Meal Kits more than meets the eye
If you’re like me you have probably seen these advertisements for meal kit services on social media, in your email, or even in your mailbox. With more people avoiding grocery stores on the onset of the pandemic there has been a rise in the use of meal kits. Just last week even President’s Choice announced their own meal kit service.
For those who are unfamiliar and after clicking on this article you will start receiving the ads I mentioned above, meal kits are designed as subscription services where you get a set number of meals each week in bags full of pre-portioned ingredients that you prepare yourself. I will describe my experience with the 3 largest meal kit services in Canada and the food waste issues they create.
1) Chef’s Plate:
The first meal kit I tried was Chef’s Plate and it also happened to be the cheapest one out of the Big 3. Certain meals that were labeled 2 servings which I assumed could feed 2 people, in reality were only enough for one person. Chef’s Plate seemed to give you enough starches whether that be rice or potatoes to feed two people but only enough protein for one. Another aspect was dishes that would traditionally be made with ground beef would have cheaper cuts of meat like turkey substituted in, despite this they were still tasty. Since it is the cheapest option you also end up doing the most work preparing ingredients, so be prepared for it to take longer to cook than the recipe card says, especially if you are making it alone. In terms of food waste this kit includes a lot of plastic packaging and some recipes only tell you to use a portion of a certain spice or sauce, so you end up throwing out the rest unless you are able to store it. Overall, I think this meal kit is a good introduction to cooking or a great way to discover new recipes.
The next meal kit which actually owns Chef’s Plate and is priced in the middle of the Big 3 offered a lot of the same qualities of Chef’s Plate, but had some added benefits to justify the premium you are paying. First off the quality of food is higher and they give you more food per serving. For example, with Chef’s Plate if you had a recipe with hand cut fries they would only give you one potato while HelloFresh I noticed would give you two. The meals seemed to actually feed two people as it seemed like a lot of the dishes would have a protein, some vegetables, and either a salad or some bread, so it felt like a more complete meal. However, in terms of food waste they experience the same issue with a lot of plastic packaging that is not easy to open or store if you do not use all the spices or sauces. Overall, I would recommend HelloFresh because even though it costs slightly more than Chef’s Plate you are getting more and higher quality food with this meal kit.
The last meal kit I tried and the most expensive one was GoodFood and let me tell you the name is accurate. There was a clear step up in quality from HelloFresh, to the point where it did feel like I was making restaurant quality dishes. The recipes are more complex in terms of the ingredients they use and were recipes that I myself wouldn’t know to try, so it definitely helped open up my horizons. A main difference in terms of packaging was that Chef’s Plate and HelloFresh put their ingredients in a paper bag, while GoodFood uses a clear Ziploc style bag, which allows you to see the ingredients, but creates more waste. However, in terms of how they stored spices and sauces, they had them in reusable plastic containers, so you were able to re-use them or store the leftover ingredients for another time. Overall, if you are looking for the freshest ingredients and a high quality home cooked meal and you aren't price conscious, GoodFood is the meal kit for you.
Overall, each meal kit has it’s pros and cons and they all leave something to be desired in terms of the packaging and the waste that creates. However, the way they pre-portion ingredients does help reduce food waste. I recommend you all give them a try as your first box is usually free or very cheap and you can cancel at any time. It also helps give you new recipe ideas, because if you’re like me sometimes you get into the rut of making the same few meals, so this helps spice things up in a time where we are all cooking more than ever.