Monday, May 15, 2017

Dinner on the Table

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I like to cook. Not only do I want healthy, fresh food, but I enjoy the process--it's a very Zen-in-the-moment thing for me, and it definitely provides some nice brain rest when I've been writing all day. But, unless I plan menus very carefully on the weekend and do all my shopping then, I'm likely to end up on a weeknight facing take-out or an emergency trip to the supermarket when I'd really rather write another hour.
Hello Fresh Pineapple Pork Chop

Enter the MEAL SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE (a very unappealing term, I must say.) This is a booming industry and there are a good few to choose from, including BLUE APRON, PLATED, HELLO FRESH, HOME CHEF, CHEF'D, and SUN BASKET. The way these work is that you choose your meals for the week, and all the ingredients (with recipes) are delivered to your doorstep. The food is all fresh and you don't have to do the shopping. That sounds pretty good, so which one to try?

In my case, it was an easy decision because my daughter gave me a free trial coupon for HELLO FRESH.

These services all have slightly different options on the number of meals you can or must order per week. For HELLO FRESH, it's three two-person meals. (They also have a family option and a vegetarian option.) There are seven to eight recipes to choose from for that week.

I've just finished my third week of HELLO FRESH dinners. Here's my little very unscientific review.

The pros:

The food is fresh, although there were a couple of vegetable fails. The chicken, beef, and pork seemed to be good quality. We had shrimp twice and it was very fresh, but our one salmon dish was (not so pro) pretty dismal. A friend tried the cod, however, and said it was delicious.

The recipes almost all called for cooking with or using olive oil, which was fine by me, and there was lots of citrus, fresh herbs, garlic, onions, and shallots--all things I would ordinarily cook.

The portions were generous. We almost always had leftovers, at least enough for me to eat for lunch the next day.

My picky-eater husband liked almost everything, although I did make a few substitutions. (No bell peppers for him--he's allergic.)

The recipe cards were easy to follow.

Recipe card for the pork chops above


I loved the concentrated stocks.

We had fresh food that was healthier, and probably less expensive, than take-out.

(The meal services prices seem to vary between $9 and $12 per portion. HELLO FRESH was $60 for three two-person meals. Not cheap, but less than decent take-out or eating out, and I didn't waste nearly as much food as I usually do.)

The cons:

The packaging! You have to dispose of the ice packs and the cardboard and the foil/foam liners for the shipping boxes. This is apparently an issue with all the services, and HELLO FRESH is supposed to be less wasteful than some.

The time. I'm a very competent cook, but I never once got all the prep done in the 10 minutes stated on the recipe card.

These recipes were all easy for me, but although they are categorized as "Level 1" I think they might be challenging for someone who was a real novice. And you have to have decent equipment--good pans and knives and graters, etc.

There was not enough variation in the recipes.

I got bored. I missed doing my own meal planning and experimenting with recipes that I run across.

And I got tired. There were lots of nights when I didn't want to spend an hour cooking and would have been happier with a rotisserie chicken and some steamed broccoli, or whole wheat spaghetti and a salad, or leftovers from a pot of soup.

My conclusion: I'm not ready to cancel, but am going to take a couple of weeks break. (You can stop a week as long as you do it within the service's time limit.) I have, however, been reading lots of reviews of the different services, so I may be tempted to try some others. BLUE APRON seems to get the overall best reviews, has more variety in the recipes, and is less expensive. Their recipes are created by well-know chefs, too.  I'd like a two meal a week option, too, if it was available, rather than three.

Overall, I think the meal service plans are a great alternative to eating out or getting take out. My daughter and son-in-law, with a baby and full time jobs, love them. And I think it's a great way for people who don't know how to cook to learn about food and cooking.

What about you, REDS? Have you tried any of these? WOULD you be interested in trying?
LUCY BURDETTE: We have never tried them but hearing so much about this! In fact I just yesterday read an article reviewing this whole trend by a chef--he felt the explanations for beginning cooks were inadequate. Our daughter and her husband love them, and rotate through the different programs according to the deals they get.

