My awesome mother got me a Sun Basket gift card for Christmas!
Sun Basket is a meal kit delivery service like Blue Apron/Hello Fresh/etc. but their claim to fame is that they are the hippie version. Organic produce, sustainable seafood, humanely raised meat, cage free eggs, etc. My jam. You can also select from a variety of meal plans- Paleo, gluten-free, “lean and clean”, vegetarian, Mediterranean, etc.- but I didn’t really bother with that. Each week I just picked from the available recipes/kits what sounded most appealing to me.
My feeling about meal kits (which was confirmed to be true in my experience) was not that they save you any money (and I really think the manufacturers should quit trying to make that argument) nor that they particularly save you a lot of time (yeah, you don’t have to go to the grocery store to buy ingredients but the recipes are still rather ornate).
HOWEVER. If you are looking to get some inspiration in the kitchen and to basically have a built-in activity for an evening, meal kits can be fun. Thus far I have gotten a delivery two separate weeks. Each week I got three meals, each meal with two servings.
Meal 1: Seared tuna poke bowl
Brown rice, seared tuna coated in sesame seeds, seaweed strips, shredded carrots, cucumbers (which you salted and tossed with vinegar for a bit), green onion, etc.
Though I received two servings of this meal (using Sun Basket, you can either sign up for a two-person or four-person plan) I made just the one and saved the other components for later in the week.
Meal two: nice red juicy STEAK!
You will quickly figure out that I wanted to get a bang for my buck with sun basket so I ordered the most expensive meals I could 😀 That meant lots of seafood and red meat.
I also used my cast iron skillet a LOT more, since most of the recipes advised cooking your proteins on medium high heat, and you really aren’t supposed to get your nonstick skillet (my usual cookware) that hot.
It reminded me that most proteins taste most delicious when you throw ’em in a hot pan and get a good sear on ’em. Just another example of why restaurant food tastes so good. (Also, bearing in mind that because of this restaurants don’t use nonstick pots-> there is going to be a LOT of oil used to cook your food).
I actually had a fella around (still hanging out with A some) so I did various side projects while he seared the steak.
It ended up perrrrrrrfectly medium rare. It was topped with chimichurri (with some special fancy chilis). On the side was a salad with walnuts, bitter greens, and mandarin oranges with a yummy vinaigrette.
Of note is that this meal is paleo.
Though, uh, I think the red wine on the side isn’t so much lolol.
Next meal (#3) was REALLY good and special: spicy roasted shrimp with kale and ajo blanco sauce.
Started with just simply sauteeing some greens (sometimes the menu is slightly switched up based on market availability, so I got mustard greens instead of kale) (Note also that a bunch of the mustard greens were not in good shape. I sent Sun Basket a message and they quickly responded, apologized, and gave me a $5 credit. There were still enough mustard greens).
Then, I tossed together a parsley lemon apple slaw.
Then I cooked the shrimp: I tossed them with oil and Urfa chili peppers (! I had not known what those were. They had a sort of floral flavor and weren’t too spicy) and tossed them in a hot oven for a quick roast (! Had any of yall ever roasted shrimp? I had not. Interesting technique!)
And I mixed together the sauce: they sent an ajo blanco sauce base (consisting of garlic and almond milk) and I mixed it with the sherry vinegar they also provided.
Here is the finished dish (note that I actually stretched it to feed three people by using my reserved tuna steak from earlier in the week, making extra apple parsley slaw with ingredients I had around the house, and serving pasta on the side. Thus making it very non paleo hahaha).
Okay but for real this dish was LEGIT.
The almondy garlicy sauce on the bottom was SO flavorful and amazing. I never would have thought to combine shrimp, greens, apples, and almond sauce but the flavor combination was something I would’ve been stoked to get at a restaurant. The shrimp were perfectly tender and tasted really fresh. I was just VERY VERY PLEASED, as were my two friends I shared my meal with.
And the apple parsley slaw was so simple and good I then made another batch of it and tossed it with some orange squash. It was another nice flavor combo!
So then I took a few weeks off. I wanted to stretch out my experience. I wanted to wait for a week where I was STOKED about all the options. Plus, there is a certain amount of labor and drama to making these meals so I wanted a week where I had at least a reasonable amount of time to prepare them.
The problem is you have to confirm by ~6 days prior to your delivery day whether you are not getting the meals, so by the times I got the ones for this particular week, I had come down with a rather miserable cold.
My delivery arrived Tuesday night but I didn’t actually start making things til Thursday lunchtime. The good news is that the ingredients stayed fresh and good til I finished with them Sunday night (and obvi I was strategic and made the thing with the salad greens first!)
Okay SO: Meal#4- tempura shrimp with honey walnut sauce, charred romaine, and broccoli.
So the portion was HUGE! Lots n lots of big fat juicy shrimp plus fiber rich veggies to fill up your belly. “Tempura” is a bit of a misnomer because shrimp tossed in arrowroot powder (which made this a gluten free dish) and cooked in a small amount of oil don’t taste like shrimp battered and deep fried. Duh. They were still good though (though they got a bit singed on the outside when cooked at the recommended temp). The sauce was sweet if not particularly remarkable.
