Meal Prepping for Dinner? Cutting Through The Options

Meal prepping for dinner - CookinGenie

21 Apr 2021

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Meal Prepping for Dinner? Cutting Through The Options

Today, the age-old question of how to meal prep for dinner is more complicated than ever. With a range of different meal delivery services, prepared and frozen foods delivered to your doorand a wide market for takeout, the choices are seemingly endless. Now, entering the fray is a new service, CookinGenie, which rethinks the idea of dining at home by bringing a culinary expert into your home to prepare a delicious, home-cooked meal in your very own kitchen. So, with all these choices available, let’s look at the process, price, positivesand negatives of each to find out the option that might work best for you 

 

Meal Delivery Kits for Meal Prepping 

Meal Delivery Kits

Price: 

$-$$ With so many different meal delivery kits available, the prices can run anywhere from $5/meal to $18/meal. But for most mainstream services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, $10-12 per meal is standard.  

Process: 

Visit the website of one of the many meal delivery services, create a profileand begin choosing your dishesWith a few clicks, you can have boxes of fresh ingredients and recipes arriving as soon as the next day. Then, unpack the box, follow the recipe, and cook yourself a meal 

Pros:

  • The recipes are quick and easy to make.  
  • Feeling of accomplishment from cooking your own food 
  • You can customize the number of meals you want. 
  • Kits are accommodating to dietary restrictions and allergies.  
  • Precise portioning cuts down on food waste. 
  • The platform is easy to use, offers plenty of fresh, healthy choices. 

Cons: 

  • Kits come with excess packaging to get rid of.  
  • Subscription required. 
  • For hungrier eaters, portion sizes may leave a little bit to be desired.  
  • On occasion, ingredients may arrive spoiled.  
  • Dishes are not quite chef or restaurant quality.  
  • You still need to put the time and effort into cooking and cleaning up afterward.  
  • Usually supporting a large, multinational corporation.  
The bottom line:

Easier than shopping and cooking for yourself and cheaper than eating out, meal prepping kits are a good mix of affordability and convenience. But if you’re looking for a more memorable experience that you don’t have to cook yourself, there are better options out there. 

 

Ready to Eat/Frozen Meal Delivery Service 

Frozen Meal Delivery Service

Price:

$$ There are many different services that ship frozen meals to your door, and they can all fluctuate on price, with some high-end options out there. However, you can normally expect to pay about $11-15 per meal, plus shipping fees 

Process: 

Create a profile on a frozen meal delivery site such as Home Bistro, choose your meal(s) or meal plan(s)wait for delivery, and pop the box in the microwave to heat up. 

Pros:

  • Good variety of chef-inspired meals that come with protein, starch, vegetable, and sauce.
  • Many of the meals are highly tailored to specific diets such as weight loss, keto, and paleo. 
  • Most of the meals are ready to eat after just a few minutes in the microwave or oven 
  • Frozen meals can keep in the freezer indefinitely.  
  • No cleanup required.  

Cons:    

  • Many services don’t begin to offer free shipping unless you order a certain amount.  
  • Reheating frozen food can feel boring and impersonal; food may be bland 
  • Boxes may take a while to arrive. 
  • Sometimes food may come partially defrosted or not reheat evenly.  
The bottom line:

There’s no denying the convenience of being able to pop something in the microwave and have a hot meal in a few minutes. But while frozen meals have certainly improved from the days of supermarket TV dinnersthey’re more of an occasional fare than something you’d want to eat regularly.  

 

Takeout/Delivery

Takeout

Price:

$-$$ Depending on where you’re getting takeout from, the price can fluctuate greatly. 

The Process:

Call up a restaurant, go online to order, or use one of the many apps like DoorDash or Uber Eats to set up a pickup or delivery.  

Pros:

  • During the pandemic, it’s easier than ever to get takeout 
  • There’s a great variety of places to get fresh, healthy, delicious takeout from. 
  • Usually only takes about 30 minutes to get food.  
  • Supporting local businesses.  