I admit I end up rotating through my series of no-fail meals which includes roast chicken, spaghetti bolognese, crockpot pasta fagiole, curried chicken salad, shrimp, French lentil, pasta, and kale soup, and for a splurge, crab cakes. And I do love going to the farmer's market and cooking from what I find there. Since I have to eat lower salt food these days, I wonder how these would work? What do you think Debs?


DEBS:  Lucy, all the recipes call for salt to taste and there aren't ingredients with added salt, so I think it would be pretty easy to cook to suit you. How good the meals would be without salt, I don't know!


HALLIE EPHRON: I've never tried it but my daughter uses BLUE APRON and has had good success. Exhausted coming home from work, two little kids, she says it's great not to have to shop for food and the food comes prepped. Healthy. Tasty. Not as expensive as eating out.

All that packaging would turn me off. We're filling the earth with trash. It preys on me.

And I love to cook. The prep calms me. And like Lucy I have a roster of rotating menu items (roast chicken, paprika chicken, chicken with mushrooms, Grandma Freda's meatballs, pasta with mushroom sauce...)

But my favorite thing is to look in the fridge, see what ingredients I have, go to the computer and fire up Epicurious and find recipes that use those ingredients, and then improvise. Last week I made zucchini shrimp pancakes one night. Another night crispy fish over homemade creamed corn. 

As long as I have basic ingredients in the fridge: ginger, scallions, garlic, onions, olive oil, vinegars, mushroom, red pepper, carrots, celery, along with frozen shrimp, chicken parts, chopped meat, fish fillets along with something green (broccoli or asparagus or zucchini or bok choy) or fresh tomatoes (Campari brand are the tastiest)... I can improvise something. Problem is I rarely write down what I did, so if it's really good too often it's a one off.

JENN McKINLAY: I love the idea of a meal subscription service but I don't think I'd like the reality. Like, Hallie, I spend a lot of time thinking about packaging and the planet and I do suffer from landfill/environment anxiety. Over-packaging makes me crazy. I am a hardcore farmer's market sort of gal. I like to go and buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and bread, and then see what we can do with them. Since I live in a frat house with two teen boys, I'd have to find a meal service that caters to growth spurts. The other day when I was at the store, I got a text asking me to bring home a big bag of potatoes. The nine o'clock snack at our house is a fully loaded baked potato. The bag was gone in three days!


DEBS: I love the farmer's market, too, Jenn, and missed just going and picking out whatever looked good. (And our local tamales from the market!)

RHYS BOWEN: What I'd like is a live-in chef! It doesn't seem to me that this service takes away much time and I really like to pick out my own meats... or have John pick them out. Actually John does all the shopping and comes home with loads of fresh vegetables and good proteins and we take turns cooking. We stick to our favorites on the whole: salmon, mahi mahi, trout, roast chicken and then a curry or a big stew, rack of lamb as a treat, shrimp, occasionally lobster tail. We recently started doing lamb shanks in the slow cooker (delicious).
 

What I would like is to subscribe to a local organic produce delivery--a box on my doorstep every week with whatever produce has reached maximum freshness. Of course the risk is that some weeks it could be kale and more kale, but think of fresh peaches, herbs, baby new potatoes. Unfortunately we are never in one place for long enough to make this work. And frankly, if I don't feel like cooking we go out. I enjoy not having to do the clearing and washing up! 

DEBS: Rhys, we did a produce share every two weeks for a couple of years. We stopped because the price went up and the shares got smaller, but I really miss it. It was such fun to pick up my box and see what was in it.


