￼Want to try? You can get $40 off your first order by using this link here!
I used to love grocery shopping (although I have always hated unpacking it!!). I enjoyed label reading as I learnt more about what is in our food, checking out new products, working our budget and meal plans. I thrived on the challenge of seeking out specials, in particular, discounted meat, and then planning out our week to complement.
In our busier periods, I’ve used food delivery services. I was an early user when Countdown first started, but before them, there was Food Box, and a variety of fresh produce deliveries. Using Chantal’s VegeBox was how I discovered we were consuming over 70kg a week of fresh produce, and that was over 5 years ago (our family has grown since then too!). It’s always a joy opening the box to beautiful quality produce, which allowed me to start spreading out the supermarket trips, although I still had to go.
Then I started to get really disillusioned with the supermarkets. My grocery bill was constantly growing and I didnt feel I was getting more for it. The huge range of processed food was growing, and that no longer catered for our needs. As we moved towards more wholefoods and our family grew, better options became available more in line with our values. So I started to make moves to ditch the supermarket (largely New World, occasionally Countdown).
And all of that probably leads to another blog post… and possibly could time in well with No Plastic July coming up, so I might leave this story here to be completed for another time…
So, moving on… in the interests of your wellbeing of course ;-), I decided it was time to get savvy with why everyone was falling in love with delivery meal options.
I’ve priced food delivery services before and they are REALLY expensive. I feed a large family we eat a largely whole food diet, and I think I do it very very well on a budget. I can cook generous portions with good quality fresh ingredients at $4 per serve, less than half of what the food box companies deliver at.
My Food Bag is the third largest food company in NZ, right behind the two big supermarket brands. That means that New Zealanders are really prioritising fast, easy and delicious food, and they don’t mind paying a premium for it. Trailing behind is a growing group of similar companies, all seeking to offer easy. On top of this, I notice a fresh wave of companies in NZ selling ready-made meals, just heat and eat. The supermarkets are retaliating by offering $20 dinner in a bag meals in their chillers, and selling pre-cut pumpkin/diced onion/blah blah.
Have we really become so lazy that prepping dinner is too hard? Or is this simply a by-product of our busy lives, and perhaps outsourcing this task ensures we don’t compromise eating well with doing ALL THE THINGS?
Anyway, most companies offer discounts for first time users, and this was what first persuaded me to try HelloFresh and My Food Bag. Using the discounts bought the cost of the meals down to something more palatable for my budget – still on the pricier side, but achievable.
HelloFresh arrived first, and you can find my review here.
Then My Food Bag arrived. It was okay, but I didn’t think it was a fair representation of the company, and so I felt I wasn’t done with researching (*wink* *wink*), so I ordered up HelloFresh AND two different My Food Bags IN THE SAME WEEK for accurate comparison 😉 (All in the name of research, remember!).
My first MFB delivery was the Veggie one, which serves 4 for 3 nights, making it one of the cheapest options. I was really disappointed with one meal which was burgers, with the veggie patty made up from a packet that I can buy off the shelf, a few fresh salad ingredients and a bun each. I certainly didn’t feel I had value in this meal. Another meal that same week was a laksa or similar, which we had never before and with the addition of some leftover mince to bulk it up a bit, everyone LOVED and there was more than enough – so that made up for it.
The rest of MFB deliveries have been Gluten Free boxes, because the other boxes can be quite heavy on breads, pasta and pastries some week, which we can’t eat. Some weeks, the other boxes tend to be mostly GF so its worth watching if you do want to try them. However the Gluten Free one offers “Gluten free dinners to inspire the taste buds, recommended by Coeliac New Zealand. Feeds 2 adults and 2-3 kids.” With that recommendation, if you are coeliac, you can safely try this one.
My biggest aim with trying the boxes was to see how many people they could feed. The recommendation is for four people. Myself and several friends were really keen to see if we could make the MFB work for a family of six or seven or eight. My children are very big eaters so I knew I was really pushing MFB to the limits.
When you order MFB (before midnight on a Monday night), you can see the menu that you are committing to. With delivery either on Saturday or the following Monday, that gives you the better part of the week to adapt it to your family, if needed. Of course, you could argue that this might defeat the purpose of the box, having to then do extra prep, but given that MFB is only 3 or 4 or 5 dinners, you still have to suss out breakfast, snacks, lunch, and the other 2 or 3 or 4 dinners for the week. So if you are having to do a supermarket shop anyway, then grabbing a couple extra’s isn’t too big a deal (I think caregivers of large families are pretty well rehearsed in this anyway).
