In the past, my attitude toward meal kits might best be described as one of superior acceptance. As in: Meal kits? They're great! For other people. I truly believed that whatever got people cooking was a step in the right direction. I just wasn't interested in trying meal kits for myself.
I was wary of the quality of the ingredients and of the quantity of waste — in the form of cardboard boxes, plastic bags, and ice packs. I also didn't believe the recipes could be all that good. Surely I could do better on my own?
And then the Great Cooking Rut of 2017 hit.
How I Fell into a Cooking Slump
I'm not really sure what caused my cooking slump. Maybe it was my new kitchen, which wasn't really that new anymore, but still new enough that I wasn't completely comfortable in it. I kept moving things around and then looking for them in the wrong place.
Maybe it was recipe exhaustion. I was bored of everything I usually cooked — or it felt too wintery for these recent summer months. Carrot-ginger soup was great in March, but by May I was so over it.
Or maybe it was just exhaustion, period. I was working long days, and trying to figure out what to make for dinner and when to get groceries felt like two more things I had to do — nothing to get excited about.
Bottom line, I was in a rut and despite working for a site with ample inspiration, I couldn't get motivated to cook. Most nights, I ate nuts and cheese and drank wine — too much wine. Lunch wasn't much better, and my go-to breakfast of homemade cashew milk, which usually felt like drinking a milkshake, even started to get old.
It was time for a change — but what? And how? I decided to give meal kits a chance.
My Meal Kit Experiment
I tried a few different meal kits and, to be honest, some really disappointed. One service, for example, delivered what was essentially a mini-refrigerator to my door — which I was to unload and then ship back. I was dumbfounded. I mean, okay, it was kind of cool the way you slid out the trays and unpacked the foods. It reminded me of an airplane food cart, which I've always been a little enamored of. But to ship that huge thing, which I could barely carry into my apartment, seemed like such a waste.
Then my box from Martha & Marley Spoon arrived. I was immediately impressed by the design and the packaging. Inside the box there were two paper bags, one for each meal, and anything perishable was packed at the bottom, with a cardboard partition and ice packs. While there was still a fair amount of packaging, it didn't feel excessive — at least not more excessive than a food delivery package from Fresh Direct or Amazon.
Sign up: Martha & Marley Spoon, from $48 a week
The ingredients were whole, not pre-chopped, which appealed to me, too. While I don't have a ton of time to spend on dinner, I actually like cooking, and I liked the fact that I wouldn't just be dumping and stirring ingredients that someone (something?) else prepped.
The recipe cards were detailed and very clear — and they were a great resource worth saving if I wanted to make the recipe again on my own (which I have since done a few times). Of course, I later discovered that I could also find the recipes for my previous orders online.
The combined prep and cook time was totally manageable (30 minutes to an hour from start to finish) and the recipes were really good: blistered vegetables with basil and burrata; harissa chicken thighs with kalamata olives and potatoes; tortilla soup with fresh corn and cilantro; fennel and celery salad with quinoa, feta, and almonds.
How I Got Out of My Cooking Slump
I found myself looking forward to the delivery and actually forcing myself to take a break to make myself a late Marley Spoon lunch or an early dinner, before delving back into work. I also started looking at my kitchen with fresh eyes.
I brushed off my mandoline, which I hadn't used in at least a year, marveling how easy it made prepping veggies like fennel and cucumber. How had I forgotten this wonderful tool?
I took stock of my spice cabinet and started compiling a list of ingredients I was missing. I cleaned out my refrigerator, noting that it didn't take too long because, well, there wasn't much in there besides mustard and rosé.
I even undertook a mini kitchen makeover, taking the cabinet doors off so I could better see the ingredients I had on hand.
In short, I started to get excited about cooking again. The kitchen is a fun room to be in! And cooking helped me clear my head during otherwise too-busy days. Within a month or so, I was ready to give up my meal kit training wheels and go it alone. Sometimes I followed recipes, sometimes I'd just wing it — as I did last night when I made risotto with chorizo, peas, and Parmesan. Full disclosure: Even though I'm officially out of my rut, I still lean on Martha & Marley Spoon once in a while.
More on Meal Kits
Have you ever experienced a similar rut? Have you tried meal kits to help you snap out of it? Did it work?