The broccoli didn’t have any fatty component to its dressing (just lemon and green onion and things) but was actually really good. Yes, Ileana, you won’t die if you make a vegetable without olive oil or butter.
Next was Meal #5: a tasty dinner of burger and fries!
First, in the foreground, a generous pile of oven fries seasoned with Sun Basket’s herb blend that’s an homage to Old Bay.
And then in the background there, there’s a salmon burger… the salmon patty was SO GOOD and well seasoned and cooked to perfect tenderness (for which, of course, I the chef deserve credit but also a tasty recipe). Then that patty was topped with a dreamy remoulade that also involved capers (something I love and should eat more), arugula tossed with a bit of oil, and fresh cucumbers peeled and tossed with lemon and salt and pepper. And it was on a tasty chewy dense whole wheat bun.
YUM. YUM. YUM. Like yes, it seems rather silly to go through the production of a meal delivery service to literally make a sandwich from bread and a premade patty… and yet all the components were excellent and though I might be capable of making this on my own… I haven’t. I got to borrow the creativity and legwork of this meal delivery service so all I had to do was throw this together in a matter of minutes.
My final meal I’ve cooked (so far) was Meal #6: sesame crusted salmon with carrot orange mint salad.
This was one of their “lower calorie” options. I liked it! Simple and good. The sesame crust made it feel more glamorous than typical salmon made at home.
And look at this pretty pretty salad! The salad was quite large for two so I definitely had more of the carrot/orange mixture than pictured on my plate above.
Okay here is my big picture view of Sun Basket (and meal delivery kits in general), listed as pros and cons:
- It’s stupid expensive. Anyone who says that using one of these services saves you money is talking total nonsense. I mean, unless you routinely go out for meals that exceed $10 every night. And if you are, lucky you, you don’t have to worry about money.
The way, hilariously, you save money is by recruiting your friends (it saves them money too). If you get a $40 off deal for your first time trying the service (which I gave my friends and in turn got for myself- you have a chance at the bottom, too) it comes out to $5 a meal and is much more reasonable… but that’s only your first time. Unless you go on to recruit other people, which continues to save you money.
- The packaging is wasteful. Duh. Though at least they have some useful containers (see below)
- You have to know if you’re going to have time/energy to prepare a bunch of fancy food and which foods you’d like to eat a week in advance. This was a bummer the week I got sick.
- The recipes are rather time consuming for a weeknight. And require a certain amount of brain power which I can’t necessarily muster every time I’ve done three patient home visits in a row.
- The meals are rather high in calories. I blessedly have become a rather intuitive in recent years so if I eat a higher calorie dinner I kind of shrug and figure that I’m less inclined to snack later in the day. It’s also the kind of meal one eats more mindfully so that’s a net benefit for intuitive eating/satiety/etc. But, some of the meals are up in the range of like 700-800 calories which I know is a lot for some folks. As noted below, the portions are generous and you could definitely feel satisfied on less than one serving as defined by them (and lots of these would’ve made for tasty leftovers).
- By and large, the recipes are REALLY GOOD. I enjoyed all of my meals and some of them had particularly excellent components- the salmon burger and the roasted shrimp (THAT GARLIC SAUCE!) were probably my favorites. And there are some surprisingly chef-y touches. New and interesting spices. Etc.
- The recipes are also chef-y. They remind me to actually make the effort to use my good heat conducting cast iron skillet. Yes, it takes a little longer to cook than my nonstick pan but it gets a beautiful sear on my proteins.
- It’s built in entertainment. If you like to cook, it’s an activity for the evening that’s fun and creative and pleasing to multiple senses. It’s also a nice way to treat a friend/date/whoever to a nice dinner without having to go to a fancy restaurant (and okay fine only in this case it might be more economical).
- It’s a nice way to shake up your cooking style. If you find yourself buying the same things over and over, this introduces something new. If you find yourself making the same meal pattern over and over, it can help with that.
For me personally, it was a good reminder that, really and truly, I don’t need to have some enormous serving of starch with every meal. Like, yes, I can be satisfied without half a pound of pasta or whatever. Yes, a protein and fiber-rich vegetables will fill up my belly and give me sustained energy. Riveting, I know.
Yes, I am a registered dietitian, ay yi yi.
- The portions are generous. I gave one of my coupon codes to a friend from work and she said her hus usually complained about the portion sizes with some of the other meal kit delivery companies and she said they were both happier with the Sun Basket portions.
There were moments where I was like, “Holy *** there is more shrimp on my plate than I need!” I think it’s a safe bet that many of us have not often had that experience.
- It is nice getting the EXACT RIGHT AMOUNT of food to make a recipe. As someone who’s by and large cooking for one, it can be sort of anxiety-producing to have an entire heart of celery, or an entire 1/2 gallon of milk, or other such large quantities of perishable things. I don’t hate that when you get the fixins for these meals you don’t have extra things languishing in your fridge for which you feel responsible/guilty.
- The plethora of containers is ridiculous BUT some of them are pretty high quality and have twist on lids and are handy for reusing as salad dressing carriers for work lunches and so on.
Anyway, that’s my experience and I’m curious if other have folks have tried these and have any other points to make about them.
Also, should you desire to try it yourself you can get $40 off your first delivery by going through this link (I get $40 off too for recruiting you, as noted above. Capitalism!)