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Meals In Minutes

Meal delivery service and meal prepping are all over social media. They've replaced TV dinners as the solution to having no time or desire to go all out for food, and I mean that literally and figuratively.

I've tried several food options for keeping myself and my family fed over the decades. Meal delivery has been my favorite option. However, it is not for everyone. I realized I love it so much because I am a cook. I love everything about making meals, from the shopping to the clean up. It may have something to do with my happiest childhood moments being in a kitchen. If you do not like being in the kitchen chopping and cleaning, meal delivery is not for you, instead food delivery may be more your speed. I'll come back to that.

According to the September issue of Entrepreneur magazine, the meal service, Hello Fresh, has made an executive decision to photograph their meals with the home cook in mind. Instead of their dishes looking impeccable with professional staging, they are intentionally messy with professional staging. This is a form of marketing to leave consumers feeling less intimidated by the recipes and all their many ingredients. I never tried Hello Fresh, and this article made me happy I didn't. Meal making isn't hard; it just gets tedious like most things in life without the proper spice.

I tried two services, Blue Apron and of course Martha Stewart's service called Martha and Marley Spoon. Blue Apron was the winner for me. Both companies' ingredients are delivered with ice packs, and are fresh and seasonal. The cost for most of these services averages about $20 per person per meal. You decide how much and how often easily when you set up your free trial. They all offer free meals in exchange for your credit card information in case you decide to continue or forget to cancel. Companies get a lot of accidental customers this way. I also tried a company called Fred & Ricky's, a plant based, vegan, prepared meal delivery service. They had some good comfort food choices, but not a huge selection. If health issues require you to forego meat, give them a try. Their meals definitely had flavor, and what's easier than heat and eat. Order at will, no membership required. They deliver nationwide and are in some stores.

If you commit to cooking at home prepare your kitchen for preparing food regularly. Make room in the fridge for not just leftover food, but ingredients. Buy olive oil by the gallon because you will use lots of it. I bought a garlic press thinking it would make the chopping experience better, it does not. I should have bought a peeler instead. Peeling and chopping garlic is easy for me; I just didn't want my hands to reek of garlic because you will use a lot of it to add flavor to your meals. I now have a bin filled with unused garlic. They send a whole bulb, but the recipe usually requires only two cloves, so I have extra to use elsewhere, and I will. The best burgers of my life required no ketchup. The first came from a Gordon Ramsey restaurant in Vegas called BurGR, and the other from my own kitchen when I mixed fresh garlic into my burger patty per the Blue Apron instructions. Flavor and familiarity are the reason Blue Apron beat out Martha & Marley Spoon for me. Everything has been delicious and recognizable.

In addition to refrigerator space, make counter space to have your cooking utensils like spatulas, tongs, and wooden spoons at the ready in a container. Sharp knives, clean cutting boards, one specifically for raw meat only, for safety, and one for chopping veggies always with a dish towel underneath, for safety. You'll need a baking dish or sheet pan, nesting bowls, a good skillet, a pot, and a bowl for your salt like the chefs along with a pepper mill, and you are now cooking with gas figuratively speaking. If you're lucky, I hope literally as well.

The recipe selection of Blue Apron is varied enough for fancy as well as casual meals at home. My hubby says it feels like eating at a restaurant, which keeps us committed to the service because when we eat at a restaurant, it is expensive. There is no waste to speak of. All the packaging is recyclable or reusable if you're savvy. Home cooking allows you to control the salt, fat, and sugar amounts in your food. We're both 10lbs lighter. Our portions and calories are easily controlled. The Blue Apron meals are so delicious, we tend to savor the flavor with no need for dessert or late night binges.

The other services I use for getting a meal on the table more easily are grocery delivery or shopping. The grocery stores have skin in the game of food prep as well. Salad bars, hot bars, soups, and other prepared staples are all right there for you at the grocery store made by great home cooks who now work for your local grocer. I get my fried liver from Walmart, and fried chicken for picnics from the Schnucks store, here in St. Louis. My store even has a shrimp bar. Of course, no grocery store does a better job of this than Whole Foods. Healthy, fresh, decent tasting, prepared food is ever available, and they now offer delivery or pickup service. I'm sure Amazon will take this to new heights. Your food may one day just show up in your fridge without you doing anything.

Another choice is the tried and true option, meal delivery of restaurant prepared foods or take out. Before I decided to try free meals from Blue Apron, I used take out to fill in some cooking gaps especially when enrolled in class. Every week, I would get an order of miso salmon from The Cheesecake Factory, and it would last me for two meals. Yes, your favorite restaurant will always be consistently delicious and easy to pickup, but the nutritional value goes out the window. Portion sizes, oil, sauce, and all the sodium make this option the ruination of your waist, health, and possibly budget. My favorite frozen caramel drink from Panera has 66g of sugar and 500 calories. My favorite turkey sandwich has 1280mg of sodium and 710 calories. It costs me $13 for delivery of my order without tip. I can also pick it up myself, but $13 per person for lunch can add up quickly along with the sugar, sodium, and calorie count.

Ordering through restaurant apps is super easy. You can save your favorite orders. The restaurant itself may deliver, or you can use UberEats or GrubHub. I use the InstaCart app for groceries. Convenience is what makes modern day living so much more advanced than the days of old. With the push of a button we can have meals in front of us which cuts down on time. Time is the reason for all of this anyway. If you have better things to do with your time than walking the grocery store aisles, researching nutritional trends, and prepping for a new recipe, then hire someone else to do it for you so you can cure cancer or save the world.

Getting a meal from farm to table takes less than an hour these days. It's the monotony of having to do so at least 3x a day, 7 days a week, for 365 days every year that has so many new options available to us. All these services aim to provide a remedy for the mundane tasks of life. Here's my solution, put yourself in front of interesting people and the food choice won't matter. What people may be lacking is the spiciness of life that can't be satisfied with food, but instead with living well. Good thing you have this website to add some flavor.