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The Spy Who Fed Me

I love engaging in “corporate espionage” for our business! I am especially a fan because most of these opportunities involve eating and cooking. I’m a lucky girl that way. It’s much better than shampoo or (gasp) cleaning supplies research. I would really not do well with corporate espionage centered around cleaning supplies.

I received a coupon to try one of the popular meal kit home delivery services and decided to give it a shot to check out the competition. I just wanted to see what they sent, the quality of the products, type of instructions given, etc. They automatically suggested 3 meals for my first round of kits. Only 1 of the three appealed to me, knowing my eaters. I searched through their options and decided to try 3 different kinds of meat - a chicken breast and pasta dish, a ground pork enchilada and steak and potatoes.

My first surprise came with the billing. I had apparently failed to notice the upcharge for their “gourmet” meal, one of which was our steak dinner. So my cheap experiment cost me an extra $40 just for one meal! It kind of killed a little of my soul to pay that much extra for one meal, especially since I didn’t even know what I was getting into and since it was steak. That was a fail on their part, in my book.

The box showed up, and it’s always fun to open boxes! I enjoyed that part. I called our son Jack into the kitchen to see the contents of the box and he FLIPPED OUT! And I don’t mean the good kind like a kid on Christmas morning. He put his hands on his head and said, “Mom! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Ugh! I can’t even!” And out he stormed before I could even explain myself. We did finally get to have that very important conversation, but I will say he seemed to dread every time I made one of the meals. He’s just open-minded like that.

I was impressed with the bags with all the cute little bottles and containers with just the right amounts of things for each meal. The meat was, well, not our meat. I’ll just leave it there. We are meat snobs, I’m not going to sugar coat it. More on that later.

On Friday night we decided to try the gourmet steak dinner. We had just gotten some of our own beef back from the butcher, so we decided to cook some of our steaks alongside their steaks as a fair comparison. It had a creamed kale as a side dish along with some roasted potatoes. I didn’t even use all the potatoes and probably defied all rational thought by making the full amount of kale, but it was all tasty. The steaks were decent, thankfully. In general, we think our steaks are more tender and “beefier” flavored than others. But overall, not too shabby.

The next night I conned Jack into helping me make the enchiladas. Again, the meat was not quite the same texture as ours but it worked in the dish without being too dry. The other flavors were good and the meal was fairly easy to pull together. It was fun cooking with Jack. H e was my pico de gallo dude.

The final meal was a disappointment. It was the chicken breast and pasta meal. When Chad saw his serving he said, “Now I’m onto their game! They include meals like this to cheapen up the average!” There wasn’t much to it - except a WHOLE pile of buttered spaghetti noodles and little chicken breast with not much of a sauce. And the chicken. Oh, the chicken. Definitely not our chicken. Chad said, “I’m really good at my job. I must be a chicken whisperer.” 😁 I didn't even take a picture of it. It was all sadness.

So now that I have canceled my subscription, I can give a little feed back on my spy mission. Here’s what I liked best about this type of program:

  1. It gave me 3 meals I didn’t have to think about.

  2. Everything I needed was right there and I didn’t have to gather ingredients.

  3. Another fun box to open from the mail guy.

Here are a few things I didn’t like:

  1. It was expensive. At full price, including shipping, it would have cost us $11.84 per serving on average. I can get a 2/$25 at Applebee’s for the same price without the clean up. Sale price was $6.56 per serving.

  2. I can’t make the recipes again. It didn’t add to my recipe collection because each dish had a unique-to-them ingredient that I can’t find elsewhere. So even if we’d found something we loved, it was a one and done unless I bought it again through them.

  3. The directions, at times. were vague. It never gave temperature ranges for the meat, but just said “bake chicken until cooked.” I’m not sure what the average kitchen skill level is of those who purchase these kits, but I think some clearer directions at times would be good. I’m a really great cook (pardon my bragging) and at times I found myself reading and re-reading instructions multiple times to figure out the next step.

  4. No leftovers. We kind of live on leftovers. Each meal really made just enough for us.

  5. There were lots of little packages. Sour cream came in 2 tablespoon squeezies - and one recipe used 4 of those containers. Lots of squeezing. It was nice to not have extras of ingredients I might not use again, but it did have lots of tiny, albeit cute, containers I threw away. If I was my mother or grandmother I probably would’ve kept them.😂

  6. The meals felt very carb-forward, which isn’t how we usually eat.

  7. The meals were designed to eat when ready. This may sound like common sense, but in our world very rarely is everyone ready to eat when the meal is ready. Twice there was a farm emergency right as the food was ready. They just weren’t “holders”, as I like to call meals that can wait well. "Holders" are staples in our diet.

We are looking for new ways we can help keep our customers in the kitchen using our products to make wholesome and delicious meals for their eaters. Part of the reason for this project was to see what it might look like if we offered a similar kind of service to you. This gave me a baseline of where to start as we look into maybe some kinds of meal kits in the future. And I know a few things to correct!

Overall, this wasn't an entirely unpleasant bit of research. I can definitely see why people enjoy using these services. I did like not having to come up with an idea for a few meals. I think it would be a nice service for my parents to take a little of the cooking load off my mom and give them a chance to try a few things. But for us, it's not the right fit. I'm glad we took the time to try it as it did confirm that we have really great products. And the cute little bottles. I’ll always love the cute little bottles.

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