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Pretending to cook: "Dinner Kits"

The NY TImes had an article today about "dinner kits"; they arrived chilled in a box with just enough of each ingredient to make one dinner. What an unconscionable waste of packaging and money. So you keep buying cumin at a rate of a teaspoon at a time.

"The box — or bag, or crate — includes a recipe, usually with photos showing each step. Inside, ingredients are already portioned and measured: if a chili recipe calls for a teaspoon of cumin, there it is, neatly labeled, in its own little cup. Two tablespoons of olive oil arrive in a tiny screw-top jar; six sprigs of cilantro, in a zipped plastic bag. "


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  1. What a great thing for people that can't cook.

    1 Reply
    1. Ah, I'm not bothered by this trend. I have quite a few friends who don't cook much at home, and who don't really know how to plan/shop/prep a tasty/balanced/inspired meal. I'm actually looking at a local organic/fresh food delivery service (greenling.com, they are fab) for a 5-meal kit as a gift for a friend's birthday.

      I think many Chowhounders aren't the intended audience for this. But when I was still learning to cook, I recall buying dry soup mixes that included beans, noodles, seasonings, everything but protein and fresh veggies, and feeling like I'd made something good.

      Cooking and feeding are fundamentally expressive, caring behaviors. Most of us can relate to watching their loved ones enjoying a meal we made; if these kits give that pleasure to someone who doesn't cook much, then all the better. Maybe it will stimulate further interest in home cooking.

      18 Replies
      1. re: DuchessNukem

        I would just hope that after buying a couple of these they realize spending $$$ for the priviledge of getting your olive oil in 2 tablespoon increments is pretty darn silly, and that they could do it themselves for a tenth the cost.

        1. re: DGresh

          As someone who cooks regularly for myself - I agree, however when tackling a new "ethnic" cuisine there are often a lot of ingredients needed to give it the first plunge. Particularly cuisines that use a lot of different spices, oils, vinegars, condiments, etc - personally that would be of interest to me to try once or twice.

          Every time I have tried to make Indian food, the results have been "meh" at best. And the process becomes increasingly more frustrating because I buy all the spices, give it a try, and underwhelmed maybe try once again - but then give up, eventually throw out the spices, and then a year or so later am inspired to try again and the cycle repeats. For me an "Indian kit" would be a great way for me to see if I could find any kind of recipe that I can feel happy about - and then from there commit to the full set of ingredients. Really, for any cuisine I'd be new to - that would be an appealing item for me - but as a teaching tool and not a regular use item.

          1. re: cresyd

            Cresyd - totally off topic - but what I did to get the hang of Indian food was to make the same dish over and over again until I really understood what each spice did to the final product. I grew up eating Indian food but never cooked at home. I made channa masala every week for a month or so, and then after that could make other dishes pretty well, too. Also, do you have any friends that make Indian food? I always buy in bulk from the Indian store, far cheaper than buying individual jars, and I am happy to share with people who are interested but don't want to spend all that money.

            1. re: pamelak52

              At the moment I live in Jerusalem - which essentially has all the spices available (and in fairness far cheaper to buy than in the US). However, Jerusalem specifically and Israel in general is a bit of a black hole for Indian food - so getting inspired to give it a go happens far less often.

              In general, I have found that living outside of the US (and the foods I'm accustomed to being able to access), I've either become very resourceful in recreating what I like (i.e. Mexican) or sadly just given up (sigh.....Indian). That being said, the last time I tried it was just really poor.

            2. re: cresyd

              Meet my pantry. When I've tackled new cuisines I stocked my pantry with all the primary ingredients need to improvise with in the cuisine.

              One more positive is with a well stocked pantry you can go in many ethnic directions and have a lot of the ingredients at hand.

              To me the pantry is part of the soul of the kitchen.

              With Indian, if it's meh then there isn't enough spice :)

              1. re: scubadoo97

                This is where I start to feel sympathy for the greater idea of the dinner kits - because , I do not have the world's biggest kitchen and so I don't really have the space for a "well stocked" pantry to really cover global cuisines beyond what I make frequently (and well). Which I guess leaves me with a tiny souled kitchen? :)

                However, one of the great charms of living in Jerusalem is that fresh produce is rather inexpensive and I currently work near one of the larger open markets in Jerusalem. This allows me to really shop for one or two meals at a time because I can make multiple small trips throughout the week. Ultimately I gather it's all about adapting to the space we have.

                1. re: cresyd

                  you're not alone, cresyd -- most kitchens outside the US are too small to maintain a spice and ingredient library that can handle every ethnic cuisine one might want to tackle. (some are barely big enough to be stocked with the *local* cuisine.)

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Yup - but I think part of living with a tiny kitchen has been a mentality of not wanting too much "stuff" just sitting around and appreciating a fresh rotation.

                    While I would not need such a kit for oil or buying fresh ingredients - should someone want to make a version of this for Indian or Thai food where the "specialty" ingredients are sold in this fashion. I don't make either cuisine frequently, and having all of the extra items around at this point just doesn't make sense for me.

                    1. re: cresyd

                      I agree with you 100% -- I have an enormous kitchen by European standards, and I hesitate, too, if I come across a recipe for a bunch of things I don't usually keep in my cupboards -- yes, these kits have a lot of packaging, but no more than the boxes/packets/jars that I end up throwing away because we were "meh" on the result (and I spent a LOT more on the full packages!)

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        Yup - and as someone who grew up in the US, most of the "kits" that were sold were usually very high in soduim because the "seasoning blends" came pre-salted. So if there was a kit with all of the original spices and such measured out - and I can salt it to my taste - that would be great.

                        I would prefer to buy my own fresh herbs, vegetables, and protein - but if there was a pad thai box with all of the individually packaged items that serves me far better than having to scour Jerusalem for dried shrimp (that inevitabley are over priced and sold in a bulk size that is ridiculous for my usage).

                        1. re: cresyd

                          If there were a kit here in Paris that allowed me to make *good* Mexican or Tex-Mex, I might jump through a lot of hoops. (Old El Paso is considered good TexMex here, and jalapenos/anchos/chipotle don't exist...pleh)

                          (there has to be a downside to living in a foodie paradise, right?)

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            There's always the downside....I just found a place that sells something that vaguely qualifies as "Mexican Chili powder" which has been an excellent addition to my limited Mexican "pantry". You can get a reasonable collection of the fresh ingredients to make passable Mexican in Jerusalem. And there are limited chilis and canned anchos - but it's definitely been a learning process in creative substitutions.

                            Apparently Tel Aviv has been having a mild increase of interest in Mexican food, so perhaps better ingredients will find their way into markets there.

                            1. re: cresyd

                              yes, it's wonderful to have access to wonderful ingredients of all kinds, but as an expat, yeah, sometimes it's funny how creative you have to get to make something you miss!

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Exactly - I now have a taco and enchilada sauce that takes me hours to make, still isn't exact - but it's very satisfying to think I can get close.

            3. re: DGresh

              I hear ya on that. (Six sprigs of cilantro?! How is that enough? I pick more than that out of my sink drain lol.) No substitute for having the basics in the pantry. Hopefully they can learn, hey I like this, and go shopping for themselves.

              1. re: DGresh

                Yes, think of it as a gateway drug.

                1. re: DGresh

                  OK, DGresh, if it bothers you so much, why even think about it?

