Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Food Bag - the food!

As I mentioned the other day, I was sent a trial week’s worth of food from My Food Bag last week. 

If you don't know the concept by now - have you been under a rock for the last week? - the basic idea is that recipes + all the ingredients to make them get delivered on a Sunday and you cook the meals yourself during the week. 

I like the concept.  It takes away the issue of thinking up what to cook for dinner, if that is an issue for you. (For me, that is one of the most fun parts of making dinner, but I acknowledge that I am not necessarily typical). My friend Kirsten, for example, loved the idea - for her, coming up with ideas for dinner is the most stressful part. It also eliminates the tedium and time of shopping for food, although obviously you are still going to have to buy ingredients for your other meals and basics. The ‘gourmet’ bag we tried costs $139 for four meals for two people. 

I liked that in general the meals in our bag were generous in size. The dishes tasted good and interesting and there were a couple of clever ideas I'll be doing again, like the sauce for the duck, made with pomegranate juice.  Most of the recipes had good amounts of vegetables (at least two serves), which is excellent. I mixed up the order of the meals, because I was in Oz until Tuesday night so didn’t get to start until Wednesday. But that didn’t really seem to matter; we just popped all the meat and fish into the freezer. All the produce was fresh and of good quality. The recipes were straightforward to make for both me and Sandy, so they work for a range of skill levels.

I have a couple of quibbles. 

Firstly, nutrition. Of course I'm looking at this - occupational hazard. But I think it is fair enough, since My Food Bag is promoted as healthy as well as delicious and convenient. I wonder why in that case, the recipes don’t have full nutrition information.  Saturated fat and sodium are two very key things to keep an eye on when we eat - but unfortunately these things are not revealed on the recipe cards. The cards only have kJ, protein, carbs and total fat. I can’t help but wonder why?

As one of the four meals was over 3,000kJ (700 calories) one was just under, and one had over 40g of fat, I have to assume that the saturated fat in these recipes is not ideal. Neither the duck nor the lamb dish is really suitable, energy-wise, for someone of my size to be eating regularly. The website does say the recipes are going to be balanced out over the week, so perhaps week one was an exception with two heavier, fattier dishes in the mix. I’d hope so if I was watching my weight. 

I applaud the concept of fresh, whole, free-range and organic food. But I also think if you’re going to promote recipes as ‘healthy’ you should put your money where your mouth is and prove it. (Don’t think I’m singling My Food Bag out here – I say this all the time about things I see in magazines and books, too). They could also take the opportunity to highlight the good things – at least two of these recipes would earn a ‘high fibre’ tick based on our criteria. 

My second slight quibble is time. On the My Food Bag promotional material and website it says the recipes are all ready in an average time of 30 minutes. Great, I thought. But two dishes in our bag took an hour to make – 10 and 20 minutes longer, respectively, than it said on the recipes. I don’t think I am a slouch in the kitchen prep department; I just think the recipes were a teeny bit ambitious in their timing and some of the cooking times were off. I don’t mind spending an hour on dinner – just tell me up front it’s going to take that long. These were not really weeknight, after-a-busy-day-at-work-and-a-commute recipes.  

I’m not sure about the value for money aspect – would I pay $139 for ingredients for four meals for two?  That’s $34.75 per meal, or $17 per serve – not a cheap dinner by any means. (The ‘Classic’ bag is cheaper - $8.95 a serve).  But I get that you’re paying for the convenience of having everything delivered to your door, which does have appeal. 

My overall impression is this is a great idea, and I can see the type of people it will appeal to – people who enjoy interesting food but often lack inspiration or ideas about what to cook. I wonder how many of those people there are out there to sustain something like this after the initial surge of interest; but I’d be delighted to be proven wrong on that point. Tighten up a bit on the recipes and give us all the nutrition information, then My Food Bag can accurately claim a ‘healthy’ message.

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