Lately, I’ve seen lots of advertising for ready-to-cook meals delivered to your door, and have even had several friends talk about their own experiences with the mail-order meal services on social media.
I’d grown tired of making the same old things for dinner, and decided I’d test out a few of the dozens of meal-delivery companies, just to see what all the hype was about. I was also hoping for some inspiration and new ideas for meals to throw into my repertoire.
Armed with coupons and discounts, I perused the menu choices and ended up ordering five different two-serving meals over the course of two weeks, and waited anxiously for them to arrive at our door.
The packages arrived via FedEx, with reusable icepacks in the insulated boxes, and could be left on the porch for hours if need be. The meals were wrapped separately, and included everything but olive oil, salt and pepper. Some of the meals were not for the novice. You can choose your level of difficulty, depending on how you wish to be challenged.
Each meal comes with very easy to follow recipes with pictures and hints, and the recipe cards are great for making it on your own in the future. I was up for challenges.
Our first meal was Crispy Shrimp Lettuce Wraps with Sriracha Mayo and Pickled Onion. I make shrimp tacos from scratch like a champ, so this should be easy-peasy for a semi-pro like myself. It was, and yet it wasn’t. The two-serving portion of rice didn’t cook properly on the induction cooktop in the small pan I was using, so I ended up pitching it and making a new, fluffy and perfect batch in my Instant Pot.
I’m not a huge fan of zesting citrus because I sometimes tend to inadvertently zest a knuckle, and I had to zest a lime for the rice. I loved making pickled onion just by thinly slicing red onion and letting it soak in rice wine vinegar until it was to be served. Slaw was easy, and I’ll simplify my own recipe for taco slaw in the future to just mayo, lime juice, salt and pepper. It was perfect. And my knuckles remained unscathed.
The shrimp were the hardest part, even though they came cleaned and ready to cook. They needed to be fried in a tempura batter – but no fears here – everything is neatly at the ready. Just mix the pre-measured rice flour, pre-measured Old Bay seasoning, a little salt and a ¼ up of the can of unflavored LaCroix bubbly water that came with the meal. The bubbles give the tempura batter the light, crispy coating when fried. Who knew? I’ve been using beer for batter for years, and never got the crispy crust that the LaCroix created.
Lettuce wraps assembled and drizzled with Sriracha Mayo, I’d give them two thumbs up. Four thumbs up at our table. It doesn’t hurt that we love shrimp. I’ll definitely make this again, although I might substitute corn tortillas for the lettuce part.
Our second meal was Chicken Milanese with Braised Escarole, White Beans and Ricotta Salata. Basically, it was a dredged-in-breadcrumbs and pan-fried seasoned chicken breast with wilted greens with beans, white wine and Italian cheese. The wine and cheese came in the cutest little packages.
This one was a little time consuming and got more dishes dirty than I was happy with, with the breadcrumbs and dredging and egg bath for the chicken… and the tearing into bite-sizes and braising of the escarole. Great instructions for all of the steps. The flavors were fantastic, but I’ve learned that my husband does not like escarole. At all.
Sliced Steak Tagliata with Sweet Potato Wedges and Warm Tomatoes in Vinaigrette was a winner.
Orange and Cashew Chicken Stir Fry with Bell Pepper and Jasmine Rice (again, made the rice in the Instant Pot) would have only been better if I hadn’t over-toasted the cashews… but it was pretty darn tasty, too.
Meatloaf with Roasted Root Veggies and Thyme Gravy was a delicious end to my experiment in mail-order meals. I will be using thyme in my meatloaf and gravy from now on. Making mini-meatloaves cooks them much faster than a large meatloaf. Cutting root veggies into smaller and/or thinner pieces cooks them quickly, too.
I can see how the mail-order meals like these are a great thing for folks that don’t have time, energy or desire to grocery shop and figure out what to make for dinner, but I missed going to the grocery store every other day. I also love leftovers, and we had no leftovers with these meals. Leftovers make my life easier, and food so often tastes better the next day.
I’m glad that I tried out the mail-order meals, but won’t be ordering again. I did pick up a couple new recipes that we’ll be eating again, but I’ll get my ingredients from grocery shopping at the actual store, not by clicking a button on my computer.
Mini Meatloaves with Thyme Gravy
2 shallots, grated
4 cloves of garlic, minced
½ ounce fresh thyme
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
20 ounces ground beef
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon butter
1. To make the meatloaves: Add panko, ground beef, half of the thyme, garlic, half of the grated shallot and a few dashes of salt and pepper to a mixing bowl. Gently combine with hands, then shape mixture into four 1-inch-tall loaves.
2. Place meatloaves on a baking sheet and brush tops with ketchup. Cook in preheated oven at 450 for 15-18 minutes.
3. To make thyme gravy: Melt butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Add remaining minced shallot and remaining thyme. Cook, tossing, until softened, 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle flour into pan, stirring vigorously to combine. Whisk in stock, bring to a simmer and let bubble until thick and saucy, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Slice meatloaves crosswise and divide between plates. Spoon gravy over meatloaves and eat.
Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche
2 thoughts on “What’s the deal with all the mail-order meals?”
Glad you tried those. We had been talking about doing that but still too much prep for me. We’ve been enjoying Simple Meals from HEB. That way I have no prep other than to stick them in the oven and serve with a salad and steamed side. They are $6 to $10 per meal. They have been perfectly seasoned for us. I just went yesterday and bought 8 meals (4 each), salad fixings and other weekly necessities like coffee, dog food, etc. and it was under $100. Just not a fan a cooking anymore.
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My closest HEB is almost three hours away! I remember when those meals came out. It was a LOT of prep, with no leftovers. If I’m gonna be prepping so much for a meal, I need leftovers!!!