Review: The Fresh 20.
So, I signed up for a service called TheFresh20. Basically once a week, it posts five recipes that take 20 new ingredients (in total) and up to 20 'staples'*. I've been using it for a month or two and here's my thoughts.
Pros I am eating better, at least at meals. The recipes are for four servings, so half of that means I have lunches at work and dinners. There are a lot of vegetables, fruits, and a few starches (usually brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, sometimes potatoes or corn). The 'classic plan' has three meat meals, one seafood meal (with a chicken substitute written in**), and one vegetarian meal, but they offer vegetarian plans. (However, the sample vegetarian plan on the website looks like they use the same base recipes.)
The vegetables are seasonal. Granted, I live in California, so even in October, the farmer's market is FULL OF THINGS and I can find most vegetables there. But the fall recipes call for things like squash and apples and grapes. The summer recipes were full of mangos and tomatillos and such.
They are also tasty. The only recipe (so far) that didn't work for me was one that involved kobocha (also called Japanese pumpkin) and mostly cements that I don't care for winter squashes. (They are not bad in soups, but kobocha is way too sweet for me to put in a savory dish.) Next time, I'll find something that is not winter squash to put in. But so far, I've eaten many things I've liked, that were probably good for me.
Cons I suspect my grocery bills are larger than what they list as potential costs. Also the meal plans cost money. That might just be that I live in California now, and everything is more expensive than I'm used to.
The plans do have a 'for one'. If it's anything like the sample plan, it is just the classic plan cut down. Which means you can end up with leftover ingredients. Half an onion will get used somewhere, but I have some leftover chicken and sausage waiting for things. So it's probably better for a couple who likes leftovers or a family.
Even doing things as written, it takes a lot of energy to cook for myself every day. I work until 6 or 6:15 PM, and then have a half-hour commute home, so dinner usually starts cooking at 6:45 or 7. And then I have to be in bed by 9 PM because I get up at 5:30 AM for my 8 AM class (commute that I need to be awake for, plus I usually have photocopies and demo set-up). There is some mitigation. The first recipe is usually the most time intensive in terms of cook time. The recipes also include what you can do ahead of time, like chop veggies and cook rice***. This week, the days weren't that bad since I had bags of veggies ready to go, from Sunday.
A lot of the sides assume I like salad dressing. (Salad dressing doesn't usually even hit the level of 'winter squash' and 'shellfish'. I rarely like it, and -- at best, I use it as a dipping sauce.)
Granted, at least half of these are general cooking problems for me.
* A list of things like spices (garlic, oregano), starches (pasta, rice), and things like oil, broth and flour. Basically the things the site owners think that most cooks will have on hand. ** I'll eat shellfish, but I don't particularly care for them. Even shrimp are losing their glamour. So I'll usually only make the fish recipes as-written, and use chicken instead for shellfish. *** All of the rice recipes allow for reheated rice. Mom also introduced me to the wonders of microwavable frozen rice.