Meal Kit Reviews: Gobble is Great for Those in a Hurry

Of all the meal kits out there, Gobble may just be my favorite. The food is very good and it can be prepared in about 15 minutes. They accomplish this by using simple recipes and sending you some pre-cooked (lentis, rice). That convenience has a price, and Gobble has among the highest prices in the industry. Still, if I could afford it, I’d probably stick with Gobble because it gives you the satisfaction of mostly cooking a meal, without the necessary expenditure of time.

The Plans

Gobble offers plans for 2 or 4 people. You can order as few as 2 meal kits a week or as many as you want. Cost is $12 a serving (or $14 if you only order 2 meal kits) – that is $24 per kit for 2 or $48 per kit for 4. You also have to pay $7 shipping, regardless of how many kits you order. Thus, the standard plan of 3 meals for 2 people per week costs $79.

As other companies, Gobble usually offers discounts for its first week. Currently, you can get your first box with 3 kits at half price.

Gobble also offers lunch and breakfast subscriptions, but I haven’t tried them.

The Food

Gobble offers mostly American and European food with some Asian, Indian and Mexican choices. They have beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian (but not necessarily vegan) choices every week. The dishes do take about 15 minutes to put together and most were quite tasty.

The dishes are simpler than those offered by other premium meal kit companies, but the ones I had were nice enough. Cooking speed is also achieved by sending some ingredients pre-cooked, you just have to warm them in the microwave. These precooked ingredients (rice, lentils, roasted sweet potatoes) were surprisingly tasty. Indeed, my daughter thought the rice was the best part of the vegan meal she had.

Pre-roasted sweet potatoes sent by Gobble

Ingredients seem to be fresh and of good quality, though I had some issues. Instead of one or two steaks for one of the recipes, I received beef slices – which made cooking them according to the instructions difficult. I contacted customer service and they gave me a $15 credit, which was nice.

Ingredients for one of the meal kits

Another problem – one that seems ubiquitous with meal kits – was that the portions of meats/seafood sent were of different size and shapes, meaning that you could not cook them at the same temperature without burning one. This I found annoying.

One piece of tuna was long and thin, while the other one was small and twice as thick.

Finally, several of their recipes required broiling. I am not always good about cleaning my broiler, and that’s a big task to undertake to cook a meal for a few minutes. I wish they gave alternative instructions for people without broilers.

The Shipping and Delivery

I was able to get my meals on a Tuesday. The day before they sent me an e-mail reminding me my delivery would be the next day but not giving me a tracking number. They can deliver as late as 8 PM, though I got both of my deliveries during the day.

The Packaging

The kits come in a recyclable cardboard box, just like those from other meal kit companies. They contain non-recyclable insulating material and freezer packs that have to be discarded in the trash.

Inside the box most of the ingredients come in plastic bags organized by recipe. Cold ingredients are at the bottom of the box, between freezer packs.

The Results

In all, I cooked 5 Gobble recipes. The two I originally ordered, and three more that I got when I forgot to cancel my subscription in time (fortunately I had that $15 credit, so it wasn’t as expensive as it could be). The latter three recipes were chosen by Gobble for me, but fortunately they did a good job.

Blackened Chicken with Marble Potatoes & Broccolini
a forgettable dish

 Seared Flat Iron Steak with Baby Carrots & Harissa Green Lentils
Great meal quality, but it wasn’t a steak.

Thai Basil Tofu with Brown Rice
The tofu was tofu, but the rice was great!

Curried Beef Bowl with Basmati Rice & Mini Samosas
Very tasty!
Albacore Tuna with Pearl Couscous, Chermoula Vinaigrette
Loved the chermoula!

In all, I was pleased with Gobble. The recipes weren’t mind blowing, but they were good and quick/easy to prepare. I particularly liked their steaks (which don’t have a premium price). However, it’s the high price that would keep me from subscribing to Gobble. At over $13 per serving this is about the price of takeout, and with takeout I get leftovers (though not meats of the same quality level). It seems a particularly low value if you are not eating steak and tuna. That said, Gobble does have more variety than what I can get locally through takeout.

