I'm a reasonably adventurous eater - but a rather underwhelming cook. So I thought I'd give these "posh ready-meals" a go.
The pitch is simple. GreenChef will send you a big box of ingredients and a bunch of recipes to follow. You get exactly 175g of tomatoes, a precise number of lentils, and a sachet containing a perfect measure of spice. Follow the instructions and you'll have a tasty, healthy, and somewhat exciting dinner for two.
And, you know what? It works! Liz and I had great fun trying out some recipes which we normally wouldn't have attempted.
But... fuck me! It the instructions are needlessly complicated, the price is ridiculous, and the business practices are annoying.
Let's take the instructions first. Here's a sample from a recent meal:
Place the carrots in the oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile slice the mushrooms. When the carrots have 10-15 minutes left, place the potatoes in the oven.
Errr... what? Why not just say "place the carrots in the oven. After 10 minutes, add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes"?
Similarly, the prep instructions are all over the place. Rather than getting everything washed, chopped, and peeled at the start, it can feel a little like a race against time.
This, to take a recent example, is listed as step 4 in a 6 part process:
Meanwhile, mix the flour and water for the slurry (see pantry for both) together in a small bowl to make a flour slurry.
Heat a large frying pan on medium-high heat with a drizzle of oil. Add the green beans and stir-fry until starting to char, 2-3 mins.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the red Thai style paste, vegetable stock paste, ginger puree, lime juice, and water for the sauce (see pantry). Stir to combine, then add the flour slurry, increase the heat to medium and simmer until thickened, 5-6 mins.
The recipe cards have relatively tiny print which means they get easily smudged with any stray drops of water - making the whole thing a little frustrating.
But! The meals have been delicious. And the couple who cooks together... errr... has fun together?
The price is another barrier. I received a discount from a friend for our first few boxes - but we couldn't justify the cost after that. At full price, it's about £6.25 per person per meal. True, that's a heck of a lot cheaper than eating out. But it's considerably more expensive than buying the ingredients at a supermarket.
Part of the problem is that you get sent a single-serving sachet of, say, vegetable stock. It would be more efficient to buy a whole jar. Similarly, the delivery price for 3 meals is the same as what you'd pay for an entire grocery shop for any supermarket.
Because of the price, we gave up on the boxes. Until we ran into the company at a trade show. Their rep acknowledged that the price was high and recommended signing up with a new email address to take advantage of their promotional discounts! So we did.
Which brings me on to their other annoying business practices. The discounts they offer are very weirdly staggered - so I was never quite sure how much I'd be paying each week.
Which wouldn't be too much of a problem - except they don't send out reminder emails for what this weeks box is or how much it will cost. I asked their customer support about that and they straight up admitted that they didn't send reminders so people wouldn't have a chance to cancel!
That also meant I couldn't choose from the recipes on offer. They were all nice, but I'd have felt better if I was more in control.
Which brings me on to the final annoyance. Substitutions. It's understandable when your supermarket runs out of branded items and subs you with an inferior product. It's a bit annoying when a premium service does it. One of the meals was supposed to contain a selection of exotic mushrooms. Instead we got a bag of ready-slices chestnut mushrooms!
Look, OK, not the end of the world, but makes the whole thing feel a bit cheap.
I can't deny that the meals are tasty. While the instructions aren't great, they're all pretty simple to cook. And, with the discounts, worth it as an occasional treat.
What I don't understand is why the supermarkets haven't got in on this game yet? Why do they make me buy ingredients like a chump, rather than let me buy meals?
Anyway, if you'd like a discount on GreenChef's veggie friendly meals you can use my referral code and we'll both save money.