                  1. re: Virginian

                    since my last comment on the subject was a year ago, I don't much. I'm happy that people find it cost effective (it wouldn't be for me) so I left the conversation. Not sure why you feel like bringing me back into it.

              2. “I felt completely infantilized when I saw all the ingredients laid out, as if a grown-up had to do it for me,”

                This line in the article really spoke to me. I know the quote was being used as a negative about the process, but I could relate to it in terms of when I was talking a foreign language class after work. I'd show up at class exhausted from a full day at work, and honestly I needed the teacher to treat me like I was 5 and not an adult. I needed to be both spoon fed,coddled, as well as really put on the spot about "where is your homework". And that's what I wanted because mentally being treated 'like an adult' was too difficult for me in that context.

                So if I relate my foreign language class struggles to someone who feels that way about cooking (i.e. treat me like I'm a kid who can't handle anything else), then I can get the appeal a little. But honestly, once you get into that $11-17 per person range - why not just get take out.....

                1. I'm not their target market but I can say my spouse would for sure buy a kit if he saw it while shopping. "What a great idea....."

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tcamp

                    Same here. In fact, my SO asked me to buy some of those "skillet dump" frozen meals so he can "make" his own lunches when there's no leftovers (never mind there's always sandwich fixings, soups, and frozen raviolis). He loves stuff like that.

                  2. As others have said, I like the idea for things that I am not familiar with. I read the recipes for some Thai or Indian foods and think that I'm not buying all that.

                    1. Our local newspaper is currently giving away a few gift cards for one of the companies mentioned in that article. As of this morning there are 44 people eager to win one. All but 2 seem to think it is the greatest idea that ever happened, if you can believe their comments. When I saw the giveaway I had pretty much the same reaction as DGresh - the cost is silly and the waste is even worse. The Spouse's observation was that for those prices we can all go out to eat and no one has to cook or clean up at all.

                      I can almost see this working in NYC where there is a very large concentration of potential customers who have very much above average incomes. The companies can use high end suppliers as a draw and the delivery areas are relatively compact. In a locale like mine there are not nearly enough people with the kind of disposable income it would take to remain a regular customer, we have no high end food purveyors, and you have to drive absolutely everywhere.

                      One person commented that this was just like Dream Dinners, only more convenient. Yes, and you saw how long companies like Dream Dinners managed to stay in business. I don't see this as a sustainable business model in the long run. Figures it was started by a microfinancier and private wealth advisor. This thing screams MBA.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: rockycat

                          I don't live in New York, but have a friend who's a foreign correspondent and can be away from his bureau desk for weeks at a time based on various assignments. Typically the first thing he wants to do when he gets back home, is just to be at home and cook a nice meal. But, when he's just been traveling for weeks and has minimal ingredients and nothing fresh that was perishable at home - I could see this kind of option being very appealing to him.

                          However, even if it was available, he'd probably only end up using such a service 6-7 times a year? At the absolute most. The notion of anyone using this service regularly is why it feels like such a fad. Either you "never" cook, and want to impress a new date, your parents, have a home cooked holiday meal - something special. Or you travel a lot, and occasionally want to make a home cooked meal without shopping or excess leftovers. Or you're learning how to cook and these are good starters. But I just don't see too many scenarios where someone is getting 2 or 3 of these a week on a regular basis.

                        2. "At 28, Mr. Taranto already has a double-Ivy education (Dartmouth, Harvard) and served in the Marines; he was a microfinancier in Indonesia and a private wealth adviser on Wall Street.

                          “When we started jobs in New York, we realized that cooking dinner is really, really hard,” Mr. Taranto said of himself and his business partner, Josh Hix, 31. (They often cooked together in graduate school.)

                          Cooking is "hard" - as opposed to getting a double-Ivy education or being a private wealth adviser?? Ummm.....OK. I'm thinking it's just laziness, not degree of difficulty.

                          I'm sorry, the waste of packaging of ingredients is insane, and the cost factor of a single serving isn't much better than getting takeout.

                          Cookbooks. Online Recipes. Blogs. TV shows. There are countless ways to learn how to put a meal together.

                          38 Replies
                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            And I wonder, if you order 4 servings of Pad Thai or whatever, do you get 4 little plastic jars with screw caps, each with 2T of oil? Or do they have peons who put 8T of oil in a larger little plastic jar with screw cap?

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              Yes, this cooking is hard business is ridiculous. Perhaps a PITA to shop in NYC the cooking part not so much compared to the rest. It is all about priorities. I see this as a niche market and the packaging won't bother some. I know people who don't recycle because they are too lazy to save the recycling from other trash.

                              1. re: melpy

                                Agree - anyone in a big city isn't going to shop the way I do (a weeks' worth or more in a single shop). They're more likely to buy what they need that day which, I agree, *could* be rather tiresome.

                                But the planning ahead, using a crockpot, pressure cooker to get a meal on the table in minutes - it's *not* that hard.

                                And the non-recycling when it's really easy to do now - don't get me started. Again, we're talking lazy. Not degree of difficulty.

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  Not lazy, just different priorities.

                                  1. re: wyogal

                                    I agree wyogal and would add not only different priorities but different levels of skill, confidence, passion for the art, etc. and not always laziness.

                                    1. re: wyogal

                                      Exactly. And it might be easy for people who cook but it isn't for people who don't do it regularly. He's obviously not "lazy", just not as motivated to learn.

                                      1. re: wyogal

                                        Thank you for that synopsis WyoGal - That was my thought as well. I would not use that service now that I have a few years (aka decades) of cooking under my belt.

                                        I still call trusted family and friends for advice, however, I certainly would have appreciated the concept back when I gasped that dried marjoram was $5+ for a small jar for one particular dish I wanted to try!

                                    2. re: melpy

                                      I'm not too lazy to recycle, I just like making the earth cry.

                                      1. re: melpy

                                        The key to these things is not that they eliminate cooking. What they eliminate is SHOPPING and PREP. And it's true that shopping and prep are time-consuming. Professional chefs generally don't do either of them. Remember on the first season of Top Chef Masters when somebody pointed out during the Whole Foods shopping trip that Hubert Keller probably hadn't been inside any kind of grocery store in 25 or 30 years? That's always annoyed me about Rachael Ray's 30-minute meals - those thirty minutes do NOT include the shopping time.
                                        These kits are designed for people who work 80-plus hour weeks at large salaries. I love food shopping in NYC myself - it's one of the great things about living here. But I just work a regular 40 hour week at a low salary, so I have the time to indulge that pleasure.:)

                                        1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                          That's the analogy I was thinking. They are buying a sous chef in a box, not necessarily a bad thing.

                                          1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                            hear! hear!
                                            i love to cook. i love to shop. it's the in-between prep work that bore me to tears. it is a necessary evil.
                                            how i would love to have everything lined up and ready to dump into the pot when i come home from a long day at work or on a day off when i'd rather be playing.
                                            take for example, chinese wok cooking. alot of time is spent cutting up alot of food for 5 minutes of actual cooking.
                                            i do not have children, but i cannot imagine trying to teach young children the joys of home cooking that starts with 2 hours of prepping.
                                            how do most people cook anyways? find a recipe, buy the stuff, prepare the stuff, then follow the recipe to produce the dish.
                                            Ratgirl, i hope you post your response at the NYTimes website. i disliked the smug patronizing responses of many of the readers as evidenced in the quote by Cresyd above.

