Sky Valley Tikka Masala Sauce Review

My local Grocery Outlet store is currently currying a variety of Sky Valley bottled sauces. I picked up the Tikka Masala sauce because it’s vegan, and I’m always looking for stuff that my vegan daughter can eat. Unfortunately this was a bust.

The sauce itself wasn’t bad. While I wouldn’t say it tastes like the tikka masala you can get at Indian restaurants, it’s better than anything I could make myself. Indeed, it tastes very much like Trader Joe’s masala sauce. They are both far more acidic and less sweet than your restaurant tikka masala sauce.

The big problem for my vegan daughter was that the sauce was too spicy. She ate it with lots of rice, but still couldn’t get past the spice. Now, she doesn’t like spicy food, so in terms of level of spice I’d say this sauce is “medium” spicy.

The 13.8 oz bottle of Sky Valley tikka masala sauce sells on their website for $5.30, but it was just $2 at Grocery Outlet and it was on sale for just $1.75 at Walmart (regular price $3.65). It’s produced in Danville (so not to far away from where I live) and exported all the way to the UAE!


Meal Kit Reviews: EveryPlate is Pretty Good for the Price

EveryPlate is a budget meal kit brand launched by HelloFresh, which has found it difficult to keep customers due to the relatively high price of their meals. It offers simpler meals than its parent company, with fewer fancy ingredients. It also only offers 5 choices a week, one of which is a ” premium” meal and costs $6 more per kit, which helps keep their prices low. At $13 per 2-portion kit (including shipping costs), it’s considerably cheaper than HelloFresh’s $20 regular kits. But exactly because they have fewer ingredients, they are also easier and quicker to put together and cook.

The Plans

EveryPlate has two plans: 3 meals for 2 people per week for $30 + $9 shipping (so $39) and 3 meals for 4 people per week for $60 + $9 shipping. That means that for the 2-person plan, you get are paying $6.50 per person per meal – cheaper than other services, but not the $5 they advertise.

Use this link to get $20 off your first box.

EveryPlate’s reduced costs are achieved by offering fewer meal choices, each with fewer ingredients, reducing assembly time by not separating ingredients by recipe in the box and by not including some ingredients their recipes call for (e.g. butter & ketchup).

The Food

EveryPlate offers four meal choices a week plus a premium choice that costs $3pp/$6 per kit more. The premium choice is usually steak.

The meals are usually uncomplicated American favorites, things such as grilled cheese sandwich with tomato sauce, burgers, baked pastas and the now-popular “bowls”. Most meals include pork, chicken or sausages – there is rarely a vegetarian meal.

For me, the lack of choices means that, despite its affordability, I couldn’t use this meal kit every week, as I seldom can find three meals out of the four they offer that at least two people in my house would like.



The ingredients, in general, were of good quality. The meats were tasty and at least as good as supermarket meats. I particularly liked the ranch steak. The produce was hit and miss. I got a yellow onion instead of the green onion the recipe called for. The tomato didn’t arrive ripe – but it was fine two days later when I went to cook that recipe. The garlic and the limes were old, however. Fortunately, I was able to get a few good garlic cloves out of the garlic for the recipes that needed them, but neither lime could produce much juice.

While some meal kits include all the ingredients you’ll need, save for salt, pepper and cooking oil – EveryPlate is more stingy. They require you to use (and have!) your own butter, sugar, flour and ketchup, for example. As not everyone has a stocked pantry, make sure you read what each recipe calls for before ordering it.

The Shipping & Delivery

EveryPlate delivers their boxes (at least to my zipcode) on Wednesdays. I got a shipping notification on Tuesday. My box was delivered in the late morning, but it’s not guaranteed that it won’t be later in the day. For that reason, it’s probably not a good idea to plan to make one of their kits for dinner that night. The problem is that kits are usually most useful during weeknights – but if you use your first one on Thursday night, you’ll either have to make the last one during the weekend or leave it until Monday. The meats seem to be vacuum sealed so that I don’t think that would be a problem – but given how non-fresh some of the produce was, I wouldn’t have wanted to wait that long.

