Blue Apron. Hello Fresh. Purple Carrot. Plated (as of this week, now owned by Albertson’s). These are just a few of the meal kit companies that have created a new business model.
What is a meal kit? A meal kit is all the fresh ingredients and seasoning you need to make a meal, all measured out exactly to the recipe provided. Everything is in one box, delivered to your door on a schedule of your choosing. Depending on the service, you can choose the menu you want to cook or you can request a surprise menu.
Basically, you are ordering all the ingredients to make a good tasting “gourmet” meal, except you don’t have to go shopping or even leave your home or office. Every single ingredient is individually packaged with the exact amount the recipe calls for, so there is no buying four ounces of fresh dill when you only need one small sprig. Everything is pre-measured, eliminating the risk of over-seasoning your meal or forgetting a spice.
It sounds kind of fun, right? I think so too, but I have never ordered any of the meal kits because of my busy travel schedule.
Fortunately, a few weeks ago, I ran into Terri Langhans, a high school pal who is also a world class speaker and author. Terri has tried several of the meal kit services, so I asked her about her experiences so far.
My first meal kit wasn’t mine. It was my neighbor’s, and she dropped it off on her way to the airport to attend a family funeral. Inside the big box were three smaller boxes, about the size of skinny shoe boxes, each containing the ingredients for a meal that would serve two people. It was like unpacking a box of birthday presents from Grandma, before Amazon was invented.
“How great is this!?” I thought.
For me, a focus group of one, meal kits aren’t about eating healthy, controlling portion size, discovering new recipes or being able to recycle the packaging. It’s all about less stress and more fun around meal planning and preparation.
After a day of dealing with a never-ending To Do list, I doubt that I’m the only one who dreads having to answer the “what’s for dinner?” question. Even when I’m the one asking. What do I have in the fridge? Something from the freezer? Nah, no time to defrost. Are there any leftovers that haven’t grown fur? I don’t want to stop at the store. Isn’t today Meatless Monday? How much is left of that salad bag from Costco? Popcorn’s a vegetable, isn’t it? I guess I better go to the store. Yikes, I need gas. And wine.
I can certainly relate to that!
Open the box. Read the recipe. Follow the directions which have been simplified for even the newest of cooks can follow. For example, the recipe card doesn’t assume you know what sauté means. It would more likely say, “While the vegetables roast, heat a pan on medium heat. Add olive oil (already pre-measured in a packet). When the oil shimmers, add chopped shallots and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes. Do not let them brown.”
All that detail means that not only does everything come out cooked perfectly, to temperature, but everything comes out at the same time. Again, less stress, more fun.
The next night, I arrived home to find hubby and two of our friends assembled at various “work stations” in our kitchen. They were wielding a spatula, a chef’s knife or parchment paper, according to which section of the two remaining two recipe cards they were assigned. The oven was pre-heating, everything was in its place, including an open bottle of wine.
“Hi, sweetheart!” hubby said, handing me a glass. “We’re having a dinner-making party.”
After the meal, we went online and created two new accounts, ordered our menus and made a date for the next dinner-making party. This time it would be BYOB. As in Bring Your Own Box.
After reading Terri’s comments, I’m seriously planning on ordering a meal kit next time I have a few friends over for dinner. And to make it even more fun, I think I’ll ask them if they want to help cook!