Showing posts with label meal kit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label meal kit. Show all posts

2021 Comparison of Canada's Meal Kit Companies


It's been a few years since I officially reviewed Canada's meal kit delivery companies and I wanted to see how things have changed as we get into the pandemic. Firstly, three of the four companies I tried in 2016 have since stopped their services, Chefs Plate, the lone wolf from the bunch remains.

Simply put, meal kit delivery companies are made for people who still want to cook their own meals. Each week they deliver the ingredients (except staples) in pre-portioned quantities to make select recipes. You'll need to wash, chop, and cook everything, but if you follow the recipe, you should be left with a decent meal in under an hour. 

While the players in the market have changed, their operating models are still the same:
  • Deliveries occur weekly (with Good Food allowing more just-in-time deliveries) with things arriving in an insulated cardboard box with ice packs to keep ingredients chilled for hours. 
  • Ingredients, except for proteins (and even dairy products for Chefs Plate), arrive in individual labelled bag for quicker preparation; and
  • Recipe cards with pictures and step-by-step instructions are included.


After trying each company for two weeks, with Hello Fresh I did three weeks because of their elongated special deals offer, I've summarized some key points of the experience in the table below. To help, I've classified each company as a “best for”, but only you can decide if that's the case so I recommend you trying all of them before settling down long term. All companies have new customer offers that are fairly generous so why not take advantage of the deal?  



Chefs Plate Hello Fresh Good Food
Delivery (varies depending on area, listed dates are for North York in Toronto) 5 days - Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sun 6 days - every day except Saturday

I like their "edit delivery" feature allowing you to change the delivery date each week without having to adjust the overall schedule - so if you normally get deliveries on Friday, you can change it to Tuesday for just one week if you're going away for the long weekend.
7 days and if you pay $9.99 a month or $6.99 per delivery you can also skip the weekly schedule and get next day delivery
Dependability No delivery issues.

Some recipes like the pasta bake do use a lot of pots, pans, and equipment so choose carefully if you don't like dishes
No delivery or equipment issues.


One week (out of the two I used them for) arrived after the 8pm time frame at 9pm. Not the greatest option if you plan on using the day of.

Their "sheet pan" meals also use larger ones than the standard versions most households own so be prepared to figure out how to cook everything with two instead.
Packaging Card board box with ingredients that need to be kept cold placed in a thick tissue paper bag with the ice packs. This does mean most of the produce is not kept cool so this does cause ingredients like herbs to wilt and brown. Card board box with insulation built in and large ice packs underneath where the proteins are kept.  Card board box with insulation built in and large ice packs underneath where the proteins are kept. 
Number of recipes available each week 19 28 18
Environmental considerations Mostly uses paper but the individual ingredients could be improved to reduce waste - for example could provide "pasta sauce" instead of individually packed tomato paste, tomato sauce base, and crushed tomatoes. The best of the three as they try to use recyclable packaging for more ingredients (i.e. giving crushed tomatoes in a tetra pak instead of plastic packages). Heavy use of plastic as the individual recipe bags are made of plastic and the shrink wrapped bags holding ingredients are larger than necessary. The least environmentally friendly of the three.
How it tastes Recipes have improved since 2016 and while they don't sound overly exciting they turn out really delicious. Being more environmentally friendly also means their recipes are less likely to have as many spice packages and additional condiments so some recipes like the grilled barramundi were blander than others. You may want to pick up a couple jars of multi-purpose seasoning to help augment recipes. Great combination of spice blends and extra sauces that really jazzes up a recipe. Even their sides like a potato and green bean salad are amazing.
Price per serving for three meals for two or four people Two - $10
Four - $8.99
Two - $13.16
Four - $11.16
Two - $10.88 - $12.74
Four - $9.89 - $12

The higher price range is for their "easy prep" basket
My opinion of who the company is best for Budget-friendly households that will still receive tasty, albeit not the most gourmet sounding, recipes. Households that need a lot of recipes to choose from as either have picky eaters or vegetarians that want more choice.

or

Those who know they will want deliveries weekly but want flexibility on the delivery date or number of recipes each week - you can also easily switch from 3 meals to 2 meals for one week without affecting subsequent weeks.
People who need flexibility - those who travel for work or have busy social schedules - as you can pay the $9.99 a month and not risk getting a delivery you forgot to cancel and order when you want for next day delivery.
How to order Chefs Plate Hello Fresh Good Food
Offers for Gastro World readers $40 off first orders using link above $60 off first orders using link above $40 off first orders using link above
Detailed post with pictures Chefs Plate Hello Fresh Good Food


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Chefs Plate meal kit delivery 2021

Lately, I’ve been trying various meal kit companies to get my dinner cooking mojo back. I’ve used Chefs Plate many times in the past and then I stopped. A recent 40% off promotion they sent me to encourage me to “come back” was enticing and allowed me to try their service again.

