Convenient Cooking, But at a Cost

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My friend Liz and I recently discussed something we both have in common: As we’ve gotten increasingly more busy at work (she works for the city, I’m traveling more), we’ve cut down on the amount of time we used to spend planning meals and preparing them by eating the same easy-to-prep things over and over again (spinach or kale salads, avocado on toast, grilled cheese). To get out of this rut, Liz recently started using Plated, one of those meal-delivery companies that sends you ingredients from local farmers that you use to whip up dinner in 45 minutes or less (i.e. “braised chicken with gnocchi and artichokes,” or “cod with garlic potatoes”).

Plated is just one of several meal delivery companies that have popped up in the last two years (back in 2013, Maria Aspan wrote about her mixed experience with one of these other companies, Blue Apron). Bloomberg Businessweek has a rundown of all the pros and cons of receiving groceries and cooking this way.

Pros
• Less food waste. Sometimes you just need a stalk of celery or a handful of basil to cook a meal, which often means having to figure out ways to incorporate leftover produce and herbs into meals for the rest of the week, or leaving it in your fridge to wilt and be tossed (the latter is probably more common if we’re being honest here).
• Supporting local growers. The meal kits often come with produce from local farms, and people like buying local.
• Convenience. You don’t have to search for ingredients at the supermarket. Everything is measured out. You chop what you need to chop and then start cooking.

Cons
• Packaging all these ingredients may not be environmentally friendly (the companies argue that there’s a lot more packaging when it comes to food delivered to supermarkets so there’s not really a difference, but there aren’t any studies proving this).
• The cost. The meals are generally about $10 per person, and the average American spends much less than that to prep supper at home.

It’s the cost that’s prevented me from joining Liz in this meal experimentation. Looking at what’s coming up on the Plated menu, one plate of “Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage, Brown Butter, and Sage” is $12, which is a few dollars more than what I’d spend when say, I’m feeling lazy and pick up a burrito bowl at Chipotle. Honestly, I’m perfectly happy with avocado on toast.

Photo: Basheer Tome

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