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  • Writer's pictureKelly Carper Detterman

Dinner Plans for a Frugal Mama

It's 5 pm and the inevitable question comes, if it hasn't already. I do not mean 'where do we go for happy hour?' I mean 'What are we having for dinner tonight?' Honestly, I love food and I love to cook, but I despise this question. It sends me into shut down mode and has been the start of a handful of minor arguments. I have, in the past, resorted to planning meals a month in advance (and dropping the plan on day 3), becoming a regular at the local pizza joint and earning my frequent flyer status in the peanut butter and jelly club. I like a little more variety than these options allow while my husband is happy with a few bachelor classics...Hamburger Helper, takeout pizza, hot dogs, steak on the grill.

When meal delivery kits started showing up in my Facebook feed a couple years ago, I was excited and nervous all at the same time. Would it be good quality? Will it ship safely? Will I be able to make these dishes? Will I like squid ink pasta? In keeping with being an open book, I admit I still don't have the answer to that last one...I very quickly skipped the squid ink pasta. That has been the beauty of these meal delivery kits. There are so many options. You can stretch your taste buds a bit, but stay within your family's comfort zone. I have tried SEVERAL of the meal delivery kits and still have an account with several. I like to keep my options open and by having several accounts I have several meal choices available each week.

Recently I discovered Dinnerly and got sucked in by the price...did I mention that I like a good deal?! I signed up for most of the meal kits using a 50% off your first box or in some cases a free first box. Dinnerly didn't offer a promo code like that, but their pricing was almost 50 percent lower than the every other meal kit at $30 plus shipping. So for $39 I received three meal kits and the peace of mind knowing that for 3 days I wouldn't have to have the most dreaded conversation of every mothers day. Ask me my age or weight, but just don't ask me what we are having for dinner. But tonight, i know we will be having Philly Style Pork Burgers with Cheesy Broccoli and I will be able to have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. How exciting is that?!

My box arrived via FedEx delivery and was waiting at my doorstep for me to unpackage after little man was down for his nap. It is over 90 degrees in PA today, but no worries about the delivery sitting on the front porch for the extra 30 minutes...this package came with not one, not two, but three jumbo size ice packs. Everything inside was still nice and cold, which is more than I can say for my feet after stepping outside without shoes on to bring in my box and snap a quick photo.

First impressions upon opening the boxes:

No recipe cards, which I have mixed feelings about. As a serious hoarder, I have a LARGE collection of recipe cards from all the previous meal delivery kits that I have not talked myself into getting rid of just yet...I'm sure I will shop for a remake my favorites in the future. #MomGoals But, I do like the convenience of the recipe card. All in all, I am okay with this change. I will open the recipe on my tablet and I don't have another recipe card to add to my growing collection. Bonus, one less wasted piece of paper.

Ingredients are not separated by meal. This is definitely a convenience with the other kits. When I am ready to cook, I pull a bag out of my bridge and I am ready to go. With this kit, I have to sort the ingredients. Again, this is definitely better for the environment because I am not throwing out those extra materials. Also, this means the ingredients take up a lot less space in my fridge and my Philly Style Pork Burger buns aren't chilling in the fridge. (UPDATE: Upon preparing the first meal, I discovered that an ingredient was missed. Luckily, a quick google search showed that I had an acceptable substitute for Sambal Sauce. Just in case you ever need to know, Siracha is a subsitute for Sambal Sauce).

Ingredient quality appears to be exactly the same. Meats are packaged the same, veggies look fresh. Everything looks great and of equal quality to the more expensive meal kits.

Ingredient quantity appears to be exactly the same. It still looks like I will have way to much rice, as I almost always do. Better too much than not enough. Luckily, I am a wiz with leftover rice recipes.

Now for the real test...preparation. The instructions say I will be able to prepare all of these meals in under 30 minutes. I guess they haven't tried preparing a meal with a 7 month old who wants to be entertained. All in all, I would say preparation was very easy. Some of these meal kits were very quick and bonus points for Chipotle Chicken Tacos with Tangy Slaw that had a prepare ahead slaw, sour cream sauce and marinade that I could do while the baby was napping and final dinner prep then took about 6 minutes while little man hung out in his bouncy chair in the kitchen. Overall these meals were definitely just as easier if not easier than other meal kits I have tried. The required additions from my pantry were the same as other meal kits; oil, salt, pepper, sugar so nothing an average kitchen wouldn't have.

And the final test...taste.

Day 1: Philly Style Pork Burgers with cheesy broccoli. These were delicious, but not exactly what I was expecting. When the recipe said Philly Style I expected peppers and onions on my burgers not broccoli but I would definitely make this meal again. The recipes card offered suggestions for "Extra Credit" and I added French fries to this meal that were not included in the kit. Definitely not necessary as I actually didn't finish my burger. My only recommendation for this meal is they could have added a little more broccoli and a little less pork to the kit, but this probably wouldn't be the popular opinion.

Day 2: Teriyaki Ginger Beef Bowl with Green Beans & Rice were amazing. I love ginger and this meal was packed full of ginger in the beef and the rice; a flavor I didn't know I liked other than ginger ale until I started trying meal kits. I wouldn't change a thing in this kit.

Day 3: Chipotle Chicken Tacos with Tangy Slaw were yummy and easy to prep ahead most of the steps which made this easy to finalize at dinner time. I did add a few things to this meal. They additions were definitely not necessary but I had a few things in my fridge that needed to be used and they were a great addition to this meal.

VERDICT: Definitely try this meal kit. If you have been holding out because of the price of other meal kits, this one is a great deal and an excellent first meal kit to try. At $38.99 or $6.50 per person per night (this includes shipping charges of $8.99) these are a steal. This is cheaper than fast food and much better quality. Even comparing to shopping at my local grocer, this is cheaper; the amount of food that I waste when I shop at the grocery store...YIKES! I just may become a Dinnerly regular.

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