In early February, the Boy and I got to talking – what would we do for Valentines Day? We’ve done restaurants in the past, and also stayed home and cooked together. The eating out is expensive, and the cooking at home is full of pressure when it’s incumbent on one person to do the shopping and picking of the recipe. So the Boy came up with a brilliant plan – why not do one of those meal-kit services? Have them offer a limited menu of recipes, and then send us all the things we need? It’ll be less expensive than going out to a restaurant, but it’s likely to be a high quality meal since at least one of us is experienced in cooking (hint: not him). And that friends, is why I’m marrying him. So smart.
So I immediately took to the internet and did some digging. There’s a lot of choice out there – the big one that most people have heard of is Blue Apron, but there are so many more with different reasons to choose them. USDA-certified organic! Nothing perishable! Great value! Exotic ingredients! When I was choosing, I did it based on taste. As in, which recipes for the week in question looked most like we would want to eat them? And for Valentines Day – which had a recipe that seemed special and “romantic” enough to cook together? I ended up going with Plated, mostly for those reasons, and the price seemed about right for what our goal was here: nicer than cooking at home, fancier than we would normally cook for ourselves. (This post, btw, is #notsponsored) It also didn’t hurt that they gave us an option to add a dessert – a little something sweet on a day that’s all about decadence. Our first menu would be Seared Steak with Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Gratin, Chocolate Walnut Fudge with Coconut, and Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower Bowls with Kale, Quinoa, and Red Pepper Sauce.
So – have you ever wondered what the whole thing looks like when it comes? It’s a relatively large box, but not super-huge. You open it to find a plastic-wrapped cardboard-and-wood-pulp insulation layer. Open the lid for that and you’ll find the recipe cards for your meals that week. For the Valentines dinner we also had two aluminum pans – we didn’t need to scramble to find the right size! Under the cards are your meal packs – smaller ingredients packed together and labeled in bags, veggies in their own containers, and proteins tucked underneath water-soluble frozen gel packs. The packaging is all either recyclable or reusable, and designed to use the minimum waste. More on that here. Which is good, since everything is individually portioned out and in tiny bottles and packets.
So how was it? Super easy. As we made the fudge, the Boy asked, “Is it really this easy to make? Could we make fudge all the time?” And the answer is … yes! We could make fudge all the time. But then we would likely roll around as corpulent fudge beings instead of the relatively healthy people that we are.
The most complicated part of the meal to make was the steaks. We probably didn’t do them exactly right. But it turns out that it didn’t matter – following the recipe still yielded a delicious meal that was a perfect restaurant alternative for Valentines Day.
So what does it look like when it’s all “plated”? Here are the steak with sauce and the chard gratin. Also the fudge cut into individual servings. Pretty good, right? We’re so fancy!
We saved the cauliflower bowls for Friday night. This was a night that we had the girls, and so there was quite a bit of din and running around. But as soon as we pulled out the kit (it’s a two person meal, and they had already eaten), the girls were intrigued. “What are you making? What’s that? Why are you using that device?” Lots of questions. I think they were also intrigued to see us cooking together – normally I’m the one with dominion over the kitchen, but with their father in charge of chopping up cauliflower for roasting…things were different.
That meal plated (or bowled, in this case) looked like this. It was ridiculously delicious. And vegetarian! Also gluten-free! And low-calorie! All interesting things to consider. Basically, we gobbled it right up.
We had our second delivery of ingredients this past Monday. On Tuesday we made Beef Lo Mein with Snow Peas and Scallions (pictured here) and it was so good that the Boy delayed the girls bedtime a little so that he could enjoy his meal while it was still hot. We’ve got Green Chile Chicken Tacos with Mexican Street Corn waiting for us in the refrigerator for some point later this week.
So – review time. Do we like it? Yes. Heck yes. The food is good, the recipe cards are easy to follow. The attention to ingredients is impressive. It’s nice to think that the meat and other ingredients are higher quality because the company is able to buy them in bulk. I like not having to go out and buy a whole bottle of specific rice wine vinegar for the lo mein that will only sit and go bad on my shelf over the years. The price is pretty good. It’s not cheaper than McDonalds, but it’s vastly healthier. It’s much less expensive than any sit-down restaurant meal in the DC area when you factor in a glass of wine and a tip, though the menu is more limited. I like to think of this as the make-at-home version of a Chop’t or Cava type meal. For two people getting two meals a week, it’s $48 plus $6 shipping (free shipping kicks in at $50). That works out to $13.50 per person per meal.
This can be better than a Cava or Chop’t meal in two ways: the first being that you’re not getting another bowl (unless you ordered a bowl like we did) filled with the same voluminous vegetables, and secondly, you’re making it yourself. You get to see what ingredients go in, and in our case – you can make it together, which is a nice bonding experience. Is this for everyone? Probably not. But at our stage of life, with the amount of disposable income we have, it’s more interesting and financially viable to make our own meals at home than it is to go out or get delivery every single night. This is a nice alternative to that.
You do have the ability to skip weeks, and that’s what we’re going to do for now. We’ll probably do this every other week in the future so that we don’t get tired of it. Or maybe we just choose the weeks where there are things on the menu that are particularly appealing. In any case – there are lots of options.
So – any other questions? Has anyone else done one of these meal kit delivery services? One you liked, or didn’t like? Theoretically I’ll be able to “invite a friend” with a free box at some point, but I guess we haven’t ordered enough for that to kick in yet. If you’re interested – let me know.