I’ve been pretty boring with my cooking choices lately. Making one big dish on a weekend to take to work for lunch and then eating it for five days straight, eating boring dinners (and fatigue-friendly foods). As regular readers of my blog will know, I have been sick with ME/CFS for the past 18 months, so my energy levels are not at all high, which has been the main factor behind this. But regular readers would also know I like to cook. So when I was given a chance to try new recipe box service Marley Spoon for free, I thought: this might be what I need to get out of my culinary funk. And it will save me energy at the supermarket and on deciding what to cook, which might make up for the cooking energy I will use instead.
I’ve used recipe box service Hello Fresh in the past for a few months over winter, and found it good for a while, but then I went on a crazy no-carb Paleo-esque diet so stopped (read a bit about my Hello Fresh experience here). And then I got sick and everything went bonkers, so I never got back into it. But long story short, the recipe box concept is not new to me.
For those who aren’t in the know, recipe box services send you recipes and all the stuff you need to make them (minus some pantry staples like olive oil, salt, etc) each week. You decide how many meals a week you want and for how many people (usually for a couple or family). They tend to operate on a subscription model, with the ability to skip weeks if you decide to go on holiday or that you only feel like eating toast for a while.
Marley Spoon is one of the newer players, and they’ve recently started delivering to Canberra. You can get your box delivered on Tuesday or Saturday in Canberra — the Saturday option is good for me, as that is when I actually have some energy to perhaps cook.
Mine arrived at 8am in the morning, and was happily waiting for me outside when I dragged myself out of bed.
I like how the Marley Spoon boxes come with individual bags containing the ingredients for each recipe. The recipe cards are also bright and well-designed.
One of the things that stands out for me with Marley Spoon compared to Hello Fresh is that you actually get to choose which recipes you want to make. It’s good, because sometimes with Hello Fresh I would get something that I didn’t feel like (i.e. a salad in the Canberra winter, avocado-based food when I have an avocado intolerance). There are seven available each week. I chose to do three meals (couples box, so each meal I make does me for two meals).
The first thing I cooked was the lamb and butter bean stew with mint gremolata.
It was quite straightforward and I found it really easy to make. All the ingredients were in the bag… oh wait, no they weren’t. The garlic was missing. Lucky I had some in the fridge, but that was a bit of a bummer.
The taste verdict? Yeah, it was good. Really nice, and quite filling– the portion sizes are generous but not over the top, which is good. For me, being the single lady, it also passed the leftovers test– I put the second portion of the stew in a container to take to work, and used the second piece of lamb to make an awesome sandwich the next day.
The second recipe I cooked was spiced beef kebabs with buckwheat tabbouleh. All the ingredients were in the bag this time. It was also straightforward, but generated a significantly larger amount of dishes than the first recipe. But I really liked it, especially the buckwheat tabbouleh, which had shredded raw zucchini in, something I would not have thought to do. It also passed the single lady test — I put half of the uncooked but already marinated kebabs in the fridge to use the next night, and the tabbouleh looks like it will do well in the fridge, or it could be a great work lunch too.
A photo posted by Ashlee Betteridge (@ashbetteridge) on
Both these meals tasted really fresh and healthy. The cards do provide the calorie and nutrient details, they are by no means diet or calorie controlled meals, but they are wholesome and fresh.
My third recipe is a chickpea and brown rice pilaf, that I’m going to make later in the week.
My one piece of advice is that the recipe cards are written for kitchen amateurs who apparently can’t keep an eye on a pot of simmering buckwheat while simultaneously chopping some vegetables. If you have any kind of kitchen intuition or ability to multitask, you will likely be able to come up with a more time-efficient or logical way of undertaking the steps on the recipe card.
So the verdict?
I ended up signing up for another box. It was a bit more tiring for me and my illness than lazier cooking, but it made me feel pleased to produce something that was different, looked and tasted great, and had varied, healthy ingredients. These recipes boxes are also a good way to get new ideas. I like Marley Spoon’s option to choose the recipes you want to do from a range of options, and the food seemed a bit more interesting than some of the recipes on Hello Fresh. And it seems, as a singleton, that I will be able to find recipes that work well as leftovers/to take to work for lunch. For me, I definitely won’t do it every week because of my fatigue (i.e. the dishes it generates can be a bit tricky for me without a dishwasher, I would be too tired on busier weeks), but I’m planning to give it a go for a while.
I also felt like I would make the recipes again on my own, which I guess is a vote of confidence.
Disclosure: I was sent a free sample box from Marley Spoon to provide an honest review.
Update: Here’s that third dish, the brown rice and chickpea pilaf (not a great photo sorry). It was really tasty, the leftovers will be great to take for lunch.