Why boxed meal kits are taking over our kitchens

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During the last week of January when my fourth and final fresh food box was delivered to my front door in the middle of the polar vortex, I was surprised at how excited I was to retrieve the box and unpack it. This was despite having received similar boxes from different companies every single week of the month. I can’t remember ever feeling like this about grocery shopping.

Each time a box arrived at my door, it was a bit like Christmas. Over the month, I sampled meal kits from four different companies: Goodfood, Chefs Plate, Cook It and HelloFresh.

Of the four companies I tried, I expected that at least one would be an obvious winner (or loser) in terms of quality of ingredients, ingeniousness of recipes, and taste. But the truth is that all four companies delivered consistently high-quality food, great recipes and terrific dinners. There were some slight differences that I have noted below. But it would be hard to pick a clear winner. And it would depend on your preferences. There were absolutely no failures in all of the meals I tried, and furthermore, receiving and unpacking the boxes and cooking the meals put the fun back into cooking.


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A boxed meal kit subscription or gift card would be a PERFECT Valentine’s Day, birthday, wedding or other special occasion gift. Check the company websites for further details and make someone very happy with one of the fastest, easiest, smartest and most useful gifts they’ll ever receive.

These are a few of the benefits of ordering meal kits:

  • Time saving. No more menu planning and lengthy grocery shopping expeditions or hunting down specific ingredients.
  • Cost effective. Especially when considering the quality of ingredients included. Cost saving when compared to eating in restaurants or ordering quality takeaway.
  • Expanding your culinary repertoire and exploring new tastes. I used ingredients I’d never used before, such as celeriac; Israeli couscous (a type of pasta); and freekeh (popular in Middle Eastern cuisines — a type of wheat harvested while green and roasted over an open fire).
  • Building or improving confidence in the kitchen and learning new techniques. Also makes cooking a complex meal accessible.
  • Learning new recipes. One of my meals included a fast blue cheese sauce that I will make over and over again.
  • Getting out of your culinary comfort zone. Easily explore more vegetarian or international meals. Choose from a wide array of options.
  • Eating healthy, balanced meals. Calorie counts are listed on the recipe cards.
  • Saving time. In addition to not needing to grocery shop as often, all of the meals can be made within 40 minutes, and most in less time than that. Plus there is no menu planning required.
  • The kits work for individuals (order kits for two and have leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day), couples or families.
  • Cooking together. The kits are fun to cook with others, including children. Non-cooks will enjoy the straightforward instructions and the results!
  • There is zero food waste! This is BIG!


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Here in the order I tried them, are my reviews of the four companies. All of the prices are based on a selection of three meals for two people, with free shipping. Note that these are not discounted prices, though there are frequent discounts offered. Other plans including vegetarian or family options are available at all of the companies. All four of these companies allow subscriptions without commitment. You can order as often or as infrequently as you like, choosing from different meals each week on the company websites. Recipe cards are included in the boxes. All four companies ship by courier in recyclable/reusable cardboard boxes with ice packs. Food is either in paper bags or recyclable plastic bags, and small recyclable plastic containers where necessary (for liquids, etc.). Expiry dates are labelled on all meals. Most meals need to be eaten within seven to 10 days of arrival.

• Goodfood — Headquarters in Montreal. Three meals for two people costs $75.

Quite large portions, including the protein portions. One of my favourite meals of the entire month was Chicken Thighs with Purple Potato Mash. This meal included a layer of oven-roasted kale and green beans on a bed of violet mashed potatoes topped with braised thighs and a fast and delicious pan sauce. The plated meal was even more visually beautiful than the photograph on the supplied recipe card. The taste was divine — as good or better than any meal I’ve eaten in a restaurant in recent years.


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• Cook It — Headquarters in Montreal. Three meals for two people costs $67.

The Prime Rib with Blue Cheese Sauce was unbelievably good: a beautiful piece of meat, a delicious celeriac and potato mash, broccolini, roasted garlic chips, topped with a simple blue cheese sauce. A very classic, gourmet meal. As good or better than restaurant quality. I would definitely order this meal again! Cook It is launching a pilot project to replace its cardboard boxes and plastic packaging with 100 per cent reusable containers, becoming the first ready-to-cook company in the world to offer a zero-waste option.

• Chefs Plate — Headquarters in Toronto. Three meals for two people costs $59.94.

They also offer family and 15-minute dinner kits. Correspondence with this company was exceptionally quick and friendly. Portions of meat were slightly smaller than some of the other companies (this may be why Chefs Plate is the lowest price option), but the meals themselves were all excellent and there was plenty of food. The Chicken Vindaloo was superb — not too spicy but full of flavour. The Chefs Plate recipe booklet was my favourite because of its layout and logical, easy-to-follow instructions.

• HelloFresh — Headquarters in Germany and offices throughout Canada. Three meals for two people costs $79.99. The vegetarian plan is $73.99. The HelloFresh meals I sampled were slightly more international than the others — incorporating a wider range of unique ingredients such as Israeli couscous, freekeh, pickled cabbage and fun, spicy condiments. These meals will definitely appeal to foodies and adventuresome eaters, but there are instructions for keeping things less bold and spicy, too. All three meals were excellent, but the Turkish-Spiced Beef with pickled cabbage freekeh salad was both visually beautiful and chock full of wonderful flavours.

Cookbook Draw

And finally, a huge shout out to all of the lovely readers who sent me their fabulous family recipes. Thank you! And congratulations to Tammy Lloyd, whose name and recipe for Bread Pudding was drawn at random. A copy of Out of Old Ontario Kitchenswill be heading your way shortly.

Lindy Mechefske is the award-winning author of Out of Old Ontario Kitchens, Sir John’s Table, and A Taste of Wintergreen. Contact her at lindymechefske.com.