The Packaging

Like other meal kits, EveryPlate comes in a cardboard box. This one is on the small side and came more beaten up than others I’ve gotten. It also was carelessly sealed.

The ingredients were all thrown together inside an insulated bag. Dried ingredients were in a box on top of a freezer pack, with items needing refrigeration underneath them. The carelessness in putting the materials in the box resulted in one of the BBQ packet arriving open.

Unlike other kits, the ingredients didn’t come in individual bags for each recipe and they didn’t have stickers indicating to what recipe they belonged. Rather, they were all mixed in together. This turned out to not be an issue. As there were fewer ingredients that in other kits, I simply kept the dry ingredients in the box on my kitchen counter, and put the meats and sour cream (the only ingredients that needed refrigeration) in the fridge.

As with most other meal kits (save for Sun Basket), the box can be recycled, but the liner and freezer packs cannot.

The Results

These are the three meals I made during my first (and so far only) week of EveryPlate:

Carne Asada Fajitas with Pickled Onions and Lime cream
This dish was just OK
Steak Tagliata with Tomato Jam, Creamy Kale and Garlic Bread
A surprisingly enjoyable dish with good quality beef.
BBQ Pork Sloppy Joes with Pickled Onions and Sweet Potato Wedges
I made a mess of this, but the pork was still tasty

All in all, I was happy with them. They were relatively easy to make, quicker than other meal kits, and they were tasty. The portions were also OK – though in some cases this was because of the empty carbs (just look at the size of that garlic bread in comparison to the beef!).

Cancelling the service was also very easy – just do it online. A week after I cancelled, I got an offer to come back and get 6 free meals. Alas, I can’t find three meals that two of us would like in the upcoming menus.


Meal Kit Review: EveryPlate’s Carne Asada Fajitas

Rating 5/10

Tacos & fajitas seem to be one of the most common meals offered by meal kit companies. I’ve ordered them a few times, simply because I didn’t see anything else they offered that we might like, but it’s not a top choice for me. I can get three ready-made tacos of a similar size at the Mexican Restaurant in the corner for $13, and I don’t have to spend the time cooking them. Or, of course, I can make them myself for a few dollars.

Still, some of the taco recipes I’ve made have been good and I’m always up for a discovery. This recipe for carne asada fajitas with pickled onions and lime cream, however, did not produce one. The tacos/fajitas were pretty straightforward and just OK flavor wise – indeed, they might have been better without the southwestern flavoring.

They were fairly easy and quick to make and at $13 for a meal for six tacos, they were pretty cheap.

I got this kit for free, with a special one-time code that someone gave me. The regular cost for the two serving kit is $13, including shipping. Use this link to get $20 off your first box.


Meal Kit Review: EveryPlate’s BBQ Pork Sloppy Joes

everyplate sloppy joes
I didnt manage to take my own photo when I made these.

Rating: 7/10

Sometimes a meal kit fails you, and sometimes you fail a meal kit. This time I think both of us failed each other. I think this could have been a pretty good meal kit if I’d had all of the ingredients, and if I had been more careful while putting it together. As things were, my husband got a decent sandwich – but not really a sloppy joe – and I got to eat the remaining filling with a spoon. At least it was pretty tasty.

This EveryPlate kit consists of ground pork which is supposed to be cooked with BBQ sauce and ketchup, potato buns, an onion to quickly pickle and sweet potatoes to bake. One of the two packets of BBQ sauce my kit came with was open, so I had to toss it away. Unfortunately, when I went to make the pork, I realized I didn’t have any more BBQ sauce at home. Even worse, the kit called for using my own ketchup – and I was also out of it. At the end, I was only able to cook the ground pork in a the single packet of BBQ sauce. Amazingly, this still gave a very nice flavor to the pork.

I didn’t try the pickled onions, but my husband raved about them. I’m thus including the recipe below.