Meal Kit Review: Blue Apron’s Coconut Curry Noodle Bowl with Mushrooms & Bok Choy

Rating: 6/10

I made this kit – my first from Blue Apron – for my vegan daughter. Overall she thought it was OK, but wasn’t overly pleased by it. She feels she can make tastier food by herself (and she’s 16!).

The recipe was fairly straightforward and quick to prepare. The lime wasn’t at all necessary as the curry was sour enough. I appreciated that the aromatics (garlic, ginger, onions, etc.) already came all mushed up so I didn’t have to peel & chop them. I do think that this rice could have benefited from a starch, rice in particular. I can’t say much more about it, other than the portion was sufficient for two meals (though that might have been because she didn’t really like it).

I paid ~$12 for this kit, using a special offer. I think it was worth it at this price, but I’m not sure it would have been at $20.

Vegan Options at Favorite Indian – Hayward

Eating out – or getting take out – with a vegan is no easy matter, at least here in San Leandro (L.A., though, is another matter altogether). So I’m starting to ask restaurants what vegan dishes they offer previous to taking my daughter to the restaurant.

These four dishes are always vegan at Favorite Indian, Hayward. I’m sure that’s true too at the other branches, but you may want to confirm.

Dal Curry, a yellow lentil curry. I tried this at the buffet, and it was pretty good.

Aloo Gobi, potatoes and cauliflower cooked with spices.

Bhindi Masala, okra cooked with spices and onions.

Chana Masala, chick peas cooked with spices. Alas, my daughter is not too fond of this.

In addition, Favorite India can make the following dishes vegan. Simply ask them to make them with no cream when you order them:

Baingan Bharta

Eggplant roasted in tadoor and cooked in a cream and tomato sauce

Navratam Korma

Vegetables, nuts & cheese cooked in a mild sauce (asked them to hold both the cream and the cheese/paneer)

Mushroom Matar

Mushroom & green peas cooked with onion & tomatoes

Dal Makhani

Whole black lentil & red kidney beans cooked in a creamy sauce.

They may have other vegan dishes at their buffet, so it doesn’t help to ask. The restaurant manager/owner – the young woman who is often at the reception desk – is very knowledgeable as to the ingredients.

Meal Kit Review: Plated

My first experience with meal kits was a Plated kit that I bought at Safeway on a whim. I was impressed enough with it that it threw me into this project of trying different meal kit services – and taking advantage of the deals most offer when you subscribe. As it turns out, Plated is one of the more upscale meal kit services, offering more global and sophisticated meals at a premium price.

Overall, I liked Plated, but if I was going to pay full price for it, I’d just order the kits from Safeway delivery so as to minimize the packaging waste and make delivery more efficient.

The Plans

Plated offers kits for 2, 3 or 4 people. You can order 2, 3 or 4 kits per week. The cost per serving is $10 orders if you order kits for 3 or more people, or $12 if you order a kit for just 2. The typical box with 3 kits for 2 people each, costs $72/week. Shipping is free for orders over $60, and $8 for those below.

As mentioned above, you can also buy Plated kits at some Safeway supermarkets and other supermarkets owned by Albertsons – you can check here whether any is near where you live. At the supermarket you can only find kits for 2 servings and these cost between $20 and $24, depending on the specific meal.

Like other companies, Plated provides incentives to sign in. Right now they are offering 25% off your first 4 boxes.

The Food

Plated has probably the largest selection of meal kits in the industry. They offer 20 choices per week! They do repeat many meals from week to week, however. Unlike other services, they don’t have “premium” meals – but they also don’t have premium ingredients such as fillet mignon or large scallops. Note that only up to 4-6 meal kits are offered at the supermarket.

Of all the services out there, Plated probably offers the most “international food” choices, including some from lesser known cuisines (e.g. Indonesian Beef Rendang, Hungarian Meatballs). I can imagine this would be particularly attractive for people who don’t live in areas with many ethnic restaurants. I also appreciate that Plated offers many “fusion” dishes (e.g. curried lamb tacos, spanakopita grilled cheese sandwiches), that push beyond what most of its users are likely to have tried before. I cook a lot of international food, but a big advantage of using Plated’s meal kits is that they do away with the need to hunt for specialized ingredients and then have to buy them in far greater quantities that what you need for the recipe you are making.