Cons 

  • You have to drive to the restaurant or pay extra delivery fees. 
  • Generally, one can only get one type of cuisine at once and may not have leftovers to enjoy all week.   
  • If you have dietary restrictions or allergies, it could be tricky to ensure the meal fits your needs. 
  • Food apps layer on their service charges and those can add up. 
The bottom line:

Generally speaking, takeout is a relatively affordable, convenient way to have dinner once or twice a week.  

 

CookinGenie for Meal Prepping

CookinGenie for Meal Prepping

Price:

$$ Prices will differ by Genie and by dish, but most are between $10-$15 per portion. 

The Process:

Visit CookinGenie.com, type in your location, and you can browse through our many talented genies. You can look through each genie’s menu and profile individually, or search by dish or type of cuisine. Then, select the dishes you want to order and pick a time and date for a genie to come to your home and cook for you. They will arrive with everything they need, cook you a delicious meal, and restore your kitchen to the state they found it in.  

Pros: 

  • CookinGenie food is fresh, wholesomeand delicious.  
  • A skilled cook preparing restaurant-quality food for you adds a unique personal touch 
  • A wide variety of different cuisines and dishes are available at once. 
  • Service is accommodating to dietary restrictions and allergies.  
  • Generous, family-friendly sizes of 4 or 8 portions.  
  • Flexibility; date night, dinner parties, special occasionsweeknight family meals, and meal prepping can all be taken care of by CookinGenie
  • You don’t have to leave home, cook, or clean. 
  • Supporting a local business and local chefs.  

Cons: 

  • CookinGenie does require some planning ahead.  
  • May take a couple of hours after the Genie arrives for food to be ready.  
The bottom line:

In terms of affordability, CookinGenie is on par with takeout, cheaper than frozen meal delivery, and just a hair more than most meal kits. But that small difference is well worth it when you consider the superior food and convenience of not having to cook yourself. With so many options out there, it can be hard to decide what the dinner plan should be. But all things considered, in terms of taste and overall value for your hard-earned dollars, CookinGenie stands head and shoulders above the rest.


Related Post

A Whirlwind Tour of US Barbecue - CookinGenie

03 Mar 2021

“Southern barbecue is the closest thing we have in the US to Europe’s wines or cheeses; drive a hundred miles and the barbecue changes. 

 John Shelton Reed, sociologist, writer, and all-around expert on all things Southern.  

 At its most basic, barbecue is meat that’s cooked low and slow over a smoky fire. But barbecue aficionados will tell you that “authentic” American barbecue is so much more—and, just like the wines and cheeses of Europe, the answer to just what real barbecue is will vary state-to-state, even region-to-region, with each area insisting that their version is the one true style. 

 The variations by region can be dizzying. Some swear barbecue needs a vinegar-based sauce, others swear by a tomato-based sauce. Some sauce their meat with mustard, some with mayonnaise. Up your barbecue IQ by taking a quick tour of American BBQ with us and learn about just some of each region’s specialties.  

North Carolina

You’ll find not one but two distinct styles of barbecue in North Carolina. In the Eastern method—which John Shelton Reed calls the “original” American barbecue—whole hogs are smoked and then chopped and served with a vinegar-and-pepper-based sauce. Further west another style of barbecue, known as Lexington-style, emerged. Here, just the pork shoulder is smoked and it’s served on a sandwich with a bright red tomato-based sauce.  Confused yet? Hang on, we’re just getting started… 

South Carolina 

South Carolina is just one state to the south, but their take on barbecue is worlds away. Like its neighbor to the north, pork is largely the meat of choice but South Carolinians put their own spin on the sauce. A very specific condiment developed in the area stretching from Charleston to ColombiaAccording to the South Carolina Barbecue Association, German settlers brought a love for mustard with them to South Carolina, and were soon pouring golden, mustard-based, vinegary sauce they christened Carolina Gold on their pulled pork.1  

Texas 

Deep in the heart of Texas, barbecue is all about the beef—brisket specifically—smoked low and slow over oak, mesquite, pecan, or hickory wood for up to 20 hours until it’s so tender it falls off the bone. How it’s served depends on where you are: in East Texas, brisket is marinated in a sweet tomato-based sauce, while in South Texas, the sauce is molasses-based. Near the Rio Grande, Mexican-style barbacoa dominates, while in Central Texas they do without sauce altogether and settle for a simple rub of salt and pepper.2  