As for the buns, I burnt my first two when I put them in the toaster – and then dropped them (thus my lack of a sandwich myself). I also managed to burn the sweet potatoes. Indeed, one of the things that did not work with this kit is that the sweet potatoes require that you preheat the oven (something which takes at least 15-20 minutes) and then you cook them for 20-25 minutes. The rest of the meal takes a very short time to make. So we were ready to eat far before the sweet potatoes were ready – which is why I forgot about them.

I got this kit for free, with a special one-time code that someone gave me. The regular cost for the two serving kit is $13, including shipping. Use this link to get $20 off your first box.

Quick Pickled Onions

  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • juice from one lime
  • pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Let to pickle for at least 10 minutes.

Sloppy Joes

  • drizzle of oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1/3 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1/4 cup Ketchup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp lime juice

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, season with salt & pepper, and fry, stirring frequently, until soft – 4-5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the ground pork and cook, stirring and separating, until browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add the bbq sauce, ketchup, water and lime juice. Cook, stirring frequently, until it thickens. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve in burger buns topped with the pickled onions.


Refrigerated Meal Review: Heat.Eat.Done Chicken Marsala with Penne Pasta

Chicken Marsala with Penne Pasta Review

Last week I found this refrigerated tray meal for Chicken Marsala with Penne Pasta at Grocery Outlet, and decided to give it a try. I love chicken marsala. At $5 for what is really a portion for one person (unless you are eating something else), it’s not exactly cheap for a pre-made, refrigerated meal, specially when bought at a bargain store, but I figured it was worth a try. Unfortunately, that was all that it was worth.

The chicken in the dish was incredibly dry. Now, this is very unusual for microwavable meals, but somehow Heat.Eat.Done managed it. The sauce also didn’t actually taste of Marsala wine – it lacked the sweetness of the wine -, and it was too liquidy and tasteless. I would not buy it again.


Restaurant Review: Xiang Yuan Xiao Long Bao, San Leandro

The other night I decided to take Mike out to dinner. One of our daughters didn’t want to go out and the other one was out, so it seemed like a great opportunity for a date night – and for trying a new restaurant.

After our first choice didn’t work out, we ended up at Xiang Yuan Xiao Long Bao – which occupies the space that Ming Tasty had for many years. It was an inspired choice, as neither of us had ever had Shanghainese food per se, and we love trying new things.

Given the name of the restaurant, we of course had to try the Xiang Long Bao (also known as XLB) from the Dim Sum menu (which seems to be available at any time). We ordered both the pork ($7) and crab ($8.5) versions. Not having XLBs before, we were unprepared for what we got: a steamed dumpling filled with both meat and broth! To accomplish this, cooks add pork skin to a broth and allows the collagen from the skin to melt into the liquid. The pork skin and veggies are discarded, and the now collagen-rich broth is refrigerated and allowed to solidify. It’s then chopped and added to the dumplings along with the filling. Ingenious and delicious.

I wasn’t sure how to eat the dumplings, so at first I broke them with my chopsticks and just ate each part separately. Later I adopted Mike’s method of just putting the whole thing inside my mouth (make sure they cool down before you do this). They were much better that way, as flavors and textures are allowed to combine in your mouth. Apparently, the proper way to eat them (or at least the way used by the restaurant reviewer at the East Bay Express) is to bite off the top, allow the broth to cool, and then to sip it, before eating the rest of the dumpling. I think I like Mike’s way better, though they are a little bit big (and I have a small mouth).

We also ordered the green onion pancake ($4). This was very oily, and therefore pretty filling. It was a bit bland, but it was great with the broth from the dumplings. I’d order it again, but would want some sort of tasty sauce to go along with it.

Finally, we had the pan friend pork buns ($8). These were unlike any pork buns I’ve had before. Instead of bbq pork, they had the same soupy filling as the dumplings, though with less liquid. Once I abandoned my expectations that they be sweet, I found them very good. They were also easier to eat, and I’d definitely order them again.

The restaurant itself is in a good location in downtown San Leandro, but suffers from a very generic building. Still, it’s nicely decorated with photos of Shanghai at the turn of the 20th century – I was somewhat surprised of how western it looked.

Image result for shanghai 1920s

Service was competent and polite.

All in all, I look forward to returning.

