I’m already a die-hard fan of My Food Bag. So, when their new kid rolled off the block, Bargain Box, I was keen to give it a whirl. I’d already read a fair bit of hype and we were keen to see how it stacked up. What did we think? How does it compare to My Food Bag? Keep reading!
As background, Hubby and I have been doing My Food Bag’s Gourmet Bag (the bag of goodness for die-hard foodies) for the past few months. We are MASSIVE fans, as captured in this blog post. Whilst as a couple we’ve eating restaurant quality nosh every night, there’s been a second meal prepared on the side for our rather fussy (and vege-dodging) 10 year old. Now I have two thoughts on this: It’s been lovely to spend time in the kitchen with my boy teaching him cooking skills. In explanation, if he won’t eat what we are eating then he can help prep food that he will eat. However, to cut to the chase prepping two meal is getting dull. As a result, I was considering going back to MFB’s the less fancy Classic Bag option as the boy enjoyed this. Then I remembered about Bargain Box!
How does Bargain Box work?
Bargain Box is a no-thrills, thrifty spin-off of my Food Bag, aimed at families which has food options designed to be more appealing to picky family members. Prior to midnight on a Monday you order a box online that bests suits your needs and on the Sunday you receive, delivered to your door, a box of ingredients and recipes for dinner meals. There’s a few options to choose from (outlined here). In a nutshell you can feed four or six mouths and you can order three or five meals per box.
We ordered the box that feeds four people for five meals at a cost of $120 + $10 delivery. Here’s what we got.
How does that $120 compare to our usual grocery bill? Well, in the spirit of honesty and transparency, for our family of three we between $200-$250 per week on our groceries. This doesn’t include alcohol and, given our love of craft beers and red wine, this adds up quickly! This also doesn’t increase my fortnightly Vetro/Bin Inn haul of nuts and seeds. It’s a lot of coin no matter which way you look at it and I know it’s over the top.
What did we think?
My friend Alex who has been a very happy customer of Bargain Box for the last few months was perturbed that we signed up when we did. “The week you joined up was the most average menu we’ve had so far”, she said. Well, having now had week 2 of Bargain Box, I do agree that this week’s menu was better than last week. However, to get to the punchline, we were rapt. So much so, we’ve signed up to Bargain Box on an ongoing basis which is great timing as the moola saved on the grocery bill can go towards our trip to Melbourne at the end of October. Nice.
So, what do we like about Bargain Box?
Look, it’s just like My Food Bag, but on a, um budget. Their marketing promise absolutely delivers. In writing this blog post I consulted with Kev and Lisa, aka the neighbours, as we raved so much about the whole experience they caved in and placed an order too. Their goal was to get their fussy daughters eating a wider variety of food and to be more organised in general at mealtimes (ha, snap!). Guess what? They are Bargain Box converts too. Boom. So here’s what the Bargain Box contingent from Rotorua has to say:
- It’s suitable for fussy buggers. It’s a huge deal for me, and my fellow neighbours, that the kids are eating lots of vegetables. Frankly, I’ve given up trying to work out why my 10 year old won’t eat leeks and peas if I put it in a pasta dish. Yet, he’s scoffed peas several nights this week and, get this: He ate peas AND leeks in the same dish this week. Stop the bus. In chatting with Kev and Lisa, we reckon the kids have bought into the clever marketing and having the kids help prep the meals makes a difference: If they help cook the food, they are more likely to eat it. Frankly too, the world needs more people that can cook from scratch.
- Stress elimination. Even though I’m now working part-time and have a little more time on my hands, I find week night family cooking a chore and stressful. Oh, and expensive, though I blame the latter on my spontaneous personality type. I’m a shocker for coming up with a wild idea for dinner at 3.30pm, bolting to the supermarket to pick up a few ingredients and, nek minnut, I’ve forked out $70 and I’m berating myself for not being more organised and having a plan. Bargain Box gives you a plan and they give you the food. To your doorstep. You just have to put it away. I don’t have to think about it.
- Great ingredients. I’m a big believer that your dish is only ever going to be as good as the ingredients. There’s no faulting the quality here: The meats are all fabulous cuts, the fruit and vegetables are crunchy fresh.
- The quantity! I’ve gotta pull Bargain Box up a little on this one. The Box we got is designed to feed four people, presumably including two hungry teenagers. Some of our meals have fed eight people! Last night our house ended up being a drop in centre and the Pork Fried Rice on the menu fed three hungry boys and four adults and there’s some leftover for my lunch. At the very minimum, on a regular night, our Bargain Box feeds our little whanau of three and provides leftovers for two adults the next day. In some cases, we have a stash of ready meals now in the freezer for rainy days.