                                            1. re: ritabwh

                                              hear, hear -- that's a big part of why there is always a bag of frozen Chinese vegetables in my freezer. If I have the time and desire, I'll buy the fresh veggies and do the prepwork.

                                              If I'm tired, hungry, and out of giveadamn, the frozen veggies make a fast, healthy stirfry.

                                              1. re: ritabwh

                                                <<i do not have children, but i cannot imagine trying to teach young children the joys of home cooking that starts with 2 hours of prepping.>>

                                                Exactly! My son loves to cook and bake (it is waning a bit these days, very sad) but if I had started to teach him by involving him in every single step he wouldn't have.

                                                When we would make pies I would make the dough and the filling and then invite him to make his own mini pie in small tin. We would line the pan together and he would add the fillings and get to eat his own creation

                                                WIth cookies I would make it all in advance then let him scoop it.

                                                Stir fries I would chop all but a few things and then have him do a single carrot and pepper, etc.

                                                Baby steps kept his attention and as he got older he got more involved.

                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                  Your son might surprise you...my daughter's favorite part of baking is mixing!

                                                  1. re: pamelak52

                                                    Oh he does it all start to finish now, I was taking about the toddler the stage.

                                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                                      So was I, my daughter is two. It's not very efficient, but fun nevertheless.

                                          2. re: LindaWhit

                                            >>>Cooking is "hard" - as opposed to getting a double-Ivy education or being a private wealth adviser?? Ummm.....OK. I'm thinking it's just laziness, not degree of difficulty.<<<

                                            LindaWhit, while you and I may not perceive cooking as being hard, certainly there are some things that you find hard that others find to be easy. I can think of several examples in my life. Arnold Palmer probably thinks golfing is easy while I think golfing is very difficult.

                                            Of course, if everything in life is easy for you, I can understand why you would not be able to understand or empathize with those who find cooking difficult. :-)

                                            1. re: Fowler

                                              Fowler, I never said everything is easy in life for me, did I? Please don't put words in my mouth.

                                              However, cooking is *not* difficult. A simply stir-fry; putting ingredients in a crockpot, patting together a meatloaf and putting it in the oven, or making scrambled eggs, a hamburger, or baking/broiling some chicken and steaming some fresh vegetables is NOT difficult to do.

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                It may not be "difficult," but if someone has different priorities, and wishes to take advantage of this, does not necessarily make them "lazy."

                                                1. re: wyogal

                                                  Perhaps not for some. But it does just add to the "I want it now without having to do anything for it" mentality that I see more and more. Much like kids who get out of school and expect to have a $75-$100k job without actually having done anything to prove they're worth it. But that's a whole other kettle of fish. Which they wouldn't know how to prepare anyway. :-P

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    Gimme a break. I can see my brother doing this and he works his a$$ off, all over the world. When he is in NY, he may not want to bother with the details. That's all. He works hard and if he wants to order something like this, it's not because of his "I want... mentality."
                                                    Who is making assumptions here? You seem to be making a giant leap here.

                                                    1. re: wyogal

                                                      Good for your brother. Then this set-up is appropriate for him, should he choose to use it. That, or takeout, or going out to eat. However, I've worked with more than enough entitled people who feel they should have it all without having worked for it. But I never said your brother was one of them. Please note - I said "Perhaps not for some." Perhaps your brother is in that "some".

                                                      I personally feel the service is a fad service, as others have noted. I find the waste in packaging deplorable. And yes, I do find it lazy of *some* people who cannot see fit to prepare a healthy meal. That goes for people who eat fast food more often than not, because "they can't be bothered." And find it very unfortunate that some people choose not to find time in their uber-busy schedule to put a simple dinner on the table, because things have changed so much that a meal becomes something to be gulped down in a car in 15 minutes.

                                                      Sometimes it's good to just. slow. down. But that was another era, I guess.

                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                        Yeah, well when someone sleeps on planes, is in and out of the city, maybe their quality time is spent on relationships with people, not food. And eating out may be the last thing they want to do.
                                                        You may find that the use of the word "some" excuses your judgements.... but, I find that you have painted with a wide brush here.

                                                        1. re: wyogal

                                                          As is your prerogative. I spoke of what I have experienced, as we all do here. I apologize if I offended you.

                                                2. re: LindaWhit

                                                  LindaWhit, the only words I put in your mouth were the ones between >>> and <<< and you made those statements.

                                                  It is easy for many that do not find cooking to be intimidating or difficult to relate to those that may actually feel that way. I have always found making a perfect beef wellington difficult so I choose not to make it. I do not think that makes me lazy, it just means that it is more difficult for me to create than another individual that has perfected the dish.

                                                  1. re: Fowler

                                                    Exactly, and also, some people may not *gasp* want to do it. :)

                                                    1. re: wyogal

                                                      Hey folks, we can feel this sub-thread heading towards some personal and unfriendly ground. We can understand how people might feel judged on both sides of this debate, but we hope everyone can take a step back and not take the things said here too personally.

                                                    2. re: Fowler

                                                      We all have different priorities. Is one person lazy because he doesn't garden? Make her own cheese? Where do you draw the line, where you are? I've taken puff pastry/croissant classes. I also decided that for the couple of times a year I might be motivated to do them from scratch, it's not worth spending the time and effort to do it weekly until I get them right. Trader Joe's frozen stuff is better than I can do. Call me lazy. I'm not offended by that, though if people think so. I'm too lazy to care.;-)

                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                        I am perplexed by your response (RE:Fowler) to my post, chowser. If anything your reply is reinforcing my point about not calling those people lazy!

                                                        1. re: Fowler

                                                          I was reinforcing your point, adding on. I probably should have started with "I agree" but I was being lazy.;-)

                                                3. re: LindaWhit

                                                  But cooking IS certainly hard for lots of folks -- I could cite probably hundreds of threads on CH/Home Cooking asking how to roast a chicken, make peanut butter, use a crockpot, etc. Folks don't all learn to cook at grandma's knee anymore.

                                                  Edited to add: And like my friends I referenced above, many folks just don't know how to plan/implement. They can search a recipe on the web but it doesn't mean they can follow it to good results.

                                                  1. re: DuchessNukem

                                                    Dag nabit, these younguns have the web? Why in my time we had to..........

                                                    1. re: DuchessNukem

                                                      I have a friend, who is married with 2 small children, who cannot cook. She says every time she tries it turns out bad. She gets recipes, but my guess is she just doesn't follow them or misses a step or something. She's a smart girl, is a teacher and getting her master's degree. Maybe if she had some free time and someone there to teach her, she could learn some basic stuff, but she doesn't have any free time seeing as she works full time, goes to school a couple nights a week for her master's, and has 2 kids under the age of 3. I could definitely see someone like her using a service like this.

                                                      1. re: juliejulez

                                                        She would still have to follow a recipe. I don't see what this would do to help.

                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                          Well, if all the ingredients were laid out and all she had to do was things like dump, stir or mix, she could probably do it. I think her issues come in with reading the recipes wrong.... like tablespoon instead of teaspoon, that sort of thing.

                                                      2. re: DuchessNukem

                                                        i would like to add that cooking is hard if you don't know how to do it. like, not knowing how to boil water.
                                                        i would suspect even with these prepped dinner boxes, unless you know some cooking techniques, the resulting meal may be unsatisfactory.
                                                        as Ratgirl and Chowser said above, this is basically a sous-chef in a box. you must still follow a recipe that comes with the box.
                                                        as well-stocked my pantry is, it may still require a trip to 3 or more groceries to gather all the ingredients i need.
                                                        hopefully after a few meals cooked via the prepped box, the cook will want to try it on his own. and if not, who cares?