Read the East Bay Express review for more suggestions on dishes to try.


Barilla Veggie Pasta Review

Like pretty much everyone in the whole world, my kids love pasta. Alas, I wish it was more nutritious – so whenever I can find some pasta that seems better, I give it a try.

Barilla veggie pasta is made with zucchini and spinach pure and supposedly gives you a full serving of veggies. However, it doesn’t have any more fiber than regular pasta – perhaps because it’s not made with whole wheat. It does have some vitamin A, though I think it may be better to get this by adding some shredded carrots to the pasta sauce you’re using (something which I just thought of, so never tried – but will now). Still, substituting this pasta for regular pasta is a painless way to get a bit more nutrition.

There are some minuses, however. Now that Barilla has abandoned its anti-gay practices, the main one is the price. It can cost about twice as much as bargain regular spaghetti brands, and it costs 25% more than the regular Barilla pasta. However, it’s still far cheaper than other enhanced pasta brands. It’s sold in a 12 oz package, which is perfect for a four-person family, but may be too little for larger families.

In all, I’ll probably buy it, particularly when it’s on sale, though I’d like to try the more nutritious brands as well.



Ethiopia Restaurant Review (Berkeley, CA)

Last week my 16-yo daughter actually got a craving for Ethiopian food. We don’t eat Ethiopian food very frequently – maybe once or twice a year now -, so it was a surprising craving in her part. And as she said, how privileged is she that she gets to have a craving for Ethiopian food and have it satisfied.

We decided on Ethiopia Restaurant in Berkeley because they have a great Groupon deal: two appetizers, four entrees, two desserts and four glasses of wine for just $40. You need to add tax and tip, but I can’t imagine anywhere else you can get a deal anywhere as good as this (if you know of one, let me know!).

We had been to Ethiopia Restaurant before, and this time it didn’t disappoint either: the food was just delicious. We started with the sambousas, the Arab/African version of Indian samosas: triangles of phillo-dough style pastry, filled with either lentils or meat, fried and served with a red sauce. They were pretty good.

My 16-yo ordered the nene’wee, a sampler of 5 vegetarian dishes you pick from 12 choices. She absolutely loved the yekik alicha, a yellow split pea dish that they also serve as a side for other dishes. Next time, she may just order this. She was happy enough with the kinche (bulgur), but the other three dishes she chose were too spicy for her. The engudai we’t, a mushroom “stew” (actually mushrooms cooked in a butter or oil based sauce), tasted very much like t’ibs wet, its beef version. The sauce was exactly the same. The yemisier we’t (red lentils) and shiro we’t (garbazo beans) seemed to have different sauces, but they were equally spicy.

The meat-eaters among us ordered the yebeg alicha (lamb “stew”), yebeg t’ibs (sauteed lamb) and the meat combo which comes with doro we’t (chicken “stew”), t’ibs wet and yebeg alicha. They brought the first two dishes in a huge tray, on top of injera, but they forgot to add the third – so the tray looked very empty. It wasn’t until we were finished with the food that we were able to reach out to call the waitress and have her bring the meat combination (we were still hungry, so we needed it). I got the distinct impression that you get more food by ordering your meal individually rather than family style, so next time we’ll do that.

All of us really liked the yebeg dishes, though one of us had to be told it was beef for her to try it (here is hoping she doesn’t read this review). We particularly liked the sauteed lamb dish. The t’ibs and doro wet dishes were both spicy, though my husband enjoyed them. The rest of us are wimps.

Whether individual or family style, dishes are served with the split pea stew outlined above and a simple salad of lettuce, tomatoes and onions. We ordered a bowl of rice which my daughter didn’t like (my husband tasted it and said it had butter in it), but which they didn’t charge us for. The injera is made with teff and was cold, but otherwise good.

For dessert, one of my daughters had the baklava, which was a pretty small piece, and the other the chocolate mousse pie. They both seemed happy.

I had a glass of the chardonay, which was sweet but good. My daughter had a sparkling apple cider – they didn’t charge us for that either, but we declined the 3 other glasses of wine.

