For home cooks who would describe their culinary skills somewhere between heating up premade food and figuring out what to do with all that bok choy from the weekly local farm share, here’s some good news: You can order local and organic meal kits to be delivered to your door.
Here’s how it works: Go online, choose from a bevy of recipes (priced at $8 to about $12.50 per plate), select a delivery date, and then wait for the boxes filled with all of the ingredients – down to the measured-out spices – to arrive at your house. Then just pull out your chef tools and you’ll have a homemade meal in about 30 minutes.
It’s a growing trend among consumers who care about where their food comes from and like to cook but are pressed for time to actually plan and prepare a meal from fresh ingredients. There are a handful of national meal-kit services to help. Two of them, Blue Apron and HelloFresh, each ship more than a million meals across the United States per month. Now more local and certified organic delivery services from Boston to Atlanta to Los Angeles are taking a page from those cookbooks – and everyone from Millennial foodies to exasperated parents of picky eaters to empty nesters are signing up.
“We’re sort of helping people reinvent their Sunday through Thursday experience,” says Seth Goldman, chief executive officer of HelloFresh, a European company that expanded to the US a few years ago. “And we’re going to make sure that it’s easy and nutritionally sound and delicious.”
Laurel Valchuis, owner of the Boston-area al FreshCo, says she started her service to boost local farms. In her former job as an agricultural consultant she was dismayed that community-supported agriculture shares and farmers markets could be cost prohibitive for some and hard to get to for others. She also said she saw farmers struggling to find customers. “Meal kits were the answer,” she says. “People appreciate the convenience and sourcing.”
Phil Lempert, author of the blog “Supermarket Guru,” says Millennials are a key driver of the trend, not only because they are concerned about the environment, but also because “preparing your own food is cheaper than eating out every night,” he says.