I promise this isn’t just going to be a food blog… but I also can’t promise that I won’t talk about food a lot. I don’t just like food, I’m interested in it. I like to read about it. I like finding out what foods make me feel the best. Sometimes I accidentally find out what foods make me feel the worst. It’s pretty obvious to most people that what we eat has an effect on how we feel, but as I said in last week’s post, finding out firsthand just how big that effect is was pretty staggering. At this point I can say I’ve used myself as a guinea pig for many food experiments, and I’ll do it again at some point.
So: meal delivery services. If you haven’t heard of BlueApron, HelloFresh, or one of its equivalents, I’ll take a second to explain. The meal/recipe delivery service trend is a relatively recent one. Once you pick which subscription suits your needs the best, you will receive a box every week with a number of recipes and pre-portioned ingredients to make those recipes. Often, people come to these services because they want to eat at home more, get better at cooking, eat healthier (most of these services include a lot of vegetables and are a big step away from highly processed foods), or just to try something new. There are many different companies and plans with a variety of price points to suit different lifestyles.
I looked into some of the more popular food services a while ago and found that while many had a vegetarian option or the ability to pick which meals you want for the week, generally meatless was as close to vegan as you could get. More recently, I stumbled upon a BuzzFeed video where people were trying Beyonce’s meal plan (different from BlueApron and others in that the meals were delivered totally prepared and simply required some heating up). Doing a little research on this led to my discovery of a plethora of vegan recipe subscriptions. I was interested.
For the past six weeks or so I’ve been doing two vegan food services: PurpleCarrot and GreenBlender. Last week, we cancelled both. In this post, I’m going to do a little review of PurpleCarrot and give some suggestions for those interested.
With PurpleCarrot, you get a box containing three totally vegan recipes per week with all of the needed ingredients. Each recipe makes enough for two people, although sometimes there is enough for leftovers as well. I thought this was perfect for me. Given that I am one person, 6/7 of my meals per week would be covered! Prior to my first box, I was at a point where I was too lazy to meal plan/prep on my own. I thought that this would be a one way ticket to a guaranteed healthy meal every night.
-I really enjoyed most of the meals. Keep in mind, I am not a picky eater. I will eat almost any food that complies with my morals. Some of the coolest dinners I had were “meatball” subs made from beans and vegetable protein, a creamy corn and fennel chowder, and seitan lettuce wraps. I would say there were maybe two or three meals that I didn’t love (last night I had a lentil pasta that left something to be desired), but that’s okay. It’s not realistic to expect to love every single recipe.
-These meals wouldn’t be difficult to recreate. Some of them do have exotic ingredients, but those can be easily substituted or in some cases omitted. The meals didn’t require a huge amount of ingredients and the spices used were rarely more than salt and pepper.
-I felt full and satisfied after each meal.
-Most meals had pretty decent macros. Vegan food can get carb heavy and protein deficient if you aren’t careful, but there were many higher protein meals and plenty of fats as well.
-Sometimes I didn’t get enough of an ingredient. Most notably, this happened with a sushi recipe. I used all of the sticky rice I was given and both of my rolls still needed quite a bit more. The picture on the recipe card and a video that PurpleCarrot posted online both showed the rolls with far more rice. Some people complained as well about some ingredients being left out of their boxes, although this didn’t happen to me.
-Each recipe is supposed to take about thirty minutes to prep and cook, but when I was making the meals on my own, it often took me well over an hour. This was mainly because of all of the required chopping and prep. When I occasionally had help (Ryan cooked and ate a couple of the meals with me), things took 30-40 minutes, but otherwise cooking ate up a significant portion of my evening.
-Several of the recipes require a food processor, which many people don’t have. We might (?) have one, but if we do it hasn’t been used in ages. I was able to compensate with our Vitamix, but it had a hard time with some of the recipes.
-Making these recipes often left my kitchen a mess.
-Waste! Most of the food items had individual plastic wrapping which created tons of trash.
-The dinners tended to be on the high-ish side calorie wise. The calories range from 500-800 per serving, but many of the meals were on the high end of that. I don’t track calories anymore, but this might be of concern to someone trying to lose weight.
Overall thoughts on the meal thing
I enjoyed PurpleCarrot. I had really wanted to get in on the meal delivery trend for a while, and PurpleCarrot was a very satisfying adventure. Although I listed more cons than pros above, I would give the quality of food and the service overall a 7-8/10. With the exception of the time and the trash, most of the cons I listed weren’t really dealbreakers.
So why did I stop? It just didn’t work for my lifestyle. I’m really busy. I have a lot of rehearsals and performances in the evenings. I’m also either out with Ryan or at his house a lot. Over the summer, I’ll be out of town several times. Doing PurpleCarrot made me realize that I’m just not at home enough to eat all of this food. I have five meals sitting in my fridge waiting to be made and most of the ingredients are starting to go bad. Once you get behind, it’s really hard to catch up. Not to mention, when I am home, I often just don’t feel like putting in all of the work to make these meals.
I think that meal services are awesome for some people, but just not for me. I think these kinds of things work best when used by a couple living together or just any combination of two people who can cook as a team. Not only will that cut down on the time to make everything, but this means three meals a week instead of six, which is far easier to keep up with. This is also a good option for those trying to eat more vegetables, as the recipes use produce in creative ways that most people generally don’t try.
Then, like I touched on, there is the waste issue. PurpleCarrot is continuously trying to improve its sustainability, but the piles of plastic bags going into my trashcan every time I made a meal made me feel really bad. This is an issue with meal services in general, not just PurpleCarrot. It felt ridiculously wasteful that most of my vegetables were in individual plastic wrap. Most subscription boxes just have a long way to go in this department.
I think that even though it isn’t a long-term option for many, food delivery is a good thing to try for a little while. It taught me some cooking techniques for the future and I now have a stockpile of recipes to use when I feel up to it. I don’t regret ending my subscription, but I also have no regrets in trying it. For those interested, here is the PurpleCarrot website, which lists its weekly recipes so you can get a feel for what they do.