We’ve lost our minds. We’ve collectively lost our minds.
Hello Fresh. Blue Apron. Plated. These companies should not exist.
The gimmick: companies that deliver pre-measured ingredients and a colorful recipe card instructions to your home… and you cook your own dinner.
These companies have exploded over the past few years. They advertise meals as about $10/portion, but for Plated at least, for “some specialty dishes, including steak or other upscale ingredients, the prices could reach as high as $30.”
Holy smoke! $10-$30/person is solidly in the restaurant price range for me. For that kind of money (and no leftovers) it’s crazy to cook your own meal, nevermind do the clean up.
Ads for these companies are proliferating your newsfeed because the mark up is sick. These companies are brilliant. They’re making money hand over fist. They’ve figured out a way to charge restaurant prices for less food than you’d get in a restaurant, minus the restaurant overhead and labor. The marketing genius cannot be ignored! It is somehow so convincing that the customers rave about it, and say, “Thank you!”
The claim: Planning a meal is stressful.
I started cooking a few years back (by “cooking,” I mean that I transitioned from heating up pre-made boxed meals to starting with whole foods and spices and creating dishes). At whatever point I run out of food, I make a list of the meals I want to make for the next several days, then I check the cupboards, list the missing meal components, and head to the grocery store. The whole process takes maybe 35 minutes. It’s not stressful. Sometimes I make grilled cheese. Sometimes we have pancakes for dinner. Work-week breakfasts and lunches are made ahead of time. We heat leftovers a few nights each week. It’s not stressful.
The claim: There’s no food waste.
I don’t even understand the selling point here, but it is Hello Fresh’s #2 marketing point on the homepage of their website.
For me, you cook for the meal, sure. But you ALSO cook for several meals in the future at the same time. I have never, in my life, cooked a dish with two four-ounce portions of protein. I buy protein by the pound. If I bake salmon Sunday night (rub lightly with olive oil, sprinkle on Badia Red Fish Seasoning, pop in the oven for 25 minutes at 350 degrees) — you’d better believe I’m eating salmon for 3 more meals over the next several days. (Have I mentioned my coworkers love me?) Even when I go to a restaurant and spend $15 on an entree, there’s at least two meals there. At least.
Spending time cooking for a single meal is time well wasted.
The claim: the food is fresher.
I end up in the grocery store several times a week. This is another one that doesn’t make me want to buy these ingredients. My food is always fresh. And I have trouble thinking that food that is shipped in individual packages across the country by FedEx or UPS (that then sits by your front door for several hours) is more fresh than food
shipped directly to grocery stores in refrigerated trailer trucks.
But see what Blue Apron does here? It’s not claiming that the food is more fresh. It’s claiming that the “specialty ingredients” are more fresh than in the supermarket. Mmmm-hmmm.
With the proliferation of specialty grocery stores, spice stores, olive oil and vinegar stores, cheese stores, and internet grocery shopping (for when you can’t find coconut aminos) it’s just not difficult to get a fresh specialty ingredient, when your recipe happens to call for one.
The claim: More variety.
This one also doesn’t do it for me. For one thing, when I cook a new dish it always takes me longer than cooking a dish I’ve cooked before. I venture outside my normal twenty or so dishes when I have time. Also, grocery stores are great with seasonal food these days. Blue Apron, Plated, Hello Fresh – the websites all make a big deal about “seasonal” ingredients and recipes. Frankly it’s nearly impossible not to be “seasonal” these days. Grocery stores are *on it*.
The claim: Learn to cook like a pro.
Our society is obsessed with food and cooking. There are dozens of cooking magazines. Movie stars publish gorgeous cook books. There are thousands of cooking blogs. We sit on the couch and watch cooking competitions. “Celebrity Chef” is an occupation. We watch Guy Fieri eat greasy diner food. We spend tens of thousands of dollars renovating our kitchens (granite and stainless!). We spend tons of money going out to eat at restaurants.
And we don’t cook! We just watch and say, “wow.”
Somewhere along the line, we started thinking of cooking as difficult. Lunchables hit the market in 1988, and all of a sudden, making a kid a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch became work. Frozen dinners. Boxed pizza. Now you can buy a Bertolli pasta meal (“for 1 to 2”) in the freezer section for $7. Pasta is stupid cheap! You can get a pound of it, plus a jar of chunky sauce, for well under $3.
We really, really, really forgot how to cook. We became obsessed with cooking, as if it’s some exotic act, and lost our damn minds in the process when we stopped cooking. Blue Apron offers how-to videos. But the meals they offer, they don’t require blow torches or double boiling or poaching an egg – they require you to chop parsley. Not sure how to chop parsley? Blue Apron can help you with that.
Lemme tell you something – buying your meals from these companies will not teach you to cook “like a pro.” All it will do is teach you how to saute 8 brussel sprouts and a handful of snap peas, mince garlic, and sprinkle salt and pepper on your finished dish. These are the cooking basics. Chopping parsley is not mysterious. It is self explanatory.
My husband and I have been talking about how to make money lately. The answer is to take something simple and basic, and make it several times more expensive. Walking. Why walk, when you can walk on a treadmill? Cooking. Most cooking is relatively simple. Going to the grocery store is simple. These companies have found ways to jack up the cost of at-home cooking through fancy marketing and packaging. Amazing. Truly amazing.