something was missing.
The taste, though, made up for it. Also, there was too little salad – about half as much lettuce as needed.
I (think I) paid ~$14 for this kit or $7 per serving, with a promo good for one week.
Freshly is not actually a meal kit service. Rather, it’s a 21st century TV-dinner delivery service. What they send is freshly prepared, fully cooked, microwavable meals. Sort of like Hungry Man, but with fresher and better quality ingredients, updated recipes and no preservatives. The meals take 2 to 3 1/2 minutes to warm up and 2 more minutes before you can plate them (though nothing stops you from eating them directly from the tray, they do look better plated).
This service is probably best for people who just don’t have the time to cook or even go out for a meal or order in. While in theory it should work for a household like mine, where we have a vegan, a low carb eater and a picky eater – they don’t really have many choices for people on special diets. They are best for omnivores.
Freshly offers a total of 30 refrigerated tray meals which are delivered to your home weekly. You can subscribe to get anywhere between 4 and 12 a week. Meals cost between $9 to $12.50 each, depending on how many you buy. I chose the standard 6-meals deal, which costs $10/meal or $60 a week – which is about the same price as meal kit companies such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh. Shipping is free.
Freshly offers a $20 off discount for your first couple of boxes.
Freshly offers 30 meals to chose from. These vary slightly from week to week, but they have 4 vegetarian dishes (including a single vegan one – though note it includes honey), a steak dish, and a whole bunch of chicken dishes.
The recipes are modern and classic American fare, plus some things in fashion (like Korean bibimbap). I found most of the dishes to be filling.
I thought the quality of the food was very good (save for one dish). But personally, I don’t think I’d use them frequently simply because they don’t have enough meals that appeal to me.
The meals take between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 minutes to heat up, plus 2 minutes to rest.
The Shipping and Delivery
When I first signed up, they assigned me to get my meals on a Wednesday. That’s not really convenient for type of food which is best suited for busy weekdays. However, I was able to change my preferences to get my meals on Mondays in the future.
The meals were delivered during the day with plenty of time to use them.
Freshly’s meals come in microwavable plastic trays, covered with a film of plastic – just like TV dinner. They do have a recyclable cardboard sleeve around each one that includes information about the meal’s ingredients and nutrition.
The trays come in a recyclable cardboard box. Both the freezer packs and the lining of the box are landfill material. It did bother me that Freshly tries to make itself appear more environmentally friendly by claiming that “most” of the lining – made out of recycled denim – is biodegreadable. That may be the case, but you cannot compost the lining (I called Freshly and confirmed this), and biodegradable matter thrown in a landfill produces methane and other greenhouse gases, for which reason most modern landfills are packed tightly so no biodegradation occurs. Freshly surely must know this, so it’s attempting to deceive its customers which gives me a bad feeling.
Same with saying that their freezer packs are “non toxic’ – well, I guess it’s something – but why not provide compostable freezer packs or those that can be emptied down the drain?
These are the six meals we tried:
|Teriyaki Salmon Cakes with Brown Rice & Spicy Green Beans |
Probably as good as it gets for refrigerated TV meals.
| Ranch Chicken with Broccoli-Cheddar Cakes |
Dry chicken, flavorless ranch, this was a thumbs down.
|BBQ Shredded Beef with Roasted Carrots & Cornbread |
A pretty solid meal
|Rustic Chicken with Mashed Potatoes & Veggies |
As good as chicken & mashed gets in a TV tray
|Garden Veggie Bowl |
A nice veggie bowl
|Steak Peppercorn |
Surprisingly tasty, juicy steak and tasty mashed potatoes
In all, they were clearly superior to frozen meals, and they were of about the same quality as meals you make from meal kits, and – depending on the restaurant choices in your area – probably about the same quality as takeout/delivery. I think at $10/meal, they’re a bit overpriced – but at $7 (what I paid for each with a promo), they make a lot of sense – at least if you are not a picky eater, and you don’t mind repeating your meals frequently.
I think that if you like enough of their offerings, Freshly is a good solution for people who want a nice meal at work/school and don’t want to go out to a restaurant or get take/out. They are certainly very quick to microwave. They also work for families like mine where it’s hard to know who is going to be eating dinner at home each night. If they had a whole line of vegan meals, I might very well get them for my vegan daughter. And they are definitely a good idea for single people who don’t want to cook for themselves every night.
But obviously, they cannot replace family dinners – the idea of each one of us eating something from a microwave is sad. If you are a family that sits together for the dinner every night, these are not for you.
If you do subscribe, you can use this referral link to get $20 off your first two boxes ($40 of total).
Here are my reviews of my final two weeks of my Freshly subscription.
I got this meal for my husband – who, unlike me, likes salmon – and he liked it quite a lot. He liked the spice on the beans, and thought the rice & salmon was very flavorful. It was supposed to be salmon cakes with rice, mind you, but one of them came completely apart as I transferred them from the microwaved trade towards the plate.
