Monday, November 23, 2015

Home Meal Reviews: Week 3 - Freshly


As you may have noticed, these are not meals you prepare yourself! These are basically expensive tv dinners. Unlike previous reviews, this week I am bundling all the meals into a single listing. The main reason for this is that they all 2 minute microwave jobs and basically have all the flavour of a TV dinner.


The first thing you will see about this offering is the AMAZING variety they offer. There are around 24 meals available! This is really pretty impressive... but is let down somewhat by the lack of any rotation that I could identify. I am not sure that I would be ok with having to choose from 24 options (several of which are breakfast items) week in, week out.
Freshly delivers from Arizona, so you are looking at frozen ready meals. This isn't a bad thing but I am not really sure it's what I am looking for. There is literature with a lot of fluff talk of 'health' and 'natural' which isn't too reassuring however if you dig in deeper on the site, the ingredient lists and nutritional information available indicate that they are pretty careful (although the sodium levels are probably higher than you want).


2 minutes in the microwave... boom you're done. All you have to do now is find a way to cut through the super tough plastic.


I really can't fault the quality of the ingredients. The components are clearly good quality, the food is pretty tasty by the standards of microwave meals... just not incredible.


TV Dinners are not known for their fantastic, delicate flavours... and nor are these. To be fair, they are better than many other microwave meals I have tried... but not much better. The meals are however satisfying. I wasn't able to finish a couple of them as I really did feel full.


I think that this may be a good option if you are looking to avoid take out, wanting your food to be quick, free of refined ingredients and calorie controlled then this may well be an option for you. I am not sure they really do the best job pitching it this way (all the materials you are sent are very vague about the ingredients/components) but the site material seems to back it up.

I'll be taking a break in the food reviews next week as it is Thanksgiving in Americaland but I will be back the week after!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Home Meal Reviews: Week 2 - HelloFresh

Entering into week two, Hello Fresh is a similar service to Gobble with 'quick to make' foods from good ingredients.

Meal 1 - Tuesday: Pork Medallions

I just couldn't stop the sour cream being lumpy...

Meal 2 - Wednesday: Chicken Meatballs & Gnocchi

It didn't look like the picture, but still tasted pretty good.

Meal 3 - Thursday: Steak Bibimbap

I don't like lentils and I still loved this.


Unlike Gobble, HelloFresh is able to deliver Monday evening, giving you, three meals for two to use through the week. I was very impressed with the presentation of the ingredients with each meal in a nice box. Having the service deliver on Monday was a lot more convenient for us and meant I didn't end up needing an additional day of take out fattening me up.


I don't think I really lauded Gobble's virtues in this area nearly enough. HelloFresh is basically giving you exactly what you would get from shopping in a store, just in the correct measures. This means there will be plenty of chopping, slicing, grating, peeling and more to be done. This partly explains the increased time in getting the food ready - these meals take 30+ minutes rather than the mere 10 minutes offered by Gobble. You are going to need a Pot and a Pan and a chopping board and probably some bowls handy for putting things to one side etc etc for each recipe giving you a ton of extra washing up along the way.


Oh how I miss the days when my biggest complaint was the packaging! HelloFresh is much more limited in what it is providing. I was having to add in sugar and eggs. The ingredients were not poor quality but the fact they aren't already prepped caused a few issues. The carrots in the Bibimbap recipe, for example, were very dry from the storage making peeling them a total nightmare.


As with Gobble, it was all pretty tasty but the way that HelloFresh tends to use lots of little bits and doesn't give the tight timing structure leaving parts of the meals cold when they really shouldn't be. I am not sure I can identify whether this is a result of my inability, lack of clarity in the instructions or poor decision making in the meal design.


If you are wanting to really learn to cook, then there are some merits to this service. Gobble has some 'secret sauce' components you couldn't reproduce, that is certainly not true of HelloFresh! This is a real case of you are cooking and learning to do everything. The downsides of this are the time factor and the real risk of screwing something up and ruining the meal. I think that this could be solved with better, clearer instructions for each meal, but without this I can't really recommend this one.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Home Meal Reviews: Week 1 - Gobble

Meal 1 - Wednesday: Pan Roasted Chicken Fricasse with Leeks and Foraged Mushrooms

It really did taste as good as it looks, possibly better!

