So I tried Cook It and I have Opinions

So I tried Cook It and I have Opinions

Meal kits have been on my radar as a thing for roughly eighteen months now, but Leif and I were never particularly tempted by the concept since we felt like we were able to keep on top of managing our fridge. (Like many things in life born of good intentions and aspirational adulting, this was a dirty, dirty lie that we nonetheless kept telling ourselves.)

Fast forward to the past couple of weeks and the fact that several factors in our lives have really changed as a result of the pandemic and Québec’s evening curfew:

  1. We are going to the grocery store far less. When we’re not ordering our groceries in avance, we try to go to the stores as little as possible and only during times when few people will be there. These times do not tend to correlate with when we're really hungry and out of whatever we need.
  2. Because of the way we get groceries now, we just don't eat fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. (I also tend to get so excited about the fresh food that I eat them all within days of them arriving. It’s not my fault nature made them delicious!)
  3. Leif has no dietary restrictions but, unfortunately, I do. Sometimes, I do have to remind him that throwing together a meal primarily composed of bread and dairy products for the second or third or fourth meal in a row will make me figuratively explode.
  4. I just haven’t canned much this year, at least not actually useful things. I got it into my head that I was making clementine marmalade[1] for a whole pile of people this Christmas, and that devoured most of my canning time in the fall.
  5. I’m. So. Tired. And, more importantly, so is Leif, who takes on the lion’s share of daily cooking and baking at home.

So, I decided it was time to try meal kits.

When considering which company to try, I knew Montréal social media and brand expert Jessica Prudencio of @toutedansmesfesses fame personally uses Cook It, a company founded in Montréal in 2014. What follows are my impressions of the first three Cook It meals that we prepared for dinner between Monday, February 15 and Wednesday, February 17, 2021.

In our first box (costing us 44 CAD) arrived kits for three meals: salmon tandoori, beef stroganoff, and sweet potato taquitos, the recipe instructions, and an introduction booklet. For the sake of this experiment, we did not deviate from the recipes nor add any extras from the kitchen, because I wanted to see how they would come out as-instructed. I cooked the salmon tandoori completely solo that first night and managed well, completing the recipe in 25 of the expected 30 minutes. I was feeling a little unwell on Tuesday evening, so Leif made the beef stroganoff on his own and it also took half an hour. On Wednesday, for the taquitos, Leif and I cooked together: I handled the squash and the beans and tomatoes, and Leif sliced onions and got the lil’ tacos to behave on the stove. These recipes were easy to follow, presented in a sensical chronological way, so there was a minimum of inept flailing about on my part. Leif and I enjoyed all three meals. Leif’s favourite was the salmon tandoori, I think the squash taquitos with the slices of spicy pickled jalapeños were mine! The variety between them was honestly really nice — I didn’t realise how badly I was craving something spicy until I was eating the taquitos!

Even after a week’s experience, Leif and I both felt like being able to pick one out of three options and then sitting down 30 minutes later to a complete meal was a huge weight off both our shoulders. I cannot emphasize this fact enough. The mental load of managing the fridge is so much even when there isn’t a rampaging pandemic about. Not to mention that outsourcing this much meal planning for two people is actually a lot more cost-effective than getting takeout a couple nights a week (your own mileage may vary quite a bit on this one).

While meal kits like Cook It’s do help with household food waste[2], there’s of course the question of plastic use. As my post describing my commitment to quitting fast fashion digs into a little bit, a big part of my personal efforts going forward involve seriously curbing my plastic use, whether or not it ends up in the recycling.[3] My municipality still does not recycle polystyrene #6 (only two within Montréal do) because it’s not considered economically viable. Several of the ingredients in the meal kits came packaged in polystyrene, which regrettably ended up in the trash. There were moments when I really wondered if I was comfortable with the little plastic sachets filled with tiny amounts of spices or a handful of pre-sliced pickled jalapeños. So, as a compromise for using a service which is frankly not great from a plastic-use perspective, I am hoping that by using Cook It kits for 3-4 meals a week, I will be able to make sure that the rest of my grocery shopping and cooking habits are actually airtight in terms of reducing plastic waste, rather than aspirationally airtight.

All in all, meal kits are a thing now in our household. I am hoping they'll open up several evenings a week for a little more reading and writing — and sewing!

  1. For clementine marmalade, I found the recipe in Camilla Wynne's Preservation Society cookbook exceedingly delicious. ↩︎

  2. In theory at least, but it does seem logical to me. ↩︎

  3. This is because Québec has a very poor track record when it comes to recycling plastic effectively, and of course because recycling plastic can be very energetically costly (though we use hydro-electricity in this province, so it could be worse). I prefer to use plastic only for the absolute essentials and decrease my usage of reusable and single-use plastic in general. ↩︎

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