Ever had one of those nights where you’ve worked late, squeezed in a yoga session (for your sanity) and got home after the shops have closed… But you don’t want to compromise your meal plan and order takeout, so you end up eating olives, hummus and crackers (again)? Our food editor, Amy Hopkins has been in that exact position.
Tired of making the same old, same old every week? Want to shake up your meal plan and get your kids involved too? Editor Dan Weakley, who barely has time to stand in a shopping queue never mind balancing functions, meetings and getting her two girls ready for school, was looking for some inspo.
The two of them tried UCOOK. It’s a company that delivers fresh ingredients directly to your home so you can make delicious meals in exactly the right proportions. That’s three meals a week, so you don’t have to worry or even think about what to make for supper Monday to Wednesday. UCOOK has three portion size options: Bachelor (1), Couple (2), Family (4). They deliver all the sustainably sourced ingredients with recipe cards to either your home or office on Monday, so you’re set for the next few nights of dinner prep.
Each week there is a new menu and the dishes are divided into three categories: Easy Peasy, Health Nut, Vegetarian. But you can also mix and match, so, for example, if you want two Health Nut meal items and a Vegetarian item, you can just swap one out.
What Amy Thought
I, like Dan, was also bored of my go-to weeknight meals. Part of my job is creating recipes for Women’s Health. I found that I was often putting my creative foodie flare into work and when it came to actually whipping up a meal after a long day, I kept making the same tomato pasta and salads for dinner. I love cooking. I just sometimes don’t have the energy to think of what to make each night and then go to the shops and then start portioning out and chopping everything up. Plus, my boyfriend always gives me grief about the limp excess broccoli and sad looking peppers and tomatoes I end up throwing out on Fridays.
I have another setback: I’m allergic to wheat and dairy. So I was skeptical about whether UCOOK would have three options that I could actually eat. But I was willing to try it, thinking I can just sub out some ingredients if I need to. I ended up choosing two Health Nut options (Sticky Asian Chicken and Venison Koftas) and one Easy Peasy option (Glazed Pork Stir-fry).
I’m a stationery fan and there’s something I just love about unpacking a big brown paper bag filled with perfectly packaged neat little portions. What a treat for my pleasure centres! Such order is rarely found in my home. The vegetables and meat were excellent quality (they source organically as far as possible and the meat is all free-range). The recipe cards were easy enough to follow and, while two of the menu items did have dairy, I just left it out and the meals were still delicious.
I thought the portion sizes were very generous and we often had enough for a second helping, which we ate unashamedly because: Health Nut, duh. The Glazed Pork Stir Fry was my fave dish and changed the way I think about pork as I never usually buy it.
It was a lot of fun to try these effortless recipes. I definitely recommend it if you know you have a busy week coming up and won’t have time to hit the supermarkets or think of interesting dinners to make. In fact, it’s great to add to your rotation once or twice a month, just to try some dishes that you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of.
What Dan Thought
My daughters are what I can comfortably refer to as vrek bored with their mother’s repertoire of mid-week meals. I roll through the door pretty late most nights, so dinner has organically transformed into 1 001 Ways With Chicken… Personally, I think there are 1 001 ways with chicken. Apparently, not everyone is as convinced. So, UCOOK seemed like a pretty genius option and a few of my far more spreadsheet-friendly besties were also convinced it’s way more economical than the usual grocery shop as there is no waste. And there is no waste. No crusty tomato puree tins starved of light at the back of the fridge. No knobs of ginger rolling around in the veggie drawer. It is an exercise in good packaging – brown paper bags with all the right bits in all the right qualities, times three.
I’m Lebanese so I assume everyone is going to underfeed me – it’s part of the curse of the DNA – but the portions for a family of four were generous and there were often leftovers. I did a bit of a swoperoo on the box – and I urge you to remember and do the same rather than go for their selection. Nothing like having FOMO over what other people are cooking. We went for a cottage pie with sweet potato, steak and potato bake, and an Asian chicken slaw. And without giving the reveal away – I felt like a domestic goddess.
My punks – who are 10 and 13 – were happy to help chop and mix in a cheffy way that normally would not fly – and the meals were delicious, healthy, hearty and generous. The recipe cards were easy to whip through and the timings and quantities are spot on.
Coming home after work and not having to raid the fridge, freezer and my imagination for sustenance was an utter joy – I have sung its praises endlessly since and have kept up my subscription. I will confess that I ditched it for a week just to go back to chicken and salad. But one week was enough to remind me that’s its more fun tearing open packets of interesting ingredients than pulling out the baking tray. Again.