Meal Choices and Pricing

While Chefs Plate seemed to be the industry leader when I first did my roundup in 2016, it’s current crop of competitors are more professionally run and have great menu offerings. Chefs Plate presents 19 options each week, but I found it was difficult to find three things I wanted most of the time. To be fair, it’s because I’m a flexitarian and during the week I don’t eat meat. While they offer about four vegetarian menus each week, which is a good percentage from the 19, they never sound overly exciting.

Still, I appreciate Chefs Plate’s simple and affordable pricing where most choices are the standard $10 per serving (assuming 3 meals per week for 2 people) or $60 a box. There are a few “15-minute meal” selections that are an extra $2.99 a serving, which offers pre-chopped ingredients but are still not a 15-minute affair. Out of all the delivery companies, Chefs Plate is one of the most affordable and they don’t skimp on portions as well.

Customer Service and Ordering

The website is very easy to navigate and skipping weeks is a breeze. With recipes posted for the next five weeks, organizing meals for the month is easy and they even make it painless to permanently deactivate a plan with a click of the button instead of having to call in.

For my area in Toronto, they provide delivery five days during the week (every day except Friday and Saturday), which is about one day less than competitors. I guess it makes sense as most people typically don’t order the kits for the weekend as much.

Ease of Cooking

Most recipes require at least two tools and many increase to three like the roasted veggie and ricotta pasta bake. Pasta bake… you would think this would be a quick and easy meal – boil pasta and use pot for sauce, then transfer into a baking dish – yet the recipe calls for four items: a large pot for boiling pasta, a smaller pot for making the sauce, a sheet pan for roasting the vegetables, and then the baking dish for ultimately combining all the items and finishing it in the oven. If you don’t like dishes, skip the pasta bake.

Not everything is so tool intensive. The Turkish beef kofta over herbed tabbouleh was quick and easy where you add a spice mixture to the beef, roll them into ovals, and bake on a sheet pan. Another pan is used for the peppers, which really wasn’t necessary as they could be lined around the kofta, so you can always look for opportunities to cut down on washing. While everything was in the oven, to finish off the recipe I made tabbouleh, a simple process of boiling bulgur wheat and combining with herbs, vegetables, and seasoning.

To keep things cool during the summer months, they’re the only company that removes the dairy products from the paper bags and keeps them with the meat by the ice packs. If the kits are sitting out on the doorstep this is a great option to keep things fresh longer, but does mean that the ingredients aren’t part of the main bundle so when you’re grabbing things out of the fridge to prepare the meal it takes more time to ensure you have everything.

The Taste Test

While the recipe names don’t sound the most exciting, Chefs Plate’s meals turned out delicious.

The Turkish beef kofta was packed with lovely Mediterranean flavours and the meat ball (already seasoned) was enhanced further with a garlic mayo. Even the tabbouleh gets a facelift above the traditional parsley mixture by also incorporating feta and roasted peppers, creating a salad that you could even eat on its own.

It’s surprisingly easy to make the curried turkey & biriyani-style rice, combining everything for such an amazing depth of flavour. Already there’s the spiced chicken and rice, but add stir fried aromatics, a curry sauce, and herbed raita and the rice bowl was fantastic.

Even their pasta dishes aren’t boring. The roasted veggie & ricotta pasta bake doesn’t sound overly stimulating but once the mushroom, sweet peppers, and plethora of cheese get mixed together it became a dish that had us going back for seconds. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Mexican street corn linguine, which combines pasta, fresh corn kernels and cheese in a poblano pepper sauce that is absolutely delicious. These were a couple of the vegetarian dishes that were a huge hit.

Environmental Factors

It was nice to see that the bag used for the main package was still made from paper, but individual ingredients still create a lot of waste. I’d like to see them start to move towards more fulsome pasta sauces – instead of sending tomato paste, tomato sauce base, and crushed tomatoes – so that things arrive in one package instead of three to cut down on waste.

What I liked most was their ice packs: it’s simply water and not that weird gel that is gross and difficult to dispose. Why companies use the weird gel is beyond me, the water ice packs work just fine.

Conclusion

There’s a reason Chefs Plate has been able to survive for so long when the other meal kit companies I reviewed in 2016 have since been shuttered. They’re not flashy with pictures and don’t have elaborate sounding dishes, but when you do settle on three items the recipes are surprisingly delicious.

