You know. All the ones that pop up on Facebook where they send the exact amount of fresh ingredients you need to make specific meals.
How it all started
It all started when a friend “shared” a Hello Fresh box with me. I received $40 off and she also got an account credit ($20) for sharing. I basically paid about $4/serving. I’d been pretty incompetent about planning and making meals for years. It started out of survival when our crisis was at its height, and I just never recovered…so we’d been eating out a lot. Four dollars per serving is much better than eating out.
The weird thing that I didn’t expect was that it was easier, psychologically, for me to tackle making a meal when the recipe was chosen and all the ingredients were prepped and proportioned sitting in cute boxes in my fridge. These companies were on to something!
The standard price for these services is roughly $9-12 per serving. For a family our size, that’s just outrageous. Buuuuut, there are quite a few of these companies trying to win the market share and all have intro coupons. So I reached out to Facebook land and asked for referral codes for other similar companies.
They were all pretty much the same in terms of how you ordered, packaging, recipes, and quality.
Here’s what we found:
- With each one you can specify meal preferences, but you can always swap out for a recipe outside of your preferences.
- None of them had a Paleo option when I tried them, but did have gluten-free and vegetarian meals.
- Every meal was delicious…even to my foody, picky family.
- Most of the recipes could be made on the stovetop in about 20-30 minutes.
- It was great to realize it was dinner time and just a pull a recipe card and follow it mindlessly (knowing you had all the ingredients) and have a tasty meal on the table within the hour.
- I did receive two boxes from Blue Apron where some produce was spoiled or something had leaked, but they gave me a credit right away. I was also able to sub with stuff we had, so the credits just equaled more free food experiences. It was almost a win anyway.
My favorite was Terra’s Kitchen because everything was pre-chopped, and they include the ability to fill your box with extra fresh produce or bento lunch boxes. It was kind of like grocery shopping from my sofa. Their packaging was also the coolest (it’s like a mini fridge) and the most eco-friendly since it was reusable. They pick up the innovative cooler the next morning.
But, in the end, getting one weekly is just not sustainable for our family. I could see these services filling a need for smaller families or two-income families who would probably eat out or do carry out instead because these meals are WAY better. I would definitely also consider a box or two if we were going away for a week to a place with a full kitchen. The boxes would be fantastic for vacation cooking. Lastly, having a box or two for teaching kids how to follow a recipe and cook would be handy since the recipes have photos of each step and all the ingredients are provided.
So where did that leave us? Skipping a lot of weeks on a lot of meal sites…lol.
I’m keeping my Terra’s Kitchen account for those really busy (or vacation) weeks.
If you like the idea of someone doing the recipes and grocery list for you, I found an app, Mealime, that I love. It’s kind of the best of meal boxes and staying on a budget.
Things I love about Mealime:
- It actually has a Paleo track.
- I can also opt out of ingredients such as olives.
- It takes all of my recipes and makes one shopping list.
- The amounts for each ingredient are re-listed in the direction part of the recipe.
- It takes all the thinking out of cooking like the boxes, but I do the shopping, so it’s more affordable.
- I can scale the recipe to fit our family size or who will actually eat it.
With school back in full swing, I can’t even handle Mealime meal planning. I’ve reverted to a 2-week rotating meal schedule. This set up is also helpful if you’re trying to stick with a new set of nutritional standards (such as going Paleo or tackling Whole30) because you only need a limited number of recipes.
Here’s how to set it up for your family:
- Choose 10 recipes that your entire family will eat.
- Assign 2 per day of the week.
- During the first week, make the first set of recipes. During the second week, make the second set.
- Then rinse and repeat.
Here’s what ours looks like:
|Sloppy Joes||Sausage and pancakes||Tacos||Crockpot Mongolian Beef||Baked potatoes|
|Crockpot Pork Carnitas||Pasta or zoodles with meat sauce||Chili||Crockpot General Tso’s chicken||Omelettes|
I try to choose meals that can stay Paleo but can also satisfy my two carb-mongers.
How do you handle meal planning in your family?
I’m always open to new ideas! Especially since it’s only 3 rotations in and I’m already sick of some of recipes…