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: You know me. Either way is possibly good. I love the idea of not having to decide what to cook, so if someone brings me the perfect ingredients for a thing, I could see how that would be nice. BUT-- the fun part of cooking for me is the "figuring out what I could concoct from what I have" element. Not the actually cooking it element.
So I'd rather say to someone--"I'm going to make grilled chicken with parmesan pesto and stir-fried spiral zucchini with garlic and peas.  Could you clean it up when I'm done?"
Also--it would shock you--not--to learn I'm a little fussy. So there's hardly a time when I don't ask for just the tiniest of changes in restaurants--could I have salad instead of fries? Once I asked for just two pumpkin ravioli (which was an accompaniment) because I wanted to try them, but I didn't want to eat ten of them, and I also didn't want them to go to waste. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable request. I was the only one.
SO if one of those meal-prep places brought us, say, haddock with lima beans, I might ask them to take away the lima beans. And in that case, what's the point?
Our go-tos are stir-fried chicken and vegetables, grilled chicken with parmesan, sautéed pork medallions with sauteed lemon slices, grilled salmon with whatever there is. Chicken chili. Chicken and mushroom soup. Chicken tacos without the taco shells. Yes,  rack of lamb for special occasions, cooked over charcoal.
Now I'm starving. If I cook, will you clean up?

INGRID THOFT: The solution to my problem isn't a meal subscription:  I need to move in with Hallie!  I love to eat, but as many of you know, I'm not wild about the cooking part.  In fact, I would be happy to do the dishes if someone else were willing to actually make the meal!  I live one block from one of the best farmers markets in the country - Pike Place Market - so finding good ingredients is never an issue.  Rather, I just don't like the process, even if all the fixings were to magically appear in my refrigerator.  The other challenge is that I have a picky eater on my hands, although he would deny it.  There are enough things he doesn't like, or likes in a very particular way, that I'm afraid I would be like Hank, having to pick through the offerings.  Where's the personal chef subscription plan?  That's what I really need!


DEBS:  Well, it looks like we have no REDS takers. In fact, I think we're all going to move in with Hallie...

But it's interesting that three of us have working daughters with small children and they all love the meal services. I think anything that gets people cooking AND having meals together is great.

How about you, READERS? I'd love to hear some feedback on the other plans. 



66 comments:

  1. I guess I’m in the minority, but I don’t find myself at all tempted to try any of those meal subscription services.
    I, too, would be less-than-thrilled with all the packaging needing to be disposed of; I even take my own reusable bags to the store so that I don’t have to deal with those plastic ones all the stores like to foist upon me.

    I enjoy cooking and I really want to be able to pick out things myself rather than hoping the items in a box are fresh and to my liking. We almost always have the staples on hand, so whipping up something different for dinner isn’t usually a big deal and I seldom find myself with no idea of what to fix for dinner.

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    1. you are not alone! I don't want to try them, especially now that I've heard about all the packaging. I love cooking and making up & trying new recipes. I enjoyed the CSA we used to be in, but it got to be too much of the same things over and over. I enjoy going to the fruit stands in the summer and growing my own tomatoes and raspberries keeps me busy a few months of the year!

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    2. I'm with you two. It's so easy to do it yourself. I live in a big apartment building in NYC, and my neighbor, a new mother, uses this, because even buying groceries from a grocery delivery site takes time, and Blue Apron (for example) relieves you of all decision making. At least she's cooking herself and her husband real food. But it comes at a serious cost, not just in price/pound or price/item, but in environmental waste. At least, when I buy too much of something, I can at least recycle it at the composting collection at the local market.

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    3. Another factor in our decision about this service is that, in addition to the local farmers' markets, we have a garden and grow many of our own vegetables and herbs. But I can see the advantage for those who don't have the same resources available . . . .

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  2. Interesting program and feedback. So the veggies and everything come prepped? I know the packaging would upset me, too.

    Do they have vegetarian options? My son's fiancee doesn't eat meat or fish. For me, I doubt I would sign up for this. I wouldn't mind the new meal ideas, but like Hallie, I can come up with those on my own when I need to.

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    1. The veggies and meats are whole. You have to do the prep.

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    2. I will never understand how anyone can deny themselves the deliciousness that is a well done cheeseburger. :D

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    3. Not only that, you can also get all the recipes of their websites!

