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Reviewing Meal Delivery Services and Kits

meal-delivery-servicesHave you ever wished to have all the ingredients for a healthy, wholesome meal simply provided directly to your door? AFM’s contributing nutritionist Anne Wilfong tried them out, and here’s her review of Spirited Food Company, Veggytopia, PeachDish, HelloFresh, and Plated.

I have been watching the increase in popularity of meal kit delivery services with some enthusiasm, wondering if they’re worth it. For me, whether something’s “worth it” includes cost, but let’s be honest; sometimes getting food on the table that is balanced (and some days, just getting food on the table, period) makes up a big percentage of the “worth it” equation. I sought out local and national meal kit delivery and prepared meal companies and asked them to provide me with food and kits for sampling.

Area Resources:
Spirited Food Company, Veggytopia 

Two local food companies, Spirited Food Company (here in Austin) and Veggytopia (located in Kyle), generously donated food for my tasting. Both of these companies are slightly different than meal delivery kit services, as the food provided is already prepared and can be picked up at a specific location or delivered for a fee. I was thrilled with both of them. My favorite items from Veggytopia were the Blondies (my kids are still wondering how they were baked with tofu and tasted so good), the Zucchini Noodles, and Green Enchilada Bake. The food, perfectly portioned, was enough for lunch or dinner. Spirited Food’s meals, prepared by Andrew Brooks (executive chef and company owner) and his staff, were divine. I sampled the Slow-Braised Grass-Fed Beef with Rosemary and Mushrooms served with Squash and Shredded Dinosaur Kale. The food tasted like a professionally prepared restaurant meal, only served to me in my home, and, as I didn’t have to touch a pot or pan, the meal was a real treat.

I see a variety of uses for prepared meal services; they solve the dilemma of what to bring someone who just had a baby or is sick, and if they are vegetarian or vegan, Veggytopia is perfect. I plan on using Spirited Food when I’m away on my next girls’ weekend, and my sweet spouse will be in charge of feeding the kids. Not that they wouldn’t survive, but it would be nice to leave them with some delicious, well-rounded meals. Here’s a thought: If you aren’t a great cook or are short on time yet want to treat a date to a meal at home, try one of the prepared meal delivery services, add some flowers and a nice bottle of wine, and you’re all set.

Subscription Meal Kit Delivery Services:
PeachDish, HelloFresh, Plated 

If you aren’t familiar with how these work, meals are chosen from a weekly menu. A kit that includes the fresh ingredients, in the appropriate amounts, is shipped directly to your door (check delivery zones on the website) and you prepare the dish as shown on the provided recipe card. It’s simple, straightforward, and a trip to the grocery store is completely eliminated. PeachDish, HelloFresh, and Plated all provided meal kits for me to sample. I was very skeptical about shipping the meat, chicken, and fish, but all three kits arrived with enough ice packs to keep the food at a safe temperature. The ingredients for PeachDish’s Creamy Chicken and Dumplings with Fresh Field Peas and Veggies were very fresh, and the recipe yielded generous portions. My kit also included a surprise dessert as well as some fresh plums, which were delicious and a real treat. For subscribers, a PeachDish box of four meals costs $12.50 per meal, and vegetarian options are available.

HelloFresh provided me with three meal kits. They were of varying difficulty in preparation, though the recipe cards gave detailed steps and pictures. The Honey Ginger Glazed Chicken was delicious and easy to make, and I would prepare it again on my own. HelloFresh’s classic box (for omnivores) starts at $10.75 per person per meal (vegetarian meals are also an option), and nutrition information is posted on the recipe card. This was the only service that included shipping in the price, and there is no minimum obligation to the service.

Plated’s meal kit recipes were the simplest and contained the smallest portions. The recipe for Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs with Bulgur, Raisins, and Pine Nuts included three chicken thighs, which made serving two people somewhat awkward. The food, though, was very fresh, and the Seared Salmon with Olives, Rosemary, and Potatoes recipe was interesting and easy to prepare. Plated charges $12 per dish and regularly offers dairy-free menu items as well as options without added gluten.

I expect the popularity of meal kit delivery services to increase, and there are some good uses for them. They’re convenient; even though you’re still preparing the meal, shopping for and measuring ingredients is skipped, as they are delivered ready to use. They can be great learning tools for inexperienced cooks—the detailed recipe cards and pictures help eliminate any confusion on how to prepare the meal and almost guarantee good results. And the convenience just might help with making a healthy choice on a busy work night.

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