                                                      3. re: LindaWhit

                                                        In a tiny apartment with a tiny, ill-equipped kitchen? Yep, cooking is hard and inconvenient and not really fun. Especially for a novice cook who hasn't yet learned to maximize efficiency in use of counter space and doesn't yet have great cooking implements to work with. As you develop skill, it gets easier.

                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                          Having been, not a private wealth adviser, but a professional in NYC, cooking may not be hard but planning the meals and SHOPPING for them definitely is. Free time is a premium. I can see the appeal here.

                                                        2. OMG I would have LOVED that when I had to travel all the time. The company used to swing for one of the "business" hotels" with a small fully equipped kitchens in each mini suite. These were a fairly new concept at the time.

                                                          Without a car to get me to a local grocery store I still ended up either eating out and really only using the kitchen for easy breakfasts and to store leftovers. Even so I doubt I could have found "bulk spices" where I could just buy what I needed for as single meal or two. Never mind small amounts of oil, sauces, etc. When you are only there for a few days it wasn't worth the money to buy what I needed to make more involved meals.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                                            I hadn't thought about it before, but this makes a lot of sense. Several times a year I stay at hotel with small kitchenettes in each room. I like the hotel b/c it's close to the office I'm visiting, and I can put together basic meals, but the "good" grocery store is 20 minutes away, so I'm limited to really basic heat/eat stuff from the not-so-nice neighborhood market. This kind of meal delivery would be great.

                                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                                              I would think that a service like this pairing up with those long stay hotels or rooms that have kitchenettes would make all sorts of sense. Not only are those people in no need of dealing with a full bottle of oil, but potentially getting in with people who travel a lot, return home to no food and would be equally interested in having a kit like that waiting for them at home before shopping.

                                                              1. re: foodieX2

                                                                I've thought of this idea when we are on vacation. I don't want to buy all new spices, etc. but would love to put meals together and not use the same ones ever day. I'd love little spice/oil kits.

                                                              2. Interesting article and trend.

                                                                For busy singles, widowed seniors, non cooks, shy cooks, and the hesitant recipe approacher (imagine some people don't own cookbooks or understand how to approach a printed recipe) these types of kits open a door to try something new and experience a meal they might otherwise not prepare. It's also a way of trying a flavor you're not sure you like without a big commitment to leftover ingredients.

                                                                It also opens a new career path for people.

                                                                For someone who would never go thru a jar of say, cumin, this approach is less waste.

                                                                For someone who loves to cook but travels 50% of the year or more (I was once that gal!) a bottle of oil is pretty rancid by the end of the year.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                  I might be interested in something like this for trying out a new cuisine. I'm interested in cooking dishes from Asian traditions, but I never seem to have the right spices and sauces and oils on hand, and going out and buying them all is a fairly expensive undertaking. I might use something like this to make, say, Pad Thai or a Green Curry and see if I felt like the process was worth it and something I'd do again, and then I might go out and buy the things for it.

                                                                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                    Me too. Nice way to put one toe in a new cuisine.

                                                                2. And DG, "pretending" is your word. There's no pretense. These are portion controlled, pre fixed ingredient meals. If the guy can make a living doing this, more power to him. The article actually makes a good case for why this works for some people, including the company that runs a similar concept in Sweden.

                                                                  1. Everything else seems to be dumbed down or idiot-proofed these days, no reason home cooking should be any different.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: rjbh20

                                                                      That is probably what the carpet-sweeper makers said when those fancy pants electric vacuums came out.

                                                                      1. re: rjbh20

                                                                        Mrs. Ingalls could say that about grocery stores that sell foods that you haven't killed, raised, grown. We're dumbed down.

                                                                      2. Lol, I've been thinking more on this today. I think the logical next step is the "Homemade Chicken Stock Kit":

                                                                        1 Costco rotisserie carcass, picked clean
                                                                        8 carrot tops, lightly sprouted
                                                                        bottom and dried out tips of one celery bunch
                                                                        large yellow onion, slightly slimy and soft
                                                                        paper peels from one bulb garlic
                                                                        6 peppercorns
                                                                        bay leaf
                                                                        2 1-L bottles of Evian

                                                                        I am so on this. Calling my patent attorney right now.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: DuchessNukem

                                                                          Oh that's good. I've seen those kits with a whole chicken but the carcass... I love it. Charge extra because it's been roasted for more flavor. Uhh, shouldn't give my secrets away.

                                                                        2. For people who complain that this is a waste, or its ridiculously expensive or unnecessary because cooking is "simple" please consider the fact that as Chowhounds many of us either (1) are accomplished cooks (2) enjoy cooking (3) enjoy setting aside time to cook or all of the above.

                                                                          Not everyone is so fortunate, or so inclined.

                                                                          If you think this is a waste of packaging, then so are things like frozen dinners, or Lunchables or any other convenience, single-serving food item. So it's unfair to single this particular dinner kit out as being an "unconscionable waste of packaging".

                                                                          As to it being a waste of money, hardly. First the value of a dollar is obviously different for everyone. If I make 100k/month (or 1.2 M in a year), this is *not* expensive. Second, many people (myself included) will happily pay for convenience. It's why canned soups and yogurts stretch seemingly forever in the grocery store aisles.

                                                                          So there's obviously an audience for these products by people who either don't like to cook, don't know how to cook, don't want to cook, can't cook and/or have the financial wherewithal to have choices other than blue box mac n cheese. These products obviously aren't for the minimum wage worker but rather the TINA crowd.

                                                                          Here's an example. Ever invest in the stock market for retirement -- either directly or via an employer directed plan like a 401k? Ever wonder why there are those "Life Target Funds" that have expense ratios sometimes 2 or 3x higher than index funds or ETFs? It's because people don't really understand how to value the risk/return of various investments (be they domestic v. international stocks, or stocks v. bonds v. cash), or are too lazy to figure it out for themselves, so they pay someone else to do it for them. Same principle here.

                                                                          It's no different. I really don't understand the bashing. Step away from the soapbox and put away the snob-colored, vitriol tainted glasses for a minute.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                            Count me in agreement!

                                                                            I can make a pizza, buy a pizza or go to Italy for great cheese, bread and wine....this concept isn't a stretch.

                                                                            Life is all about choices, right?!

                                                                            What I enjoyed the most about the article was the career potential for the people willing to provide a service. In this day and age, why yuck someone's yum...it's a living!

                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                              I'm with you, Ipse -- it's real food, it's real cooking. And if it inspires someone to learn to cook more? Hey, it's a great thing.

                                                                              The first thing I thought of was having one of these delivered when I was traveling all the time. When you're on the road, you get so sick and tired of restaurants you could scream -- I'd have gleefully paid for a kit like this!

                                                                              It's a means to an end - feeding yourself without dropping a ton of cash on ingredients, spending a huge amount of time you may not have, and without consuming a box full of whoknowswhat that you pulled out of the microwave.

                                                                            2. That's progress all right. Maybe a big carbon foot print if you keep score. As much as I like to cook there are those that have absolutely no interest but may have to throw a meal together every so often between eating out.

                                                                              1. What company puts these kits together, IKEA?

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: bobbert

                                                                                  Only if it takes four days and a couple of domestic disturbance calls to put together.