If the above has intrigued you, sign up and try a week for yourself. Chefs Plate is offering Gastro World readers $40 to go towards their first order for new customers. Just click on this special referral link to go to their website.

Also check out the larger post for my comparison of other meal kit delivery companies. 


How To Find Them


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Hello Fresh meal kit delivery 2021

Meal Choices and Pricing

With 28 recipes available each week, Hello Fresh offers the most choice and was a breeze to find three meals to order. They also have extras - dessert and sides (veggie plate, garlic bread) – you can add on to really round out the meals and even extend a two-person kit to feed a family of three.

You’ll pay more for these options, $13.15 per portion (assuming three meals for two people) or $79 a week, which was the priciest out of all the companies I tried. This is also just the base price, as like their competitors, they also charge more for quicker 20-minute options (+ $2.99 a serving), special occasion recipes (think Father’s Day), or multi-protein meals (+$9.99 a serving).

Customer Service and Ordering

You can pick meals and skip deliveries up to five weeks in advance. Their skipping option was more difficult to find as you need to go into week and click the “edit delivery” button to navigate to the skip options. Then, there’s also a question asking customers why they’re skipping the week, which I find to be an annoying and unnecessary feature.

What is useful about the “edit delivery” area is that you can change the delivery date for each week individually (i.e., some weeks you can have it come on Sunday while others on Thursday) and even the plan option (i.e., three meals versus four meals) without having to change the entire subscription. From a customization standpoint, Hello Fresh is a leader with this feature and they deliver six days of the week in Toronto (everyday but Friday) so creates flexibility.

Ease of Cooking

As we entered spring, Hello Fresh started dedicating recipes for the BBQ, which is a great idea as I really would rather not turn on the oven during the warm weather. The cheesy brie and beef burger was delicious, a honking thick beef patty and more than enough brie to create a gooey decedent bite. I was just a little miffed about the recipe’s suggestion to add an egg to the beef mixture for a firmer patty – if anything it made it waterier and didn’t bind together as well, causing the patty to break apart easier.  

Even the potatoes get finished on the grill in a foil-pouch. Just put them on 10-minutes earlier than what the recipe calls for as we found them still undercooked after the burger was ready so ended up eating them separately.

Compared to other companies, Hello Fresh also didn’t require as many tools – most recipes only call for two pots and/or pans.  A recipe like the barramundi and brown butter lemon sauce with roasted potatoes and sugar snap peas could have easily become a multi-tool recipe with competitors. With Hello Fresh, there was just a sheet pan to roast the potatoes and everything else was prepared in a frying pan (with recipe actually saying to use the same one) making clean up easier.

The Taste Test

The recipes did have fewer flavouring components compared to others as most do not come up spice mixtures, instead relying on the ingredients themselves and salt and pepper. So, something like the barramundi I found a little bland.

Nonetheless, for dishes that use flavourful ingredients, I didn’t miss the spice kits. The gnocchi Bolognese had a lovely zest tomato sauce and when combined with the consommé, vegetables, and parmesan was a tasty dish.

While I would have like the cheesy chicken enchiladas to be saucier, they were still great and easy to prepare frying everything in a pan, wrapping the ingredients into a tortilla and baking with cheese and sauce on top. For a dish like this, Hello Fresh did include the necessary spices to make the meal taste like Tex Mex.

There were a lot of good vegetarian recipes as well. The Philly style portobello hoagies smartly calls for chefs to remove the gills from the portobello, so you’re left with a less watery mushroom that once mixed with peppers, onions, cheese, and spicy mayo makes you realize you don’t need the beef. And Hello Fresh uses Beyond Meat as an ingredient for some of their vegetarian recipes if you’d rather go for a fake protein.

Environmental Factors

I did like that Hello Fresh uses little packaging compared to others, even if it can sometimes create a slight detriment to taste. It’s a simple solution: pick up a couple of multi-purpose seasonings and use those to supplement the recipes that need a flavour boost. Creating less waste and helping the environment is worth it.

Conclusion

For those who do not mind paying a bit more, Hello Fresh was a great experience. Overall, I had a lot of success with their recipes and the amount of choice and flexibility with deliveries is helpful for those who like to plan. And if you’re going to use delivery services regularly, finding one that uses less packaging is also a great touch.

If the above has intrigued you, sign up and try a week for yourself. Hello Fresh is offering Gastro World readers $60 to go towards their first orders for new customers. Just click on this special referral link to go to their website.

Also check out the larger post for my comparison of other meal kit delivery companies. 