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  3. I enjoy cooking and eating and have both my standard recipes and I love to try new recipes. Having said that, I was intrigued by these home meal subscription services.

    A couple of them are here in Ottawa so I tried one last year (Chef's Plate) when they gave a 65% off discount. They had plenty of 2 serving dishes and a wide range of ethnically diverse meal choices and several vegetarian entrees. Overall, the meal was ok...the recipe was easy to follow, although like Debs, the prep time was longer than the card indicated. It was nice to have just a tiny container of the sauce or an ingredient for one meal instead of buying a regular sized bottle I probably wouldn't use and it would hide in the fridge for months. And it was in the dead of winter so it was nice to get everything delivered to your door and not have to trudge out in the cold/snow to get groceries.

    But overall conclusion, I would not order from them again.

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    1. There's an untapped market. My husband loves to grill and loves ALL the condiments that go with it - marinades, sauces, etc. My fridge is half full of half used condiments because he can never use the same one twice. (Pause for eye twitch). How awesome would it be if you could buy half sized bottles? Hmm...

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    2. Agree with you, Jenn! And for a single person like me, a quarter-sized bottle of some of these condiments or sauces would be big enough! The Chef's Plate sauce was less than 1/8 cup in size - perfect for that one meal for two (and yes, eating the leftovers the next day was fine).

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  4. I want to live one block from Pike Place Market!!

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    1. I feel very fortunate that it's my neighborhood market. It's a feast for the senses!

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  5. First, a belated Happy Mother's Day to all the Reds. I was mostly offline yesterday.

    I investigated all these meal services. The biggest pro for me is everything is there and decided upon. I don't mind the cooking. I am so tired of the "what are we going to have tonight?" That whole "look in the fridge and decide what I can make" is exhausting. I don't need a personal chef, I just need a meal planner. I wouldn't say no to a personal grocery shopper, although The Hubby doesn't mind the shopping.

    Unfortunately, this is just too expensive for where we are right now. I can buy all the ingredients for less than what the subscription plan costs. And especially with a teen boy in the house (who, when I said "I think I made too much pasta" last night responded, "Don't worry Mom. I'll eat it." And he did.) the portions are too small. I'd hear "I'm hungry" fifteen minutes after the table was cleared.

    And The Girl is kinda pick although she would vehemently deny this.

    But maybe when the kids are out of the house. In the meantime, what I need is a meal PLANNING subscription service!

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Maybe it's time to get your children involved, Mary. Let them decide on menus, and help with prep work. They might as well learn how to cook, anyway.

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    2. Once upon a time, The Girl helped me plan meals for the entire week. Every Saturday night we'd sit down, look for recipes, and build a shopping list.

      Now Saturday nights are taken up by either homework or social activities.

      But summer is coming, right? New chore for the new season! LOL

      Mary/Liz

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    3. Yes! And what a good idea that was, to do the meal planning. I've never been that organized.

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    4. Mary, in Québec we have a meal planning site nammed: SOSCuisine.com and you can choose what kind of meals you want or you need and how many you want for a week. They give the planning, the recipes and the ingredients to buy and where they are less expensives
      I used it a couple of months many years ago but after a time,I felt it to be too répétitive. They may have a little sister in the US.

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  6. Grace, your comment had me wondering how far of my 'staples' -- condiments in the fridge -- are past their sell-by dates. I just replaced some cinnamon that were dated '05.

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    1. The spice rack at my house had so much stuff in it that was out of date, a clean sweep was performed and only the things that would definitely/maybe get used got replaced.

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    2. I'm equally bad. I'm sure I have a lot of dead spices in my cupboard.

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  7. My daughter and I experimented with Blue Apron. The quality of the meat, fish, and produce was very good. The recipes were easy to follow, but time consuming. Peel this, chop that, cook 45 minutes. Julia learns new cooking techniques and often invites a friend over to share the meal. It's a fun way to eat-in, and I suspect the under-35 set is the perfect target market. In general, my kids cook ahead on weekends and frequently use a slow cooker.