Plated offers varied recipes vis a vis ingredients as well. They have four vegetarian offerings weekly and three seafood dishes. They don’t cater to any specific diet, however, and they seldom offer vegan meals.

Ingredients seem to be fresh and of good quality, but I’ve had some problems, such as having steaks sent of very different thickness.

The Shipping and Delivery

I was able to get my meals on a Tuesday. The day before they sent me an e-mail reminding me my delivery would be the next day and giving me the tracking number. They can deliver as late as 8 PM, though I got mine during the day. My order was fine.

The Packaging

Plated kits came in a cardboard box, just like the other services. Inside it I found the recipes for the meals and, after lifting the liner, the ingredients. Meats were packed between freezer packs at the bottom of the box. Heavy ingredients were in plastic bags, organized by recipe. On top of them were lighter, more fragile ingredients (leaf vegetables).

The cardboard box can be recycled, but the rest of the ingredients can’t.

Plated supermarket kits come in a large plastic box, which an theoretically be recycled. Most of the ingredients are in their own plastic bags. There is a lot of packaging waste, but it’s hard to say whether it’s more than what you usually get at the supermarket.

The Results

I cooked 5 Plated meal kits, as well as a couple of other Plated recipes using my own ingredients. I completely and totally messed up one of the kits – my fault entirely – so these are the four that worked:

Rosemary Pork Chop with Fig Compote and Chive Butter Potatoes
A nice and sophisticated meal.
Seared Steak with Blue Cheese Butter and Spinach-Beet Salad
A delicious, simple and logical dish.
Plated Scallop Penne with Mint-Spinach Pesto, Roasted Mushrooms, and Walnuts
It turns out that I don’t like scallops, but the spinach pesto was a revelation.
Vietnamese Beef Meatballs over Rice with Chile-Lime Dressing
The dish that started it all.

I also made this meal based on a Plated recipe:

In all, I’m a bit conflicted about Plated. I love their choice and their international and fusion offerings. I don’t love the price and the food has not awed me. I plan to continue getting the occasional kit from the supermarket, but I probably wouldn’t surprise without a great offer.

I got my two weeks of Plated using a Black Friday coupon that saved me $40 out of my first two boxes. That means I paid $8 per 2-serving kit I got. I paid full price for the one I bought at the supermarket.

Meal Kit Review: Plated’s Rosemary Pork Chop with Fig Compote and Chive Butter Potatoes

Rating: 7/10

I will confess that I ordered this dish because I was curious about the fig compote – this is not something you see often. And, of course, pork goes very well with fruit.

The compote didn’t disappoint, it was very tasty, and it went great with the pork. Alas, there was too much compote for the pork – not that that was a big deal.

I’m not a huge fan of pork chops, but this one was quite nice. I also liked the multi-colored potatoes. All around a good meal.

Meal Kit Review: Plated’s Seared Steak with Blue Cheese Butter and Spinach-Beet Salad

Rating 9/10

After writing a whole post reviewing this Plated meal kit for Seared Steak with Blue Cheese Butter and Spinach-Beet Salad, I realized that I had started a review the very night I made it. So I’m incorporating what I wrote then here:

I am impossibly backed up with all the meal kit reviews I need to review, but I can’t help but start with the one I made tonight: Plated‘s Seared Steak with Blue Cheese Butter and Spinach-Beet Salad. It was absolutely delicious – and a very quick recipe to make to boot.

I’m amazed at the simplicity of it:  fresh baby spinach tossed with olive oil and salt and topped with beef sirloin slices, toasted pecans, blue cheese butter (a mixture of just blue cheese and butter) and a packet of balsamic glaze.  There were also supposed to be seared sliced beets, but no one in my family likes beets so I skipped them (I’m thinking of using them to make an amuse bouche for my Christmas Eve dinner).

But all the flavors together – including the juice from the beef – were just magical.  They worked to contrast and compliment each other.  I definitely have to make this myself, though that means making my own balsamic glaze, which is easy, but time consuming.  If I find commercial balsamic glaze, I may even make this very simple salad for Xmas Even dinner.

