At some point towards the end of the 20th century, cooking started to be regarded as just another chore that had to be done to get through the day. The food industry further perpetuated these attitudes with products and services that allowed for convenient and inexpensive shortcuts to meal prep. As our awareness of health and desire for gourmet food begins to rise once more, meal box services have risen up to the challenge of granting our every wish. But have you ever stopped to think about what you’re really buying into?
As many women took to the work force and learned to cook from the back of ingredient boxes instead of from their elders, skills and nutrition were often lost along the way to the dinner table.
In recent years, food has made a real comeback. We are more concerned about where it comes from, what it contains, how it’s made, and the impact it has on the health of our families and our planet. More emphasis is being put on sourcing local quality ingredients and crafting them into beautiful dishes. With globalization, our pallet has become more worldly than ever.
However, if your parents never learned or taught you cooking skills, dishes from cooking shows are not likely to be recreated in your kitchen. If you get tired of take-out, chances are your dinner options consist of sort of pasta and salad (maybe).
ENTER THE MEAL BOX
With urban millennials having low meal prep skills and high expectations for food, combined little patients and large expandable incomes, the meal box aims to address all of these variables.
What’s a meal box you ask? In essence, it is a recipe book with ingredients provided. With most meal box services, you pick the recipes you want ahead of time from the weekly menu online and receive a box with instructions on how to prepare your dishes of choice with ingredients pre-portioned for the number of servings you requested.
Undeniably, there are many PROS to this meal prep approach:
-no food going to waste because you only receive what you need for your recipe
-everything is pre-measured for you, which saves time
-no stockpile of herbs and spices that get used sparingly
-no need to go grocery shopping
-you’ll never have to substitute, run out, or omit an ingredient because you don’t have it/forgot it
-meals are pre-planned for you, which takes the guess work out of dinner
-you get to learn new cooking skills as you make more recipes
-the presentation is always excellent
-you know the meals are going to taste good
However, as always, there are CONS to be considered:
-no leftovers, so you’re back at square one with an empty for the next meal or snack
-you don’t learn how to prep certain foods or how much edible food portion (the amount you’re actually going to eat) is in a raw product
-you don’t get to experiment with different flavour combinations
-you don’t get to touch, smell, and connect with your food like you do when picking it yourself
-less chances to get creative when you have to substitute one ingredient for another
-no skill development for daily meal planning will make any dinner party or future family expansion a challenge
-since each ingredient has to be individually packed to preserve esthetics, down to the last cinnamon stick, you end up with lots of inorganic trash at the end of your meal
-nutrition is often ignored in favour of taste and presentation, which basically means you’re re-creating those “sometimes” meals you would get at a restaurants in your kitchen
-like cheating on a test, the guilt of taking shortcuts to a meal can often get to you
-the cost adds up quickly
-unlikely to continue being a viable option if you have kids
The meal box, like most things, is a double edged sword
Though a meal box might be a great intro to the kitchen, it would be advisable to move beyond it to further improve your cooking skills and nutritional content of meals. Take a cooking class at your local community center or grocery store, ask a dietitian to help you with meal planning and nutritional guidelines for recipe selection, use the internet and beginner cookbooks to pick some recipes to try out. Don’t be afraid to get messy, make mistakes, double the recipe, substitute ingredients, and try new flavours. Though you may not have instagram worthy meals at the beginning, with time and a few filters you’ll begin to reap the rewards of a real home cooked meal to share with all your friends. Just keep the cleaning chemicals away from the meal prep area and you should be fine.
~PLAN, SHOP, COOK, EAT AND ENJOY~
Stay healthy and happy,
Anna Gofeld, RD