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Four Meal Prep Services Reviewed

Meal prep services have never really been our thing. We love to eat out, and we love to cook, and the idea of having our meals delivered to us in plastic boxes each week has never appealed, but there are situations and times when we can definitely see why you'd sign up. Maybe you live alone, work long hours, have a new baby, or have nutrition goals you're struggling to maintain solo. When we asked recently if you were interest in an article on meal prep services the answer was overwhelmingly yes, so we picked four of the most popular and put them through their paces. There were good days, less good days, and totally offensive days, and here are the results...




Gourmet Fuel


Price: Pay per meal. Breakfast €5.55 - €6.55. Lunch/Dinner €7.95 - €10.95 for XL dishes. You can save money by opting into a subscription and letting them choose meals for you, or choosing yourself. We paid €58.65 for six meals including delivery.


Delivery: €6.95 nationwide (free on orders over €90), or can be collected from Sandyford.


Packaging: Recyclable/reusable, and they will take back their cooler bag filled with empty, clean trays if you'd like them to do the recycling.



What's the story?


Gourmet Fuel is a calorie/nutrition focused meal prep service with dishes in set bands, e.g. 400kcal breakfasts and 600kcal sides. Macro and micro nutritional values, along with ingredients and allergens are very clearly laid out, so it's a good option for anyone chasing numbers each week, whether that's totally energy consumption, protein or fat.


They set themselves out as providing "personalised nutrition" prepared by "gourmet chefs", providing fresh food and taking the hassle out of healthy eating each week. The idea is that you sign up for a weekly subscription which can either be left to them based on what you've told the FuelWizard meal plan builder, or totally customised by you, to encompass however many meals, snacks and sides you would like for that week. They say the majority of their meals can be frozen except salads and some breakfasts, and last four - seven days in the fridge (meals come with a date on them). We tried six dishes from their lunch and dinner range, which arrived together in a cooler bag with ice packs.



Best dishes:


Salmon poke bowl - fresh, loads of flavour, crunchy vegetables, but salmon looked and tasted canned which we weren't expecting.


Goat's cheese salad - This felt very leaf-based to add up to 500 calories, and it didn't need all of the dressing (presumably a good chunk of the calories), but it was very tasty with the walnuts and cranberries. For extra pro points you could stick the cheese back under the grill for a few minutes, but it was perfect straight from the fridge.



Sweet potato taco fries - We loved these. The sweet potato held a decent shape, the spicing was good and there was enough cheese to make it feel not at all restrictive.


Pad Thai with chicken - this had very good flavour (especially with a few splashes of our own fish sauce on top), but should never have been reheated in the oven. After 25/30 minutes the noodles had turned to mush, and it was more like Pad Thai risotto. A shame, as the base was there. Definitely one to microwave. Felt like a huge portion.



Worst dishes:


Chicken korma with wild rice - Awful, wooly chicken. Barely any sauce, tasted like curry powder mixed with water. Rice was offensively overcooked and mushy. An unpleasant eating experience.


Roasted vegetable lasagne - A big plate of watery vegetables. Huge, unappetising portion. Would have preferred a smaller size meal and more cheese, or any flavour other than vegetables/tomato. You would kid yourself into thinking you'll be stuffed after this, but guaranteed you'll be hungry again once all that water breaks down



Pros:

  • Meals have clear nutritional information in set calorie bands making it very easy to calculate your nutritional intake or work to set goals

  • Fresh food

  • Can reheat in microwave or oven

  • Online chat available if you need nutrition help

  • Nationwide delivery


Cons:

  • Paying €6.95 per delivery means you'll likely only want one per week, and you might not love the idea of eating something that's been in your fridge for five days

  • Oven-cooking seriously overcooked some of the dishes. Sometimes microwaving is best

  • Dishes were hit and miss

  • Very little provenance information outside of Irish beef


Verdict:

Gourmet Fuel feels fresh and hand-prepared, and it's a good option for someone with specific calorie or macro needs each week. We found the dishes hit and miss which is not ideal at €8-€10 a meal, but imagine after a while you would find your favourites. Check them out here. (LC)


 

Eatto


Price: Mains start at €5.25 for single-serving vegan meals up to €8.50 for braised steak, but most are in the €6-€8 range, with sides (most to serve two) coming in at €2.50 - €3.95. All-in-one meals (a single portion meal including side) are priced at around €7 - €8. Kids' meals are available with prices around €4.