The meal wasn’t perfect, however.  While most of the spinach was nice and crispy, some of the leaves had started to wilt.  Given that I only received my box yesterday, I’m not sure the spinach would have survived if I’d taken longer to make this kit.

Another problem was that the two steaks were terribly different in thickness – one was twice as think as the other, which made cooking them at the same time difficult.  This is not the first time I’ve encountered this problem and I wish meal kit companies would be better at this.  The beef, however, was very good quality and very tasty.

Finally, I don’t think the portion was large enough for an adult.  Perhaps it would have been if I had included the beets, but I’ve found that many of the meal kits that don’t include a carb leave me hungry.

I paid $8 for this kit for 2 people, using a $40-off Black Friday promo.

Refrigerated Meal Review: Cedarlane Cheese Tortellini with Creamy Tomato Sauce

I had not heard of Cedarlane before I found this refrigerated Cheese Tortellini meal at Grocery Outlet. It turns out that Cedarlane is a 40-year old company that sells frozen and refrigerated food. I couldn’t find this exact item in their website, but they do show several intriguing vegan meals I’ll try to find (they apparently sell this brand at Lucky Supermarkets).

This tray meal of tortellini in tomato sauce was basic but tasty. I liked how soft the tortellini were. There are three servings in this meal, but I can’t imagine that it would satisfy more than one as a full meal.

It was $5 at Grocery Outlet, so I imagine it costs significantly more at the supermarket. At $5 is a good meal, I’m not sure I’d pay any more than that.

Meal Kit Review: Home Chef is a Solid Choice for No Fuss Dining

Home Chef is a middle priced meal kit service furnishing easy-to-cook meals catering to all-American tastes. It’s a solid choice for people who want to get something tasty and not overly complicated on the table. It’s reasonably priced and some of the dishes are very good. However, overall, I wasn’t excited by the offerings.

The Plans

Home Chef offers quite a lot of flexibility with their plans. They have kits for 2, 4 and 6 persons and you can get from 2 to 6 meals a week. Meals costs $10 per person per meal (so 3 meal kits for 2 a week will cost you $60), and shipping is free for orders of over $45, otherwise it’s $10. This means that if you order only 2 meals for 2, you’ll end up paying $50. Premium meals cost extra.
Home Chef also offers “5 minute lunches” with pre-cooked ingredients for $8 a serving, and smoothies and fruit baskets for $5 per serving that you can add to your weekly deliveries.

Like other services, Home Chef provides incentives for signing up. Use this link to save $30 off your first box, or go directly to the site to get the most current offer (currently $20 off each box for four weeks).

The Food

Home Chef offers 13 meal kit choices weekly, including at least 3 vegetarian options. They don’t offer vegan options – unless the vegetarian kits just happen to be vegan. They don’t cater to any specific diet either.

The meals tend to be slightly upscale versions of basic modern American food. They include burgers, pastas, rice bowls, tostadas, flatbreads and baked chicken/salmon/pork chops with vegetable & starchy sides. Few of their recipes have exotic ingredients.

Home Chef is now offering the ability of slightly customizing some recipes by substituting the protein with another choice (for example, getting ground pork instead of beef strips or ground turkey, or getting a smaller amount of antibiotic-free chicken instead of regular chicken). This should give some flexibility to people who simply don’t like some proteins.

Premium meals are not yet available every week, but when they are, they usually consist of fillet, scallops or even lamb chops. They cost up to $20 per portion (so yes, a meal for two would be $40).

The quality of the ingredients I got was pretty good, but Home Chef does not specialize in sending organic ingredients.

While I enjoyed the meals I got from Home Chef, it’s not my choice for a long term service because the choices just don’t seem very exciting to me. Plus as most of their meals don’t usually require exotic ingredients, I can make them at home using my ingredients for less.

The Shipping & Delivery

Home Chef scheduled meals to be delivered at my house on Tuesdays. They can arrive between 8 AM and 9 PM, so you are better off not planning to cook them that night. Personally, I prefer kits that arrive on Monday to give me more flexibility as when I cook them during the week – I don’t like to get to the weekend and feel rushed to cook a meal kit before it goes bad.

