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Meal delivery services for the home cook: A review of Plated

Disclaimer: although it may sound like it, this is not a sponsored post, just a review of the services based on my experiences using them. This was originally posted on on January 12, 2014. 

You know those ads on Facebook? The ones that have migrated from the right sidebar to your timeline, increasingly targeted to your likes, so much that it can be scary? The algorithm changes recently made to Facebook are decreasing the reach of organic posts made by businesses, driving business owners to paid advertising via Facebook in the hopes of increasing exposure to potential customers. The bottom line is this: for anybody hoping that our beloved “free” social media sites would remain so forever, think again. The company is public now, after all, and needs to make money somehow.

In one instance, however, those “pesky ads” proved to be pretty helpful.

Facebook must be gleefully documenting all of my culinary adventures and photos (the power of big data — and unabashed sharing of personal information online!) because an advertisement recently popped-up for Plated. Plated is essentially a mail-order food service, but better. For a nominal fee per plate in addition to a monthly or annual membership fee, one can order ingredients to make fresh, chef-inspired meals at home — sans the searching for recipes online, trip to the supermarket, and lengthy prep time. A box containing the ingredients is delivered right to your doorstep on a date that you specify, either a Tuesday or Friday, and the menu changes weekly. One can choose from a variety of land, sea, and veggie dishes, sign-up for automatic delivery, and even choose which ingredients should not be included (i.e., dairy) due to an allergy or taste preference. A minimum of four plates is required per order.

Included in said Facebook advertisement was a coupon code that generously offered a free one month membership ($10 value) and four free meals ($48 value), just pay shipping for the first delivery. After a few days of contemplating what I would order, I took the leap with the coupon code and tried it out this week. Shipping cost me $20, which was a steal for four meals ($5/each). Thinking that meals during the week might be nice, I originally scheduled an order for Tuesday; however, being my first order, I didn’t know how exactly the ingredients would arrive (i.e., would I have enough time and patience to successfully hack apart a butternut squash on a Tuesday night after work?). I updated my order for Friday delivery instead.

When I got home on Friday, I was super excited to open up the box containing recipe cards and ingredients to make two meals for two people (four “plates”): two servings of swiss chard rolls stuffed with a mixture of quinoa and butternut squash, and two servings of stir-fried tofu with cashews and vegetables. For both meals, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all ingredients came packaged and labeled very nicely. The butternut squash was even par-cooked (partially cooked) and cut into manageable pieces, so this would have totally been possible to make on a weeknight. Since the shipment was sent via overnight delivery, packaged in an insulated bag with with ice packs, and stored in my garage while I was at work, everything stayed super cold and fresh.

Plated Order Plated Recipe Cards Plated Recipe Ingredients Plated Recipe Ingredients

On to the recipes. The swiss chard rolls sounded the most exciting out of the two, so Steve and I decided to make those first. The recipe card was super easy to follow and included pictures of each step and ingredients required (90% of which were included in the box and the rest were kitchen staples, like salt and pepper). I glanced at the card and put my own spin on the recipe by opting to add a minced poblano chile to the filling mixture, which was sauteed in a pan with a little oil, and cook the swiss chard rolls on the stovetop rather than bake, making this a three pot meal: one pot for the couscous, one saute pan for the filling which then became the vessel to let the rolls finish cooking, and one pot to blanch the swiss chard. The goat cheese topped off the rolls on the plate, but could have easily been omitted, making this a vegan meal.

The results were great! I was happy to learn a new recipe and have dinner quickly prepared after coming home hungry after work. The recipe made enough for two servings of three rolls each, with leftovers that I had for lunch yesterday afternoon. When I decide to make this in the future, the recipe will be easy enough to shop for — and, as a bonus, a few of the items are already in my pantry on a regular basis, like the couscous and tomatoes. I don’t have a review of the tofu recipe yet, since we planned on making that tonight, but I am sure the results will be equally as great. I can’t wait to place my next order or even try similar services to see how they compare, such as those outlined in this article from the New York Times.

Plated was established by Harvard alums with the support of venture capitalists and is in the process of expanding to additional locations across the U.S., so I hope that you are able to try it now or it is available to you soon. I could see the company expanding its reach with new ideas, maybe for lunch or special occasions, and would love to see some more adventurous or advanced gourmet meals made available in the future, for those looking to test their skills and try something new.