Dinner in a Box

 Photo shows a baking sheet filled with multicolored vegetables ready to be roasted in the oven. Every night after work if my eyes are tired or my husband has a headache, it’s not something we feel like doing. But we have to eat, so we have to figure out dinner. Going out is more convenient and more expensive. Eating in is healthier, but costs more time to plan and prep and clean up. Is there a better way?

We like to avoid extra runs to the store, but grocery delivery only recently covered our neighborhood. When Mayberry was added to the service area, I tried a delivery service. It was fine. I love the convenience of not having to arrange a trip to the store or shop for ingredients. I’m not exactly energized by flourescent lighting and waiting in checkout lines. But delivery does not solve the problem of endless meal planning or the cost of acquiring those one or two items that inevitably miss your cart for one reason or another. It’s best for disciplined home cooks who know well in advance their weekly grocery needs.

Then I started hearing promos on podcasts for meal delivery services. Less trips to the grocery store and less meal planning. This sounded good to Stockton and me. A few of my friends had tried it with decent results. After Stockton and I reached our limit eating what felt like the same things over and over again, we looked at plan options.

The companies I compared online have similar programs. For about $10 per person per meal, you pick the number of servings and the number of meals in a weekly delivery. Each plan offers about 8 meal choices a week. We selected the two people, three meals per week plan. That means I only have to plan and cook a couple of additional dinners or one large dish that yields leftovers like lasagna each week.

As a woman living with a disability, I make tough choices on how to spend energy and resources. I really want this to work out. There have been, how should I say it, some surprises.

We signed up for Hello Fresh. While we liked most of the meals and the produce was high-quality, we did run into some problems. Recipe instructions could have been a little more  efficient. The six step structure was deceptive, it meant some steps contained many tasks. After a number of meals I would be left with a lot of cleanup and felt better testing would eliminate some of the equipment used. I’ve done a lot of cooking over the years so I don’t want to sound like a snob here, but it’s the truth. Also, while I was using VoiceOver on the website, I encountered some accessibility issues. I emailed Hello Fresh. After a few months and multiple follow-ups at my insistence the problem remains unresolved.

“The sour cream packets exploded.” Stockton told me in the kitchen as we inspected the contents of a delivery. “It’s on everything.”

I emailed Hello Fresh to request a reimbursement. A five dollar refund showed me how much they cared. Our experience wasn’t living up to the mission of, “delivering fresh ingredients to your door and making home cooking accessible to everyone.”

I cancelled the service.

Next we signed up for Blue Apron. Every Tuesday, we open the brown box. We sort the ingredients into piles per recipe, refrigerate two and get ready to cook the other one. All of the meals this month have turned out well. The quality of ingredients is fine. No shipment issues, the website (so far) has been working with VoiceOver, and the recipe instructions are structured better. The prepared meals even look like the pictures.

I realize this could be a honeymoon phase and issues could be on the horizon. If they arise, it will only be an opportunity for the company to show us how much they value us. For now, Blue Apron works for Stockton and me. Planning meals has never been easier.

How do you figure out what’s for dinner? Have you tried grocery delivery or meal plan services? What has your experience been? Tell me about it.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Casee says:

    I order out a few times a month. As I figure out my budget I’d like to try a program like Blue Apron. They seem to advertise on every podcast I listen to. 😀

    1. Casee they put their menus online so you can check those out in the meantime and see if their choices match up to your tastes, too.

  2. Sounds like a good plan. Only yesterday I was making lentil soup and found I had neither carrots nor cumin. I have an organic vegetable box once a fortnight which comes with a recipe card but who is up for kale and sheep’s cheese pie this week!

    1. Do you receive a good variety of vegetables in the box, Bridget? Do you ever end up with too much of a particular item?

      1. It’s pretty good and you can vary it or add extra items. My only complaint is th, in the subscription box, too much kale. All produce is sourced to limit air miles so, except for fruit which I don’t have, the vegetables are grown in the UK or Spain. Riverford the suppliers also provide other organic products like meat, eggs, wine, etc but it is expensive.

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