Thinking of Trying a Meal Delivery Service?
The meal delivery service business has been proliferating exponentially since their inception, offering local and national possibilities if you’re looking for a way to minimize shopping, prep and cook times for dinner. The appeal is understandable, especially to young urban professionals who have discretionary income and usually find themselves eating out or ordering in.
Finding time to plan, shop for and prepare meals is often a challenge especially if all that labor is for only one or two people. Enter the meal delivery service as an alternative to the nightly conundrum.
Most services offer meals that cater to dietary needs, such as vegan, gluten-free, pescaterian, paleo, etc. The vegetarian options for the following two food services were tried, with incentives of free meals and the ability to cancel deliveries at any time with no obligation. A friend and I cooked and critiqued two of the three meals that came with each plan.
My first experience with Blue Apron left a bad taste in my mouth (yes, I said that). I’d ordered a trial as a gift and told the recipient to be on the lookout for the box of perishable foodstuffs. He waited in all day and into the night, and after numerous assurances delivery was on the way, we both realized it wasn’t going to happen. No apology or compensation was forthcoming and of course the subscription was cancelled on our end.
However, as Blue Apron is probably the most recognizable meal delivery service name in the industry, I decided to give them another chance. The details were:
- free shipping
- 2 person plan, 3 meals a week
- about $10 a meal/$60 a week
- $30 for the first order incentive
- vegetarian plan
- food delivered on a Saturday
- prepped most perishable recipe Sunday
My first concern was all the packaging necessary to deliver the food and to keep it from spoiling. Although most of the packaging is touted as being recyclable, there were many plastic bags and wraps. I would not feel comfortable about having to recycle and discard that much waste every week.
The menus were clear with good photographs and prepping instructions, especially helpful if you are a novice cook. Calorie counts are noted on each recipe as well as prep and cooking times. Although most recipes allowed 15 mins for prep, we found it took two of us about 20 minutes with lots of vegetable chopping needed. The quantity of food was plentiful for two and there were leftovers, but that’s possibly because we did not want seconds. Neither of us finished our plates.
The brown butter and thyme gnocchi meal had an overwhelming mushroom flavor, and yet was surprisingly bland and too starchy with corn in the dish. We thought it needed red pepper flakes or other condiment to enhance the flavor. We would not want this recipe again.
The roasted eggplant pitas and farro salad plated well and the salad in particular looked appealing. We wound up spooning the salad, which included cucumbers and tomatoes onto the sandwich to give the eggplant (which we thought should have been peeled) more texture and flavor. The labneh (Middle Eastern yogurt cheese) was a nice touch with the sandwich, but neither of us finished the food and would not want to eat it again.
Our overall impression was that, at least for the vegetarian meals, we would not pay full price for this meal delivery service subscription, did not care for the meals we tried, and would not want to have so much plastic and recycling to contend with weekly.
The Green Chef provides all organic, non-GMO ingredients. As with most of these services you can see what meals are planned for the next few weeks with the ability to skip weeks or cancel your subscription. Details were:
- free shipping
- 2 person/3 meal plan
- $10.50 per meal/$63 a week
- $24 for the initial order incentive
- vegetarian plan
- food delivered on a Monday
- prepped first meal on Monday
As with Blue Apron, there was considerable packaging which is recyclable or reusable. Unlike Blue Apron though, most of the vegetables were already chopped (and hence arrived in small plastic jars). There were also small jars of sauces and condiments, which enhanced flavors and were appreciated.
Menu cards were clearly written, with good photographs and instructions. Green Chef color codes all jars and packages to the menus making it very quick and easy to pull out ingredients from the refrigerator for each meal. They also indicated calories and a more realistic time for preparation, from 30-40 minutes.
The first meal we tried was an Italian grilled cheese sandwich with broccoli slaw. My impression was that it would not be an adequate meal for dinner. Wrong. Green Chef ‘gets’ vegetarian cooking. The spices are aromatic; the pro tips are useful; the recipes provide flavor, protein and fiber and are ultimately satisfying. The bread for the sandwich was a hearty honey whole-wheat. A spinach pistou and home-made tomato jam brought the mozzarella and cheddar to a new level, and the roasted broccoli slaw with hummus dressing was crunchy with a nice contrast of warm and cool. This meal got a thumbs up.
My dining mate, who is not vegetarian and had never eaten tempeh, was a little reluctant to try something so different. The tempeh was roasted with fingerling potatoes and carrots in a maple tamari glaze and plated with braised green apple, cabbage, purple onions and celery and a paprika-garlic aiolifor dipping. The meal had appeal and flavor and we felt we were eating a healthy and hearty dinner. We finished every bit of our food.
As an oft-frustrated vegetarian when it comes to finding creative (oh please, not another portobello burger!) tasty meals out, I was happy with the offerings from Green Chef, and my non-vegetarian companion enjoyed both the meals we made. Looking at their recipes for coming weeks I think I would really like the lentil shepherd’s pie, and southern BBQ seitan, and if time was an issue for me, I would probably continue my subscription and maybe try one or two other selections from the meal delivery service offerings for further comparison.
About the contributor:
Donna Kirdahy is a Yankee Anglophile happily living in Wilmington’s Historic District. A self-proclaimed foodie, she’s a vegetarian who enjoys the surprise and variety of ethnic cuisines, especially Middle Eastern and Indian. She’s never been known to turn down NY pizza or eggplant parmesan.