Meal kits deliver on promise of easy delicious meals

Easy. Nutritious. Step-by-step recipes and all the needed ingredients, including fresh produce and meat, delivered weekly in a meal kit to your doorstep. Last month, Salty looked at meal kits from a waste perspective; this month taste testers sample the meal kits from HelloFresh and Chef’s Plate, two companies who began meal kit delivery service to PEI in 2017. The meal kits arrived on October 31, 2017 and meals were prepared within five days of the kits’ delivery.

Were the recipes simple, clear, and easy to follow?

Yes! Both companies included a double-sided recipe card for each meal, including illustrations of preparation techniques and photos of the completed meal. The recipe was on thick card stock that stood up well to being handled in the kitchen while we were cooking. The step-by-step instructions had us preparing all elements of the meal together so that everything was ready for the plate at the same time. In our experience, preparing the meals took about 1/3 longer than the recipes indicated.

Some recipes gave useful tips, like Chef’s Plate Pappardelle Pasta with Rosé Sauce, which suggested to score the skin of the tomatoes, then grate the raw tomato into the sauce, which kept the fresh flavour but was faster than traditional blanching and peeling of the tomatoes. Definitely a tip for use in future recipes.

Was the food fresh, well portioned, and easy to prepare?

Overall yes. The ingredients from both HelloFresh and Chef’s Plate were well organised and easily labeled into individual bags by meal. As promised, there was just enough of most ingredients to prepare the meals. The one exception was lemons–both companies provided a whole lemon for each recipe, though often much less was needed. By the end of the week, we had several extra lemons left over.

The meal kits arrived in a box with a layer of ice packs at the bottom where all the meats sat. This was successful at keeping these sensitive food items safely cold during shipping. “That’s pretty amazing,” taste tester Joy said while examining the packaging, “That they can ship even the meat and it stays cold!”

By and large, the produce was remarkably fresh. Only one meal had issues with quality of the produce: HelloFresh’s Roasted Chili Brussels Sprouts. The stars of the dish, the Brussels sprouts were marred with dark spots. When prepping the dish, about 1/3 of the Brussels sprouts ended up in the compost pile, which affected the overall serving size, but not the taste, of this vegetarian meal.
Craig was initially concerned that the serving sizes might be too small, “I’m a big guy, and I wasn’t sure there’d be enough to fill me up,” he said, “But there was.” Each meal kit was designed to serve two, but most meals provided generous servings, leaving all guests satisfied.

Were the meals delicious?

Perhaps this is the most important question of all and the answer is unequivocally yes. Each of the meals from both companies were as tasty as promised. Surprisingly all the taste testers preferred the spicier, more exotic dishes, even those with less adventurous palates. “I would have thought I’d have gone for the plainer meal, but I really liked the spicier one,” said Dave, comparing the Pappardelle Pasta with Rosé Sauce (Chef’s Plate) and the Ginger Beef Noodles (HelloFresh). All taste testers said they would eat the meals again, and they all took leftovers home to enjoy. “I think we might have to try some kits ourselves,” said Kim.

HelloFresh and Chef’s Plate deliver meal kits weekly, bringing fresh foods and inventive recipes into the homes of Islander subscribers. Pricing varies by company, depending upon the frequency of meals per week and the total servings, but ranges between $10 and $13 per serving. Both companies also offer meat and vegetarian options.

Our taste testers
Kim and Craig, from West Prince. Kim is a medical secretary who is conscious about her diet, avoiding red meat and processed foods. Craig, a burly fisherman, eats everything but, nothing too weird.

Joy and Dave, from Springhill. Joy works for the provincial government and Dave is a school bus driver. As a couple, they tend to eat more traditional Island meals – meat, potato, and two veg – but also enjoy new flavours and food experiences.