We ordered in December but the range has now expanded to include soups (€3.50 - €3.95) and smoothies (six for €14.95). New customers can get a 10% discount by subscribing to Eatto's newsletter.


Delivery: €6.95 for nationwide delivery.


Packaging: All packaging is fully recyclable or compostable. Even the clear film can be composted, which we haven't seen before. Everything came very well packed with ice-packs and wool lining so remained completely frozen. If you're in Dublin you can give the wool lining and ice-packs back to your driver the next time you order and they'll be reused; Eatto plant a tree for every ten returned. Outside of Dublin, they don't offer this service but they can be reused at home.



What's the story?


Eatto covers a lot of bases. Meals can be purchased individually (though we'd imagine most people buy several to make it worth the delivery charge), and bundle options cover dietary requirements (vegetarian, vegan, dairy and/or gluten free, calories controlled under 600, 400, and 300 calories). Bundles for one, couples, or families are available but we did find it a bit confusing to compare bundles - some have five mains, some four, and the 'Family Feast' bundle (€107.95, to feed four) has three mains, three sides, and one dessert. We'd have preferred an easier way just to click and have seven meals arrive on our doorstep.


We ordered the 'Take Me to Work' bundle; a mix of seven single-serving, all-in-one meals which was €52.95, (excluding delivery) when we ordered in December but now seems to be €51.95. The frozen meals are designed to bring to the office and store in the fridge or freezer until lunchtime. All can be reheated from frozen in the microwave or oven. Portions were generous and definitely felt more like dinner than lunch.


All chicken, pork, and beef is certified Irish but we couldn't find information about fish so assume it's imported.


While dishes can be reheated in the oven, cooking from frozen can mean a cooking time of 50-55 minutes for meals you'd have probably knocked together from scratch in less time, so for us microwave is definitely the way to go.




Best dishes:


Chili Con Carne with Basmati Rice - we weren't expecting a lot from this as chili con carne is so often an afterthought on buffet menus, but this one benefitted from aromatic spices and was loaded with slow-cooked beef and black beans. The basmati rice reheated surprisingly well and wasn't even slightly mushy.


Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice - creamy, lightly spicy, comforting, and definitely one we'd keep in the freezer for those don't-want-to-cook-but-really-want-to-avoid-another-takeaway nights. Would have liked a little bit more chicken but overall it was a decent portion and we would happily eat our way through lots more of this.



Hoisin Tofu with Stir-Fried Noodles - this was one that we were a little worried about as the idea of frozen tofu taking a spin in the microwave didn't sound like a good idea. We were wrong. The tofu held up really well and stayed firm without drying out. The noodles had some red peppers and broccoli added in, and while the sauce was a little on the sweet side for us, it all made for a nice dish.


Penne Bolognese - quite a bit of water seeped out of the beef bolognese when cooking, but it incorporated back in pretty well once dished up. Plenty of vegetables and a large portion made this another one that felt like a full dinner. Realistically, it's probably not much different to what you'd make at home, but good for convenience.




Worst dishes:


Meatballs in Rustic Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti - we're going to channel that culinary hero Joey Tribbiani for a minute here; "meatballs good... spaghetti good..." but sauce let this one down. The meatballs had a good texture with visible chunks of veg, but the sauce was excessively watery and practically tasteless - as if a tin of crushed tomatoes was poured into the sauce pot, but then someone forgot to add anything else. We added parmesan to try and give it some oomph but even that didn't help.



Puy Lentil Bolognese with Spaghetti - to be fair, this is a case of "it's not you, it's us". This bolognese, for us, was just too much lentil. It tasted great with chunks of onions, peppers, carrot, aubergine, and courgette, but we hit a legume wall about about three bites in. On the plus side, microwaved frozen pasta is a revelation.