How To Find Them
 Website: Hellofresh.ca


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Good Food meal kit delivery 2021

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve used a meal kit company – a service that delivers all the ingredients (except staples like oil, salt, and pepper) required to create a hearty meal in about thirty to fourty five minutes. When the pandemic hit, these services became even more popular, a promise for families to continue to get gourmet meals without venturing into supermarkets. As I started to get junk mail and magazine inserts promoting a huge array of companies, the intrigue set in… how have they changed since I’ve last used them?

First off, I tried Good Food, one of the newer entrants established in 2016 and claims they are Canada’s #1 meal kit delivery company.

Meal Choices and Pricing

With a choice of 18 recipes each week, it’s a company that has the least options. Somehow it didn’t hurt my experience as I found their pictures and descriptions more enticing, even with a smaller selection it was difficult to narrow it down to three. They try to help the process along with various filters (easy prep, low carb, family style, brunch, excluding certain ingredients, etc.) and when all else fails, they also sell ready-to-eat meals, combine and dine (a sauce that gets added to rice or pasta), and even a host of grocery items.

Prices are in the middle of the pack at $11.95 a serving (assumes 3 meals per week for two people) or $72 a week. Although, they do have a fair number of recipes with premium ingredients, which tacks on a supplementary cost that can raise the final box total.

Customer Service and Ordering

I was a little miffed that I had to call in to cancel my service (most allow you to manage this online), but they were quick to answer and cheerfully cancelled the subscription without giving me a guilt trip. Punctuality may be their downfall as out of the two weeks I used Good Food, the second delivery didn’t arrive during the stated 12-hour window (8am to 8pm) and finally came at 9pm. I’d suggest your delivery the day before you need the meals just to be safe.

I did enjoy the text notification feature where they let you know the box is on the way (at about the hour out point) and you can then click the link to track the van in real time. It’s a good option for those living in condos or those who don’t like having the box sit too long at the door.

It’s the only company that delivers 7 days per week in my area (Toronto) and if you pay $9.99 a month, you can skip managing ordering each week and just get them to deliver the next day whenever you desire. In most major cities, you can also pay a one-time $6.99 fee for next day delivery as well. This makes it great for individuals who find it difficult to place an order ahead of time or need to travel unexpectedly.

If you do sign up for the weekly subscription, you can pick recipes for the next four weeks and skip deliveries up to three months in advance.

Ease of Cooking

Maybe it’s the recipes I chose, but I found most required at least three pieces of equipment - a sheet pan for baking something, a pot, and a frying pan. Luckily, those who cook in my household don’t need to do dishes.

Their sheet pan meals cut this down to one item - the only problem is their recipe calls for a large restaurant sized sheet pan. For those who have large ovens you can easily rectify this by purchasing a new high lipped pan. But for those with an older oven *raises hand* or live in a condo with smaller ones, good luck fitting everything onto one sheet pan. I sensed it already after seeing how much more space my chicken and potatoes occupied compared to the recipe card.

In the end, I prepped the veggies on another sheet, but had to guess how much additional cooking time to add using two sheets. Using the higher range of the cooking time worked perfectly. It did mean the chicken probably lost an extra infusion of flavours but the potatoes turned out crispier than they otherwise would have been as well. So, all in all, a win.

The Taste Test

I really enjoy their spice blends, which adds tons of flavours to the meal. Each recipe generally also incorporates a sauce/condiment and a fresh garnish (green onion or parsley) so put together makes for a tasty dish with many layers of flavours.

A great example of this is the smoky BBQ spiced pork chops with potato and bean salad where the pork chops and salad both use the spice blend. The meat also gets finished in a sweet smoky BBQ sauce and the dressing for the salad combines creamy mayonnaise, more of the seasoning spice, and a thick zesty vinaigrette. The final finishing of fresh scallions in the salad gives it a burst of freshness and has become a side I’ve recreated for other nights.

Even the rigatoni alfredo is enhanced with lovely marinated artichokes that helps give the otherwise creamy sauce a nice hit of acid.

Environmental Factors

All the spices, condiments, and herbs does come at a cost – Good Food uses way more plastic than other delivery companies. It probably doesn’t help that they put ingredients in bags that are much larger than necessary, like these green beans that end up only occupying a third of the packaging.

Conclusion

If only Good Food wasn’t so plastic laden, they would have been my top choice of the three I tried in 2021. Yet, I can’t get over all the waste that’s created, especially if this is a service that’s supposed to be every week – god help our planet.

While my finished products don’t necessarily look as good as their stylized pictures, it nonetheless tastes like a gourmet creation. Good Food, just know that potato and green bean salad has left a mark in my recipe repertoire. 

If the above has intrigued you, sign up and try a week for yourself. Goodfood is offering Gastro World readers $40 to go towards their first two orders for new customers. Just click on this special referral link to go to their website.

