Home Cooking From a Box

By on Monday, March 7th, 2016

Millions of people are ordering boxed dinners and meal services to the tune of $5 billion in sales and growing. The growth and variety of these services is dizzying but basically it boils down to this: recipes, ingredients, and delivery. All you add is cooking and cleanup.

After that it gets interesting. Competitors looking for their piece of the pie offer trimmings such as menus for special diets, recipes created by celebrity chefs, weekly menus designed to cut food waste, biodegradable packaging, etc. All of them promise an easy time in the kitchen and a meal that’s much more homemade than takeout.

Promising families more time together in the kitchen preparing fresh, healthy and tasty recipes they’d never even dream of making, we decided to take a closer look at this phenomenon. The following companies are not the biggest but they reflect the emerging opportunity (and the challenges) of this potentially huge disruption in how we feed ourselves at home.


California-based, Chef’d, a non-subscription meal service distinguishes itself by offering menus that are developed by known and emerging chefs. The company just signed with Weight Watchers (which just signed with Oprah Winfrey) to create what might be the most powerful food alliance in the weight loss sector.

Last year Weight Watchers partnered with Chef’d founder/CEO Kyle Ransford so that busy consumers could order meal ingredients online, including through their mobile devices. The agreement with Weight Watchers lets shoppers order the Weight Watchers meals through either company’s website (service is by invitation and not yet available at press time).

With more than 100 recipes and 60 partners, from famous celebrity chefs, food authors and bloggers, Chef’d features fresh, pre-portioned ingredients for two or four diners that can be ordered and shipped in one to two days. Each order includes a step-by-step recipe card with visuals and nutritional information, as well as suggestions for beer or wine pairing. It also includes tips for children to take part in cooking. Dishes are available at every skill level. New recipes are added every month in categories that range from gourmet to gluten-free. Prices range from $9 to $17 per serving.

“Our company is designed to use up any perishable food by week’s end, leaving zero food waste.”__Payman Nejati, Handpick/Smart Groceries

Handpick/Smart Groceries

Handpick/Smart Groceries founded by Payman Nejati, in San Francisco is a creative dinner concept that combines the service of grocery shopping with a variety of 5 themed meal choices: Asian, Meat Lovers, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, or Seafood. Each kit contains 12-15 ingredients along with 3 recipes and cooking instructions packed in a refrigerated box delivered to your door.

“The service,” Nejati says, “which is available through Handpick’s mobile app, aims to bring affordable meals by offering consumers the ability to shop, cook and eat healthy meals while keeping food spending to a minimum.” Targeting a wider audience on a cross-income scale Handpick/Smart Grocery is a more affordable and sustainable way to cook. Recipes are searched and selected by using social media research and market data to identify food trends. Users have access to the company’s searchable food data base with more than 250 million recipes.

The service promises more time outside of the grocery store and fun times inside the kitchen. It’s a money saving way to cook without shopping. Customers can also customize their grocery bundles based on diet and food restrictions.

“Our company is designed to use up any perishable food by week’s end, leaving zero food waste”, Nejati explains. “Moreover, customers can use our mobile app in case they change their minds and want to prepare something else with ingredients left over in their food bundle.”

No subscription necessary, Handpick Smart Groceries are affordable meal kits (starting at about $6.00 per meal) and for every box sold, Handpick will donate a meal to a food bank in the U.S.

Model Meals

Ever wonder what high-fashion models eat or if they even eat at all?
After a lifetime of dieting, Danika Brysha, plus size model decided to try a new diet called WHOLE 30.

Think of it as a short-term, 30 day nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings by avoiding sugar, grains and other foods that compromise your immune system.

Danika set out to challenge herself on the diet while blogging about her experiences and sharing recipes of the food she was making and eating. As a result, Model Meals emerged from her tiny kitchen in Manhattan’s West Village, where she turned to friend and mentor, chef Cathy McKnight to gain professional insight on how to create more recipes from scratch using only natural and identifiable ingredients. She began cooking for friends and then friends of friends.

After a move from New York to California, and a dream to create a business where customers can order “clean, non-processed food” so that all people could experience the same positive shift in the clarity and energy she was experiencing, Model Meals flourished.

Located in Los Angeles and Orange counties, seasonal, weekly items are chosen by the customer from an extensive menu and ordered by midnight on Tuesday for a Sunday delivery.

Clear-topped containers with labeled ingredients and cooking instructions for the partially cooked items, arrive in a stylish carrying case packed with dry ice.
Meals often include exotic ingredients such as sesame, coconut, and avocado oils accompanied by tamarind, curry, ginger, and lemongrass giving customers exciting flavor pairings to accompany fish, chicken, and other proteins. The portions are generous and so is the company; add-on menu items such as bone broth, known for its benefits of burning fat and saturating blood cells with nutrition are now being offered and all proceeds are donated to the Max Love Project, helping families fighting childhood cancers and life-threatening conditions.

Model Meal packages can be ordered for one week or for one month’s worth of food. Prices start at $158.00 per week.

The Purple Carrot

For the “flexitarian,” an individual who eats plant based diets with occasional meat, The Purple Carrot, a boxed dinner service founded by Andrew Levitt, CEO, is a mindful dinner choice.

“We’re not preaching veganism at all,” Levitt says. “I look at it as a great opportunity to make a real difference in the world by teaching people how to eat a plant-based diet that is good for health, good for the environment and good for animal welfare.”

This pay as you go, non-subscription based plan allows its customers to order 2 out of 4 vegan dinner options for the week ahead complete with pre-measured ingredients from recipes created and tested by cookbook author and former New York Times columnist, Mark Bittman.

The food is fresh, non-GMO (genetically modified), often organic and is shipped right to your door. Menu items such as caramelized onion crepes with warm spinach and mushroom salad are easy to prepare and can be accompanied by your own choice of protein for any family member who eats meat.
It’s a great way to become acquainted with the uncommon ingredients and flavors of vegan dishes without having to know how to cook them.
The buying plan is not only flexible but reasonable; $68.00 feeds 2 people three times a week and $74.00 feeds 4 people twice a week.

With only three clicks on your phone, the familiar ring of the age old question “What’s for dinner?” is being answered in a completely different way. The only question left is, when will we be able to order a 5 star, Michelin Award winning Chef delivered in a box – ready to cook dinner?
That day may be nearer than you think.

Written by Linda Iaderosa

Linda Iaderosa, a producer and writer, has this to say: "Living in San Jose, attending Stanford with my wonderful husband and writing for food--life couldn't be more delicious!"

Leave your comment