    Feeding teenagers is a whole different game. Healthy cereal, potatoes, pasta, homemade pizza...anything to fill them up. My son commented that Blue Apron portions are perfect for women, but never enough for a guy.

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  8. My darling sister Nancy is a personal chef… For a family you would have heard of. She absolutely loves her job! And says it makes her so happy when her clients are thrilled that she's come up with the perfect menu--For breakfast, for dinner parties, for luncheons, She is absolutely amazing. I certainly would love to have her come to our house!

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    1. Can you loan her to me for a week? LOL

      Mary/Liz

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    2. Wouldn't that be so great? She lives in Indianapolis…

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    3. All I can think of is what a good job this would be for a sleuth...the things she could hear and see!

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    4. Oh, love it! There must be one already--OR lets get the Reds to write it together! Wanna?

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    5. My books need to sell just a tad more copies and I'll hire her, Hank. I'd love someone to cook my meals at a gourmet level. Does she ever cook for you?

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  9. Like Margaret, I think the younger marrieds/SOs are the target market for these services. Busy people who have not yet learned how to cook beyond the basics, but who have grown up eating in restaurants most of their lives.

    I considered using a service when a friend offered coupons. But after really looking at it, and thinking about how we eat, I decided against it. First off, we have a freezer full of venison, wild turkey, fresh-caught trout, game birds, and now duck, thanks to my husband and his friends. I'd much rather eat the stuff we already have, frankly, which is bound to be higher quality than most meats that are shipped. For one thing, it's ALL "organic", with zero chemicals added to food. And I am pretty adventurous when it comes to combining ingredients. We already have a pantry of staples like quinoa, black rice, and assorted pastas; if a fully thought-out meal arrived I would not use those other things.

    Another reason is the waste, including of my pantry items already here. As noted above, the packaging gives me nightmares (so does the typical coffee process, especially the K-cup types). But also, if I can choose my own fresh ingredients, I can space things out so we use nearly everything. We don't waste much food here.

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  10. I also meant to add that my 12-year old grandson is learning to cook. He makes his own hot breakfast every day now, and yesterday brought his mother strawberry pancakes he made so she could eat them in bed. (I know!)

    Last week he made up a menu, shopped for the food, and then made dinner for his mom and dad. My son-in-law had to supervise the grill, since Zak had never done that before, but he made this menu: filet mignon, horseradish mashed potatoes, and haricots verts with sauteed shallots.

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    1. You're so brilliant! I am trying to get my 14-year-old grandson to love to cook… He will have none of it.

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    2. what a mother's day treat Karen! A friend on Facebook told about her son bringing her breakfast--it included a cup of water, a raw English muffin, and maybe a carrot. Then he stood there and watched her eat it:)

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    3. LOL! So funny.

      Hank, he has to want to do it, and I don't know how you get them to that point. One of my daughters was really into helping her dad cook Sunday breakfast, starting at age four, but the other two are indifferent cooks. I just told the middle one yesterday, after listening to her say she doesn't know how to cook, "You're a big fake! You've taken cooking classes! You just don't want to do it." She laughed, and said, "Yep".

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  11. Although I am very interested to hear about other folk's experiences I really don't think any of these plans would suit me, for similar reasons that have been mentioned.

    But Reds, I am very concerned about people putting in their email addresses. Sure, I'd love a chance at a book or whatever but I really don't think it is safe to share our email addresses so casually. What does everyone else think?

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    1. Agree with you completely! We just scrubbed emails from the previous book giveaways. We'll be asking you email US with your email if you win something in the future. Thanks, Judi.

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  12. I have several friends at work who have used these services and liked them, but they have never particularly enticed me. Like many others here, I actually enjoy cooking. Unlike some, I think I enjoy it all the way from the deciding what to cook process to putting it on the table. (I am blessed with a husband who prefers not to cook but is happy to do the cleanup EVERY TIME!) So on weeks where there is a little more time, I enjoy searching for interesting new recipes and on more hectic ones, I have my reserve of go-to recipes (chicken stir fry, walnut & garlic linguine, red beans & rice, etc.) to get us through.

