Like most people who cook at home, I can get stuck in a rut. Even though I enjoy the process, it’s too easy to stick with the handful of routine recipes that quickly come to mind. I also know that cooking at home is far more economical than going to a restaurant, by saving both money and excess calories—but it’s so much easier to go out. So what’s the alternative? As luck would have it, a couple of weeks ago I was invited to review a service named, Handpick Smart Groceries. What’s that mean? Handpick Groceries agreed to send me enough food and supplies for three meals for two, some creative recipes, and to sponsor this blog post in return for an unbiased review. How could doing that be anything but SMART?
If you’re like me, you haven’t heard of Handpick Smart Groceries before. Basically, they are a service that ships full-sized groceries directly from a grocery store to your home as “meal kits.” Currently the service is only available in the state of California, though there are plans to expand to other states in the near future. But even if you don’t live in California, there are currently several other companies that offer a more expensive, but similar, alternative both here and other states.
Before I even start talking about my experience I think it’s important to consider the benefits of this type of food service. Probably most important is the fact that eating at home can be one of the most effective cost-savings steps people can make on a path to living a more simple and sustainable lifestyle. For example, as of July 2015, the USDA says that the average “moderate” weekly in-home food cost for a family of two is $137.00. Meanwhile, a survey by Zagat done in early 2015 shared that most of us eat out 4.5 times in the U.S., at an average cost of $39.40 per person, per meal. Assuming a person ate out once every day for a week, that amount (times two if you are a couple) adds up to $551.60! Obviously, a couple could save up to $400 per week by eating at home. If you’ve been wondering where your money goes, this could be the answer.
Other obvious reasons that eating at home can be beneficial is that the food quality is probably better, and there is far less calories involved. For example, the website infoplease.com reports that an average meal at home has 545 calories while an average fast-food meal of burger, fries and milkshake has a whopping 1,800 calories. Even if you try to eat at a healthier restaurant, JAMA Internal Medicine did a report in 2013 stating the average meal in the average restaurant in the U.S. contains 1,128 calories and 151% of recommended daily sodium. If any of us concerned about carrying extra weight, chances are good we are eating out to extreme.
So how did my experience with Handpick Smart Groceries go? First I selected the “Flavors of Asia Meal Bundle” because it sounded interesting and contained recipes of food I had always wanted to cook. I gave them my shipping address and when it arrived at my home it was wrapped in a large box that was heavily insulated and contained ice packs. I was impressed with the packaging because I live in the very hot desert southwest, but the package arrived in perfect condition. Of course, I was able to bring it inside fairly quickly so that should be a consideration.
Over the following three nights I cooked one of each recipe exactly as the described. Contained in my shipping box was 99% of everything necessary for the three menu items. I was impressed with the quality and freshness of both the produce and the meat. And although the recipes took slightly more time than indicated, they all were easy to follow on the enclosed menu cards. Not only was Thom impressed with my new found skill in the kitchen, the food provided tasted good and was an ample amount for leftovers the next day.
My takeaway from Handpick Smart Groceries were:
- A fun way to try new recipes. Next time I’ll be even more creative and add to the recipes, now that I know what they are supposed to taste like.
- A convenient way to prepare an interesting home-cooked meal. Having the food show up on your doorstep can’t be beat! Anyone who is housebound or lives far from a grocery store is sure to benefit.
- Tasty alternatives to add to my menu base. Both Thom and I liked all three recipes, although I will probably only add the garlic chicken and the chicken chow mien to my rotating repertoire.
- Reasonable price. The same quality of food would be much more expensive in a restaurant. Note: There is a flat rate of $8 added to every box for insulated shipping.
- The variety of packages offer all types of meals, including one for vegetarians and an organic/grass fed meat option.
- Full sized groceries mean that they sent out full sizes of produce and a full bottle of both Hoisin Sauce and Sesame Oil. Now I have some for next time when I want to cook.
- No subscription required. Anyone can try one box and there is no other obligation.
- My kit was slightly short of soy sauce. Luckily I had extra.
- The head of garlic that was shipped to me was partially unusable. Luckily I had some of my own.
- The meals I choose were a bit heavy so I chose to add a salad. We are big salad eaters so I had plenty of that in stock.
Finally I am very grateful to have been offered the opportunity to try the service and these recipes in particular. Currently Handpick Smart Groceries offers 10 different meal kits that each contain three recipes designed to use up all of the groceries to minimize wasted money and leftover ingredients. Prices start at $6 per meal/per person and go to $10.50. The recipes are easy-to-make and curated from trending recipes on food blogs and social media.
Will I do it again as a paying customer? I think so. I particularly want to try their “Farm To Table” offering organics and grass fed meat. While a savvy shopper may be able save even more money buy going to the store and buying things on sale, I believe a service like this an alternative for many of us who want to spice up our meals and save money in the process. Those benefits offer us another way to live SMART 365.
This post is sponsored by Handpick Smart Groceries but the review is solely my opinion of the product.