Meal Planning versus Meal Delivery Plans

For reasons known only to the traffic gods, my daily commute has crept up from an hour each way to a minimum of an hour and a half. That’s on a good day. Yeah, I could (theoretically) leave my house at six in the morning to beat the traffic, but I still have to be at the office until at least 5 pm most days. By that point, every human being in the greater Los Angeles area is on the road.

This lead to a serious talk with my husband about dinner. Years ago, we established that Thursday nights were *his* night to cook. This meant he was in charge of planning and executing the meal. I didn’t care how it was done as long as I didn’t have to make a single decision beyond the type of wine we’d drink. Basically, this meant all our friends knew they could join us at our local Mexican restaurant on Thursday nights.

However, he’s had to take over the chore of cooking two nights a week. Since we are trying to eat out less for many reasons, he’s actually been…cooking. Food. Using pots, pans, bowls, and his imagination. Last week, he surprised me with full-on taco platters. They were good (and, ha!, he’d actually used Glutenfreeliac for inspiration. Go team!).

He also surprised me with questions about meal delivery services. He listens to a lot of podcasts, and Blue Apron is a heavy advertiser on the shows he enjoys. He finally decided to check out their service, hoping it would help him with his weekly task. And his question was simple: was he crazy or was did they not have a gluten-free specific meal plan.

They don’t. In fact, the menu for the week I checked out was surprisingly heavy on the gluten. I don’t know if this hold true for every week, but when four out of five meals contain *some* kind of gluten, it’s a non-starter for our household. Maybe Blue Apron will add gluten-free options in the future, but right now it’s a non-starter for our household.

Curious on his behalf, I looked up a few other meal delivery services in our area, and we discussed them. Our conclusions:

  1. For our needs, the prices were too high. Because…
  2. The meals are designed to be eaten in their entirety; our meals usually factor leftovers into the mix.
  3. None of the plans really fit our lifestyle. We only needed meals one or two nights a week since it’s easy enough for me to cook from scratch on my nights. We don’t need breakfast options, and lunches are covered.
  4. Many of the meals being offered didn’t fit our diet. We consciously avoid refined carbs, and many of the meals included gluten-free baked goods or relied heavily on gluten-free pasta (not all, of course!). This limited our potential options even more. With regard to the baked goods, we don’t want to pay extra for foods we won’t eat.
  5. That being said, the menus from the various places we checked out were inspirational. As he’s a beginner cook, seeing a dinner menu with basic ingredients laid out for him gave him ideas. This probably isn’t the intent of companies building businesses, but I do thank them for showing the world great gluten-free meals that aren’t less-than.

For my nights, I have meals planned (versus a meal plan). I’ve talked about this before. I know that tonight I will be making a salad with roasted vegetables, crispy tofu, and spicy chickpeas (it’s our weekly Meatless Monday meal). Tomorrow will be steak with roasted carrots and millet (love me some millet!). The night after will feature chicken legs with a honey-miso glaze, green salad, and roasted sweet potatoes.

I’ve written about Plan to Eat before, and I’m still very happy with the service. Given that my meal prep time has gotten shorter, having a strong plan that I can execute the moment I enter the house is essential. It also makes it easy to shop, prep, and execute. I make liberal use of the tagging system, so I know a recipe requires marinating, works well in a slow cooker, or even needs to be modified to be prepared gluten free.

Meal delivery plans don’t work for my household. Meal planning does work. I’m really glad we spent the time checking out these services because I’ve been tempted. Now I’m not, but I can see recommending them to friends who want to cook but don’t know where to start.

Have you tried any meal delivery services? What are your thoughts?

Tip of the Week

As with any delivery plan, read the fine print. What are you getting? *When* are you getting it? How much effort does it take (putting the meal together, verifying deliveries)? Likewise with meal planning. If you only have half an hour on a Wednesday night, multi-step recipes that require lots of vegetable prep aren’t necessarily the best idea….

Gluten-Free Meal of the Week

I love meal-sized salads, and the salad I’m making tonight is all that and more. The trick to meal-sized salads comes in putting together components that work cohesively…boy, have I learned this through trial and error!

Tonight’s salad has a Fall theme: there will be roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. The dressing will feature sherry vinegar, which I think has a warm (and tangy) flavor well suited to the meal. The tofu croutons and chickpeas will add great protein and lots of flavor. Finally, as a bonus and to add a touch of sweetness, I’m roasting some grapes with the other veggies. Love roasted grapes!

  • Roasted Vegetable Salad with Crispy Tofu, Chickpeas, and Roasted Grapes.
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