I just had an incredible meal: wild caught salmon filet with a roasted cherry tomato & red chermoula topping, next to a caramelized endive salad with pine nuts and a lemon dill vinaigrette. The entire meal was organic and fresh. It was paleo, low carb, satisfying, and just $14. Most importantly, it exploded wth flavor and I loved every bite of it.
In fact, I made this meal myself! I have no professional or even home chef experience, but in about 30 minutes I chopped, squeezed, seared, roasted, and cooked this meal from scratch, so-to-speak. I had all the ingredients I needed, no more and no less.
This meal came from Sunbasket, the meal delivery service I've been using since March of this year. Sunbasket is similar to Blue Apron, Home Chef, HelloFresh, and other meal subscription services. Once a week, I get an insulated box on my doorstep that has all the ingredients and recipes for 2 to 4 meals that week. All the ingredients are included, perfectly portioned. The recipes have easy to follow step by step instructions. I simply provide salt, pepper, olive oil, and a desire to put in a small amount of effort towards a great meal.
Below is my review. Sunbasket didn't put me up to this, I just love the product and want to share my experience with others. I'm not being paid for this post, but if you sign up with my referral link, I'll get an account credit.
Why a meal delivery service?
My girlfriend and I decided to try a meal delivery service because we wanted to spend less money and consumer fewer calories than our lives had been experiencing. We were either going out to restaurants or ordering in 5-7 nights per week. My wallet, and waistline, were showing it. Using a service like Sunbasket results in far fewer calories consumed, and less money spent, than our typical routine.
Our meals end up being either $12.50 or $14.00 per person, depending on our selection of 2 or 3 meals per week. This is less than even the local taqueria in San Francisco where we live. Far less than our favorite restaurant just a block away, where we'd easily spend $30 per person, not including drinks.
For me, the calorie savings are most important. I'm the type of person that eats whatever is in front of me, as much as is in front of me. Restaurants in America really like to put food in front of us. I suspect that when eating dinner out, I'm looking at a minimum of 1,000 calories...even when ordering a salad. With a meal delivery service like Sunbasket, my portions are reasonable and subsequently, so are the calories....between 550 and 700 per meal.
There are a large number of options for meal delivery services. Blue Apron is probably the most well known, and the company even went public recently. I have no doubt that had we selected Blue Apron, Home Chef, HelloFresh, or any other service, we'd have been reasonably happy. That said, Sunbasket offered some benefits that we were attracted to.
First was the option to select different types of meal plans. We wanted low carb, and while that isn't an explicit option with Sunbasket, they do have a paleo option that offers exactly what we wanted...protein and vegetables, no high-carb, wheat-based products.
We also liked the organic nature of Sunbasket. While we are not religious about eating organic, we select organic options when they exist and are reasonable replacements for non-organic. Sunbasket is 100% organic and non-GMO produce, while meats/seafoods are all humanely raised, antibiotic and hormone-free. Similarly to their commitment to sustainable foods, we liked that Sunbasket ships their boxes in completely recyclable and compostable packaging. The ice-pack is nothing but cotton and water. The insulation is recyclable. You can optionally send the box back to Sunbasket for re-use. This made us feel a lot better about the level of waste with a concept like this.
Finally, we were happy with the delivery day for our zip-code. This is something that took me by surprise, but when I tried to sign up for a different service while living in Portland last year, the only delivery day I could get was Friday. With Sunbasket and living in San Francisco, our delivery day began as Wednesday, but was soon moved to Tuesday (yay!) and this week was Monday for an unknown reason (more yay!).
Since we selected Sunbasket, a few other benefits have popped up. We love that we can pause/skip a week. We like that we can do 2, 3, or 4 nights per week. Their customer service is great, and the product has been improved (faster delivery, more meal plan options, etc).
I feel like an accomplished chef
We are experiencing all the benefits we expected with Sunbasket, and then some. I wasn't expecting to learn as much about cooking, and as much about flavor as I have! As it turns out, there are some easy ways to amp up the flavor of any meal, and I'll take these tips with me well beyond my experience with Sunbasket.
Use salt and olive oil liberally
One thing you'll notice when following a Sunbasket recipe is that you'll salt everything, sometimes more than once. If you make a dressing, you'll be instructed to salt it. When you cook meat, you'll be told to salt the meat liberally. Salt isn't just flavor itself, it brings out flavors in the other ingredients, especially proteins like steak.
Similarly, Sunbasket will make you go through a lot of olive oil, and thats a good thing! Nearly everything is cooked in olive oil, many things rubbed and coated in olive oil, and most dressings are an olive oil base.
Do yourself a favor, and ensure your kitchen is always stocked with artisanal salt (flor de sel), and high quality olive oil. You'll thank me later.
Citrus flavor comes from the peel
Its no surprise that citrus, like lemon and lime, packs a lot of flavor. What I didn't know is that most of the flavor is in the peel! When making Sunbasket recipes, you'll find yourself "zesting" every single lemon or lime in your basket. Literally every time the recipe calls for lemon or lime, you'll be told to zest and use with the juice. So much flavor!
Spices from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia are amazing
If you need to add flavor to a dish, turn to spices that have a historical or cultural origin in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The flavors I've experienced with Sunbasket are incredible, and typically when a flavor blows me away, the ingredient is rooted in a spice from one of these three regions of the world.
Chermoula, from tonight's dinner, is from Algeri and Lybia, made from cumin. Tomorrow night, our pork dish has kimchi, an ingredient from Korea. Harrissa is a common spice rub from many of our past meals, a flavor that originates in Lybia and Tunisia. Sumac, basil, and sesame oil are all common ingredients, and all things that are less common in American or European cooking.
There are so many tasty vegetables
I've also discovered that I can have a variety of tasty vegetables at home! I don't have to eat only green beans and broccoli. With Sunbasket, we eat a lot of endive, celery root, fennel, radish, and arugula. Sure, I've had and like all of those things, but I rarely cook them at home. I now know that my options for easy and tasty veggies goes far beyond green beans and broccoli.
Give it a try
If you've been curious about meal delivery services like these, I recommend you give them a try. I believe all the popular services are commitment free (cancel any time) and come with a free week to get started.
Sure, you could go to the grocery store and by all these ingredients yourself for less, but if you are like me, you won't be able to make meals as tasty as these, and you won't be able to do it without an ounce of food waste like you can with Sunbasket.
As I mentioned earlier, I am not being paid for this post and I wrote it of my own accord. That said, if you sign up with this link, I'll get a $25 credit in my account. Thank you!