Tahoe is making use of the no-cook fad that’s sweeping pandemic-time U.S. culture: meal subscription services. Sun Basket, Hello Fresh, Every Plate, Gobble, Home Chef, Purple Carrot, Blue Apron, Freshly, and Hungryroot are just a few of the dozens of delivery services available. You can also find options for just about all dietary needs: vegan, pescatarian, gluten free, keto, paleo, you name it. Of course, like with most any service of convenience, there are pros and cons to be found.
“We did Sun Basket for years and just recently paused our subscription just to take a bit of a break,” Lauren Tapia of Truckee told Moonshine Ink, noting that her family was going to try Daily Harvest for a change. “We stuck with Sun Basket because they were the most consistent regarding delivery; only once or twice was our order delayed. It was honestly a godsend to rely on the box during the height of pandemic craziness in the spring. Everything was also organic, which was a plus.”
The specifics of each service run the gamut, with prices based on the number of meals and servings per week. Each subscription service provides a choice of numerous dishes, anything from pork sausage-stuffed peppers with jack cheese and Japanese gnocchi with miso tomato butter and nori spice to parmesan-crusted chicken with lemon-basil orzo salad and walnut pesto sustainable salmon with quinoa.
“I think I’ve done them all and settled on Every Plate because of cost, easy, family-friendly recipes, and portion size,” said South Lake Tahoe mom Nicole Pillatsch.
Before COVID, Pillatsch, her sister, and their respective families would have dinner as a group at their parents’ house four nights a week, with each family taking turns cooking for a total of 10 people. Dinner on the other three nights would often be takeout, which would easily cost at least $100. Using Every Plate, that $100 has dropped to $68 per week.
“The measurements and portions are perfect for my family of four,” she said. “We rarely have leftovers … We waste a lot of food when I buy from the grocery store as I have containers full of food that get tossed on garbage night.”
In the year she used Blue Apron, Truckee’s Thea Kimura noticed portion sizes becoming smaller. “Three mini potatoes [are] not going to feed two people,” she said, noting that she was happy with Hello Fresh after trying that. When she switched to a plant-based diet, Kimura, a registered dietician, moved on to Purple Carrot, which she says is essentially a vegan service.
“Depending on the meal, I might add more food. More rice, quinoa, pasta, etc. We usually eat the whole thing,” she said, explaining that if there are any leftovers, her husband often takes them to work for lunch the next day. “… I like that there’s zero food waste.”
And speaking of waste, some say that’s the biggest negative on the list of pros and cons of a meal delivery service.
“I have been using Gobble for a while,” Truckee resident Becky Jackson Rivard told Moonshine. “It’s typically 15 minutes of prep, which is nice. They have lean and clean options, vegetarian, larger family-style options … The downside is a lot of packaging.”
Kimura said that packaging waste from Purple Carrot appears to be less than with other subscriptions. From what she’s read about the issue, to Kimura it seems that the packaging waste is outweighed by food waste since people tend to over-buy at the grocery store.
“Every Plate helps to minimize our food waste, though we are tossing ice packs away weekly because I can’t save them due to lack of space in the freezer now,” Pillatsch said. “The other packaging is minimal. Veggies don’t get wrapped and the condiment/seasoning packets are very tiny.”
Leslie Marcacci of Truckee alternates between Home Chef — “because they have some quick, no-mess, easy meals” — and doing an Imperfect Foods box for which she can select her own ingredients and have them delivered to the house.
“I have tried them all,” Marcacci said. “There is definitely a lot of waste in packaging with some of them, but Imperfect Foods has been amazing — except that I have to meal-plan for it. I get salmon, chicken, ground beef, veggies, fruit, pastas, bread, cheese, and dried goods at a much lower cost than the grocery store, and it gets sent to my home in minimal packaging from a local facility.”