Nancy Weiss, a Pomfret-based writer and devoted grandmother, first learned about mail order meal services when the trend started taking off about five years ago.
“We all get sick of the grind of making dinner,” she says. “I thought it would be a fun thing to do because my husband is such a foodie.
She started by ordering from Blue Apron and has been trying different services off and on since then. Weiss explains that instead of worrying about what to cook at 5:30 or 6 p.m., she has a meal option readily available.
“I just pull out one of the recipe cards and say, ‘We’re having stuffed pork chops.’ It’s nice, not having to think about it,” she says.
Today there are more than 150 meal kit delivery services, and many deliver nationwide. Some have lofty goals. Blue Apron’s mission statement declares, “We’re building a better food system.” Many are organic, use sustainable packaging, support local farms, offer vegan or vegetarian meals, or cater to nutritional trends such as the ketogenic diet.
Each has its own benefits. All of them offer convenience that every family appreciates. Plus, they can be a fun and tasty learning experience.
“The meals were pretty interesting,” Weiss says of Blue Apron. “The food was organic, beautifully packaged, and with recipes that stretched you. The meat was organic and good quality.”
She liked that Blue Apron offered stories about their sources; much of the produce came from New York’s Hudson River Valley farms.
“We also enjoyed that they are on top of every food movement. Like kale, for example. Each week we had at least one meal with kale in it,” says Weiss.
She also found some recipes used ingredients that are more difficult to find. Weiss says this can be particularly helpful for people in rural areas, where it takes more effort to get to a grocery store.
Most services have many incentives in the beginning to sign up. “The discounts make it worth trying and the prices per meal are reasonable, considering every time we stay out of the grocery store we save $100!” Nancy says.
She found the convenience of meal kits to be the best aspect. All the ingredients are included and pre-measured. You follow a recipe and it takes about half an hour to put together. “It was nicely demonstrated,” says Nancy.
Jamie Caporaso from Griswold is a graphic and web designer who works at home. She lives 20 minutes from a grocery store, so the 40-minute round trip — plus the time spent shopping — can take up a considerable amount of her workday. She often gets groceries delivered to her door but doesn’t always like the produce they pick out. “I don’t get to see what is available and fresh — including meat,” she says.
Caporaso started using mail order meal kits for variety and has tried Sun Basket, Home Chef, Plated and Orange Basket. With meal kits she gets just enough ingredients for each recipe, which cuts waste and cost. “I don’t end up with unused veggies rotting in the fridge or a spice that I might never use again.”
Each company offers something different that she likes, such as selection, flavor, ease of preparation, or environmental packaging. “I really enjoy that we are always eating something different, getting us out of the rut of having the same thing all of the time,” Caporaso says. She also enjoys learning new cooking techniques or different ways to use an ingredient. “Like cabbage,” she says. “I never thought to buy it, but I learned so many interesting ways to incorporate it.”
Sara Gustavson is wellness coordinator at Putnam Plastics and mother of three children, ages 3, 5, and 8. Sara’s job is to help employees at her company make healthy choices, from exercise to nutrition. “Any step to make it easier for people to make food at home is okay in my book!” she says.
Gustavson has used many different mail order meal services in her own household. Purple Carrot — a vegan plan — is her family’s favorite. “It seems the healthiest and our kids don't mind a lot of veggies,” she says. “Hello Fresh seems to be the most popular with families but it was never enough food for us.”
She also likes Raddish, a cooking club that provides recipe kits for children. “My son loves it!” says Gustavson. “He has an apron with several badges and a huge binder of his own recipes.”
For those who don’t have the time or inclination to make their own meals, there are also delivery options for fresh, tasty and healthy prepared food. Eating out is expensive and unless you really do your homework, you don’t know what’s in restaurant food or where it comes from.
Azuluna is a team of chefs, farmers, and nutritionists based in Woodstock. Its goal is to provide appealing, nutritious meals and support sustainable, responsible farming. Co-founder and farmer Ken Rapoport claims that using Azuluna “is like owning a fractional part of a farm and a culinary chef… most of us can’t afford to do that.”
“We source everything direct from our farmers,” says co-founder and executive chef Rachael LaPorte. “Our mission is to provide local, delicious, nutritious food and have people be as close to their food as possible.”
They even encourage people to visit the farm, see the kitchen, meet the chefs and see their ingredients — even meet the humanely raised protein! Rachael, who lost 110 pounds eating Azuluna’s nutritionally balanced food, calls herself a walking billboard for the health of the meals. After you order online, everything is sourced, prepared and delivered nationwide within one week, guaranteeing maximum freshness.
MammaSezz is a vegan option born from a health crisis. Co-founder Meg Donahue’s elderly mother was dying from heart failure, with no other medical options. Searching for a way to help, Donahue learned that whole food, plant-based nutrition can be key to healing and maintaining good health. She started feeding this diet to her mom, whose health gradually but steadily improved. She also realized this way of eating could benefit everyone, plus animals and our planet.
But she knew from experience it was a lot of work—a big obstacle for most families. So she and her partner created MammaSezz to provide tasty plant-based meals, ready to heat and eat without the hassle of sourcing, buying, chopping and cooking every day. “It still blows me away that Mom is going to be 90 this year and is still driving, swimming, playing cards and going out with her group of friends,” says Donahue.
Whatever your family’s tastes and needs, there are many options to help take the hassle out of meal time. It can be tasty, fresh, healthy, convenient, and even save money in the long run.
Meal Kit Services:
Blue Apron, www.blueapron.com
Hello Fresh, www.hellofresh.com
Purple Carrot (plant based), www.purplecarrot.com
Sun Basket (meal kits plus ready-to-eat), sunbasket.com
Raddish (cooking club for kids), www.raddishkids.com
Azuluna (Woodstock, national delivery, supports local farms), azulunafoods.com
MamaSezz (whole food, vegan, allergy friendly), www.mamasezz.com
October Kitchen (chef’s choice, delivery to Greater Hartford area), www.octoberkitchen.com
Freshly (certified gluten free) www.freshly.com