In an effort to ease the dinnertime rush, OHbaby!'s lifestyle expert Jessie Jarvie arranged for seven mums to trial a take-home meal and rate it for quality, convenience, and taste.
Part of the ‘witching hour’ recipe is the difficulty of dinner preparation when you are managing office hours, daycare runs, supermarket stops, fussy toddlers, bath time, and (if you’re lucky) some form of adult conversation with your other half. After fighting the bedtime battle, baked beans on toast just doesn’t cut the mustard. Dinner preparation is one of the biggest obstacles for all mothers, but particularly so for working mums when they transition back to the workplace. Every so often, it pays to have a healthy back-up option. When we are busy is when we need good food the most, and it’s an unhealthy irony that, all too often, being busy and eating well don’t come hand-in-hand.
Luckily for us, as we get busier the market tends to respond with things like smart devices (even my washing machine is ‘smart’!) and convenience products. There is now a wide range of healthy take-home dinner options available. We sent seven busy mums food from Auckland's best take-home meal businesses to get their verdict.
Disclaimer: yes, we know we’re being a little Auckland-centric here, but My Food Bag also delivers to Hamilton, Cambridge, Tauranga, Palmerston North, Wellington, and Christchurch, and Josh Emett’s Chef Series is available in many New World supermarkets. It’s also worth investigating what the delicatessans and grocery stores in your hometown can offer.
Free-range Chicken Makhani from Josh Emett’s Chef Series Premium Range.
who: Laura, teacher and mum to 18-month-old Lucy and newborn Hannah.
what she got: A slow-cooked meat meal from the chilled aisle of the supermarket, with a generous two serves ready to eat in 15 minutes. Just whip up a side of pasta or vegetables at home to go along with it.
cost: RRP$22.95 (serves two)
how you get it: Available from selected New World supermarkets nationwide and Farro Fresh in Auckland. Check chefseries.co.nz for stockists.
what she says: Easy, amazing and tasty! I heated the meal for 15 minutes then put it on a plate – voila! I did have to prepare my sides, green beans and brown rice, but this was no trouble. I was impressed with the nutritional value of the meal. It was not too rich for breastfeeding, nor too spicy. It was a well-balanced and perfect meal. Portion size was perfect to feed two adults and my toddler. We were all left feeling full and satisfied.
Chicken Feed for Two from Bird On A Wire, Ponsonby, Auckland
who: Lauren, accountant and mum to six-month-old Louis.
what she got: Half a cooked, free-range rotisserie chicken plus up to four side salads and bread.
cost: $27, birdonawire.co.nz.
how you get it: Order online then swing by on your way home and pick up from one of three central Auckland locations.
what she says: The meal was very tasty. The chicken was succulent and juicy. I felt that the nutritional value of the meal would be similar to if I had roasted a chicken myself. The raw salad appeared healthy and the bread could have been omitted if you were watching your carbs. The meal would have been filling enough with just the salad and chicken alone. My husband and I are big eaters and we were both satisfied – there were no leftovers!
Appetizer fruit and vegetable box and the Couple's Essential meat box from foodbox.co.nz
who: Bernice, real estate agent and mum-to-be.
what she got: Two boxes, both packed to the gunnels with fresh produce, meat, and fish. You’ll find recommended recipes to go along with the food on the Foodbox website.
cost: $33 for the Appetizer box and $65 for Couple’s Essential.
how you get it: Order online at foodbox.co.nz and it’ll be delivered to your door in Auckand, Hamilton, and Tauranga. If you’re elsewhere they’ll still deliver; it’ll just cost you more.
what she says: The delivery service was great. The delivery man came right to the front door and, as soon as he noticed I was pregnant, he offered to carry the boxes inside for me. The quality of the produce in the fruit and vegetable box was amazing. All the meat and chicken in the meat box was free-range or organic which is important to me. I was a little surprised that the recipe included in my pack was for blueberry bran muffins as I didn't have any of the ingredients for those in my box. However, there were loads of great recipes to look at on the website and they were all delicious. Portion sizes were generous. We had leftovers for lunch which worked well for us. We would definitely use this service again. In fact, we have already made another order.
Ripe TV Dinner of Sticky Chinese Pork Belly from Ripe Delicatessen, Ponsonby
who: Rebecca, lawyer and mum to five-month-old Harry.
what she got: Each afternoon the Ripe Delicatessen kitchen whips up dinners which are available for customers to pick up between 3pm and 7pm. Choose from chicken, salmon, ham, or vegetarian, and the chef will add two complementary sides as well.
cost: $18.50, ripedeli.co.nz
how you get it: Pop online, order your meal, and tell them what time you’ll be round to collect it on your way home.
what she says: The meal smelt delicious and looked very appealing. It was nicely balanced with meat, vegetables, and a small portion of carbohydrates. The pork belly was moist and had a delicious sauce. The bok choy was fresh and the rice was nicely seasoned. A larger portion would’ve been our preference though.
Dash Lamb Shanks and Sticky Date Pudding
who: Hayley, graphic designer and mum to two-month-old Bree.
cost: RRP$16.99-$19.99 each.
what she got: Frozen convenience meals – ready in just ten minutes straight from the freezer. Two lamb shanks with lashings of gravy, and sticky date pudding with caramel sauce.
how you get it: Pick it up from selected supermarkets nationwide, or Farro in Auckland, and Nosh in Auckland, Matakana, and Mt Maunganui.
what she says: The meal tasted delicious. It was just as if I had made it from scratch. The meat didn’t look that nice pre-heated but fell off the bone once it was hot, and tasted tender and flavoursome. It was hard to believe it was a packaged meal. There was heaps of gravy too and the dessert was delicious. I would buy this meal again; it was very high quality.
Classic Food Bag from myfoodbag.co.nz
who: Jen, executive assistant and mum to three-year-old Amaya.
what she got: Brown paper bags bursting with all the meat, fish, vegetables, spices, grocery items, and recipes you need for five meals for four adults across a week.
cost: $192.50 including delivery.
how you get it: Open an account online and order the Food Bag that’s right for you (Classic, Family, or Gourmet) and it’ll be delivered to your home, Sunday or Monday afternoon/evening.
what she says: The delivery service was excellent. I was very impressed with the quality of the ingredients in my bag. The recipes were easy to follow and nearly everything was included (bar pantry staples), but I did find them a little too fiddly for the after-work rush with a hungry kiddo. For that reason, I did my own thing with some of the ingredients. On the plus side, the meals were much healthier than I would normally eat. Portion sizes were generous.
Chicken, Seasonal Vegetables, and Pumpkin from fitmein.co.nz
who: Kirsten, lawyer and mum to seven-month-old Charlie.
cost: Around $12.50 for a single meal, but you can order a week's worth of meals including breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
what she got: A cooked meal, ready to heat and eat. All the meals available are free of sugar, refined carbs, and gluten, and made in consultation with a nutritionist.
how you get it: Order online at fitmein.co.nz where you can select the Paleo, Big Fit, or Slim Fit Menu. Meals are delivered to your gym or home in central Auckland.
what she says: The meal was delivered in a plastic container; I just transferred it onto a plate. It tasted good. The dressing was a highlight. The chopped bacon and egg were particularly yummy.