Kansas City 

In Kansas City, all kinds of meat are smoked—beef, pork, chicken, or sausage—but what makes it unique is the thick sweet molasses- and tomato-based sauce that the smoked meat is smothered in. The most famous specialty of KC barbecue is burnt ends, the crunchy, caramelized, intensely smoky ends of brisket. Once considered a throwaway piece of meat, these tasty nuggets have become a favorite of barbecue enthusiasts.  

Memphis 

Hold the sauce in Memphis! Here, another style of barbecue developed: slabs of pork ribs are flavored with a dry rub of garlic, paprika, chili pepper, cumin, and other spices and cooked over a hickory fire. And in Memphis, they like to think outside the box: barbecued meat is added to nachos, pizza, and even spaghetti.3  

Alabama 

Last but not least is Alabama, famous for its unconventional white barbecue sauce. This combo of mayonnaise, vinegar, apple juice, and cayenne pepper has been served with smoked chicken since the 1920s and has gradually gained national attention. In fact, Texas Monthly declared 2015 “the year of Alabama barbecue.”4    

 Our virtual road trip through American barbecue just scratches the surfaceSt. Louis, Kentucky, Georgia, and more.. they’ve all developed their own local barbecue traditions and have their own share of passionate fanatics who swear their regions are the best 

 Our newest Genie, Ryan Pascoe, brings his passion for BBQ to your home. Choose one of Ryan’s falling-off-the-bone, slow-smoked specialties and he’ll arrive at your house in the morning to set up his smoker in your backyard, driveway, or garage and get your meat going, then come back later that day to finish it off. He offers everything from traditional finger-lickin’ favorites like Saint Louis Ribs smothered in a homemade barbecue sauce, to a tender, Coffee-rubbed Brisket, to a decadent Smoked Prime Rib with Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes. Let us know when you like the food done and we will work the right start time with you. Ryan brings the smoker with him. And takes it away – no cleanup for you. All you need to do is to find a dry spot for the smoker and a regular power outlet. Fresh meat from the nearby butcher shop, slow-cooked to perfectionIit’s not raining, even a chilly February day will not hamper an outdoor smoking event from CookinGenie 

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28 Jul 2020

CookinGenie makes enjoying fresh food simple – our Genies shop, cook, and clean, and you get to enjoy! But in the world of COVID-19, what is the risk of having someone else prepare your food, in your home?

Ensuring Your Safety

CookinGenie takes health and cleanliness seriously. In addition to following CDC and FDA guidelines, our Genies follow food safety practices, and we have several procedures in place to ensure the safety of you and our Genies through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

To begin, we look to the CDC, which states: “Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19,” and “there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads to people through food.”

The FDA provides additional guidance around food preparation safety. With COVID-19, we understand the concern related to high-touch surfaces, especially those in the kitchen. Our Genies take special care with handwashing and clean your kitchen when they are done preparing your food.

Image Source: FDA

In addition:

  • We will reschedule appointments if anyone – you or our Genies – are not feeling well
  • All our Genies wear masks at all times while in your home, regardless of local mandates
  • All our Genies are mindful of social distancing while in your home

So, what’s the risk?

Compared to other activities, CookinGenie provides a lower-risk option to enjoy fresh, quality meals in the comfort of your own home without a trip to the grocery store. To better understand the risk level, we compare the CookinGenie experience to the risk level of some common activities below, using the Texas Medical Association Risk Chart as a guide.

