We’ve all been there. It’s 5 pm and there’s nothing organized for supper. We’re over-whelmed with work and home life. Maybe we’re tired of planning and organizing meals, or we’re resentful that we don’t have the help we need. Am I the only one who can’t get my sh*t together? We want home-cooked meals, but get lost in the overwhelm of planning or shopping for the meal. What can we do?
Recently, a group of moms on my son’s hockey team were raving about their experiences with a meal kit company. It left me curious and inspired me to try using a meal kit. In this post, I share my experience in using this meal kit. This post is unsponsored and is based on the specific company I chose.
A meal kit is a subscription service where a company sends its customers pre-portioned food ingredients and recipes so they can prepare home-cooked meals.
There are several meal kit services available in Canada. I selected a service to try, created an account and set up my profile outlining my meal and food preferences, the kind of protein I like to eat, and how many people am I serving with the meal.
Then I got to choose the specific meals I wanted to order for the week ahead. There were ~6 recipes profiled, each complete with a colorful and tempting picture to show you what your meal could look like.
Different dietary meal plans were available, including family-style meals, vegetarian, low carb, easy prep and classic meals. There were lots of food options from which to choose – beef, pork, chicken, fish and plant-based proteins like chick peas. The descriptions outlined the main protein, plus the vegetable and starch/grain side dishes. The recipes feature seasonal ingredients, and are updated each week.
You can place your order up to 4 weeks in advance. Based on where I live, I needed to have placed my order by Wednesday at midnight for a Sunday delivery. On the Sunday, I received a text message when the delivery had been made to my front door.
My meal-kit came in food safe packaging. Then I had ~5 days to cook the delivered foods.
I ordered the following meals:
Raspberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken Thighs with Potato-Broccoli Mash and Baby Lettuce Salad
Pork Chops with Whipped Goat Cheese, Lemon-Herb Crusted Potatoes, Green Beans & Yellow Beets
Smoky Chicken Bites with Dill Mayo, Rutabaga Fries and Creamy Slaw (this was my favourite)
Mustard-Crusted Pork Chops with Cheesy Potatoes, Blistered Green Beans & Sugar Snap Peas.
There were a few conditions under which I tested these meal kits:
The meal kits solved the problem – what should I cook for dinner? The thinking and shopping work had all been done for me. All I needed to provide was a little olive oil and basic kitchen equipment.
I expanded my recipe repertoire. Based on what I had selected, the recipes pushed me to mix new flavours, and prepare familiar foods in different ways.
The meal kits were like a personal training session with a virtual chef. I purposely selected recipes that looked different from the ways that I usually cook. The meals I selected pushed me out of my comfort zone. Rutabaga fries? I have never tried these before. And they were a real flavor complement to the smoky chicken bites (bravo to the brilliant menu creators!). I did “rescue” my kids by also chopping up a potato in with the rutabaga fries and oven roasting them as well. I offered my kids both. As my youngest said “I like fries that taste like junky fries, with a soft middle” (ie – he tried both the rutabaga and potato fry and preferred the potato fry). I have made them since ordering this meal kit.
I learned some new ways to cook and got some new meal ideas that I will do again. I learned how to make:
If you feel less adventurous in the kitchen, you could choose recipes that felt “safer” or more familiar to you. And now that I have the recipe at home, I can recreate the meal again on my own. That is pretty cool.
The meal kits got my kids involved in meal prep. While they could have helped me before, there was something about the novelty of opening up a special delivery box. The cooking experience ended up being a cooking lesson for all of us.
The recipes were delicious and kid-friendly, with good instructions with colored pictures. My family gobbled up the meal! This was especially the case when the kids helped cook the meal. I did make some modifications for their tastes. For example, I left the broccoli rice out of the mashed potatoes. I knew my kids would not like the looks or the texture of this combination, so I left it separate. I left the tangy goat cheese condiment off their pork chop. No problem.
I had to focus on the foods we were preparing. Since I had not used these recipes before, I needed to read over the entire recipe first and stay focused while cooking instead of “zoning out”. This was especially noticeable on the day when I cooked after a busy work day. It wasn’t a big deal. It was still enjoyable to have a multi-sensory cooking experience.
The cooking times varied. The estimated cooking times were likely made by people with more efficient cooking skills than myself as I found it took me longer than the estimated times for all recipes. But that was also because I was using new and unfamiliar recipes. I am sure if I made these recipes again, I would be more efficient in my meal prep.
The estimated time also depends on your equipment. For example, the recipe said to pan fry the pork chops for 3-5 minutes/side. I used my non-stick dark pan, which meant that to cook the pork all the way through, I needed to have a moderate temperature to prevent burning. But it wasn’t a big deal. Truly, cooking from a recipe should be used as a guide anyways. You need to make sure your meat is cooked, regardless of the suggested timing on the recipe!
Some of the meals were higher in energy than what my body needs for a supper-time meal. This is where eating in attunement with your body will help you eat what you need.
I don’t want to say that these meal kits were expensive. Sure, they were more money than if I had planned and purchased the ingredients myself. But that isn’t the point I want to focus on. When talking about cost, it is important to consider what is the cost of not using a product or service available to help the very problem you are struggling with? A fast food meal for a family of 4 is between $30-$40. These meal-kit meals are around this cost, but are totally different than your traditional fast food fair. Cooking more home-cooked, less processed meals is a tremendous investment in our health and mental wellness.
The meal kits make a good portion of food but there were not a lot of leftovers. Dinner leftovers is a key lunch-time strategy for me, so I needed to figure out something different for lunch the next day. The portions of mashed potato were a little small for my mashed-potato-lovin’ family. However, I keep potatoes on hand so could easily add in more potatoes to the pot.
You need to be organized and plan ahead of time 5 days prior to delivery that you would like a meal kit delivered for that week. However, this planning ahead is a way to start building the habit of planning and organizing your meals ahead of time. If you have strong meal-planning skills, congratulations! You may not need to use these meal-kit services.
There is quite a bit of packaging which, if you used meal kits frequently, could pile up. However all packaging is 100% recyclable.
It seemed a little ridiculous to receive 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise or 1 giant pickle in my meal kit as I have these at home. However, that is the point of the meal kits, which is to deliver 99.9% of what you need for your meal.
Overall, I think meal kits are another strategy to consider adding to your meal-time toolkit, and could be a gateway into cooking at home more often. The habit of having more home-cooked meals is the pathway to our health and mental wellness. Meal kits are a fun way to break out of the boredom of your regular meals, and a great way to involve your family in the cooking process.
One of my clients said that the meal kit option was everything she has been looking for – a giant sigh of relief when it comes to cooking good-tasting weeknight meals. Check out the meal kit services available in Canada.