    I DID seriously consider a CSA this year, but ended up opting against that, too, because I would have to change my process too much. (I currently select menus them shop for the ingredients. Couldn't get my head around getting my ingredients and then planning meals to fit. Even though, like Hallie, I can improvise pretty well when I need to.)

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  13. What a boon this must be for someone who works, being able to come home knowing exactly what to cook and having all the ingredients. I can see why you are intrigued, Deb. None the less, I doubt I'd try this. I enjoy cooking, and like Hallie, can open the fridge/freezer/pantry and come up with a very large variety of meals. Now that I have a new refrigerator with an honest-to -God meat drawer, which keeps it at 37 F, I don't have to freeze everything that I'm not using the same day. If I didn't plan meals and cook, I would probably do nothing. We already have someone doing the deep cleaning, and other than laundry once a week, I am a sloth.

    Today I am sick with bronchitis, but there is leftover meatloaf from yesterday, and some fresh veggies that need to be eaten before they end up in soup. Add in a baked potato to split, and Bob's your Uncle.

    Wouldn't it be nice if we all lived in a compound and shared dinners? I see cooking as performance art, and I'd love to make Poulet Normande, scare the bejesus out of bystanders with my flambe skills, and feed the Reds every night. Then perhaps I could stop yearning for ARCs and earn them!

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    1. Ann, (Finta,) what could be better than a writers/readers/cooks compound??

      I suspect the closer I get to my deadline, the more inclined I might be to use one of these services:-) Or in the winter, when there's no farmers market.

      In defense of Hello Fresh, there were LOTS of fresh veggies.

      My friend Marcia Talley got Blue Apron and her husband, who had never cooked a thing in his life, learned to cook and LOVED it. I think I had some vague fantasy that my hubby would be suddenly struck by the cooking fairy and give it a try. Nope.

      But one of the things that makes the service work for my daughter and s-in-l is that he does like to cook. So when she's working later, he can follow the recipe card and put the dinner together--and all without having to take the baby to the store.

      Considering how poorly a lot of people eat in this country, and that generations are growing up without the most basic cooking skills, I think the meal services are at least a start towards Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution--teaching people that they can put decent food from scratch on their own tables every night.

      I might try Blue Apron, just for fun. And there is a service called Peach Dish that go the best review in the Observer. It's the most expensive, but the reviewer said the food was fabulous. And you can order as a "guest" without having to sign up for the recurring weeks, which I think is a big plus.

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    2. "Got" the best review... Grrr.

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  14. I'm always tempted to try a meal service but then I remember three things:

    1) They're not quick, no matter what the commercials say. I know how long it takes to cook things and the commercials are always showing two people cooking together happily, chatting, and smiling plating a meal and eating within 30 minutes. That's just a big fat advertising lie.

    2) I'm to controlling to turn over the choice of my meat, fruits, and vegetables to the people who work at my local store, who I know. I'm not about to turn it over to strangers.

    3) With all the food allergies (I'm allergic to bell peppers too, Deb - it's one that I always get questions about too. No one seems confused I'm allergic to chicken or corn but bell peppers ... how is that possible? ;) )and pickiness in our house this would end up with me substituting out a ton of ingredients and how is that any different than what I'm already doing?

    Now, a personal chef I could handle. :D

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    1. And, yes, Aimee, you are so right about the time.

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    2. Yes, a personal chef and a butler - that would be sweet!

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    3. Aimee - Bell peppers, really? JK!!! My sil is allergic to strawberries and plums :( Wicked bummer.

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  15. My uncle uses a meal subscription service but I'm not sure which one.

    I can cook, but I'm not one of those with a flourish kind of people. I just cook to eat and be done with it. Though I did do Thanksgiving Dinner for a number of years since my father died, until last year when my mom died two weeks before Turkey Day. As you can imagine I wasn't in the mood to cook after that.

