After The Baby, A Girl’s Gotta Eat (Here’s Help!)

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The following is a postpartum PSA you can feel free to forward to friends, family, and your partner — after the birth, momma is gonna be HUNGRY. Consider that nine months of food restrictions suddenly disappear, moms go through major physical exertion during labor and delivery, and there’s a dramatic increase in caloric needs for breastfeeding (up to an extra 500 calories a day!).

Many moms are lucky enough to have people close by to cook or drop off meals — I’m not one of them. During my first pregnancy, I had a prolonged recovery period and could barely stand – let alone cook — during those first few weeks, so the chore fell to my partner. And…how can I be nice about this? He makes great scrambled eggs.

In retrospect, here’s what I wish we did: a meal kit delivery service. This now-abundant option didn’t even cross our minds at the time, so we alternated the expense of frequent takeout with the simplicity and savings of frozen dinners. But if you’re currently expecting, and even if your partner isn’t a natural cook, he or she can pull this off and you can have hearty, satisfying meals without the grocery shopping and guesswork. I tried two of the most popular services to report back on, so when friends and family ask what they can do, you have an answer: Order up these subscription-based meal kits, stat.

HELLO FRESH

Meal categories: meat & veggie, veggie only, family-friendly, calorie smart, quick, easy

Starts at $7.49 per serving (though there are often deals to be had!) but beware of “gourmet” options, which can boost the price quite a bit.

How your box arrives: All meals arrive organized with a special cold pack for perishables. One of the best parts about the HelloFresh experience was how simple they make prep—your ingredients are grouped by recipe in labeled brown paper bags to make it a cinch to pull out exactly what you need and eliminate any ingredient confusion with those who aren’t used to cooking (like mistaking a cucumber for zucchini—true story). All my produce was in tiptop shape and the meat was thoroughly cold.

Recipe presentation: Hello Fresh sends large 8 x 11 recipe cards with a drool-worthy photo of the meal you’re aspiring to on one side and ingredients and steps laid out on the other. There are also step by step photos which are really helpful for the less kitchen-savvy.

Results:
I put my husband to work to test out how a non-cook could handle meal prep in a post-postpartum situation. While there was a bit of cursing and clatter coming from the kitchen, he produced a delicious meal—butter-basted chicken breasts, candied-bacon brussel sprouts, and mashed potatoes — that looked 95% the same as the styled photo on the recipe card. I was impressed at the presentation, and even more so at the taste.

Consensus: While a novice may feel slightly overwhelmed by the steps involved, each HelloFresh meal is really as doable to a newbie as a more experienced cook. I even learned a few valuable tricks/lessons from the recipe cards myself.

View meal kits and subscribe at www.hellofresh.com.

DINNERLY

Meal categories: kid-friendly, dairy-free, vegetarian, one pot, under 30 minutes, meat, seafood, low calorie

Starts at $4.29 per serving

How your box arrives: Ingredients for all meals are packed together in one box, with perishable items in special cold packs. Two of my veggies were a little past their prime, but everything was as cold as necessary to keep meat and other ingredients fresh.

Recipe presentation: Dinnerly uses digital recipe cards to help save on expense and are a pro for the environment—but depending on your skill cooking from a recipe on your smartphone, it can be a little trickier to follow along. While step by step instructions are listed, it’s worth noting that step by step photos aren’t. Entree photos are enticing and easy to recreate.

Results: I made the Dinnerly meals myself, and while the basic premise is the same as other services, it was a tad more challenging to navigate recipes from a device (simply because my phone would turn off as I worked or I had to zoom in on instructions with wet hands). Meals were pretty easy and tasty—my biggest gripes are that a couple of my veggies were a bit beat up (I tossed a kind of gnarly potato and some wilted greens) and that ingredients weren’t separated by recipe for the added convenience. Also, one recipe card was a little outdated, noting certain ingredients in sizes/packaging that was different from what was actually in my box, leading to a couple minutes of confusion. But weigh these minute inconveniences against the value—this is the most affordable meal kit box out there—and see if they truly matter in the end.

Consensus: Dinnerly’s meals were simple and delicious—emphasis on simple. They’re perfect entry-level recipes for those not well acquainted with their kitchen, but if you’re a more experienced chef seeking more adventurous fare and to expand your skills, you might not find what you’re looking for here. Dinnerly does do a good job of including basics (like the Lemony Chicken and Broccoli I made) with more global-inspired dishes (like Coconut Curry Ramen) that are still easy to make.

View meal kits and subscribe at www.dinnerly.com.

Side notes: Most subscription meal kits assume you have basic pantry staples, like olive oil, salt, and butter stocked—but provide the more exotic and recipe-specific items (think tamari or sour cream).

And finally, if you just need some inspiration—HelloFresh generously offers some of their “hall of fame” recipes for free online, and they even have a cookbook out.

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