Meal 2 - Thursday: Argentinian Skirt Steak with Patatas Bravas & Charred Vegetables

The Chimichurri sauce on the steak was particularly delicious

Meal 3 - Saturday Lunch: Vegitarian Moussaka with Greek Salad

I don't like lentils and I still loved this.


This is probably my major disappointment with this service. I (like, I think, most people interested in this service) want to have a few meals a week, for nights when I don't have other plans. Of course there are three obvious nights for having other plans: Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Based on this assumption, the obvious delivery day for your food is Monday. It turns out Gobble will only deliver (for me at least) on Tuesday, meaning I can't use this for a Monday night. All well and good, my girlfriend and I got ready for our first night of cooking at home... and waited... and waited. The food didn't actually arrive until almost 9pm. Gobble does advertise that the delivery will be made 'Between 8am and 8pm' which is fair enough, although I really don't want to be eating much later than 6pm. 
Gobble sent a very concerned email to me that I had not concerned email to me asking if there was a problem as I hadn't confirmed receipt of the order, which was lovely.

I responded to let them know the food was very late arriving:

Hi Diana, it arrived somewhat later than we had hoped so ended up with take out this evening but it has arrived.Thanks

The response really disappointed:

Gobble - Dinner Solved
Jeff (Gobble)
Nov 4, 12:45
Hi Dev,
Thank you for letting us know and I am happy to hear the box arrived to you safely. Please know that our delivery partner, OnTrac does deliver up until 8pm. I apologize for the delivery arriving late than expected.
All the best,
Looking back, this is not a bad response but it certainly felt like this is a complaint they see a reasonable amount and the first thing they appear to do is mark the issue 'solved'. (Dinner solved is actually Gobble's tag line but it did look bad coming to my inbox.) 
The result was that we had to try and force in the third meal to our routine which didn't work out so well (see above)


Gobble is SUPER easy, virtually no chopping was required, one pan and one bowl was about all that was needed. There is a bunch of scissor work to open vacuum sealed bags which is a bit tricky but the rest is pretty simple. One thing that was a pleasant surprise is that the '10 minutes' really is ten minutes! I would say 8-15minutes from pulling the food out of the fridge to sitting down to eat it.


The food is supplied in bags with the meat vacuum sealed to prevent freezer burn and preserve it better. The other ingredients are conveniently packaged in bags within bags... convenient until you need to open anything! Every item is in a bag that needs scissors to cut. Holding the bags so meat juice doesn't leak out and cutting it at the same time is definitely a two person job. If I had been trying to prepare these on my own, I would have gotten very annoyed.
The quality of the ingredients was certainly good, although by the time we got to meal three, the salad items had gotten pretty mushy in places (bruised cucumber and what looked like cold burn on the lettuce).


We loved pretty much everything. The first two meals (Chicken Fricasse and Argentinian Steak) were really really delicious. I had been a little cautious about the Patatas Bravas but all of the food came out delicious and tasty. The only thing is that the portions are possibly a little smaller than some people would like. I finished the food still feeling a little hungry, as I am trying to improve portion control at the moment, this wasn't a problem for me but my girlfriend also thought the portions were a little small and she's not a big eater.
The third meal was a bit different. The amount of food made was plenty for us and infact between us we barely managed two thirds of the Moussaka which was also delicious (and I don't normally like lentils!). The salad however was not so great. Neither of us a big fans of Salad dressing and without that, there was nothing very interesting about it. It also didn't really go with the Moussaka.


If you want food that is conscientious of pot usage, really does stick to a ten minute prep time with a minimum of cutting and slicing and tastes delicious, then this is certainly a good option. I also rate this as a really good option for cooking with your other half because getting the food out of the bags can be a bit tricky!

Gobble is $11.95 / serving ($71.70 per week for six servings) making it the most expensive of the offerings I have seen so far. The quality seems to reflect this but I will come back to this in my review round up in a few weeks.