Chicken with Wild Mushroom - there are death row meals, and there are meals that are likely served in prison, and this one veers dangerously towards the latter. Of all the meals this is the one we were most concerned about, mainly due to a hatred of reheated mash that began in our 80's childhoods, but the rubbery chicken, tasteless carrots, and gloopy sauce gave the spuds a run for their money. The overriding flavour was salt. Your stomach deserves better.




Pros:

  • Effort towards being environmentally friendly and sustainability, and we love how all the packaging can be recycled, reused, or composted

  • Everything arrives frozen and goes straight into the freezer with a minimum of three months freezer shelf-life so you're not under pressure to get through it all in a week

  • Lots of options for those who follow meat-free, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, or calorie-restricted diets

  • Gift bundles are available and would be really handy for sending to family who are isolating, cocooned with a new baby, or to a college student learning their way around a microwave

  • Meat is all Irish

  • A subscription service is available

  • Nationwide delivery


Cons:

  • The bundles can't be customised; we'd love to order and forego the lentil bolognese for another butter chicken but there's no way to do that without adding all items individually

  • Some dishes were hit and miss

  • The choice of dishes is a bit limited for more adventurous eaters. Out of the selection of meal kits we tried, this one was the most traditional in terms of dishes available

  • Meat may be Irish but that's as far as provenance information goes


Verdict:


We were impressed by Eatto's sustainable approach to packaging, and definitely enjoyed the convenience of having frozen meals in the freezer without the worry of loads of colourings and preservatives. Ingredients and nutritional info are clearly shown on the back of each packet.


While there was nothing here that most home cooks couldn't put together themselves, the convenience can make it worthwhile for for those nights when you just don't want to cook and want something hearty and fast. Check out Eatto's website for all info. (HC)


 

Hapi Food Co.


Price: Sign up by subscription, with the entry-level plan of one meal per day for 5 days costing €45. This will increase as you add days or extra main meals and there's also an option to add breakfast and snacks so you pretty much never need to turn on your oven.


Delivery: Included in the purchase price and deliveries are made Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings. If you're not home, they can leave it in a safe place in a cooler bag which they will collect at the next delivery.


Packaging: Main meal boxes and the bags they deliver them in are recyclable, while the overnight oat and granola pots are compostable.



Hapi Food Co. was started in 2016 with their main belief being that "the best food is cooked from scratch". They prepare everything in-house and chill, pack and deliver on the day of cooking, so their customers are always getting the freshest product. They describe themselves as "healthy" and they do have healthy options, but you wouldn't want to be hungry placing your order or you'll find yourself eating pasta every day ... wouldn't be the worst week in the world!


The deal is that you sign up for minimum one main meal a day, but you can increase the number of main meals if you want a second for lunch, or if you're ordering for more than one person, and you can add on breakfast and snacks. Meals are chosen manually and there are six breakfast and six main meal options per day - almost too much choice! But the variety would be a definite plus if you're ordering long-term. All dishes are prepared to be reheated in the microwave, but they do say you can remove the food from the packaging and reheat in the oven if required.


Hapi Food also have a Monday trial service for €25 which allows you to try breakfast and two main meals to get a feel for it.




Best dishes:


Beef Mince Ramen Noodles - our favourite of the week, this dish was nicely seasoned with soy and fish sauce, and the caramelised onions brought a lot of flavour. Obviously we couldn't resist a dollop of peanut rayu but could have survived without it.



Cauliflower Cashew Curry - this needed a bit of extra seasoning when it was dished up, but with some added salt and pepper it was a lovely meal with plenty of sauce and some tasty sautéed spuds.



Thai Green Chicken Curry - as one of our regular meals to make at home we were pleasantly surprised with this version which had a nice hint of spice, perfectly cooked rice and still crunchy broccoli.


Christmas Cereal - a little taster that they threw into one of our deliveries, very tasty and much appreciated when that 4pm slump hit.




Worst dishes:


Pumpkin Gnocchi - this was a fail for us and as the first meal of the week left us worried about what was to come. It was very flavourless and dry, almost as if they had forgotten to add the sauce.