Service was good and friendly, but the two waitresses were overwhelmed with the full dining room – that’s why it was very difficult to get their attention during the meal.

Groupon says you can buy a voucher for this deal every 30 days, so I’m planning to go again next month.

Ethiopia Restaurant
2955 Telegraph Ave
Berkeley, CA
(510) 843-1992
M-Su 11:30 AM – 10 PM
http://orderethiopiarestaurant.com







Meal Kit Review: Sun Basket’s Steak and roasted sweet potato with scallion-ginger relish

Rating: 6/10

A sauce or a topping can either enhance or ruin a steak.  Last week, I made a HelloFresh kit that had steak with an amazing thyme-demi-glace sauce that greatly improved the meat.  The relish in this kit for steak and roasted sweet potato with scallion-ginger relish did the opposite, it hid the flavor of the meat and just made it taste vinegary.

There were other problems as well.  The oven-baked sweet potato fries (which I overcooked) were pretty boring – again, I preferred the HelloFresh version which adds thyme.   This was my first time eating kale and I found it surprisingly edible.  It stayed crisp even after cooking for a couple of minutes and I liked the subtle garlic flavor.  Not a bad way of eating your veggies.

Sun Basket advertises that you may get organic filet mignon, organic rib eye or top sirloin in this kit.  Of course, I got the cheaper top sirloin – which weren’t even organic, sort of defeating the whole point of this subscription.  While the steaks were pretty small, ~5 oz each, the whole meal was the right size portion for dinner.  Still, I was not happy that one steak was far thinner than the other.  In this case it wasn’t too big a deal, as my daughter likes her beef well done and I like it medium rare, but it would have been a pain if I was cooking for two people who like their meat with the same doneness.

All the ingredients in the meat were fresh and remained so even a couple of days after I got it.  The produce was organic even if the beef was not.   It was relatively easy and quick to put this meal together.   But then again, it would have been relatively easy and quick to shop for it as well, specially given that the relish was totally unnecessary.  This is one meal for which you don’t need to have a kit.

I paid $11 for this kit using a discount, and it was definitely fine for that, but it would be overpriced at $24.

 


What Are the Best Meal Kits Out There? Join Me as I Find Out

For years, I had been avoiding meal kits.  I’d get coupons for HelloFresh in the boxes of online orders for all sorts of products or hear my friend rave about the cool Blue Apron meal that awaited her at home, and I’d just shake my head.  To me, the idea of meal kits made no sense.  At a cost of $10-$12 per person, per meal, meal kits rival the cost of take out but you have to go through the trouble of making the meal yourself.   Plus unlike take out, meal kits portions are measured so you won’t have leftovers.  Financially, I figured, I got more bang from my money from ordering out and with less mess.

Meal kits, moreover,  seemed to be the culinary equivalent of painting by numbers:  you end up with something that may be nice but you put no creativity into it (though then again, 99% of my cooking means following a recipe, so what creativity do I ever use?).  Moreover, I worried the meals would not be that tasty and that the portions would not be large enough to satisfy us.

But I’ve been in a huge cooking rut.  I got to the “H” in my international cooking project and I’ve been left with a lot of cuisines that have just not been inspiring me or that require me to hunt for ingredients that are problematic in the first place (pork belly, anyone?).   Moreover, I live with four people with very different diets: a vegan, an uber-picky tween, a low-carb eater and me, who hates vegetables.  Forget cooking a meal that the four of us can eat, I can rarely cook something that will satisfy three of us!   So rather than cook, we’ve been eating a lot of frozen food and take out.  Both horrible options for our taste buds and/or our wallet.  I was ripe for something else.

A few weeks ago, I was doing an online order for Safeway – our local supermarket – when I came across their listings for Plated meal kits.  They had four that I could get as part of my deliver order, with no commitment to a subscription and with no shipping charges.  I figured I’d give it a try and wow, it was a revelation.  The meal was fun to prepare and I did enough of the work (albeit following detailed instructions) that, at the end, I had the same type of satisfaction as when I cook a meal from a recipe I chose and shopped for myself.  The psychology involved reminds me of the story of how boxed cake mixes only took off after marketers began suggesting that cooks add eggs and other elements to make them their own.   And the results were great.  The portion was perfectly sized, the ingredients seemed high quality (unlike what I’m sure the cheap restaurants I order from use), and the results were very tasty.  I wanted more.