    I'm not a vegetable guy. I know people count potatoes as a vegetable but I really consider them as their own separate food group.

    Yep, I'm a picky eater. One of my rules is I don't eat anything green (except Granny Smith apples, green M&Ms and apple Jolly Ranchers).

    But I don't know how anyone cooks during the week with everything they do during the day. The last thing I want to do is spend time cooking after work. So I basically just usually have a sandwich of some kind for dinner during the week. It could be from home or I'll order out. Ham, roast beef, turkey, chicken, steak and cheese etc.

    Of course, on Thursdays I go out to the 99 restaurant for dinner and Trivia Night (played 13 times, won 7 of them) so that is my drug of choice, a bacon cheeseburger.

    Saturday I have lunch at the 99 if I'm out running errands, or a couple of other places if I'm not near a 99. At night, I might just whip up some hot dogs or harken back to when I was 10 and have some fish sticks.

    Sunday is the day when I would cook something for dinner most weeks. It could range from mac and cheese, burgers, hot dogs, spaghetti, steaks, pork chops, goulash, ham, a roast, chicken. All depending on what my mother and I were in the mood for.

    Nowadays, I'm cooking less on Sundays because I haven't quite mastered the art of cooking for one. So I pick and choose when I will make a meal that requires more than a paper plate for dishes.

    And if you are wondering how I'm still alive given my so-called diet, don't worry you aren't alone, my doctor wonders too.

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    1. I just remembered something. Two years ago, for Christmas, a family friend sent us one of those variety pack samplers from Omaha Steaks. We tried that sampler and while they were adequate, I found the portions to be too small for my appetite.

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  16. My husband has friends that had a professional chef when they lived here in Dallas. Maybe the chef is still available, lol!

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    1. We have friends with a ranch in Wyoming, and when they're in residence the ranch manager's wife, who is a fabulous gourmet chef, cooks all their meals except a breakfast or two. Needless to say, invitations to the ranch are priceless!

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  17. Listening to the discussion and thinking of my mom, who worked full time in the fifties. No takeout, no pizza delivery and cooking dinner every night. We only went out to dinner about 4 times a year. Sometimes my dad,who worked at night, would start dinner and my mom would finish when she got home, all this with 4 kids. How did they do it? Our idea of takeout was soup and sandwiches.

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  18. I haven't tried anything like that. If I could get the meals prepared for me (and prepped for one instead of two), I'd be interested. When you are single, it's hard to get excited about cooking for one.

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    1. Agreed - when I was single I was the take out queen. Or even better, I'd cook one thing like a roast chicken and then use three different ways - enchiladas, chile blanco, etc. for the next few days.

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    2. Yup. I had a baked potato with broccoli and sour cream for a solid year. And I LOVED it.

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  19. I'm like Mark, a single person ... But I love leftovers, so I could see preparing one of the meals and then using the rest the next day. My issue might be that the meals might STILL feel like too much time and too much of a chore to prepare. :-) (Goes to show how lazy I am about kitchen stuff.) Also, I don't like to be tied down, so I could also see myself blowing them off and letting them go to waste. But, that said, I've always liked the idea.

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    1. The goulash I make is the one thing I can actually still cook for two, because it means I get four meals out of it. That's the only real leftovers I have these days.

      Of course, like you I sometimes feel too lazy to even bother doing that much. I was thinking about making it yesterday and decided I just couldn't be bothered to do it.

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  20. Lisa, the ones we tried made pretty good leftovers--I know because I usually had part of my portion the next day. And you do have some leeway in when to cook them.

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  21. I haven't tried any of these meal subscription services, and with it usually just being me (husband leaves in Kansas for his work and comes home about every six to eight weeks), I really can't use them. I do not cook much these days, and have only occasional spurts of wanting to.

    What I would love to see is a cookbook from the Reds with all of their delicious recipes, especially the chicken ones. How about it, Reds? And, keep in mind that we might need very specific instructions.