Image Source: Texas Medical Association
  • Getting restaurant takeout – Low Risk (2/10)
    • Getting restaurant takeout is low-risk due to little contact with others and the safety measures now in place.
    • With CookinGenie, there is also little contact between you and the Genie. In addition to the cleanliness and safety measures we practice, online pre-payment means there is no payment exchanged during the Genie’s visit.
  • Eating at a restaurant (outside) – Low-Moderate Risk (4/10)
    • Outdoor dining allows for free airflow, which lowers the concentration of the virus and keeps risk levels low, especially when more people are present.
    • Unless using an outdoor kitchen, CookinGenie is inside your home, but with only one Genie entering your home with a mask, the risk level remains low.
  • Eating in a restaurant (inside) – Moderate-High Risk (7/10)
    • Inside dining increases risk due to recirculated air, more people, and people not wearing masks.

Following our safety protocols, CookinGenie offers a lower-risk alternative to getting restaurant-quality food.

While there are few activities these days that are completely risk-free, CookinGenie is committed to doing all we can to offer delicious, fresh meals cooked right in your kitchen, in the safest way possible.

References

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/food-and-COVID-19.html

https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/best-practices-retail-food-stores-restaurants-and-food-pick-updelivery-services-during-covid-19

https://www.texmed.org/TexasMedicineDetail.aspx?Pageid=46106&id=53977

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15 Mar 2020

Most of us feel pretty confident in our ability to read labels and know what we’re putting into our bodies. But sometimes, understanding food labels can be daunting. We feel like we need PHDs in food science. Did you know, for example, that there are 61 ways in which sugar can be described on food labels? Surprised? We thought as much.

The FDA requires that ingredients be listed by weight in all packaged foods. Most of us are savvy enough to realize that the ingredients are listed from greatest to least, but there may be more than one form of sugar in the packaging. Bottomline, when you read food labels, be sure to understand everything that is listed. If you recognized all the ways in which sweeteners are put in packaged foods, you can make an informed choice about what you are buying.

In a recent article published by UCSF it was revealed that manufacturers add sugar to 74% of packaged foods. Consumers expect sugar to be added to dessert type items like cookies and cakes, but many are shocked to find out that otherwise “healthy” foods such as yogurt, breakfast bars, and juice often contain sugar. In some packaged foods, multiple sweeteners are used with different names.

So how can you be sure what you’re eating is healthy? Well the FDA is considering revising the guidelines for how food labels are created to help people better understand what they are putting in their bodies. But industry wide changes take time.

We, at CookinGenie, started our business with the core value that cooking from scratch is the healthiest way to eat. However, not all of us have the time to cook from scratch. If you fall in that bucket, consider CookinGenie. Our Genies are here to cook from scratch in your own kitchens. We choose only the freshest ingredients from your neighborhood groceries and prepare your food right in front of you in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Enough suspense on the 61 names for sugar though. Here they are:

1. Agave nectar,
2. Barbados sugar,
3. Barley malt,
4. Barley malt syrup,
5. Beet sugar,
6. Brown sugar,
7. Buttered syrup,
8. Cane juice,
9. Cane juice crystals,
10. Cane sugar,
11. Caramel,
12. Carob syrup,
13. Castor sugar,
14. Coconut palm sugar,
15. Coconut sugar,
16. Confectioner’s sugar,
17. Corn sweetener,
18. Corn syrup,
19. Corn syrup solids,
20. Date sugar,
21. Dehydrated cane juice,
22. Demerara sugar,
23. Dextrin,
24. Dextrose,
25. Evaporated cane juice,
26. Free-flowing brown sugars,
27. Fructose,
28. Fruit juice,
29. Fruit juice concentrate,
30. Glucose,
31. Glucose solids,
32. Golden sugar,
33. Golden syrup,
34. Grape sugar,
35. HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup),
36. Honey,
37. Icing sugar,
38. Invert sugar,
39. Malt syrup,
40. Maltodextrin,
41. Maltol,
42. Maltose,
43. Mannose,
44. Maple syrup,
45. Molasses,
46. Muscovado,
47. Palm sugar,
48. Panocha,
49. Powdered sugar,
50. Raw sugar,
51. Refiner’s syrup,
52. Rice syrup,
53. Saccharose,
54. Sorghum syrup,
55. Sucrose,
56. Sugar (granulated),
57. Sweet sorghum,
58. Syrup,
59. Treacle,
60. Turbinado sugar,
61. Yellow sugar

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