By: E. Angel
In my earlier years, my mother worked in the home and a homemade dinner full of good nutritious food was on the table. As she went to work, my grandmother stepped in and kept us well fed on foods prepared in the way she enjoyed. While always tasty, I may have enjoyed some of the vegetables less soft – sorry Grandma! The rare treat was what was then known as a frozen pizza or even better a TV dinner (this was a dinner in a metal school tray, which would be heated up in the oven). With the advent of microwaves, the metal tray was replaced with a microwaveable tray and the food selection improved greatly. Those convenient microwaveable meals filled my freezer. I actually lived near a frozen food outlet store for a time, where you could get meals for under $2.00 when you bought in bulk. However, after cooking for my father for a time, his health issues resulted in a reduced sodium diet for the both of us. If you don’t know it, coming off of added salt can change your palate, and make some frozen meals taste like frozen salt slicks. So I, like many of us, defaulted to eating out.
Trying to be healthier, I bought the quick grills and steamers, which were cool. I could come in from work, put a few chicken breasts on the grill, throw some broccoli or green beans in the steamer and by the time I changed out of my work clothes, voilà dinner. As my commute got worse even that has become a bit of pain, as the repetition does not make for happy eating. So often I have gotten into the habit of limiting my actual cooking to weekends, enjoying bagged salads, or eating out. We all know the weekend cooking, where you try to prepare two, maybe three meals, to get you through the week. My go-tos were spaghetti and meat sauce, oven-roasted chicken with wild rice, both with some steamed or oven-roasted vegetables, and/ or a shrimp stir-fry. But if you’re doing all this weekend cooking, spending time actually living your life can be tricky. So back to eating out.
A friend at work gave me a coupon to try one of the meal delivery services. I had declined to do this a year or so ago when these were all the rave, but I was curious to see if they were really convenient and whether I would save money. Based on what I’ve seen, many of the more popular ones are about the same price and provide the same options. There are individual (two servings per meal), family (four servings per meal) and vegan (individual/family) options, which change the amounts and for our vegan friends the ingredients. Generally, there are six or seven meal choices from which you can choose three for the week. There is also the option to skip a week, and generally no minimum purchase requirement, but check your service to be sure. The food is delivered to your doorstep on the day of your choosing. For me, I had to change my day a bit to find out what worked best for my schedule.
Kitchen utensil-wise, I found that a good knife for chopping vegetables, on your chopping board, throw in a vegetable slicer for thinly sliced vegetables, a regular skillet or even better an oven-proof skillet, a good aluminum pan, glass baking dish, and a medium pot will cover most of the recipes. The recipes are in love with a dash of olive oil, so get some from your favorite warehouse grocery store. Generally, all you need is included, it was rare that I needed to provide more than olive oil, salt, pepper, and sugar.
I am a decent cook, so I typically ignore the difficulty and choose what looks good. For the service I am currently using along with a beef, chicken, pork, seafood option is also a breakfast selection. I find the time estimates about right, which is around 30 minutes if you make sure you get out what you need first. Also, don’t get ahead of yourself. The recipes are well written so all your food is ready to put together at the right time. Nutritionally, the recipe at the top of this article (Sliced Steak Tagliata with Sweet Potato Wedges and Warm Tomatoes in Vinaigrette) was 530 calories per serving, 21 grams of fat, 4 g saturated fat, 45 g carbohydrates, 11 grams of sugar, 95 grams of cholesterol, and 200 milligrams of salt. This seemed to be in the normal for the recipes I selected, regardless of whether I choose beef, chicken, pork or seafood. However, one of my favorites was busting the sodium and carbohydrate norms with 78 g carbohydrates 2130 milligrams of salt.
So after about a month, my food budget seems to be doing a little better, with my meals from the service at $9.99, I am throwing out almost no leftovers, and I am not in the grocery store hunger-buying as often. Also, I am not buying lunch most of the week so that is good for me, but probably not for the local fast food economy. I do enjoy cooking and the recipe options have forced me out of the easy, healthy Betty backed chicken to Shrimp Saganaki with Olive Tomato Sauce over Couscous. I even made a bacon apple breakfast flatbread that was divine. I find the delivery to my doorstep convenient and knowing that the box is coming a means to keep me focused on eating better.
Having said that, this is definitely not for everyone. Out of the fifteen or so recipes, I have only found two underwhelming. If you have issues with packages being left on your front step or can’t accept packages at work, or even worse have to lug the same box from work on the metro, this may not be a good option. Get used to ice packs and insulated bubble wrap. Also, if you are a picky eater or have an issue with onions and red peppers, just say no. All in all, I think this is a good option for you on-the-go blerds. So change the batteries in the smoke detector, purchase a kitchen fire extinguisher and get your cooking on!
E. Angel is an engineer and holds a BS in electrical engineering from North Carolina A&T State University. She’s a real nerd who loves all things Star Wars and Star Trek, and is an avid gamer. E.Angel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on either game platform as Bunnehs Sister.