                                                                                2. How many of you criticizing the dinner kit live in New York? City kitchens often are no bigger than a closet. Mine, at 7 x 14, is considered "HUGE!" by most of my friends.

                                                                                  I basically don't cook Indian or Chinese, etc., because I simply don't have the space to stock all the spices and condiments necessary to those cuisines since they are not my primary choices. An Indian dinner kit might actually entice me to make such a meal every now and again.

                                                                                  Truly, since spices go stale after about 90 days, unless one cooks Indian almost nightly, one's cumin and turmeric, etc. would be stale by the time they were used up, in any case.

                                                                                  When I first saw the article listed in the MY times, I thought "how wasteful." Writing about it now, it's beginning to sound almost economical!

                                                                                  52 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                    If you live in New York City, i'd think you have less need of this business than anyone. Everything you could possbly want re: ingredients is a subway or cab fare away. Yes, you actually have to get up and go fetch it -- but that also means you get to personally select your ingredients rather than having some minimum wage worker throw it together in a box. I'd agree that small urban kitchens don't have room for extensive batterie de cuisine, but dinner kits don't solve that problem anyway.

                                                                                    1. re: rjbh20

                                                                                      >>> If you live in New York City, i'd think you have less need of this business than anyone. Everything you could possbly want re: ingredients is a subway or cab fare away.

                                                                                      I don't know anyone that takes a cab to go grocery shopping in the city, not even the subway to be honest with you (unless you're going to one of the Outer Burroughs in which case you have to factor in time, which is not free). It's why there are like more mom/pop markets than probably Starbucks on every city block. But having said that, just because you have access to markets does not, ipso facto, mean you have access to ingredients that you want or need. Yeah, there's a couple of Whole Foods that have sprouted up here and there, but ever try pricing the stuff at Whole Foods in NYC? It's probably cheaper to just eat at Le Bernardin 3x a day.

                                                                                      >>> I'd agree that small urban kitchens don't have room for extensive batterie de cuisine, but dinner kits don't solve that problem anyway.

                                                                                      A typical NYC apartment kitchen is really not conducive to cooking anything extravagant. It really isn't. ChefJune knows what she/he is talking about. Living in NYC, as a working stiff, is unlike living in any other metropolitan city in the U.S., save with the possible (and I stress "possible") exception of San Francisco.

                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                        and even if you have a good-sized kitchen and a car -- who really enjoys making trips all over town to find the stuff to make one meal? (and let's talk about time and fuel....)

                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                          Um -- I lived in NYC for 17 years, a good deal of which was in a studio apartment with a sofa bed. The kitchen consisted of a tiny gas stove, an undercounter (half-size) fridge and a tiny sink. Out of that I made plenty of dishes that some might call extravagent -- cassoulet (including the confit), various curries, classic French bistro food, etc. etc. Hosted Thanksgiving dinner for 13 once and had an annual NY day open house with probably a half-dozen major dishes. And I took the subway, cabs & just hoofed it plenty of times to get to places that had interesting provender. Yes it takes time, and no i didn't do it every day. But i found the hunting & gathering process far more enjoyable than, say, standing in line to see a movie or wandering around an art gallery. Still do.

                                                                                          1. re: rjbh20


                                                                                            Your post just reaffirms, and really underscores, what many of us have said in support of these dinner kits.

                                                                                            It is aimed at those people who value convenience and/or who cannot or do not like to cook.

                                                                                            The fact that you *can* cook a great meal in your NYC shoebox does not mean that it is something that is either practical or enjoyable for the majority of people out there. In fact, you yourself admitted that you "hoofed" all over the place just to get ingredients. Most people won't "hoof" to pay to eat at a really good restaurant, much less buy ingredients to cook in a shoebox.

                                                                                            Look, if you put a gun to my head, I could probably cook Thanksgiving dinner in a hotel room, but just because I *can* do it doesn't mean it's something that I want to do, much less enjoy myself while doing it.

                                                                                            That's all I'm saying.

                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                              Fine, and good for you. If you don't enjoy the hunting & gathering and other manual labor involved in putting together a meal, you're fortunate to live in this era where there are many other options, provided one has the checkbook to pay for it. But please don't delude yourself that this bears any more relationship to cooking than paint-by-numbers does to art or auto tune does to singing. Its Hamburger Helper and Betty Crocker cake mix with a fancy moniker. If you don't like the process of cooking, which can be time consuming, messy and frustrating, fine -- don't do it. Go to restaurants, order takeout or eat cold cereal -- regrettably millions of relatively affluent folks do just that every day. But please don't pretend to be a cook when all you did is open an overpriced box -- it insults those of us who actiually care about this craft and work at it.

                                                                                              1. re: rjbh20

                                                                                                I used to be of the opinion that if you needed a recipe to make something then you weren't really cooking but merely following directions. In other words, if you can't make something without the use of a recipe then you can't cook, and are not cooking.

                                                                                                But so many people believe otherwise, and adamantly so. They simply believe - almost righteously so - that cooking must be done using a recipe.

                                                                                                So now I just take a laissez-faire attitude about it. If they want to consider following a recipe slavishly "cooking" who am I to argue.

                                                                                                Cook, and let "cook" ...

                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                  you have to start somewhere, yes? and a recipe is the final product of someone else's best cooking.
                                                                                                  how many times have you asked for someone's recipe because it was so tasty?

                                                                                                  1. re: ritabwh

                                                                                                    how many times have you asked for someone's recipe because it was so tasty?


                                                                                                2. re: rjbh20

                                                                                                  Hamburger Helper and Betty Crocker cake mix with a fancy moniker
                                                                                                  that's actually a pretty darn good tag line!

                                                                                                  Albeit not my intrepretation because I wouldn't buy a processed box meal for more than a dollar. However, having a personal chef box put together for me in my younger, less experienced days would have been a) healthier alternative to HH or BC mix and b) would have exposed me to new ingredients and flavors that I might not have other wise tried out on my own.

                                                                                                  Tiny kitchen or gourmet affair doesn't make a cook anyhow. It's not what you do, it's how you do it, right?! So, if a young guy is out there willing to put his muscle into a new idea more power to him. Time will tell if the service has a hungry audience.

                                                                                                  1. re: rjbh20

                                                                                                    wait a minute.

                                                                                                    You still have to chop some of the vegetables and herbs in most of the boxes. You still have to read the directions and add things when it's called for.

                                                                                                    You still have to be able to see if the meat is done (or burning)

                                                                                                    The only thing these boxes remove from the process is the shopping and the measuring. By defining cooking as "shopping and measuring and chopping and heating", most TV chefs aren't cooking, either.

                                                                                                    It's still cooking, especially when compared to the options available to the target market: microwave something pre-prepared or going to a restaurant.

                                                                                                    I'm also thinking of people who live in small towns -- they might be within the delivery area, but 2 hours away from a city where the ingredients can be purchased. Compared to gas and an entire Saturday of driving, these boxes are a bargain, and allow someone to make something they might not ordinarily try.

                                                                                                    I really don't get the hate and derision here.

                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                      I'm liking these boxes more and more. They're not really my thing and cost prohibitive for a family of 4. But I know plenty of people who have more money than time and would go for the box because it provides the fun of cooking w/o the "hassle" of finding, measuring, storing ingredients.

                                                                                                      Also, the idea of marketing to the business traveller who has kitchen access makes lots of sense. I lived for 3 months in a Quality Inn in Vermont - I would have killed for a kitchenette and a couple of dinner kits.

