Dinner tonight is half-off, kids!

When you’re lucky enough to be married to someone who is a highly skilled home cook, unfazed by even the most complicated of recipes and intricate preparation techniques, you may be oblivious to the meal kit subscription phenomenon. I have friends that swear by the stuff of Blue Apron, Plated, HelloFresh, and more, but my good fortune had eradicated any curiosity with regards to the efficacy and potential fun factor of these kits.

My interest was finally piqued a few weeks ago during a trip to Kroger, when I saw that a number of its meal kits were discounted 50 percent off. Bargain food is one of my culinary sirens, and that combined with an insatiable craving for Mexican food recently led me to purchase a $7 (formerly $18) corn and black bean chilaquiles with roasted salsa kit that promised to serve two.

When I opened the box, I found all the ingredients (already chopped) separately packaged in plastic, which, though not particularly environmentally-friendly, enabled me to construct a pretty mise-en-place. Spicy food wimps like I can also opt out of using the packet of jalapeños.

Separately packaged ingredients make assembly a breeze.

As I began to follow the (very simple) instructions, I noticed quickly the kit was lacking some necessary ingredients, namely olive oil, salt, and pepper. Keeping such staples on hand may be a no-brainer for most people, but it's worth mentioning for those who might expect the meal kit—like a tacky resort—to be completely all-inclusive.

Prep (really just opening the package), cooking (stovetop and oven), and plating was completed in less than 40 minutes. The absence of any meat accounts for this alacrity and I would expect more time would be required for Kroger’s protein-centric meal kits, such as the Vietnamese-inspired lemongrass pork.

The finished product. Not bad!

My meal looked like the picture, though resemblance certainly is no indicator of tasted. Overall, the chilaquiles were fine, just fine. The vegetables were fresh and sharp individually in flavor, but in combination with the beans and fried tortilla strips fell flat. One reason why the chilaquiles I made failed to compare with versions I have had at Houston restaurants is that I probably was stingier with the oil and salt out of healthy habit.

Regardless, $18 is far too pricy for a kit that essentially contains little more than basic produce. If I find other varieties of Kroger’s meal kits similarly discounted, I might consider another go; until then, I’m fine with relying on interwebs recipes when my personal chef takes the night off.

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