Last week, I took the opportunity to do a live unboxing of a Kroger Prep+Pared meal. It was the first time I'd tried one, although I have long been curious about them. It just so happened that, as I was eyeing the many tasty-looking varieties in my local Kroger Marketplace, someone in their advertising department happened to be walking by and struck up a conversation. She convinced me to take one home and try it -- so I did!
Cinco de Mayo wasn't too long ago (a day when Americans celebrate Latin-American food culture), and I guess I still had it on the brain because I couldn't help but choose to take home their Latin-Inspired Pork Tacos with Avocado Radish Salad.
I encourage you to watch the footage from the unboxing, although the sound quality is terrible and I totally missed the part where I was supposed to add the onions and peppers to the pan. #nailedit! Hey, that's live cooking television; you just gotta roll with it.
You may be wondering why I - the critically-acclaimed chef (wink) - would ever have the urge to purchase one of these boxes. Well, it's kinda like that six-pack of strawberry ale I purchased during that same shopping trip: I don't really need it, per se, but I sure am curious!
I wanted to know how one of these meals performs - how do the ingredients look? is everything fresh? is it all chopped consistently? how's the flavor? how long does it actually take? how much food does it make? All those things.
My curiosity has been satisfied, and I must say I am pretty happy with the results. Let me break things down for you.
I'm not gonna lie, I was a bit unnerved when I didn't see the recipe card right on top. It showed up underneath all the individual packets of ingredients, which I suppose makes sense if you want people to be able to look into the clear plastic and see all the freshness inside. Each ingredient was in its own bag or carton - which, although it's a lot of packaging, and I'm sure some of the ingredients could have been combined (e.g. the onions and peppers were to be added at the same time, same with the three different spices), but I'm guessing the ingredients are being packaged in such a way as to be used in a number of different box recipes, so everything has to stay separate.
Upon opening up the recipe card, I saw a picture of all the ingredients with an itemized list of what was inside; also listed were kitchen tools and pantry staples I would need to have at hand in order to prepare the dish. I was pleased to see everything matched the descriptions provided and the number of kitchen gadgets was kept to a minimum.
Including assembly, the recipe was 4 simple steps - of which I botched one. Step two, the making of the guisada or meat stew, I totally blew right past the part that said to add in the onions and peppers to the pork. I should know better; I'm always telling people to read through the recipe start-to-finish before you even get started. The cameras were on, I choked, I improvised, I made it work. That's show business.
That being said, the steps were all very simple and easy to follow. Other than the whole avocado, every ingredient was already chopped and measured - even the pork. All I had to do was take a set of kitchen shears to the bag or package, open it up, and pour the contents into the pan or mixing bowl. Doesn't get much easier than that!
For me, I'd say the portions were modest but adequate. Then again, I am a big eater! The contents made enough for 4 heavily-filled pork tacos and about 1.5 cups of salad.
There wasn't anything lacking in the flavor department. I thought it was quite good - nothing fancy, just simply good food prepared properly and seasoned nicely. There wasn't a lot of fat or salt either (so long as you follow the directions).
Compared to DIY
There's no doubt that the meal kit saved me time planning, shopping for, and preparing the meal. What if I were to go out and purchase the ingredients and chop them up myself? What would be the difference?
Here is the estimated cost for the same ingredients from the same Kroger Marketplace:
- The cheapest pork I could find runs $1.79/lb, so this meal contained about $1.12 worth of pork.
- A small yellow onion runs about $0.45
- Half a bell pepper, $0.40
- An avocado, $1.99 (although the one in the box was pretty small)
- Flour tortillas, $0.88
- Crushed tomatoes, $0.31
- Miscellaneous spices, $0.15
- Diced radish, $0.50
- Pico de gallo, $0.45
- Total cost of ingredients: $6.25
This box costs $16, so you're essentially paying close to $10 to have the ingredients sourced, chopped, and measured, and to have it all packaged up into a box with a recipe card.
Don't get me wrong: time is money, and I have taken advantage of paid time-saving services, including the Kroger ClickList program. This box did save me the time of having to walk through the store to find the ingredients AND the time I would have spent washing, chopping and measuring, and that time is not insignificant.
Furthermore, I could not have purchased the ingredients in the exact quantities I would have needed; you don't walk into Kroger, pick up a package of 10 tortillas and pull 6 of them out. It doesn't work like that, buddy! So, if I had done the shopping myself, I would have been left with a number of open packages and half-used vegetables in need of using up somehow.
Overall, I was very impressed with the outcome. It took about 20 minutes from the box to the fork, the recipe was easy to follow, ingredient fresh and ready-to-cook, and the finished product was satisfying and tasty.
If you don't have a lot of time to plan and prepare a home-cooked meal, this is a great option. However, if you are interested in becoming more comfortable in the kitchen doing things from scratch, check out the instructional videos on my YouTube channel or sign up for my email list to find out when my next hands-on kitchen sessions are taking place.