                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                        Exactly. This is cooking. It's just not the "hunting and gathering."
                                                                                                        There seems to be some aversion/derision to those that don't share the same love of the "hunt."
                                                                                                        I also don't understand the animosity.
                                                                                                        Do begrudge those that go to the hobby store to by craft kits?
                                                                                                        Do I begrudge artists that don't make their own paint?
                                                                                                        Do I begrudge those that go to a store to buy their clothing, instead of raising their own sheep, growing their own flax, spinning their own yarn/thread, weaving their own fabric, cutting their own cloth, sewing their own clothes?
                                                                                                        um, no.
                                                                                                        I enjoy cooking, take some pride in it, but realize that others don't feel the same way. There have been times where I have realized that my "pride" in my cooking skills is really just vanity. I swallow it, and go on.
                                                                                                        Live and let live.

                                                                                                        1. re: wyogal

                                                                                                          I've gained a lot of perspective on these types of issues from being involved in Knitting communities. I used to be fairly bitchy about people who went out and bought craft kits or paintable ceramic figurines or whatnot. But since I've been knitting and talking to knitters, I've grown more tolerant of how others choose to practice their craft.

                                                                                                          In knitting, we talk about process knitters and product knitters a lot. Process knitters tend to love the actual knitting, they often find it to be meditative, calming, etc. Product knitters want to make pretty things, and knitting is a means to an end. And there are knitters who spin their own yarn, and knitters who buy novelty yarns that are so interesting in their own right that you barely have to do anything to them to make them into something.

                                                                                                          For me, I really like the process of designing knitting patterns (it's very similar to computer programming, which is what my University degree is in) and buying yarn (it's one of the few forms of retail therapy I can engage in without guilt or self-esteem issues), but the actual knitting -- hours and hours and hours of making stitches -- is not particularly interesting to me. I don't mind doing it while I watch a movie, but it's not something I long to do or find relaxing in and of itself.

                                                                                                          So I have a knitting machine. It gets through the stitch making part faster, adds some special challenges to the design process and generally lets me concentrate on the parts of knitting that I find fun. Plus, it uses up yarn at a terrific rate, so I get to buy more.

                                                                                                          Lots of hand knitters sneer at machine knitters, because we are not actually knitting, you see. But they don't sneer at designers who design patterns and then pay sample knitters to do the actual knitting work. So the judgments are complicated and, well, judgmental.

                                                                                                          From being judged, I have learned (mostly) not to judge. Whether someone buys fleece in grease and cleans and cards and spins and dyes it themself before knitting it into sweaters they've designed themselves, or goes down to the store to buy a mesh yarn to make one of those dopey ruffled scarves (I did say I only mostly don't judge, right?) that are everywhere this year, we're all on a spectrum, and there's always someone out there who is harder core than us or focused on a different aspect of our shared hobby. And for those who are getting their toes wet, an unpleasant welcome or the declaration that they're doing it wrong (or, in fact, not doing it at all) can be all it takes to ensure they never try again.

                                                                                                          It's even harder with cooking to be non-judgmental, because we have such emotional reactions to food, and such ingrained ideas of what it means to prepare a meal for family based on our childhoods. You can see it in everything from the insistence that one celebrity chef is a real chef and another is not to the reaction to pre-cut vegetables in the grocery store. But the longer I spend engaged with food, the more I just try to let go of those things. I'm not always successful at it, but I try.

                                                                                                          1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                                                            Great analogy! I am definitely a process knitter. I don't know how to follow a pattern, and can really only knit and purl, if they are in separate rows.
                                                                                                            I like the repetition of the act, yes, very soothing. I wish I could be more of a product knitter, one can only do so many scarves and hand warmers (hahahaha just made a typo, wrote "nad" instead of "hand" but, I suppose I could make some of those, too!)

                                                                                                            1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                                                              I wonder if most communities are like that. I do calligraphy, seriously, and there are those who think you MUST cut your own quill, grind your own ink, etc. And there are those who scan their work into computers, fix it up, print. Sends shudders through the former group!

                                                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                I really think every hobby, at least, has this.

                                                                                                                Moreso with any hobby that can also be a profession because the professional/amateur divide is fraught with all sorts of complications. I suspect that's the case with calligraphy. Photography is bad for that, too.

                                                                                                                There was a MetaFilter thread a few years ago that was about some kind of high-end camping business with heated tents and butlers, and people were all 'That's not camping! Camping is when you make your own fires and trek to the back end of beyond to see the sunrise!' But for me, camping was driving out into the forest with my family in our truck and camper combo and spending our days fishing. One of the things I ended up saying on that thread was this:

                                                                                                                ...different people take joy in different aspects of the experience of camping. Some people believe it's only camping if you light your own fire instead of using a campstove. Some people believe it's only camping if you have to build your own firepit and collect the wood to light your own fire. Some people believe it's only camping if you hike into the backwoods before building your own firepit and collecting only non-impacting pre-fallen wood to light your fire. Some people believe that if your pansy ass needs a fire to keep warm, you're no camper at all. There's room for lots and lots of levels of comfort in experiencing nature, and these people can afford a higher one than me.

                                                                                                                1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                                                                  Me, I'm camping if I need an extension cord. :P

                                                                                                                  (can you tell who spent one too many muggy summer night in a mildewed Army surplus tent in Girl Scouts?)

                                                                                                                  If you're producing something you love, and you enjoy the process of producing it -- nobody has the right to tell you you're not "really" doing it.


                                                                                                                  And what happens if you DO buy all those spices, and you make the recipe with frozen chicken and an onion out of the produce bin? You're not shopping and gathering -- does that mean you're not really cooking any more?

                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                    It's a fine line, which I really have no interest anymore in trying to draw.

                                                                                                                    I mean, seriously, is pouring hot water into a styrofoam bowl to "cook" instant ramen, cooking?

                                                                                                                    What if you bought dried pasta and canned sauce?

                                                                                                                    Or what if you go all out and grow your own wheat, grind it, make flour, then make dough, then roll it out (no machines!) and stretch it out to make noodles, all the while waiting for your tomatoes in the garden to grow and ripen so that you can make tomato sauce with fresh herbs that have been growing on your window sill herb garden (cuz you live in NYC after all) then that probably counts as cooking I suppose.

                                                                                                                    No way am I taking a pencil to that tableau to draw a line. NFW.

                                                                                                                    To borrow and paraphrase what is now really a hackneyed phrase, "I know cooking when I see it".

                                                                                                                  2. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                                                                    I am one of those people who love true backcountry camping. I personally hate camping in designated, numbered campsites, but I appreciate that they encourage people (who might not otherwise be inclined) to get outdoors! If camping with the amenities is what you need to enjoy your experience, then I think that's great, even if it isn't my preference.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                                                                      I think it's easiest to let people define for themselves what they think "xxxxx" is. I "ran" a marathon but was told that because I had a portapotty break, it wasn't "running a marathon" which would mean never stopping the run. I also had to walk through some water stops because it was packed with people and I felt really stupid shuffling. I really don't care if there are some who don't think I ran a marathon. I think I did. I don't believe in being judgemental because someone does less than I do.

                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                        because yes, running with urine in your socks makes you a *real* runner.


                                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                          Weird, but I've run several marathons, and have never had the urge to pee during any of them. But then, I don't drink any water during the 26.2 miles either ...