And that’s when I remembered those HelloFresh coupons I still had around.   I figured I’d start with them and then give other meal kit services a try and see what they really have to offer and how do they compare to one another.   Some of these companies also offer their recipes online, I will be cooking some of these both to get a greater sense for what each company offers without breaking the bank and to get a sense of just how good or bad of a deal the kits are versus shopping for the ingredients yourself.

I hope you’ll come along in this journey and leave comments of your own experiences with these services – and these recipes.

Meal Kits Subscriptions Reviewed So Far

How Meal Kit Subscriptions Work

While you can now find individual meal kits at supermarkets (Safeway & Albertson’s sell Plated, Walmart  sells their own, Gobble and other ones, Kroger sells Home Chef), most people get meal kits by subscribing to one of many services.  Of these, Blue Apron is the largest one in the US, will HelloFresh, a German company that operates in several countries, following it.  There are currently dozens of meal kit companies, some specializing in particular diets or regions.

A standard meal kit subscription is for a weekly box containing three meal kits, each for two adults.  Some subscription services allow you to order fewer meal kits a week, while others let you order more.  Some subscription services also have kits that feed three or four people.  When you subscribe, you usually chose the “plan” you prefer.

What are Your Meal Choices? Can You Chose What Meals You Get?

Most meal kit companies offer contemporary American food, though I’ll be exploring the meal choice differences between companies.  Some companies offer vegetarian or even vegan options and some even specialize in this fare.  Some have specific plans for specific diets such as paleo and keto.

Most subscription services put up a list of the meal kit options you have every week and allow you to select the ones you want.  You usually have a deadline of 5 to 7 days before you receive the meal to make your choices.  If you don’t make it, many of these services will just send you their own choices.

If you don’t like any meal options for a week or you’ll be out of town, you can simply suspend your shipments for that week – and you can even do that for multiple weeks in advance -, as long as you remember to do it before the deadline.

What Do You Get in a Meal Kit?

Meal kits come with most of the ingredients you need to make the meal you select in the precise amounts called for by the recipe.  For example, the HelloFresh meal kit for Sweet ‘N’ Smoky Pork Chops with Apple Carrot Slaw, Mashed Potatoes, and Cherry Sauce came with a sealed package with 2 boneless pork chops,  2 scallions, a handful of small gold potatoes, an apple, little jars with jam and mayo, a little bottle with vinegar, a small plastic packet with a spice mix, a tiny sachet with sour cream and a sealed plastic bag with shredded carrots.

Some meal kits offer fewer ingredients – for example Dinnerly says they keep their meals cheap by only having 5 ingredients in them.

The meals usually call for but do not include staples such as salt/Kosher salt, pepper, butter and oil/olive oil.

The meal kits and recipes I’ve tried so far include a main dish and one or two side dishes – usually a starch and a vegetable.

How Much Do Meal Kits Cost?

Meal kits costs vary by company.  At the bottom of the barrel, you have Dinnerly and Every Plate, which offer 3 weekly meals for 2 for $39 ($6.50 per person, per meal) includding shipping costs.  Both companies get very iffy reviews, but I will assess them myself later in this project.

In the middle, companies like Blue ApronHelloFreshHome Chef and Marley Spoon charge $60-$65 ($10-11 per person/per meal) for the same 3-meals-for-2-people standard subscription.

And at the top, you have companies like Plated, Sun Basket, Gobble and Green Chef offering the standard 3-kits-for-2-people deal for $72 to $84 ($12-14 per person/per meal).

Some companies have premiums on special meals (e.g. HelloFresh will charge $12 more for “gourmet” meals) and most of the larger companies have special deals heavily discounting your first week of meals.  I will be taking advantage of these discounts in doing my reviews of meal kits.