A bigger problem with Home Chef was that while my first week’s box came without a hitch, the second week’s box never appeared! They sent me a notification that it was on its way, they sent me the tracking, but it never arrived. Fortunately, customer service was very helpful and they refunded my purchase.

Note: Home Chef kits are also available at some Kroger supermarkets

The Packaging

Home Chef sends its kits in a standard cardboard box. Like other services, the box has a liner (not pictured). While Home Chef says that the liner is made of recycled cotton and denim, it apparently cannot be recycled back or added to the yard waste/compost bin. That means it takes space in the trash can – and the landfill! Fortunately the freezer packs, which are also disposable in the trash, are smaller than those of other companies.

Most of the ingredients for the meals come in zippered plastic bags (though beware that the zippers break easily). The meats, however, are between freezer packs. This is a handy way of keeping all ingredients together – though it does mean either refrigerating them all, or taking the ones that don’t need refrigerator out of the bags.

With your first order, Home Chef sends you a folder and recipe cards come pre-perforated so that you can keep them in it.

The Results

These are the three Home Chef meals I made:

Texas-Style Steak on Toast with smashed red potatoes and red onion gravy
A very good meal.
Parisian Bistro Bone-In Chicken with dauphinoise potatoes and Vichy carrots
Really, really delicious. I’ll make it again.
Jerk Steak Tacos with caramelized pineapple slaw
I wasn’t fond of the jerk sauce, but liked the slaw.

I also made one meal using my own ingredients:

Coq au Vin with Bone-In Chicken & Mashed Potatoes

This was more like baked chicken with mashed potatoes, mushrooms and wine sauce, but tasty enough

All in all, I was happy with the service. Cancelling was very easy and quick, it’s done online. Home Chef preserves your account, so that it’s easy to resubscribe again. Home Chef’s offers some incentives to resubscribe. Twice they e-mailed me giving me a $10 credit – which they seem to be adding to the $10 credit I already had (which has not gone away!). More recently, they offered me the same deal they are offering new subscribers: $20 off per week for four weeks. Alas, when I looked at their menu I didn’t find much that excited me, so I decided to re-subscribe to HelloFresh and alternating it with Blue Apron for a month or so. I will make more Home Chef recipes to get a better feel for the service, however.

Meal Kit Hack: Coq au Vin with Bone-In Chicken & Mashed Potatoes

Rating: 7/10

I didn’t get any meal kits this week, so I decided to hack a Home Chef recipe for dinner. I wanted something with chicken, as I’m trying to eat less beef, and this one seemed simple enough. I love coq au vin (which I haven’t made in a while). and while, obviously, you can’t make coq au vin in an hour, I was willing to give this recipe for Coq au Vin with Bone-In Chicken & Mashed Potatoes a try.

Alas, once I started making it, I realized there wasn’t much to it: you make mashed potatoes, you sear and then bake the chicken, you sautee the mushrooms and pearl onions, you make the 2-two ingredient sauce and voila!

The results were good, but not great – though that may be because I actually used chicken breasts instead of the thighs I prefer and because I didn’t make enough sauce for the massive breasts I got (lord, that sounds dirty!).

The sauce, which was tasty enough, consisted of 2 tsp of chicken demi-glace dissolved in 5 oz of red wine. I used beef demi-glace, as I didn’t have the regular kind.

I also didn’t use pearl onions because Safeway failed to deliver them to me.

In all, I spent $20 to make this meal, which actually fed 3 of us with leftovers (those were really big chicken breasts) – so about 1/3 less of what the meal kit would have cost.

I also went out of my way to look for “antibiotic-free” chicken, only to find out that California passed a law to ban the use of growth-promotion antibiotics in chickens. Antibiotics can only be used if a veterinarian prescribes them to cure a specific ailment. So it would seem that any “antibotic-free” designation on chicken raised in CA is just for advertising purposes. I had wanted to see if antibiotic-free chicken tasted better than regular chicken, and obviously I found out it didn’t.

I did find out, though, that searing the chicken skin-side-down for a couple of minutes and then baking it at 400F, leaves you with a very nice crispy chicken skin.

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.