Also check out the larger post for my comparison of other meal kit delivery companies. 




How To Find Them


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Is That It? I Want More!

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CLOSED: Prepd's meal delivery service



After one week of using a meal kit delivery service, the home chef in me was ignited and wanted to continue. Hence, I sought out other Toronto companies and Prepd graciously offered a week of meals to prolong my culinary creations – something my husband was happy about as well.

Dependability

Prepd’s Sunday delivery date works the best for my schedule: I like being home to put everything into the fridge as quickly as possible (although Prepd froze the proteins and there were tons of ice packs so could be left outside for a while) and gives me a chance to cook one of the meals on Sunday – the evening I’m home the most and generally have time to cook.

Similar to competitors, ingredients are clearly labelled and packaged (except proteins) into a separate bags for each dish.  With the exception of salt, pepper, and oil, everything required for the recipe arrives in the kit. Simply wash and prep the produce and you’re ready to go.

I particularly like that Prepd offers a pick-up service to return boxes and ice packs. Yes, I know items can typically be recycled, but manufacturing and even the recycling process still uses resources and energy, so anything we can do to re-use something helps the environment.

Additionally, their boxes were smaller (fitting all the ingredients perfectly) and were less reliant on unnecessary packaging (for example, not wrapping items such as carrots in plastic wrap, instead just placing them in the bag).


Recipes: Ease of Use

Overall, recipes were very straight forward, laying out instructions in chronological order. For example, the recipe would indicate to continue making the salad while something is in the oven, so you literally just follow the directions step-by-step. Looking back, there may be a few steps I’d process differently – in the lentil salad mixing in the herbs and shallots with lentils first, then adding the spinach as after adding the leafy vegetable it makes everything difficult to combine – but, it’s a very small change.


Prepd also required minimal equipment. With the salmon recipe, the carrots and almonds were also placed on the same baking sheet, so everything’s essentially made in “one pan” minimizing cleaning. Even the dressing for a salad could be made in the container holding the mustard – add oil and vinegar into the mustard and shake up to create the dressing.   

How It Tastes

Wow, the recipes sure incorporate a lot of herbs and spices. Even the vegetable soup combined pesto and vegetable bullion to make a very flavourful soup. Moreover, the selection of vegetables (carrot, leek, kale, onion and broccoli) created different flavours and textures to add interest. Including white beans into the dish made it hearty and filling (even more so with the generous portions of toasted bread). With plenty leftover, this re-heated nicely for lunch the following day.


My favourite meal was the salmon salad – fantastic hot the night of and cold for lunch. To be honest, after looking at the ingredients, I was skeptical whether I’d like the dish: carrots, dill, and chopped almonds? Not exactly my favourite things, let alone mixed together in a salad. Boy was I wrong! The sweet carrots with the dill and lentils actually worked nicely together; the chopped almonds much better than the slices I find too crunchy.


The lamb and beef koftas was the sole dish that tasted mediocre, simply due to the overpowering dry meat patties. Unfortunately, since I haven’t used their spice mix before, it’s hard to judge how much to add “to taste”… especially, when you’re adding it to raw meat – how do you even taste? Knowing how strong chili powder is, I already decreased the amount that came with the package, but unfortunately didn’t know what to do with the spice mix. Adding it all was a big mistake - the kofta became grainy and overly citrusy.

The patties were also hard to bind together, something wet (other than using wet hands to form the kofta) would definitely help and make the meat moister. With something already so flavourful, the condiments could have been toned down – the yoghurt would have been better plain, I found the additional feta made it too thick and salty. Also, the garlic incorporated in the yoghurt would have worked better in the meat, as the pungent raw garlic along with red onions was too much. Just imagine how great your breath smells afterwards.

Conclusion

Prepd’s recipes inspired me to combine a variety of ingredients and herbs together. At times, I didn’t think I’d necessarily like everything, but never one to not try something, I followed the formulas and (for the most part) wasn’t disappointed.

Although the dishes don’t necessarily look the most exciting from the pictures, they were actually full of bold flavours and with such generous portions, enough to try again the following day.

Price and How to Order the Service

If you’re living by yourself, congratulations – Prepd has a one person plan! With three meals per week, it will cost you $40 or $13.33 per meal.

For two and four people, the three meal plans and both work out to $10 a meal ($60 and $120 for the two and four person, respectively). All prices are inclusive of taxes and delivery charges – definitely one of the most economical services.


At any time, you can pause or cancel your plan. So, you’re not committed to having to order a meal kit every week.


Disclaimer: The above meal delivery was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 

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