Being the only adult in my house makes cooking seem absurdly arduous when I already have so little time. Find a recipe, buy the ingredients, do all the prep, get the cooking done and then sit down to eat. Just finding time to eat in the evenings before bedtime can be tough. So I’m looking for lots of ways to make things more simple. Ergo today’s Plated review, making dinnertime a little easier.
Plated is a new service that does the first half of your work for you. Here’s what you no longer have to do if you use Plated.
Find a Recipe. You may be wondering why you’d want someone else to decide what you eat, but this really does make sense. If you’re like me you probably have tons of recipes you make, some of them more often than others. But meal planning gets really old.And if you want to try something new it can be a big gamble. To break out of meal planning, Plated has a menu each week of simple recipes made by their chefs.
Buy Your Ingredients. I do not love grocery shopping, I know this is shocking. When you order meals from Plated, your ingredients are all provided (with the exception of staples like olive oil or chicken broth). You receive a box at your door with your ingredients for your week’s meals in it.
Prepare Ingredients. Not only do your ingredients come to your door, they also come pre-measured and pre-packaged. There may be some prep left before you cook, but this will be included in the recipe cook time.
I tried a few different recipes over the course of a few weeks to see how I liked them. Overall, I think the service is on the pricey side for people on a budget, but a nice option if you have the money, if you love food and if you’re short on time.
I’ll walk you through one of my meals from start to finish to give you a look.
Choosing the Meal
Each week, Plated gives you 5 choices for recipes. (Update: They now do 9 options each week.) Each recipe gives you a picture, the ingredients, calories, cook time, difficulty level and other details. This week, for example, the choices are Pan-Seared Chicken with Mushroom Sauce, Tea-Poached Salmon with Edamame and Snap Pea Soba Noodles, Moroccan-Spiced Steak with Shallot Yogurt and Raisin-Carrot Couscous, Chicken with Three Tomato Pasta Sauce and Blackened Shrimp Tacos with Grilled Mexican Corn. As you can see, each week covers several proteins and cuisines.
Pros: Great variety. Interesting dishes, way more cool than what I’d pick out myself. Simple recipes. Plus you get a PDF of the recipe in your account so you can keep it on file.
Cons: 5 choices is still a small number and some weeks I didn’t want any options. I thought there was too much chicken. And as someone who’s not a fish-lover, I usually had at least 1 or 2 dishes that weren’t even an option. If you are kind of picky this may be a problem. (This week’s menu, for example, I see nothing I actually want to eat.) Most of all NO VEGETARIAN OPTION. The meals tend to revolve around meat, which is fine, but I wanted more fun vegetarian dishes. Plus you can’t necessarily adjust the recipe or change the protein unless you’re doing that on your own.
One recipe I chose my first week was Farfalle with Sausage and Peas. A simple choice. There’s almost always a pasta dish in the lineup and this is one of my favorites in general so it seemed like a good option.
When it arrived, all my pasta ingredients were in one green bag with a clearly labeled sticker. And each ingredient was labeled as well. I took them all out to take a peek at what lay ahead.
The delivery area for Plated is still limited, but this means you get your ingredients shipped very fast which means they’re nice and cool and fresh. The raw proteins and anything else requiring refrigeration was separately in a part of the box with cold packs. Nothing ever seemed off temperature-wise when I received it. Spices are included, which is either a plus or irrelevant depending on your pantry.
Meats are vacuum packed, everything else is generally sealed in a labeled plastic bag.
Quality was great. My English peas were gorgeous and the sausage… well it was the star of the dish, but that comes later.
Pros: Quality is excellent. Ingredients are fresh.
Cons: Some ingredients will still require extra prep, such as chopping or (in the case of my peas) shelling. If something is missing (and this did happen to me when I ordered double of a recipe and only got 1 instead of 2 of something) the trouble of getting it replaced is a hurdle, and you’ll probably do without or buy it yourself, like I did.
The recipe cards are big and bright, with pictures and simple instructions.