                                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                            ipsedixit, chowser never said the potty break was to pee. It could have been a more urgent need like having to drop a deuce. :-)

                                                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                              just underlining the ridiculous viewpoint that you somehow didn't really run 26 miles if you had to stop to answer the call of nature.

                                                                                                                              I figured "urine in your socks" was at least somewhat less disgusting than a description of the other alternative.

                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                Y'know what we always called passing gas during a run, right?

                                                                                                                                Turbo boost.

                                                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                  as someone with a bum knee and a bad back, running 26 miles just ain't gonna happen unless there's something chasing me.

                                                                                                                          2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                            No, I think you definitely ran a marathon!

                                                                                                                  3. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                    agreed. has anyone gone to the website linked to in the NYTimes article? this is real food.
                                                                                                                    $60 for 4 "plates" of the butter basted pork dish does not seem unreasonable, except i couldn't see what the air freight charge is.
                                                                                                                    the menus are not dumbed down casseroles. there is a skirt steak with creamy quiona, blacked catfish, etc for this week's.
                                                                                                                    the menus rotate weekly
                                                                                                                    it's what you do with the ingredients that matter.

                                                                                                                    1. re: ritabwh

                                                                                                                      lol...a few of us who tried contributing early on read the article but the thread turned sideways somewhere along the line.

                                                                                                                      1. re: ritabwh

                                                                                                                        There are times when I've been traveling for work, stuck in a hotel - and for those with any kitchen equipment - I would be thrilled by those.

                                                                                                                        Buying enough for a family of 4 - that's where I don't think the model is as appealing. But when traveling and that point where you just don't want to see the inside of another restaurant - that I can empathize with.

                                                                                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                          no kidding -- I remember many road trips where I'd go to the local grocery and pick up stuff to make a sandwich and a small carton of milk because I couldn't deal with one. more. restaurant.

                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                            Unfortunately for business travelers, doesn't look like the business model is aimed at them (subscription in many cases, order in advance to arrive in coldpacked styrofoam, etc.). Maybe if you're in a week-stay kind of place you could set up a subscription for a few meals, which would make sense.

                                                                                                                            1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                              Yeah, I think the way that I would most enjoy the model (or be inclined to use any sort of service) would be in a travel situation. Not just business, but also on holidays where most the cooking is done in a rental unit. I think such a model would have far wider appeal than targetting a very specific kind of wealthy New Yorker that it currently seems to be aimed at.

                                                                                                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                Have you ever stayed in a hotel that offered their guests take away for their road trip? I have, dozens of times. You call catering and the service is ready for you at check out.

                                                                                                                            2. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                              Or, if you're traveling through a city/town/destination for only a short while; not long enough to become familiar with their food shopping areas a hotel's catering service is another option. Most chain hotels with menu services provide take away service for their guests. Arranging road trip food this way is very convenient.

                                                                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                I get that it's convenient - but often that kind of food falls into "uch, restaurant food" for me. As someone who likes to cook, I find there to be something relaxing about cooking for myself and eating a home cooked meal.

                                                                                                                                I find this most strongly when traveling and eating a lot of business meals which after a while just start to feel increasingly heavy. Anyways, I don't live in the US (or travel there for work) so I'm not seeing this as a genuine option for me. But - in such circumstances, I could see when it would be an appealing service to have as an option.

                                                                                                                                1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                                  That's the only line I'm commenting on - options. From the first read of the original article I've been clear that this food service would not appeal to everyone. I love to cook too. I don't cook while working or traveling for work. I've had instances where I was new to an area, selected a place for dinner and was sadly disappointed. Hotel food like a hot sandwich, soup or fruit/cheese plate for one that I can eat while driving on to the next location worked well for me. And was cheaper than the dinner that disappointed. So, these three options all have different outcomes.

                                                                                                                                  OTOH, I believe that dinner kits have a place in the food service landscape. Would I compare a fresh dinner kit with a dinner I made from total scratch-depends. Am I saving $, time, a surplus of ingredients? If not, I'd cook the meal myself. Comparing (which some comments have done) a fresh prepared dinner kit to processed food kits or for lazy people just seems a bit over the top.

                                                                                                                                  Like I said upthread, and perhaps you'll agree, I can make a pizza from scratch just as easily as ordering one from the local pizza place but time, $, convenience all play a part.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                    Agreed - I think a lot of it depends on the kind of business traveling that you end up doing. I had one business workshop that involved 3 days (literally) being locked in a monastary - and I would have desperately welcomed any other food options. But normally my scenarios aren't that hyper limited.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                                      While at the monastary did you make bread? What food options did they offer? Interesting.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                        It was at a Carmelite nunnery that also had guest services for various groups - however the food was just dreadful. A combination of bad Levantine cafeteria combined with the idea that just pouring olive oil on dishes would be enough to make it tasty. And refridgerated Cremisan red wine.

                                                                                                                                        This was made worse by the fact that the gates of the monastary were locked from 9pm to 7am - which given it's location and the workshop schedule made it impossible to really leave and get back before you'd get locked out.

                                                                                                                                        Doesn't rank as a top food experience, but definitely made for an interesting story.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                                          oh cresyd, that does sound dreadful food wise. I trust there were other worthwhile aspects though.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                            Well...it was for work. I guess part of the novelty of living in Jerusalem is that a number of my work trips are different than going to cookie cutter hotels.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                                              I can get behind that! Adventures always count. Outcomes are all in the attitude (but good food helps!). learning you had lousy olive oil there just makes me sad.

                                                                                                                                              My work actually is in hotels (lodging and food photography) and even with that level of access the hits & misses are neck and neck. I can score some good eats sometimes thru staff connections...but independent contracts also include fending for yourself. Sometimes my car looks like a mini grocery store.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                Like so many things - quantity is important. Bad hummus, babaganoush, salad, chicken, etc. is not really made better when it's swimming in olive oil. No matter how tasty the oil may be. Not to mention the gut bomb of just eating that much oil at any meal.

                                                                                                                                                My work eating definitely hits a range of various odd moments - though to this day my favorite work-dining experience was being invited to an event on a Mexican naval ship that was traveling through the Mediterranean on a trip of "peace and good will". As odd as the event was (and my invitation to it) - it was absolutley amazing food.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                  Adventures are almost never great when you are in them, but they always make for great recounting of the tales. This one sounds like no exception.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: HillJ


                                                                                                                                        I think we are looking at this from the wrong angle for business travelers.

                                                                                                                                        I think this is a worthwhile option for frequent business travelers when eating *at* home.

                                                                                                                                        If you're constantly on the road (say something like 4 days out of the week), then the days you are at home, you don't want (nor have the time) to go shopping and hunting for all the ingredients. These are convenient for those times, and those types of people have that kind of travel itinerary.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                          In addition to at home convenience, the hotel example I gave was to illustrate that in many hotels the catering services offered to guests are very much like the dinner service discussed in the link. I've had hotel meals prep'd that still required some assembly on my part, either in the hotel so I could work in my room or for the next hotel I was heading to, to be a complete meal.

                                                                                                                            3. re: rjbh20

                                                                                                                              if you follow a recipe, you are painting by numbers.
                                                                                                                              btw, there is nothing wrong with following a recipe.
                                                                                                                              it is the skill with what you do with the ingredients that make a good cook.
                                                                                                                              the box provides you with the ingredients you need to cook something.

