Originally posted February 23, 2020 in the Archive
I’ve been Meal Kit Curious for years. Ever since Jaime Oliver started advertising Hello Fresh back when he was serious about cooking on youtube, I wanted to know if the whole thing was worth it. Getting curated boxes delivered every week with new recipes every single time had a lot of appeal, but as each new and similar service appeared, they looked more expensive than the last. The cost outweighed the apparent benefits every time I was tempted to order a giant delivery of three or four meals a week.
Then I walked into a Target for the first time in two years when we moved to Wisconsin and found Hello Fresh and Local Crate meal kits in the refrigerated section. This was the first I knew about anyone packing individual meals and recipes to sell as a single set instead of part of a bundle. The same type of service is offered at most of the local groceries around here too. We tried one from Festival Foods that taught my husband to love roasted broccoli, but I hadn’t picked one up since.
A busy Thursday came where I had not pulled any meat out to defrost, and frankly, I didn’t want to bother defrosting it in the microwave. With a Target visit already planned, I stopped by that section of meal kits and looked upon a Local Crate meal kit of Indian butter chicken with Jasmine rice, and from the four Local Crate options available, chose that one for the evening. Target usually has a sale going on these, and I was able to get a prepacked meal for my husband and I for fifteen bucks.
While Hello Fresh kits were sitting right next to it with a much more recognizable brand name, Local Crate was attractive since the entire kit is sourced with ingredients from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. When I know I can get my food from somewhat local farmers, I’m going to pick that over something else every single time.
The recipe itself comes from Food52, which is apparently a website dedicated to a homecooking community. I still haven’t went digging around their platform, but seeing a product highlight what they’re calling a ‘community recipe’ resonates with the message that I think Local Crate wants to portray: community over all.
The box itself tells you approximately how long the meal ought to take you to cook, how many it can feed, and any dietary warnings that might be necessary. This meal, for example, is gluten free. It slaps that nice no grain symbol right on the front. Knowing I could get this done in less than an hour was another highlight.
The only drawback is that the recipe card is printed onto the inside of the sleeve around the meal kit, which makes it a little hard to preserve the recipe if you find it to be something you want to make on your own later on. It’s huge and unwieldy on the counter when you actually are cooking to make matters worse.
The recipe for Indian butter chicken itself was a simple one to follow. They do a good job outlining the individual steps you need to follow to achieve the final result, and they even include a cooking term glossary inside of the huge card if you don’t know what one of the terms they use means. My husband consumed it happily, declaring it a winner. A few bites of the somewhat spicy chicken and accompanying sauce was too much for my sensitive stomach, however.
Now that these meal kits are appearing in actual stores as opposed to just being an online delivery service, I think there is more merit to them. An individual meal is much more attractive for someone in a hurry or trying to put a meal on the table after forgetting to plan for the night. I’ve found that most kits I can find in my local area come out for cheaper than a take out meal or ordering pizza. All it takes is a short jaunt into Target on the way home from work.
There are companies out there doing it with more finesse than Local Crate. The kit from Festival Foods, for example, had the recipe printed on a card insert you would take out of the box. That card is now stuffed into one of my junk drawers, ready to be referenced at a moment’s notice. Hello Fresh also uses the recipe card format. If you’ve ever been curious about these services, you can now stick your toe in the water with individual kits and experience far less guilt than if you bought a five meal package and didn’t get around to cooking two of them before it all went bad.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird. Pledge monthly to our patreon!