Sesame Salmon - fine at best. A bit bland and the salmon became overcooked in the microwave, which we half expected. Not the worst, but we wouldn't order it again.




Pros:

  • Multiple deliveries during the week so you're getting the freshest food. Contactless delivery is also available

  • Calories and macros are also available for anyone tracking these and a lot of the meals are searchable on MyFitnessPal making it even easier

  • Very generous portions so you could save some for lunch the next day depending on your appetite

  • They have add-ons such as breakfast (which you can sign up to as part of your subscription or add on specific days), snacks and soup so it makes it really flexible and easy to plan your week. You can even order some essentials like butter and free range eggs to be delivered alongside your meals

  • Everyone we dealt with was very personable and friendly and there were text messages telling us when to expect deliveries, and where it was left when we weren't home



Cons:

  • Dishes were a bit up and down and some unseasoned, but this will likely be the case with all food delivery services and the different tastes that they're catering to

  • Deliveries only in Dublin and Meath

  • Very little provenance information. If chicken and eggs aren't listed as free-range, they usually aren't


Verdict:


Hapi Food Co. would be a good choice for time-poor people who are conscious of eating fresh foods made from scratch. The possibility to add on breakfast, snacks and soups makes it really flexible, as does the fact that you don't need to subscribe for any period of time but can order the odd week depending on your schedule. Value for money wise, we found the portions really generous for what you pay. Check them out here. (KQ)


 

Parallel Nutrition


Price: Ranges from a five meal plan from Monday - Friday for €39.50, all the way up to three meals and two snacks five days a week for €115


Delivery: Sunday and Wednesday with deliveries costing €2.25, or you can ask for it all to come together


Packaging: Compostable cartons with recyclable lids



When we asked about meal prep services, Parallel Nutrition was recommended by quite a few of you. Set up by nutritionist and chef Diarmaid Healy, it's a subscription service (no one-time orders so remember to cancel if you only want to try it), with a wide range of options and prices, depending on how many meals and snacks you want each week.


There's a new menu to choose from each Monday which feels appealing and a lot less formulaic than other services, or they can pick for you. In all the excitement of the menu arriving we ended up picking two Thai green curries, one with chicken and one with tofu (still no idea how), so really we're talking about four meals here, but they were good ones.



Best dishes:


Falafel, wedges, peas and a mint dip - This was so good we're cursing them for changing the menu each week. Falafel were smooth and flavoursome, potatoes perfectly cooked and spiced, and we need the recipe for that mint yoghurt dip.



Salmon pesto pasta - If you can't throw a dish like this together at home you need to have a long hard look at yourself, but this was very tasty and we loved the feta, walnuts, and appropriate (i.e. very heavy) use of garlic.


Green Thai chicken curry - A really vibrant, fresh tasting sauce full of lime and spice, with tender chicken and al dente green beans. The noodles were slightly overcooked but we still ate it happily.



Worst dishes:


Lamb tagine with mash - By no means inedible, but in comparison to the other dishes it was a let down. The tagine tasted mainly of cinnamon and tomatoes, and the mash of white pepper. It was a bit one dimensional.



Pros:

  • The menu changes each week which keeps it fresh and interesting

  • Team were very helpful and pleasant to deal with

  • Most dishes have a low carb option e.g. cauliflower rice

  • Wide range of plans

  • It feels like good value

  • It tastes good




Cons:

  • Subscription only so if you don't forget to cancel you could end up being charged for an extra week (although they seem lovely so as long as the food hadn't been made we imagine they would cancel it for you)

  • Only serving Dublin

  • No provenance information


Verdict:


We really liked Parallel Nutrition, and thought it was as close to home cooking as we could imagine getting from a service like this. Even though meal prep isn't our bag, we would happily order this again if we needed some help in the kitchen for whatever reason, and it's definitely going on our recommended list for new parents, time poor friends and anyone wanting to reboot their diet, but we'll sidestep the chicken and eggs until we know they're free-range. Check them out here. (LC)


Do you have a favourite meal prep company that we should try? Let us know by emailing info@allthefood.ie

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