                                                                                                                        2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                          I lived in Chicago and had some pretty abysmal kitchens. The one where I turned out the best food (including dinner parties) had about 4 feet of collective counterspace and a low quality gas stove. I was just happy it did have a pantry and a dishwasher. https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo... that's a picture of it, before I moved in (the previous tenants before I got there were slobs). The fridge was on the opposite wall about 2-3 steps away.

                                                                                                                          That one was not my smallest though. The smallest was in a 340 sq ft studio with no counterspace at all, and I had to wheel the microwave cart out of the way to access the back staircase to the basement because it blocked the door otherwise.

                                                                                                                    2. I would gladly buy a dozen or so to help introduce me to a cuisine I am interested in learning, but do not have access to. I am specifically thinking of one or more regions of India.

                                                                                                                      My area has a large enough population of Indian heritage to through a great IndiaFest every year. Yet the only restaurant is part of a small chain. We have a couple of markets, but what will I do with 250 g of garam massala? And which of the thousands of recipes or cookbooks are representative of the specific region or the entire sub-continent? And not americanized.

                                                                                                                      As a cook who typically cooks for one, the lack of waste due to spoilage or age negates in my opinion the waste in packaging and shipping.

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                                                                        Exactly. The first I tried to make a real Indian curry (from a friend whose family was from India), I spent a fortune on the spices. I rarely ate curry like that and it took so much time that I didn't do it again for years and had to throw out the spices. What a waste.

                                                                                                                      2. WOW! I can't believe the sanctimony here. I never before felt judged for cooking from a recipe. Here I thought my cookbooks and I were making nice meals for my family!

                                                                                                                        11 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Allieroseww

                                                                                                                          I think people were comparing this to cooking from a recipe... no big deal, we all do that. meaning, these kits are just another step, and very rarely does anyone do absolutely everything from scratch. That's how I read it.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Allieroseww

                                                                                                                            The distaste, I believe, wasn't so much about the recipe issue but rather the combination of the price and the notion of buying single servings of oil, spices, vinegar.

                                                                                                                            1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                              an aside... I find the "waste" argument kind of silly on an internet forum. I mean, are people powering their phones/laptops by riding a bike or solar cells? I think the power used to complain online about waste is kind of ironic.
                                                                                                                              ah, 1st world problems.... I digress.

                                                                                                                              1. re: wyogal

                                                                                                                                Waste in regards to what? The idea of buying a bunch of cilantro and only using half? Or the waste of having to throw out a bunch of plastic packaging after using one of these kits?

                                                                                                                                Personally, I think that no matter how we cook - we're liable to end up in some waste trap. Personally, where these dinner kits have the biggest disconect for me is the idea of a family wanting to continuously spend that kind of money per person for such meals. I'm sure there are a certain number of unique families/individuals where spouses don't want to shop or think at all about meal planning, but do want a homecooked meal - but that seems like a really niche market.

                                                                                                                                Instead I think promoting such a product to travelers staying in hotels with kitchenettes or vacationers renting units makes loads of sense. To me, what is silliest about this is how limited its scope is in who it sees as a potential customer.

                                                                                                                                1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                                  There were some upthread who thought that, not me. I didn't bring up the idea that these were wasteful, just commenting on it.
                                                                                                                                  gee whiz.
                                                                                                                                  From the OP, "What an unconscionable waste of packaging and money."

                                                                                                                                  1. re: wyogal

                                                                                                                                    And now a corollary. How about those McCormick Spice packages that have all the herbs and spices for a specific meal?

                                                                                                                                    For the price of one packet, I could buy at least three Badia spice jars.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                                                                                      Sure you could. But if you use and adore spices it's hard to imagine needing a single use spice pack.

                                                                                                                                      Back in the day, my Mom could go years before she used up all the spices in her pantry. Eventually, my sister and I would check the containers for freshness and wind up saying to her, yet again, why buy so much of something if you don't use it? If those spice pkgs had been available to my Mother she would have been an ideal candidate.

                                                                                                                                      And, some folks welcome a guidance while shopping; how to use dried spices/herbs in a recipe or to add something new to a dish they've made forever. Those McC spice packets provide written recipe tips on the packaging.

                                                                                                                                      Might not be a bargain for you & me and folks who use or know how to use herbs/spices...but I think it's fair to say there's a market for single use spice packets.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                                                                                        I haven't seen them but would probably pick one up when I'm at a vacation home and don't want to buy all those spices. Or, if I wanted to try something new and didn't know if I wanted to buy all the spices.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                                                                                          Yes, you could. But for someone just learning to cook, or camping, they are fine. They are sold in the same space as the other spices, whereas this is a different service, no need to make the trip to the store.
                                                                                                                                          So, not really a corollary.
                                                                                                                                          I wasn't addressing the waste aspect.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL


                                                                                                                                            Unless you are growing your own spices, tilling your soil with your own cow, and harvesting your crops yourself, it's not cooking.


                                                                                                                                2. I'm on my third week of plated.com. Given that I'm buying it for 2 adults who work full time in the tech field, and have a 6 year old, it allows me to buy food that I can cook that I normally would not cook because I don't have time to go to an obscure grocery store to go get an obscure ingredient. I've tried different things like getting frozen food, etc. Most anything premade is too high in sodium and calories. Because I'm making something 'special' we sit down at the table as a family and eat.

                                                                                                                                  We had Skirt Steak with Cilantro Chimichurri and Carrot-Citrus Hash tonight. My husband loved it. I'm not a chef and would never think to put a recipe like that together.

                                                                                                                                  I actually find i'm spending less money, because I haven't gone to the grocery store to buy meat for the past 3 weeks, I'm not buying stuff I don't need and we're not using (example - i just threw out a ton of freezer burned fish and steak that we didn't eat and had because I bought too much meat from costco) and we've gone out to dinner once in the last 3 week because we've been happy having something different at home.

                                                                                                                                  For the last 3 weeks for 4 plates (2 different meals) I've spent $48 each week. That's far less than I spending on grocery shopping in any given week or going out to a restaurant. On average I probably spend about $500-800 on groceries a month. I'm pretty sure we throw away a ton of food as we'll make something, have leftovers, and nobody eats (chicken is a favorite to throw away).

                                                                                                                                  I would say the food we've gotten is enough for dinner for 2 people and lunch for my husband. I make my daughter something different on the nights I cook from plated, since she's not going to eat spicy or strange, and I don't cook spicy normally. My husband is very happy because I'm making food he likes and I don't have to spend time finding a recipe or going all over the place shopping because safeway doesn't have an ingredient. I still cook food from my normal repertoire the rest of the week. Spaghetti once a week to molify the child, etc.

                                                                                                                                  My husband and I try to cook on average 3-5 meals a week; I like cooking, i go through phases where I look for items in my cookbooks and try new recipes, but I'm too busy lately to do that and don't feel the desire; I'm rather tired of making the same old thing for both of us. The recipes are easy enough fro my husband to cook so we take turns cooking.

                                                                                                                                  There's lower cost dinner kit delivery than plated; but I don't like the menus of blueapron.com or tomatosherpa.com (local to Berkeley, CA).

                                                                                                                                  I'm thinking about getting a vegetable/fruit box delivery ( about $35) and have increased my plated order to 3 meals a week.

                                                                                                                                  1. As absurd as the kit sounds it may lead to someone to cook more and forgo the kit in the future. It's better than eating out for every meal.

                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                        Not absurd. Poor choice of words., Just not very cost effective to cook this way