We admit it: Clyde and I spend a lot of time fantasizing about winning the lottery. But given the odds of winning, we've been spending more time lately asking, "Which 'lottery lifestyle' elements could we add to our lives today ... without ever winning the lottery?"
Both of us have "personal chef" high on our lottery lifestyle list -- someone who would prepare delicious, healthy meals based on our dietary goals and personal tastes. No decisions to make; instead, at lunch and dinner, we'd just tuck in to whatever Chef whipped up for us, confident it would be delicious.
Having a real personal chef on our full-time staff could be pricey (and awkward, since our current condo has no place for Chef to sleep!). And while we've read about personal chef services that send a chef to your home once a week to cook and freeze meals, we're on a bit of a "fresh food with minimal preparation" kick just now, and we want to avoid the freezer.
FreshNFit - The Affordable Personal Chef
Enter FreshNFit Cuisine. Clyde discovered them, actually: an Atlanta company that cooks delicious meals and delivers them to more than sixty locations in the metro area (or right to your door, if you wanna pay for that). This is no fledgling, fly-by-night operation on the verge of going down the dot-com drain, either: they've been in business since 2003.
Intrigued by the proposal -- fresh meals for as little as $7.00 each -- we signed up for a week of service. We selected the 1200 calorie-per-day option (there's an 1800 calorie-per-day option as well), and since I'm trying to eat less meat and more vegetables, I went with the vegetarian option, too.
You can buy 1, 2, or 3 meals a day for 3, 5, or 7 days a week; we signed on for one week at two meals per day. And since one of the sixty-odd drop-off points for fresh meals is right next door to our house, we opted out of home delivery. (Each drop-off point has a huge, locked refrigerator where meals magically appear twice a week.) We picked up our first shipment, carried it up to the condo, and dug in.
The meals come packaged in a two-compartment plastic container sealed with a thin film of plastic. Instructions tell you to vent each compartment by lifting the film (more on that later), and to heat the meals in a microwave for 2-3 minutes. Oh -- and each meal is well-balanced, with an emphasis on getting just the right blend of carbs, protein, fiber, etc.
All very convenient, right? But, ultimately, all that mattered to me was this: how would FreshNFit Cuisine actually taste?
But How's the Food?
In a word: delicious.
Yeah, I confess I was surprised by just how much I liked my FreshNFit meal. In fact, I was so prepared *not* to like it, I was almost shocked by how tasty it was. My first meal was the veggieloaf with a side of green beans with slivers of onion and red peppers. The veggieloaf was moist and savory, and the crunchy green beans were fresh and well-seasoned, without being salty or drenched in glaze. Best of all, the meal was really filling and satisfying ... another nice surprise.
Since then, I've enjoyed the meatless taco (veggie crumbles, salsa, and spicy beans), a breaded faux-chicken patty sandwich (very nice, especially with a little Siraccha sauce added), a hearty quinoa salad with sun-dried tomatoes, and Schezuan tofu over spicy noodles with a side of crunchy carrots. I've eaten every single bite of almost every single meal -- as as someone who's a pretty demanding diner, that says a lot for the folks at FreshNFit.
Two weeks in, only one entree failed to deliver on its promise of fresh and fit goodness: the black bean and goat cheese quesadillas. I took them to work and microwaved them according to package instructions, only to discover that my tortillas became hard and chewy ... and the quesadillas themselves were too small and too dry. (The multi-grain salad was as delicious as ever, though.)
Here's the issue: every single package features the same preparation instructions. Problem is, those instructions just aren't always applicable to the stuff inside the meal pack. Meals with any bread (sandwiches, tortillas, etc.) work best when you remove the bread element and heat it separately in an oven.
You should also make sure you check for fresh fruit! Clyde's meal yesterday had a big, fat, juicy plum in the second compartment ... and who wants to eat a microwaved plum?
But this is a minor issue, and you can bypass it with just a little forethought and effort.
Questions from Friends
Do you miss eating out? Not really. We do enjoy going out to eat, and we used to eat out as many as fifteen times a week. (I know, I know.) At first, especially at night when I was tired and hungry, my "Let's just eat out" reflex would kick in.
But now I'm used to walking home and digging in ... and tucking into each fresh-cooked meal is like opening a little cuisine present prepared just for me. We still go out with friends from time to time, and so we order fewer meals than we need, expecting to shuffle them a bit.
Meantime, apart from maybe one meal out per weekday, eating out is now a nice weekend treat ... that that feels about right to us.
Is the food really that good? Yes. I'm even eating things I never thought I would, like collard greens, black-eyed peas, lentils, and quinoa. It's all delicious.
How's the meat? I can't help you there, as I'm eating the vegetarian meals. But I did have some shrimp from one of Clyde's meals, and they were surprisingly large, fat, and tasty.
Is there a dessert? Nope.
Are you eating enough calories? 1200 per day isn't much. I'm eating plenty. The food is great, and I supplement it with all the fresh fruit I want, plus nuts in moderation. Next week, I'm trying the 1800 calorie meal plan for the first time, but I expect those meals will actually have more in them than I can eat at one sitting.
What if the meal includes something you don't like? For me, that hasn't yet been an issue -- and I'm picky. That said: I have resolved to "eat what's put in front of me," and, as a result, I've wound up eating many things (primarily vegetables) that I would never have ordered at a restaurant ... and I've liked them. If you were to get a meal you didn't like, well, I guess you could eat something else. Come on -- it's just one meal.
How often do meals repeat? Once a month. There's plenty of variety.
Is it expensive? Not at all. When we eat out, it's hard to walk away from our favorite restaurants without spending at least twenty-five dollars (and, if drinks, appetizers, or desserts are involved, a bill for two can easily top forty bucks).
Based on our current FreshNFit meal frequency and configurations, we're spending about eight dollars per meal. Could we buy the ingredients and cook them for ourselves for less? Maybe -- but we know from prior experience that we probably wouldn't do that.
The savings go beyond the food, though. We're driving less (because we don't get out in traffic to go to restaurants as much). And we save time, too -- I'm home by six, and we've eaten and put dishes away by six-thirty.
If you're wanting to eat fresher, healthier food, but don't think you'll ever get around to buying, preparing, or cooking the ingredients yourself ... FreshNFit Cuisine is a great option. When the fridge is stuffed with delicious, convenient meals, you're likely to eat better (and less expensively) than you would at restaurants that make their money by tempting you with beverages and fried snacks and sugary desserts.
Especially since there's no contract, there's very little risk, so I suggest you do what we did: sign up for three or five meals per week, and see how it goes. We've just ordered our third week of meals ... and we expect to continue to be customers for weeks to come. Go to their website, find the drop-off location near your home, and enjoy.
(Note: there are all kinds of specials and deals for new customers lately. Several friends sent us a note about FreshNFit Cuisine on Amazon Local Deals -- a week of meals for just $65.00! So keep your peepers open for discounts and coupons.)