So, if you are a family that has more mouths to feed than four or five…. here are the staples I recommend keeping in your cupboard:
*Rice – I just keep short grain rice in the cupboard, and adding an extra cup or two to the MFB basmati or jasmine worked well.
*Potatoes and/or kumara – MFG does a lot of roasted veges and homemade chips/wedges. A few extra potatoes really bulks the meal up. Failing that, making mash will make a meal go further too.
*A broccoli, and an extra bag of carrots – if a meal looks ‘light’ in servings to me, it only takes a couple minutes to chuck florets of broccoli into a pot to simmer. Likewise, we double the carrots in every meal – cheap and cheerful.
Depending on how much of big eaters your kids are, you might find the following useful as well:
*Small packs of chicken – I keep a couple of small packs of chicken in the freezer (say 300gm ish). In general the meal portions when using pieces of chicken/pork/fish have been generous enough on their own, but if I have any doubts I do defrost some extra. At about $6 per pack, it’s not an overly expensive addition to ensure everyone is well fed. (When I cook myself, I generally budget $20 meat or approx 1.2kg meat… I have found most of the MFB meat portions sit at about 700-900gm so I think it’s about right to add 300gm to feed an extra 3 or 4 mouths).
*Mince – if mince is on the menu, mince is again cheap and easy to bulk up a meal.
*Note on fish – we aren’t big fish eaters so the supplied amount happily feeds us all. If you DO like fish, you might want to consider freezing a small pack of white fish if its on your menu.
*Anything bread – if there are pita’s or burger buns or wraps/soft tacos on your menu, grab yourself an extra pack or two to feed the whanau.
So, with those additions is it still worth it?
Adding them up to $30 per week (and that’s being overly generous) to add an extra 3 or 4 people to your meals (5 meals) – yep, it’s pretty minuscule. Remember, MFB still expects you to supply salt, stock, oil and other pantry staples, so you still have to hit the supermarket anyway.
What about how fresh everything is (especially given it’s just come off the courier, for us!). Well, MFB packs this food really well. In addition to (compostable) insulation and ice packs, the cold is seperate from the produce and staples and the heavy stuff is on the bottom. Everything always arrives looking really fresh and nice. The meat looks appealing (and seems to be really good quality), the vegetables are really nice. I have been pleasantly surprised by the pantry staples too – good quality ingredients.
The only major downer in this department is the sheer amount of packaging. If the dinners have sauces and spice mixes, its all in little packages. All the cheeses come in tiny little packages. However there has been some obvious effort to try and create recyclable or compostable packaging and hopefully this effort continues. I’ve never before seen such tiny dinky packs of cheese, or a tiny carton of 4 eggs, so I was sadly entranced!
And what about how it tastes? Well, the overwhelming majority of dinners are actually amazing. The secret for many of them are the little sauces you wouldn’t normally include at home, but in general, I have to say that the sheer freshness and amazing tastes from simple ingredients and quick time is very impressive. I can see why these meals appeal to those who don’t have a lot of confidence in the kitchen or are wanting to try new flavours – MFB really delivers in this aspect.
Even a few meals that looked really underwhelming, like a mince curry and rice, actually tasted far better than I imagined. And, there were some really star dishes that tasted amazing, and these completely overshadowed the couple that we weren’t great fans of.
In terms of the service, MFB is great. Apart from the minions we don’t see who work behind the scenes prepping and packaging, the customer service when things go wrong is quite stellar. Missing ingredients or recipe card? Something not up to standard? Problems ordering? Every interaction I had with the team was pleasant, positive, and easily remedied. I got a credit when a code didn’t work and it was out of hours so I missed the cut-off. It’s worth talking to the team if MFB doesn’t meet your expectations!
Portion size: as I explained, I was really testing the boundaries of MFB on our family. There was two instances when I had two of the same meal and feeding 8 people with it was VERY GENEROUS. Quite simply, feeding 3 good early teen eaters and 2 parents is easy. 4 smaller kids is probably still no problem. And as above, if you’ve got extra mouths, it isn’t too hard to bulk the meals. Yes, the meat portions might be a little smaller, but there will still be plenty of veges to go around.
One meal arrived with precooked pulled pork. I was very dismayed at the size of the packet and had planned to roast some meat the night before to add to it, but had forgotten. Out of interest, I weighed the meat, and it came in at 519 grams, meat and sauce. While I do feel that this is on the light side (personal preference), this was the absolutely smallest meat portion size in over 20 meals that I tried, which is why it stood out. BUT 125gm per person is not a bad serving size, and the meal was soft tacos with lots of fresh salad. To bulk it out for four other mouths, I simply fried some chicken mince from the freezer. Easy.
