Meal delivery services — like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Plated — make cooking more convenient, except for one thing: the cleanup.
These food startups take the guesswork out of food prep by doing all the measuring and shopping for you. They then send everything in a refrigerated box that’s waiting at the door when you get home. All you have to do is follow the step-by-step instructions to make a perfect meal.
Plus, each meal costs roughly the same as ordering from Seamless or Grubhub. Blue Apron starts as low as $US8.74 per person, Hello Fresh starts as low as $US9.08 per person, and Plated costs $US12 per person.
This all sounds great and in practice it works smoothly. But the problem is the amount of unnecessary dishes and utensils you end up using.
My least favourite thing about all these services was the cleanup. The people who curate these recipes are not afraid of dirty dishes, and the instructions often show numerous tiny bowls filled with prepped produce, multiple pots and pans, plus plenty of knives and utensils needed to quarter, dice, julienne, chop, slice, and trim all of the ingredients they sent you.
That’s a whole lot of dishes to do after you’re done eating — and most of them are barely used. Suddenly, the work of getting a 35-45 minute recipe on the table could tack on an extra 15 or 20 minutes of cleanup work.
Some people would argue that the reality of cooking is making a mess, and while I don’t disagree, with meal delivery services, I’m not in charge of how much of a mess I want to make.
If I wanted to cook for myself, for example, I would never cut seven different kinds of produce and place each one in its own individual bowl.
The instructions don’t clearly say which ingredients you can put in the same tiny bowls — which can cost as much as $US25 for a set of 8 — as you prep, or if you can ever reuse the same knife or cutting board. These are things you’re expected to figure out on your own by reading ahead in the steps or simply through trial and error.
But because the instructions rely so heavily on visuals, the beginner chef like me would be tempted to try and put each ingredient in its own separate bowl, just like the pictures.
I learned to start looking ahead in the recipes and combining ingredients if I would be using them at the same time. For example, instead of putting these ramps, mushroom heads, and radish slices into their own individual bowls for three seconds, I left them on the cutting board.
This drastically cut down on the amount of dishes I’d have to wash later. Call me lazy, but that’s just the kind of cook I am.
If you decide to use these services, you’re getting a lot of amazing benefits, including little-to-no food waste, pre-portioned meals, easy-to-follow recipes, and a pretty amazing end result.
But be prepared for the amount of dishes you will most likely use, because it can become maddening.
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