Maybe I should start by defining what local meal options is since there are SO many variations. Some you cook, some you don’t cook, some you prepare a little bit, some you prepare a lot.
(And if you’re looking for reviews on HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Plated, Home Chef, or Chef’d then I got you covered!)
As far as this post is concerned, a local meal option is one available locally (so no shipping in a box) that requires some sort of cooking or heating up.
What surprised me the most is the varying price ranges, quality, and variety- all of which I’ll cover below.
The ultimate verdict is “Would I use this service again?” will be answered.
Let’s get to it!
Fresh Thyme Single Serve Meals
I’m a Fresh Thyme junkie. I’m on a first-name basis and even my kids know the hack of locating the tractor and picking out saltwater taffy before we check out.
That’s how much we go there. So when I did my normal rounds of going there, I asked the manager for a few of the single serve, ready-to-cook meals. We went with a salmon, pork, chicken, and carne asada (steak) option.
Here’s exactly what I thought about Fresh Thyme meals:
- Portion sizes were extremely generous for “single serve”. Add a side or salad and two people can likely split it.
- Some were flavorful, others were decent, and some were bland.
- You can microwave or bake (in the bag) so we chose to bake. Essentially, you’re steaming the meat, veggies, and rice so it lacks the flavor that comes from searing, sauteeing, etc.
- No mess. Literally, you just throw it on a baking pan and pour it on a plate.
- Our kids even enjoyed it!
The flavor was lacking in the Salmon, Pork, and Chicken dishes so plan on pulling out the salt. Can’t beat the price or portion size especially since they were less than $5 on sale. (Normally $7) The carne asada was a hit in flavor all around!
Price: ~$3.50-$5.00 (because I really do believe each bag could easily serve two)
Who would like it? Great for a couple or family that literally hates dishes. Since these cook in the bag, there are no cooking utensils involved, but that comes at a small price of having “steamed” meat.
Would I use this service again? The carne asada version was by far our favorite so we would probably try that again.
Ingredients Delivered is a locally owned food delivery service that literally does everything except the cooking. They chop, prep, and package raw ingredients together along with instructions and do weekly deliveries around the Omaha area.
Plus, they are in partnership with the USDA “choosemyplate.gov” program which means all the means are fresh, fall within the 350-550 calories per serving range, and can be prepared in about 10-30 minutes.
Here’s exactly what I thought about Ingredients Delivered:
- The ingredients were fresh and the instructions were easy to follow.
- The recipes are actually things most people would make at home.
- As such, the ingredients would be easy to source if you were to re-create it.
- It was well-packaged and easy to gather what I needed.
- Preparation for all three meals was in under 30 minutes and there weren’t a ton of dishes involved.
As for taste, it ranged from amazing to simply good. The greek meatball on pita bread with tzatziki sauce was my favorite followed by the salmon pasta and then the chicken and mushroom pasta.
Price: ~$5-$7.50 per serving
Who would like it? Great as a weeknight meal option for a busy family who can give little thought to grocery shopping or healthy meals. Plus, 3x a week leaves a nice buffer in case you want to fit some Chipotle into your dinner rotation.
Would I use this service again? I actually think that I would. I know several people that use Ingredients delivered and continue to use it regularly to keep mealtime at home.
Target Meal Kits
Target is like a second home to me. And so when it came to getting their prepared meal options, it was just a matter of reaching my arm over and deciding on which to select.
Unlike some of the other options, this stuff was already cooked and needed to be reheated. The great thing, however, is that since the meat was separate from the sides, you could really create your own meal by mixing and matching as you please.
Here’s exactly what I thought about Target Meal Options:
- Mixing and matching what I chose was neat.
- The price is really reasonable at $6.99/meat selection and around $3-4/side item.
- In lieu of microwaving, I ended up pan frying or oven baking the food to warm it up.
- Generous portions for the price and value.