Every other meat packet stated 600, 700, 800, 900gm, which is very generous for four people, in my opinion. In fact, after a month of MFB, I have come to the conclusion that we as a family could get away with eating far less meat, as long as we have really tasty veges to go with it – this experiment really proved it!
In fact, one of the great benefits of MFB is that you really have so little waste. As much as I would prefer my coriander wasn’t packaged in a plastic container, and I would probably prefer to just buy a larger block of cheddar than have the tiny little packs in my fridge, it is so nice not having to clean my fridge out of forgotten experiments before shopping day. There is only what we need, and any leftovers are swiftly claimed. There’s no half cucumber that got forgotten or a half tub of sour cream I didn’t do anything with. The frozen peas are in small bags and even the tubs of tomato paste are correctly portioned.
In saying that, MFB is actually really flexible. The menu plan caters so that the more perishable items are used first (so usually Monday is fish and the lighter greens etc). However I pushed the boundaries on our produce by freezing all our meat when it first arrived. In the second week, I ordered two different MFB and a HelloFresh, a total of 13 or 14 meals. Our last meal was just as tasty and fresh tasty as the first. So you can easily shuffle the menu around your week’s commitments. In addition, I’m a fairly confident cook, so if I left out or adapted or added in different ingredients, this was fine.
This was a great opportunity for the kids to get into the kitchen, and they followed the recipes to the order (but not to the recommended time unfortunately!!). There were some opportunities for some support (such as when I showed them how to easily peel garlic, or an easier way to cut the chicken etc), but they could most themselves aged 11 and 13. In fact they really impressed me with their ability to flow through the instructions and produce a really good meal.
I have to admit, I went into this experiment already hating on the concept. I’m a really fussy consumer. I am very picky about what additives are in our food. I generally try and buy local or organic produce where possible. We bulk buy our meat for quality and for cheaper price. I make everything from scratch.
Handing over control of my menu was very difficult and there were a couple of sauces I peered curiously at. But almost everything has very clear ingredient lists, and there was very little I wouldn’t actually buy myself, because all the produce was nice and fresh, and the spice mixes were just blends of real spices, and the meat was very good quality. There were meals I would never have thought of. I started the experiment to test the service, but I ran with it for four weeks because I have recently had a very very busy period, and this was one less thing to think about.
And that, quite simply, is the success of MFB. I cannot articulate exactly how freeing it became to NOT HAVE TO THINK about dinner. The menu plan was there and I defrosted the appropriate meat and collated the ingredients at dinner and then it was done. And everyone liked it. And I didn’t have to think about what veges I had on hand to go with the pork, or whether chicken was on special and what ingredients I’d need for a curry. I DIDN’T HAVE TO THINK. And that alone, it turned out, was completely worth paying a ridiculous premium for, more than I could ever imagined.
The price of it is still very extravagant. You really are paying a massive premium to have the ingredients packed and delivered. I wanted to cost out a meal at Countdown one day, I will and update. I estimate you are paying nearly twice as much to have the service of someone else menu planning for you.
What made it financially viable for me for the month though was the promotions. They aren’t every week but several times a month it appears that MFB runs promotions, where you can get $30 off, or get a free extra meal, and that significantly reduces the ‘per plate’ cost to something more attractive.
Anyway, I’ll cost comparison and come back and update.
So in conclusion – MFB could work for you, if you have a busy period in life and this could be one less thing to worry about, or you work full-time, or you are seeking fresh inspiration in the kitchen… and you have a little more play room in your food budget.
It won’t work for you if you have serious allergies, if you are money-tight, or have ultra fussy kids and are going to have to end up cooking entirely different meals.
And, if you have more than the 2.3 children that society seems to cater for, then yes, MFB will still work for you with just a tiny amount of extra planning. Assuming you have a few extra things in your cupboards, are able to mash up a pot of potatoes if needed, or at the very least, a few loaves of bread, then no one will go hungry.
￼Want to try? You can get $40 off your first order by using this link here!
I’m working hard to grow a lot of our own produce, and we are moving back towards eating organic. I absolutely cannot justify MFB every week. But it’s really nice to know that such a service exists for busy weeks, and that I wont be compromising on taste or freshness by using it.
Hope that helps!