I understand the appeal of meal-kit services like Blue Apron. You go online, choose a dish you want to “cook” and the pre-measured ingredients and accompanying recipe appear on your doorstep in a neat and tidy cardboard box. After a long day at work, you don’t panic over what to make for dinner, you don’t shop, you don’t measure. You simply assemble your dinner—kind of like you would an IKEA bookcase.
But you also pay a price for that convenience—as does everyone else who lives on the planet. Blue Apron alone—it has plenty of competitors operating the same way—delivers 5 million meal kits per month. Great if you own stock in the company and can thus afford to move to pristine Mars.
Convenience Is Overrated
When you finish preparing your meal, simply toss out the single-use plastic baggies and plastic clamshells that housed every teaspoon of spice, every bit of vegetable, every smidgen of sauce, every bit of garnish. Melt and toss the freezer packs. Toss the thermal bag it all came in. Recycle the cardboard (well that’s something…). The amount of waste generated by these meal-kits makes the packaging at Trader Joe’s look sustainable. (Click here to view some Blue Apron trash.)
I thought I’d try making a meal kit for my lentil dal recipe. I did have the ingredients on hand, which I shopped for previously. So that does involve those pesky trips to the farmer’s market on gorgeous Sunday mornings, where I hear live music as I shop, meet and chat with neighbors I run into, talk to friendly local vendors who know me and buy the best tasting food I can find anywhere. So, that is less convenient than clicking an option online and having a box of food from God knows where mysteriously appear on my doorstep, perhaps via drone. I also have to ride my bike to the grocery store, getting fresh air and exercise along the way, to buy ingredients like rice and lentils that I pick out myself. There is that.
Lentil Dal and Rice Meal Kit
I assembled the ingredients below in about five minutes. (Of course my time does not include shopping.) I even went all out and pre-measured the salt. I didn’t include the oil or water you need to make this. From what I’ve read, the kits do not include basics but maybe these companies will partner with Nestlé some day and start to ship tap water too.
I didn’t chop the onion and tomatoes or mince the garlic in advance but you could do that and put those ingredients in more glass jars. I prefer to chop right before I cook to keep everything super fresh.
Due to all the kinds of spices I use for dal, the list of ingredients looks long in the original blog post. For my meal kit, I threw all the spices into a single glass jar. Apparently these would all be in separate plastic baggies if you ordered something like this meal.
I found a cardboard box to put this all into and did some merchandising with an unbleached ribbon I found in my sewing supplies.
“But Anne Marie,” you may be saying. “How is this at all convenient? It hardly compares to ordering online. Why would I put all of this in a box?” So here’s an idea: what if you gave this as a gift or started a meal kit exchange with your friends and neighbors? I would LOVE to get a homemade meal kit (and more glass jars!) as a present.
You could assemble the pre-measured ingredients for just about any recipe. Or you could make smaller snack kits if you want to give a bunch of them away for Christmas: cookie dough, hot chocolate, flavored popcorn. And you could also write the recipe out much more artistically than I have done here (I was in a hurry…).