- The sides were good and ok and presented some “higher end options” such as a fall squash medley, risotto, or maple glazed sweet potatoes.
- The meats, however, were not good.
This pains me to write this, but my experience was disappointing.
I’ve never been more let down by steak, chicken, or BBQ beef in my life. The steak was too grisly, tough, and chewy. Cutting it down to small bits didn’t help much. The chicken flavor was decent but way too dry and tough. And the BBQ beef was the last hope I held onto redeeming this experience and even that was a letdown. It was still tough even though I warmed it up in the oven on low heat for 30 minutes.
I couldn’t get my kids to eat any of it. I could barely force Tommy and myself to eat it. The sides were slightly redeeming, but I can barely look at Target in the face right now. Why, Archer Farms, why???
Price: ~$2-$4 per serving
Who would like it? Don’t go for the meat (obvs), but if you need accompanying sides to your already prepared meat, then these are an affordable and viable option.
Would I use this service again? Probably not. Would I still look at all the other redeeming qualities of Target? Absolutely.
Hy-Vee Meal Kits
We all know and love Hy-Vee. It’s some of best customer service in a grocery store and they’re quick to support their local community. Even running this idea by their store director was a breeze and I could quickly (and without question) grab these meal kits.
They recently started offering their own packaged meal kits to compete against some of the national meal subscription services. Naturally, I wanted to see what it was all about.
Here’s exactly what I thought about the Hy-Vee meal kits:
- The boxes are a bit oversized for the content so if you’re picking up multiple, make room in your fridge.
- Fresh ingredients, appropriately portioned amounts, and easy-to-follow instructions.
- Don’t use all the seasoning they give you! Start off with a bit and add more as needed.
- The rice portions could be a bit more, but maybe this is my Asian bias…
Overall, the flavors were really good. The beef and broccoli and gochujang pork dishes were a hit in our house, however, the smoked paprika cod was…ok. (It was probably the overpowering olives).
Price: $17.99 or approximately $9/serving (This falls right in line with the boxed meal kits less the delivery charge.)
Who would like it? Since they only came in 2-serving portions, this is a great option for couples. Well…it’s also a great option for families with picky kids, too. You’ll end up making dinner for you and your spouse and still have to make a box of mac and cheese. Am I right???
Would I use this service again? Probably. We will likely stop by to see what meal varieties they are offering in a given week and snag a box if we like.
Evensen Personal Menus
Another meal service actually recommended Evensen Personal Menus for me to include. Probably like you, I hadn’t heard of this business until now. I sent them an email and within a few minutes, I was on the phone with the owner, Kaila Evensen.
She’s a young, up and coming chef who started making meals to help out a friend who was too busy yet had dietary restrictions. Word got around and now she’s creating personalized meals (low fat, low carb, high protein, etc.) for all types of people including professional athletes.
She recently opened a storefront to sell pre-packaged meals and snacks and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a few including chicken and bacon with noodles over a tomato cream sauce, taco stuffed bell peppers, and orange chicken with Asian veggies.
Here’s exactly what I thought about the Evensen Personal Menus:
- I now like something that I didn’t know I could like- namely the stuffed bell peppers.
- The dishes were full of flavor and I now want to re-create them all.
- The portions were appropriately portioned and filling.
- Kaila is extremely organized and personalized in her menus- even noting clients’ preferences on a spreadsheet.
Price: $8/meal, $5/bag of energy bites (or 2 for $8).
Who would like it? She makes delicious meals for every single type of dietary need or goal. Hate onions? She’ll sans the onions. Prefer Thai food? She’ll primarily make you that. Oh and not only does she do the cooking, but she also delivers the food herself!
Would I use this service again? Probably. It would be so convenient for busy people or families who can’t quite afford a personal chef, yet still want to eat well. Also, she sold me on mashed turnips being delicious so I’ll need to try that.
Have you tried any of these? Do you agree or disagree with me?
Am I missing something that I need to try??