Updated: May 29, 2020
Living alone was new to me. As a person who loves cooking and baking, I was surprised at the challenge in cooking for one. I tried cooking big meals and making individual portions, but then I ate the same thing all week – that didn’t work. I could portion and freeze for future days, creating a stock of homemade “T.V. Dinners,” but I like to eat fresh food. And I was throwing away more food than made sense.
Sometimes the marketing thrown at us on social media or our internet browser is helpful – and I started to pay attention to the ads for meal kit delivery services.
There are many on the market, some old and some new, some for families and some for singles, and others are designed around specific diets. Since I have no food allergies, and am not following any specific diet, I had at least a dozen companies from which I could choose. Most services offer a basic plan of three recipes, two servings.
Price varied a lot between services. Some send meals for as low as $4.99 per serving, others are as high as $12.99 per serving. The less expensive options did not appear to be due to quality, but rather a simpler method of packaging, no fancy recipe cards, and recipes that did not call for high-cost ingredients like steak or seafood. Since the services I looked at all had the option to order intermittently or put an account on hold, getting locked into a contract was not an issue.
I chose Dinnerly to begin my meal kit experiment simply because their price met my budget easily. They charge just $4.99 per serving; with shipping, the weekly cost is under $40. I created an account, entered my credit card number, chose three recipes from the eight options for the first box, and waited for my delivery day.
The day my first box arrived, I pulled out a sheet pan to store the ingredients and unloaded the contents. The method of packaging and shipping keeps food cold, and meat and dairy products are sealed in a separate bag with ice packs. It seemed like a small amount of food for six dinners, but part of my problem in cooking only for myself was gauging how much to prepare for only one or two servings. Turns out, the portion controls are perfect.
My first order came with the ingredients for Chinese BBQ chicken with rice, meatloaf with roasted sweet potatoes, and chicken with caramelized onions. They required few “pantry ingredients” from my own kitchen; only things like oil, butter, water, salt and pepper were needed. Since Dinnerly does not print the recipe cards, I carried my smart phone into the kitchen and used it to read the recipe online, though the format makes for easy printing if you choose.
Each of those first three recipes was delicious, easy to prepare in about 30 minutes, and made plenty of food for two servings each. In fact, the sweet potato that came in the box to prepare with the meatloaf was so huge, it made three meals.
In the next box, I had chosen a recipe for “oven-fried taquitos.” As I read through the instructions, I realized that I would have three left over that would not be crunchy when reheated in the microwave. I stopped at the prepping stage and set myself up so the second serving is easy to finish, and now check all recipes for “re-heat-ability.”
Five weeks later, and I have the system well in hand. I get my box on Friday, sort the ingredients onto the sheet pan that lives in my ‘fridge," and start with a new recipe for dinner on Friday night. Because I like to cook and keep a well-stocked pantry, I modify the recipes a little where I think I can improve the flavor. If the gravy calls for water, and I have cream and sherry on hand – well, you home cooks know what to do.
A wonderful side effect of the service is learning new cooking techniques that are outside my normal skill set. The sheet-pan potato and kale hash with eggs taught me a very useful trick for the next time I have breakfast guests. Making the taquitos taught me how easy that really is. Creating gyro meat from garam masala seasoning mix and ground pork made for a take-out quality meal, and was a method I would never have tried on my own.
Amazingly, in the eight weeks for which I have either received or have already chosen recipes, I have not seen one recipe repeated, and there are a few I would love to eat again. The beef and green bean teriyaki stir fry and the pork gyro with tomato salad have been my two favorites.
Over the weeks, I have talked with a number of my friends and found a surprising number of them use meal kit services, and many of them use more than one. One friend has delivery only once a month, as a treat for her family. Another rotates to whichever service has the best promotion and pricing. All agree that the flexibility to order or not order during a week is key.
There are dozens of services, from Blue Apron to Plated to Gobble, and each has a cuter name than the last. The prices range widely, and the pricing is tied to the expense of ingredients, how much is prepped for you in advance (up to and including pre-cooking), and the packaging. They have easy to use interfaces; some use websites, some use apps. Select the delivery date you want, choose your recipes, and wait for your box. And, if you don’t like your choices, stop the deliveries and try a different service. There are so many options from which you can choose, you are bound to find one that suits you.
Article written by Beth Pratt
Community Relations Director
Park View Villas, a Village Concept Community
1430 Park View Lane, Port Angeles