In addition, companies that offer the two meal kits a week option usually charge more for these, and companies that offer meal kits for more than 2 people have a lower per-person cost in these.

Are Meal Kits A Good Value?

This is one of the questions that I will be exploring in this project.  In addition to buying and making meal kits, I’ll be “hacking” meal kit recipes by making them with my own ingredients and comparing how much money I’ve spent on them.  Of course, you can’t buy a single celery rib or a tablespoon of sour cream, so in evaluating my cost I will consider the total cost of whatever I had to buy to make the meal – and exclude the cost of any item I already had at home.

So far, I’ve made five meals from meal kit recipes at an out of pocket cost of $2.75 to $7.50 per person/per meal, and total cost of $5.50 to $18.50 per meal (I increased some of these recipes to feed 3 or 4 people).

My costs, however, reflect the actual ingredients I bought.  Some may be of lower quality than the ones sent by the meal kit companies.  Some of these companies specialize in sending organic produce and free range meats that I may not be able to find at my local discount or regular grocery stores.  Moreover, some of these companies send gourmet items such as demi-glace which I’d have to special order (and will in this particular case for future meals).

And the total cost of the meal does not account for the time shopping for the ingredients or correctly portioning them for each meal.  Time is money, after all, and most people do not enjoy spending it grocery shopping.  Do bear in mind how much you like or dislike to shop and what else you could be doing with your time while evaluating the actual costs of these meal kits.

How Long Does It Take To Prepare a Meal from  a Kit?

Meal Kit companies usually give you an estimate of how long it’ll take you to make a meal from their kits, usually ranging from 15 minutes to an hour.  While I haven’t done this yet, for future meals I will measure how long it actually takes me.  This is more complicated than it sounds, because I seldom *just* make a meal – rather I alternate the steps of making meals with other tasks around the house.  But I’ll try.

What Are the Instructions Like?

All kits come with instructions.  Cheaper kits require you to download them and either print them or follow them from your internet device.  More expensive kits come with printed cards or a magazine with all the recipes for that week’s kits.  Most have step by step instructions, some of which are illustrated.  I’ve found the illustrations helpful specially when trying to determine how to cut vegetables.

The instructions for these meal kits help you maximize your time by intercepting the steps you need to follow to make the main dish and any accompanying side dishes or sauces.  I’ve found this particularly valuable.

What Equipment Do You Need?

The meal kits I’ve used assume that you have a fully stocked kitchen as far a cookware goes, though some provide alternatives in case you don’t (e.g. use a spoon to mash potatoes if you don’t have a masher).  Though some of these recipes try to minimize the number of dishes you use, they are not always successful. I’ve found myself having to wash as many pots and implements following these kits as I’d normally have to wash, if not more.

How do Meals Taste?

This is another question that I’ll aim to answer in this project.  So far, I’ve cooked eight meals from meal kits and five more from meal kit recipes using my own ingredients.  All the meat-based meals have been good to great.  The vegan meals I’ve cooked have been merely OK.  But it’s early in the project.

What is Good About Meal Kits?

For me, it’s the fact that many of the meal kits I’ve tried include not only a main dish (which is often rather simple), but also one or two side dishes and that the chef behind them has done the required planning so that all you have to do is follow the steps in the recipe.

Moreover, the kits include all the ingredients you need for the meal so you don’t have to worry, when you menu plan, that your local grocery store may be out of one.

Finally, there is no food waste.

What is Bad About Meal Kits?

They generate a lot of garbage.  While some of it is recyclable (e.g. the boxes and some of the little bottles and jars), the frozen gel packs are not and they are just being accumulated in landfills.  Moreover, many of the veggies come in plastic bags which are not really recyclable either – of course, this is also true of the packaged produce you buy at the supermarket.  While the meal kits bought at the supermarket also have a lot of plastic packaging, at least they don’t require these non-recyclable gel packs, so they may be a better option environmentally.

The meal kits are also pretty expensive, specially if you have to feed a whole family.  And there are no leftovers – which means that the effort you put into preparing a meal feeds you just once.

Do you have any questions? Leave them below.