Since my recipe promised to take just 30 minutes, the sight of my un-shelled peas had me wondering if this would work. I timed it and it took me around 12 minutes or so for shelling. Would this still work? And would it be simple? Especially since I am very very prone to taking twice as long to cook everything than it says it will take in the recipe?
To my surprise, it worked out great. 30 minutes, almost to the second.
Sure, it took two pots going at once (which felt a little more crazy than you’d think, given that the kids were being wrangled to the dinner table as this picture was taken) but it went and it was nice and simple. The peas were by far the most time-consuming part of the recipe, but the freshness they brought to the dish was totally worth it. I’ve never shelled my own peas for a meal before and wouldn’t have thought to if I’d done my own shopping.
When finished it was a lovely dish. The peas and the shallots were perfect. (Shallots instead of onion, another smart change I wouldn’t have thought of.) But the SAUSAGE. I am a sausage-lover, but this one had me raving. It was full of flavor, each bite was like going on a little taste journey and it had this amazing maple finish that had me doing my food moan.
In fact, I hesitate to make it again on my own because I don’t know if I’ll find sausage worthy of the dish, beautiful in its simplicity.
Now, with all that said, not all the dishes I made for Plated were slam dunks. I was super excited about a side dish of udon noodles with peanut sauce and it came out all wrong, the sauce was too thin and I have no idea why.
And then there was the paella debacle.
Plated has a minimum of 4 plates (or servings) a week but I was tired of cooking two different meals and instead just decided to get all 4 plates of the same meal and cook it all at once. A chorizo paella seemed like a great option for leftovers so I got all my prep ready, got started and…
When it was time for my rice to be done, it still looked like that. It was bomba rice, which I’d never used before, and according to the directions it should’ve cooked in 17 minutes. It didn’t. I let it go to 30. No change. I started scouring the internet to see if other Plated users were having the same problem, but it was early in the week and I could only find a couple people who’d made it and theirs seemed fine. I tweeted, but as it was outside business hours I didn’t get a response. So I started googling.
My recipe told me to cook the rice on Low heat. (I still have it so I know for sure.) The internet? Said cook on Medium High. So I did and FINALLY I had rice. Of course, it was nearly 10 pm because I’d waited until the kids were in bed to cook and I’d spent some serious time waiting for the rice to cook and then figuring out how to cook it and then ACTUALLY cooking it. So I wasn’t exactly happy. Was it delicious? Yes, though the chicken in the dish was unnecessary and there was far too little chorizo, just some tiny pieces.
You can order Plated plates a la carte whenever you want.
Membership is $10 per month and will cut down the price of a plate by $3 to $4, depending on how many you get per week. Plates with membership are $12 per plate for 4 plates a week and $10 per plate for 6 plates a week. So as a member you can get 16 plates (aka 8 meals for 2 or 16 meals for 1) for $202 a month. Or you can get 24 plates for $250. Obviously going for the 6 plate option is the better deal. If you usually find yourself with a budget of about $800 to 1000 a month for food, this would fit just fine into your current budget, especially if it kept you from ordering in or going out and possibly spending a lot more than $10 per plate.
Update: Plated has thankfully done away with membership, which was kind of confusing and crazy when you wanted to take a week off from the service. Now it’s $12 per plate no matter how many plates you order, with free shipping if you get 6 plates or more.
If you’re wondering how it’d go over with kids, I think you’d be surprised. A lot of family-friendly dishes, assuming you have not-too-picky eaters. Stuff kids may be skeptical about, but if you’ve got good eaters, I don’t see a big deal.
Really, though, Plated’s target customer doesn’t seem to be a family but singles or couples with busy jobs. People who end up going out for dinner because they want good food and don’t have the time to prepare it. Though I think it should be a good option for families with working parents as well.
It’s also a great gift for your foodie friends, so you may want to keep it in mind come birthdays or housewarmings.
Plated is currently available nearly everywhere in the continental United States. You can order here.
Disclosure: I received a month-long membership and 4 free plates from Plated and Klout. I was not required to review their service.