Monday, April 21, 2014

Trying Plated Meal Delivery Subscription Service: A Review

You've probably seen ads for the meal subscription service Plated all over Facebook, along with ads for almost identical products like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. The basic idea is you pick from several meal options and Plated will deliver almost all the ingredients needed to make the meals (only excluding "kitchen staple" ingredients like olive oil, salt, pepper) right to your doorstep along with the meal recipes. I was intrigued by the idea, but not intrigued enough to pay full price. When I saw that Plated had a promotion for two two-serving meals for $20 (using the code member4plates inputted at checkout) I decided to give it a try.

After browsing the site for awhile I realized that although they have a vague statement about using sustainable produce and sources when possible, that doesn't seem to mean much and they do not currently offer any ethically raised meat. We still do what we can to not consume factory raised meat, so that meant we were limited to the vegetarian options. The meat options really looked delicious too, coffee-rubbed steak and chicken tikka masala would have been something I'd have liked to order. I felt also that ordering a vegetarian option rather than a meat option reduced the cost effectiveness. Veggies are almost always cheaper to buy than meat.

Nevertheless, I decided on two vegetarian options that looked delicious and simple: polenta with roast vegetables and ricotta, pesto grilled cheese with chickpea tomato salad. I'm a sucker for a fancy grilled cheese but don't often deviate much from the standard cheddar or yellow American at home. It seems like every week Plated has two vegetarian options and two pescatarian options which is nice, though sometimes the veggie options seem a bit inadequate -- like the current week's vegetarian option of baba ghanoush, typically just a dip like hummus, served only with bread and yogurt. Not exactly a complete meal.

A few days later a box arrived at my door. The first thing I noticed when I opened my box of ingredients was that everything had been refrigerated: including two different types of tomatoes meant for the two different recipes. I don't know how much y'all know about what produce should be refrigerated and what shouldn't, but tomatoes should NEVER BE REFRIGERATED. It's a big deal! Another bummer was the quality of the tomatoes. The grape tomatoes weren't too bad, but the Romas looked barely orange. Ick. No. The quality of the rest of the ingredients was fine, though the sourdough bread used for the grilled cheese wasn't very sour and also had a chemical aftertaste, perhaps from whatever preservatives were in it to keep it fresh.

I made the grilled cheese and chickpea salad meal for dinner one night that we enjoyed outside at our picnic table, watching the sheep, chickens, and rabbits forage for their dinner as we munched on ours. The instructions for making the meal were a little confusing: rather than having each recipe separate, they incorporated instructions for making everything and that threw me off. I understand they were trying to provide a step by step plan for making the entire meal but it didn't work for my brain. 

It also made me crazy that the instructions for the grilled cheese sandwich included piling shredded cheese on the sandwich. Maybe it's just me, but I've always found it easiest to make grilled cheese with either sliced cheese or spreadable cheese. Shredded cheese just seemed like it would be a hot mess. It wasn't too bad to actually make it, but it wasn't the simplest sandwich either.

Once the meal was completed, my first observation was that the meal didn't seem quite... complete. I usually try to include a fruit or vegetable with each meal and though the sandwiches included a negligible amount of spinach via the pesto (maybe a quarter ounce per person) it didn't seem like enough. I ended up adding in apple slices and kettle chips to round out the meal, which was great but it did add to the overall cost of the meal. When browsing the website menu it seems a lot of the meals, especially the vegetarian ones, are that way -- a good starting point, but the home cook is going to need to add in an extra side to balance out the meal. The chickpea salad was good and so was the sandwich.

I made the polenta vegetable meal a few days later and it was similar to the grilled cheese meal, needing some add-ons. To that meal I added Alexia garlic bread, a poached egg, and a side salad.

The polenta meal was very underwhelming -- the roast veggies were coated in a "dressing" before being put into the oven to roast and I found that made them steam instead of roast (roasting is my favorite way to prepare vegetables so we eat a lot of roast veggies of every kind). The polenta had a kind of chemical-taste which is strange because it's a dry good that shouldn't have needed a preservative. The ricotta was okay, but not super-creamy. All in all the meal got an "eh" response from all of us.

There were some positives I found to Plated.  I found the portion sizes to be plenty generous -- Josh, Maggie, and I all shared both meals and still had leftovers. It was nice to not have to grocery shop for those two meals and I did enjoy the fact that there were no leftover ingredients since everything was precisely portioned out. I will also say that Plated has impeccable branding and food photography and their menus seem inventive and well thought out.

All in all, Plated was a decent value for the price -- but only for the promotional price. I paid $20 for 2 meals that fed 3 people and that wasn't bad, but the regular price is closer to $15/person. We won't be paying full price for it, but it's worth a shot if you can give it a try at the promo price!

1 comment:

  1. The service as a whole sounds pretty blah, especially if you already subscribe to vegetable co-ops and grocery shop. Maybe it's better to just get a few meal ideas and run with them. I'm not sure what they were going for with the shredded cheese. I have an old grilled cheese recipe where I mix shredded cheddar with sour cream, then spread it on the bread for a super creamy sandwich.