I think the fact that you don’t need a knife to eat this meal is also a plus in terms of taking it with you to work.
This meal had 460 calroies, 20 grams of fat (4 saturated), 54 grams of carbs, 12 g of sugar and 560g of sodium, which is relatively low for Freshly. Only 18 g of protein, though.
This was, by far, the worst Freshly meal I got in my first week. The chicken was tough and dry and the ranch sauce was pretty bland and tasteless. I’m not sure how you get Ranch sauce wrong – maybe when you are trying to make it healthier, but it was just so blah.
The cheddar broccoli cakes were only marginally more flavorful.
The meal had 500 calories, 20 g fat (7 saturated), 33 g of carbs & 9 sugar. It had 48 g of protein.
I paid a little under $7 for each of these meals, with a special offer.
For the first time, I got to cook a recipe that fit within two of my cooking projects. As a Hakka recipe, this meal of Singapore-Style Hakka Noodles with Summer Veggies fits into my International cuisines project. As a recipe from a meal kit, it fits into my meal kit hacks. Plus, it’s a vegan recipe, which I’m guessing will soon become a project of its own.
What’s even better, is that my daughter liked it! It’s one of the very few vegan meals she’s said she’d like me to make again.
It was, I must admit, more complicated than most of the stir fries that she eats so often now – and it used more pans – but hey, it’s all about the results. I tasted the noodles, and they were delicious – very much like the garlic noodles that you get at a variety of Asian restaurants. I’m definitely going to make them again just for me 🙂
Talking about noodles, I waited to make this dish until I could send my husband to the Asian supermarket to pick up some Hakka noodles. We usually shop at 88 Manor Market, where they have a zillion varieties of noodles, maybe more. But I also wanted him to pick up some pork belly for a different recipe and I wasn’t sure they’d have it there – so I asked him to go to Foodnet instead. I hadn’t been there before, however, and apparently Foodnet is the one noodle-free Chinese supermarket. Go figure. They did have a 4 lb box of Imperial Taste Dried Noodle, which turned out to be vermicelli-like noodles. According to the box, they had a “chewing taste!,” and they did prove to be nicely chewy. They worked great in this recipe even if they weren’t what Hakkas in Singapore would use.
I spent $10 to make this recipe, which resulted in two large bowls. That’s half of what the HelloFresh meal kit would cost (though this kit is from England, so you can’t get it anyway :-). As usual, I count the total cost of the ingredients I had to buy to make this meal, but not of the ones I already had at home.
|Plated Ingredients||My Ingredients||Cost|
|200 g Hakka Noodles||4 lbs Taiwanese dried noodle||$5|
|10 g chives||1 pckg fresh chives|
|30 g ginger||1 lb ginger||$2.3|
|1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce||2 garlic cloves + 1/8 tsp chili sauce||pantry|
|1 Tbsp soy sauce||1 Tbsp soy sauce||pantry|
|1 tsp mild curry powder||1 tsp mild curry powder||pantry|
|113 g julienned carrots||1 carrot||$0.2|
|1 zucchini||1/2 zucchini||pantry|
|113 g Green Peas||1 cup grozen green peas||pantry|
|200 g extra-firm tofu||8 oz extra-firm tofu||pantry|
I will link to my version of the recipe once I post it on my International Cuisines site.
These are my reviews of two more Freshly meals
BBQ beef (or pork or chicken) is all about the sauce. This one was fairly good, though not among our favorites. It was sweet and tangy, probably more of the latter than we like. My husband, all in all, liked it more than I did. I found it just too sweet. Like most of the sauces we’ve encountered in Freshly meals, this one was too runny as well.
The cornbread was fairly good as well. It was probably less sweet than I like it, but it was just right for my husband.
Now, personally I don’t think this was any tastier than other refrigerated BBQ meat meals offered at the supermarket. But if you’re already subscribing to Freshly, it’s not a bad meal to include in your order.
This meal has 560 calories, and 30 grams of fat, half of which is saturated. It has 51 grams of carbs, including 19 grams of sugar and 760 mg of sodium (1/3 of your daily allotment). I wouldn’t say it’s exactly healthy – but I chose it.
My daughter and I split this meal. She got the chicken, and I got the mashed potatoes and mushroom mix that was probably meant to be eaten with the chicken.
She was happy enough with the chicken. I tasted it and found it dry, but that’s what I would expect from a microwaved chicken breast. It would have been far tastier if it was a thigh. The mashed potatoes, OTOH, were delicious. The mushroom mixture was tasty as well, it had a bacony/smoky flavor and I’m sure it’d have gone great with the chicken.
This meal has 470 calories, and 24 grams of fat, 9g of which are saturated. It has 31g of carbs, including 5g of sugar and 700 mg of sodium (almost 1/3 of your daily allotment).
The ingredients in this meal you wouldn’t use if making it yourself include natural shiitake flavor.
I paid a little under $7 for each of these meals, with a special offer.