- Bang for buck. Read the bullet point above. I don’t need to buy ‘lunch stuff’ anymore for hubby and I. Oh, that’s a timesaver too: No lunch making for the two of us.
- Nutritious: While I don’t reckon the food is as nutritionally balanced as options from My Food Bag’s, the menu is still exceptionally well thought out. There’s loads of vegetables, low amounts of saturated fat, low sugar which gets a big tick from me. I love that the fish is baked and not fried. I’m stoked that the mashed potato dish we had in week two required the skin to be left on the spuds, so you get a fibre hit. I also like that the recipes seem to include a ‘DIY takeaway favourite’. So far we’ve had the afore mentioned fish and chips, burgers with carrot chips and pork fried rice (the latter was scrumptious). My boy reckons this week’s Pork Fried rice was better than a takeaway (which made me laugh, he’s never had a pork fried rice takeaway)
- Spice sachets. Most of the recipes include spice mix, like a burger spice mix, or an Italian herbs mix, depending on the recipe. The delivery includes these pre-made spice mixes and the recipe also states the ingredients for these in-case you want to re-create the recipe later on. As I’m anti buying spice mixes in general (pricey and it’s easy to make your own) I love that they do this: DIY spice mix adds flavour to any dish and saves you coin.
Some constructive criticism…
To be balanced, there’s some constructive criticism both the neighbours and I have to offer.
- Get big pots: Because of the amount of food that’s generated in some instances, hell: You need BIG pots and pans on hand! I’d recommend having a huge pot, two roasting dishes and the largest frying pan you can find at Briscoes (for Pete’s sake, go when there’s a sale on). Case in point, when I made Pork Fried Rice, despite using my deep dish frying pan, food overflowed onto the cooktop.
- It’s carby. My hubby and son have no issue with this but there’s too many carbs for my liking: Rice, pasta, bread and potatoes go straight to my ass. My Food Bag offered some carb-free nights and regularly had carbs of the pumpkin and kumara variety (yum). To illustrate my point, here’s our menu for Week 1: Crumbed Fish N’ Roasties; Apricot Chicken with Couscous; Sausage N’ Pasta Spirals; One Pot Moroccan Lamb (with rice); Beef Burgers. Yeah, that’s a lotta carbs. It’s the usual story though, you can’t please all of the people all of the time and I’m cogniscant that if you reduced the carbs you’d have to supplement the meals with more protein and more vegetables. That’ll impact price and this is Bargain Box. On balance, the carb component isn’t a deal breaker for me, I’ll suck up the carbs, eat more vegetables and keep an eye on portion control, oh, and continue to attempt to get over my aversion to exercise.
- Some dishes lack punch. This was more the case in week 1, that said. The burgers were OK, but weren’t as good as mine, they lacked flavour. I had my friend Alex over for dinner last Saturday and, to keep things easy, I made the Moroccan Lamb dish. Turns out, Alex had already cooked for her whanau earlier in the week. “It’s bland” she warned. So I used ALL of the spice mix, rather than the 2 tablespoons stated in the recipe, yet, it still needed more. Next in went some leftover My Food Bag curry spice mix, an assortment of paprika, more herbs, cumin, turmeric and a heap of Maggi sauce. This took the meal from being an average dish to a showstopper! Equally on the night of the Fish N’ Roasties I turned my nose up at the recipe requiring a simple salad dressing of oil and vinegar… Yeah, I know, I’m a shocker. I added a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a squirt of lemon juice, a crushed clove of garlic and S&P = YUMMO! Additionally I decided a sauce was needed for the fish and spuds, so I whipped up a light version of aioli: Three tablespoons each of mayo and natural Greek yogurt, ½ teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard and a smashed up whole bulb of roasted garlic I happened to have in the fridge. These additions were gamechangers! That’s the point really, you can go off-piste if you like. Then again, if you are short on time or inspiration, then just stick to the recipe.
My verdict is…
You get the picture. We, that’s my little whanau and the fine peeps next door, are waxing lyrical about Bargain Box. They’ve delivered: In more ways than one!
If you have fussy kids… Or you are time poor… Or if you find meal times stressful… Or if you struggle with being organised at mealtimes… Or if you are time poor… Or if you run out of ideas on what to cook… Or if you want to get smarter about your grocery shopping… Or if you hate cooking: GET IN. Give it a go!
Have you tried Bargain Box yet?