If you said that there would be a pandemic that would shut down businesses for months in 2019, people would have laughed or called you paranoid. Not any more –COVID-19 is a reality and has affected everything from retailers to restaurants.
And now, with cases on the rise, come restaurants are again shutting down. If they aren’t in your area, it may only be a matter of time. So, how are we supposed to enjoy restaurant-quality meals? If delivery isn’t cutting it – why not cook yourself?
In 2020, meal kits have arrived. Companies like Hello Fresh are delivering boxes full of high-quality ingredients across Canada. And, through a little trial-and-error, homeowners are discovering how easy it is to make fabulous meals at home.
Below, we’ll talk about what meal kits are, and where you can find them. We’ll also compare meal kits, so you can find the product that’s best for your household.
What are Meal Kits?
Not sure what meal kits are? You’re not out of the loop – they were a niche service before the pandemic hit. Meal kits are services that deliver everything needed to make high-quality meals at home. They contain ingredients, recipes – even suggested soundtracks for your dinner.
These meals span every genre and dietary preference. For example, on their menu, Hello Fresh offers everything from Easy Cottage Pie to Crispy Skinned Barramundi. Ingredients often exceed the quality found in supermarkets. This is crucial for making memorable meals, as getting access to top-shelf food is half the battle.
On the recipe card, you’ll get detailed instructions on how to prepare your ingredients. Don’t tremble in fear – planners have developed these recipes to be accessible to the average home cook. Some will challenge you, but the result will be worth it.
As Restaurants Struggle, Meal Kits are on the Rise
That prospect has many restaurants worried. The initial lockdown has walloped mid-range and high-end restaurateurs. In the first month, 10% of respondents to a Restaurants Canada survey said they had closed permanently.
A half-year into the pandemic and the picture isn’t looking any brighter. In August, a follow up Restaurants Canada survey said that without government help, 60% might close by November. What’s going on here?
With thin profit margins of 4%-6%, most restaurants can’t make it with 50% seating reductions. And, even with these measures in place, many customers are still staying away. Why? Because, according to the latest research on COVID spread, most transmissions occur in enclosed, indoor environments – and may include places like restaurants and grocery stores.
Many of us fear passing on the virus to older loved ones. Others don’t want to risk lifelong health complications. Whatever their reasons, some people are shunning dine-in service in favour of delivery and cooking at home.
However, even delivery is under strain. While it’s true that delivery revenue has surged (Skip The Dishes reported a 250% revenue increase in some markets), other people have moved away from it. A weight gain phenomenon, known as the Quarantine 15, has shocked many into seeking out healthier choices.
So, many have turned to meal kits. In doing so, they’ve given the sales figures of companies like Hello Fresh an astonishing boost. In the second quarter, the German company more than doubled its revenues, with sales rising 122% over last year.
Meal Kits Can Make Amazing Dishes
But do meal kit companies deliver a quality product? Rather than look at online menus, it’s best to look for case studies.
Let’s start with Toronto food blogger xiaoEats. For her, the WFH transition had been rough. She used to eat out a lot. When she didn’t, she often got help from in-laws. Neither is an option these days. So, she decided to try out Hello Fresh for a week.
She found their meals easy to prepare. Further, she found their ingredients were of high-quality, allowing for a restaurant-like experience at home. Produce kept in her fridge for five days – an excellent sign for a meal kit company. Also, meal portions were generous, allowing her to have leftovers for lunch the next day.
J & C Toronto is a YouTube channel featuring married realtors who moonlight as foodies. In this video, they compare meal kits from three companies – Good Food, Chef’s Plate, and Hello Fresh. While they took issue with excess packaging, they found these meals to be very flavourful.
Later, they compared affordability and reflected on their experiences with meal kit cooking. At the end, they chose their favourite company overall. They preferred Chef’s Plate, but remember – everyone has different tastes.
Which Meal Kit Companies Operate in the Greater Toronto Area?
We’re lucky here. With over 8 million people in the Golden Horseshoe, the market for meal kits is the best in Canada. Of course, the major players in the Canadian meal kit industry – Hello Fresh, Good Food, and Chef’s Plate – are all available in Toronto.
However, we have access to options not available in the rest of Canada. Cook It, a Quebec-based meal kit company, operates here. Fresh City Farms, which focuses on recipes containing organic ingredients, is only available in the GTA. Power Kitchen provides fuel to fitness lovers. And, Sorry I’ve Got Plants offers vegetarian/vegan meals.
How to Pick the Best Meal Kit for Your Household
As you can see, there are many meal kit companies in the GTA. While you could compare meal kits on your own, that could get quite expensive. That’s why MealKitsCanada.ca compared the options for you.
Going off their list, you can find the company that fits you best. If you’re into local and organic food, for example, you’ll want to go with Fresh City Farms. If price is a concern, Chef’s Plate will probably be your best choice.
To pick the best meal kit, find the ones in your price range. Then, read the review for each. After weighing the pros and cons, you’ll have a better idea of which meal kit service is best.
Stay Safe, But Eat Well
We all miss restaurant dining. But, as a second wave rises, you have to minimize exposure to COVID-19. We need to keep our families safe. Meal kits, while not perfect, are increasing the quality of home-cooked food in Toronto and beyond.