With an hour commute to and from work each day, I’m always looking for new ways to hack my limited spare time. Prepping dinner every night is at least an hour-long ordeal, and I was open to any tricks to cut that time in half. With the recent boom of the meal-kit service industry, I was intrigued. Having a solid background with food and cooking, I was half hesitant, half curious to find out what the appeal is.
This past weekend, a good friend of mine introduced Ben and I to Plated and Chef’d, two meal-prep service companies delivering fresh meals in a box. Ben and I eat largely the same-old meals every week, so we were excited to jazz things up and to discover new recipes without spending $$$ at a restaurant.
Both dishes were sufficient enough for two servings and packaged similarly. All the ingredients come in exact proportions in separate packagings, which eliminates the problem of any ingredient going to waste. The proportions are measured exactly per recipe! This is such a smart solution since I’m guilty of investing in expensive products that I need for one specific dish, only to have the remainder of that item go to waste or never to be touched again for months. I personally have a handful of lonesome spices in my pantry that were only used once, if ever again! Individual containers resolves not only the issue of ingredients going unused but also the hassle of finding and running around the super market just to find THAT special ingredient. With pre-portioned items arriving neatly in each box, there is no need to keep mental track of my fridge and pantry inventory. There is no last-minute grocery store run because you find yourself suddenly missing one key ingredient in the middle of preparing a meal. All the mental guesswork is gone!
Both recipe cards from Chef and Plated are simple and well-written, which are perfect for beginner cooks! Ben and I followed the recipe as if we didn’t have any experience in the kitchen and found the guides to be uncomplicated and not intimidating at all since the photos and instructions are clear and straight-forward. Prepping each meal from start to finish did not take us more than forty minutes.
My only qualm about this set-up is the extent of plastic waste produced by each meal prep. It was difficult to ignore just how many non-recyclable containers and Ziplocs we had to toss from each box. I find it ridiculous how wasteful we’ve become as a society just for the sake of convenience.
Another unexpected downside we encountered with Chef’d is the instructions for the Yukon potatoes required a microwave, something we definitely do not have or want to have in our home. I’m aware that we’re part of the minority in this aspect, but because of this, we had to improvise by boiling the potatoes in water instead, which added at least 10 minutes in our prep-time.
A great feature that Chef’d offers is the option for their customers to customize their own meal kits. Anyone can curate their meals based on their individual preferences, cooking skills, diet restrictions, lifestyle goals, etc. This is super helpful, particularly in our multi-cultured household. My husband is Israeli Jewish who eats 96% kosher, and I’m Filipino who eats, well, everything. One less thing to compromise about!
With solid backgrounds in cooking, Ben and I were excited to explore more advanced “gourmet” options. We cook a majority of our meals at home, but like most home cooks, we do easily get stuck in a rut of cooking largely the same dishes all the time.
Since Chef’d offers their meal kits to be purchased individually without a weekly contract, it’s an excellent alternative for us when we want to have a “date night” without draining our budget. Unlike ordering takeout food, it’s another great way to spend more time together as a couple. This cost-efficient middle ground lets us discover new food and recipes that we can add in our rotation in the future!
Will I try a meal-prep kit service again? Yes, but only for special “date nights” or to try new dishes with special ingredients and items that I don’t want to spend the energy and time trying to find. Or cuisines I have zero bandwidth to cook myself (i.e. Indian and Japanese cuisines).
Although the flank steak and pine-crusted salmon were delicious, it didn’t feel out of my ordinary rotation of meals. These meals weren’t dishes that I couldn’t have prepared for myself. Because I have substantial cooking skills and the know-how to cook delicious meals, I know I could’ve made the same meals on my own, for a fraction of the cost, without a meal kit.