    My second choice, after the Reds' cookbook, is Rhys' idea of a chef. I could be the healthiest eater ever if someone would cook for me. Which reminds me of part of my niece's fitness business. She makes meals for a week at a time in the proper proportions, packaging them in daily servings. If I lived closer to her, I would definitely try her service.

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  22. Our grocery store extraordinaire, Wegman's of course, has personal shoppers. You can send your list, and the shopper will get everything on it, even text you with substitutes if they are out of something. This costs ten bucks, and you pick up your order at the curb. They load it into the car. Tips are graciously declined. It isn't something we use often, but it is wonderful when we need it. I think the last time was when we had a death in the family.

    Also, this eliminates those I can't do without peanut butter pretzels impulse buying moments.

    Wegman's also offers ready-to-eat plates, 6 and 10 bucks, easily enough for two of us on one plate. Or you can get ready-to-cook meals, the most elaborate being Thanksgiving dinner complete with gravy and pie.

    There are so many options out there. I wish some of these had been available when I was working full time. Not that I work at all now.

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  23. I'm afraid I'm not tempted at all. I don't wish to be committed to having to cook! A couple of years ago I subscribed to an organic produce outfit. Once a week I'd drive to someone's house in our neighborhood and pick up my share of whatever fresh veggies were in. It was okay, but some of those veggies were unfamiliar to me and I didn't know what to do with them. I started leaving my share of unwanted produce behind. That experiment was a one time affair.

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  24. Here's my story - I won the Betty Crocker Award in high school. Impressed, aren't you. Thought so. Ha, don't be. We didn't even have home ec. It was a test, a very easy test with lots of physics. Yes, I used easy and physics in the same sentence. OMG! I don't believe it. But it's true. In fact, I couldn't cook. Up until I went to college, I had cooked one thing. I boiled about two cups of water in a tiny saucepan, dumped in a pound box of spaghetti and made cement. My mother - who never forgave me - had to throw out the saucepan. Couldn't pry the sticky mess out.

    Enter college. I got a job cooking on a fruit freighter so I could see the Caribbean. Yes, I lied, yes, I said I could cook. Did I mention I lied? Those sailors wanted to eat. When they discovered I lied, they taught me to cook. Give me any three ingredients, I will give you a full meal.

    I would love to try Blue Apron. I have heard wonderful things about it. But I know I would open the box pull out the stuff and say, "Dang, just a little of this and some of that, perfection!" What fun to have the basics show up though. May have to try it simply for that. I do think it would be boring after a while though. Cooking is creativity.

    Lucy, if you ever post that crock pot pasta e fagiole - count me in for a download.

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    1. Kait! This is me, waving at you from my own beautiful Miss Betty Crocker float! Yes, I too aced that test. We had a four-year home ec program that taught tailoring and upholstery, and all kinds of useful stuff. Me? I took English IV and Drama II. My husband had to teach me to cook many, many years later. I love it now, even though I rarely do it on weeknights. I get home from work around 7, and by the time I've fed all the dogs and cats and let everyone out and in and out again it's time for bed. I do cook on weekends, and I think leftovers are a gift from the Gods. I followed Debs' meal service experiment, but it would never do for me. My schedule is far too scatty and strange.

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  25. I'm not tempted, the services just seem to self-indulgent, and expensive. My wife and I swap cooking & clean-up duty, though she does most of the shopping since her 24-hour Fitness (6 days a week) is across the street from our preferred supermarket. We also go to the Farmer's Market every Saturday morning. We plan meals by the week, leave one day open for "inspiration" and make a variety of things from meal salads to roasts, stir fry, pasta dishes, casseroles, and so on. We try to have a veggie with most meals, sometimes the veggie IS the meal.
    So, no thank you to the meal plans, and I'm another who cringes at the waste of all that packaging. Oh, and in the Summer, fresh fruit! Lots of it.

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  26. Kait, that is hysterical! And I have to admit I never passed a Betty Crocker test. Back to square one for me, lol.

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