brown bag lunch
i hate instagram ads.
A couple of weeks ago an ad popped up on my Instagram feed for Marley Spoon – a meal delivery kit from Martha Stewart. I don’t normally click on Instagram ads (I find their sneakiness so intrusive – like they’re trying to trick me into loving their brand instead of telling me what they have to offer and letting me decide. Is it just me?) but this one offered a hefty $25 off of two boxes – $50 off, total – and we know I’m such a sucker for a good deal. Luckily for them, I just happened to hear an ad for Marley Spoon a few hours earlier on a podcast so the company (a new food delivery box! how interesting!) was fresh in my mind. Click click click.
Armed with my coupon, I signed up for the three meal plan (3 meals for two, once a week), making my first boxes about $35 each, or just under $6 per serving. The recipes looked fine – a few differences vs other meal kits I’ve used in the past are…
- One or two of the recipes are repeated each week, week to week (they call these ‘customer favourites’, but I’m not sure if that’s the truth or they just end up being meals that are ordered most often because they’re offered most often?).
- Many of the recipes require you to own some sort of weird kitchen tool. Microplaner? Bun steamer? It’s very ‘Martha’ to assume someone ordering a meal kit – probably not an avid home chef – would own a mandoline. Raise your hand if you own (and can easily locate) a pasta maker. Bonus points if it isn’t encrusted with Play-Doh.
- There weren’t a lot of interesting spices/different ethnicities of food on offer. I know I’m not alone in this, but I really like to use food delivery boxes to learn how to cook something that intimidates me or that I would never try to cook myself. The idea of cooking something I’ve never heard of before, let alone eaten before, from an Epicurious or Jamie Oliver recipe is laughable. Somehow, when it comes in a pretty little box with an instruction card and all measured out, its a lot less scary.
- Holy pasta. I don’t like pasta – why did so many dishes involve pasta? I settled on an eggplant parmesan grilled cheese sandwich, a steak meal, and bánh mì burgers.
you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Can we talk about how much packaging is in these? I do like that a lot of of the shipping box was recyclable, but hiding inside each brown bag was a bunch of produce, all individually wrapped in plastic, often unmarked and unrecyclable. Also the brown bags didn’t fit inside the fridge (too tall for the shelves) so I had to unpack each one first. If you have a side-by-side fridge freezer, it might work. French Door or under the counter? Nope, don’t bother.
To be honest, I much prefer Hello Fresh’s box system. Its odd to feel so strongly about this, but Hello Fresh just stacked so nicely on the shelves and I felt like I wasn’t going to lose a bundle of rogue spring onions behind a few cans of tonic water. Also, can you spot the boo boo in the second picture? They sent me the wrong thing! I got the bánh mì brown bag, and two brown bags to make the salad that accompanies the steak – no brown bag to make the grilled cheese! Unfortunately for Marley Spoon, that was the meal I was most looking forward to having for dinner that night so I was incredibly [read: irrationally] annoyed.
I immediately hopped on the chat feature on the website to explain the mistake to a customer service rep. I kid you not, it took over 45 minutes to resolve. The girl I was talking to kept disconnecting and she’d either reappear 7-10 minutes later or someone else would randomly join the chat and I’d have to explain the situation again from scratch. And the resolution was a monetary credit for the missing ingredients, in the form of a future discount. So no money back, no replacement items. Just ‘order yet another box and we’ll give you a bit of money off’. Weirdly, I got a few blank emails after the chat (from their customer service team, but with nothing in the body of the email) and then to rub it in, I got an email saying they included the wrong type of eggplant in my box (ha, no you didn’t!) but ‘not to worry, the grilled cheese will still be absolutely delicious.’ I’m sure it would have been, as I’d been looking forward to having it for dinner all day.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a fan of the steak with a tomato and pita side salad. It was really rudimentary and I found myself adding other bits and pieces to the meal to bring it up to my not-very-high standards. The bánh mì was really great though, with a few small blips.
Asian food is something I love to order at restaurants but scares me to try cooking at home – this recipe was really accessible and combined flavors I’ve never mixed before and look forward to using again (cilantro, garlic and ginger). That said, the carrot was really not fresh – I could bend it in half and, as a result, couldn’t grate it like the recipe called for. The ground turkey was the most unappetizing consistency, like pink slime, and I ended up breaking it up in the pan and cooking it as ground meat instead of patties. And – this goes for all the recipes – the instructions aren’t very detailed and didn’t teach me any new/interesting techniques like other meal kits do. All that aside, I will definitely cook these again, and will probably even go out and get the ingredients to make the mystery eggplant grilled cheese sandwich. Roll on, dinner montage!
I hope this gives you a better idea of what to expect if you sign up for Marley Spoon. Hopefully, my customer service issues were a rare happening, and you will have better luck. Be sure to use a coupon for your first few boxes (or dig around online for someone offering free box codes!), and I do think it’s worth waiting to start on a week that has a 3+ really good meals to choose from – you can easily put your subscription on hold for the ‘meh’ weeks through the website. Also, as you can see below, eat all three meals on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. This was a bag of the lettuce on the Wednesday (it was delivered on Monday afternoon) and it wasn’t looking good at all. If I was to do it again, I’d probably wash and unpack all the produce from the plastic bags, just to keep it nice and fresh.
Have you tried Marley Spoon? Do you have an easy recipe that is your go-to weeknight meal? I’d love to hear from you!