As is the case in a lot of America, my household is capable of generating quite a bit of food waste. It’s unintentional, of course, and the impact of such waste on the environment is greatly curbed by Seattle’s composting program. But it’s still a fact of life that irks me, if for no other reason that it’s money (and potential) wasted. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the food supply is wasted each year; that’s unfathomable in a country where many also struggle with food or financial insecurity. And sure, individual-level solutions are no way to change the bigger problem, but I still wanted to cut down on my food waste and, if possible, cook healthier at home.
When I started getting ads for Hungryroot, a combined grocery shopping and meal delivery service that focuses on healthy food, I was already considering looking for a meal service that would help me and my wife eat more consistently and cut down on wasted food. My idea was to find something affordable that would allow me to get the bulk of my groceries while supplementing occasionally with items from Imperfect Foods or Safeway. The problem: Most meal delivery services cover one meal a day, at best. The other problem: Some meal services expect you to prepare all the ingredients for your recommended meal, in hopes of offering you the gourmet chef experience. That kind of cooking can be fun, but on a daily basis, prep work is a barrier that can be difficult to overcome. If I was going to get any use out of a meal service, the ingredients would have to be pre-prepped, or at least largely ready to go.
Hungryroot looked promising because it addressed my biggest needs; Its largest box contains either eight two-serving or four four-serving meals, along with up to 10 each of an assortment of ready-to-eat breakfast items, snacks and desserts. At $225.81, it certainly isn’t the cheapest rate for groceries I’ve ever paid, but it wasn’t bad. (The $60 discount for a first order on Labor Day weekend didn’t hurt either.) I assumed it would be a one-off purchase. In the month since I’ve first tried Hungryroot though, I’ve found it an indispensable way to both create delicious meals and make sure that fewer groceries go wasted. And, as a bonus, I’m also starting to find a bit more creativity in the kitchen—a welcome development in such a dismal time.
Putting together Hungryroot’s meals has been not only doable, but fun, specifically because they aim to make the cooking process as simple as possible. Most of the meals only require that you dirty one dish (usually a skillet or an oven sheet) and all of them can be completed in under 20 minutes. Some are done in less than 10. So far, I’ve particularly enjoyed their Thai Peanut Kohlrabi Noodles, their avocado toast with smoked salmon and their harvest bowls with cashew cheddar cheese. The recipes also helpfully include recommendations on potential ingredients you can add if you want to make a slightly bigger meal. That invitation to make the dishes your own is a small but thoughtful way to remind customers that the company is hoping to provide cooking ideas, rather than recipes that are set in stone. It encourages more innovation. Instead of dreading the task of making a meal each day, I look forward to using up and playing with the ingredients Hungryroot has sent me.
The ready-made snacks, breakfasts and sweets Hungryroot has sent me so far have also been interesting and delicious. So far, I’ve received snack-sized hummus cups, sous vide eggs, bean salads, quinoa cups and even curry. The company’s black bean brownie batter is amazing eaten right out of the container, and some of the other desserts, like chocolate covered banana bites and soft pumpkin spice cookies, are nice treats as well. The company is constantly expanding its selection, so while customers can customize each order, they won’t get too bored if they decide to just let Hungryroot build their cart for them.
While I’ve so far enjoyed Hungryroot, there are few drawbacks worth noting. First, as mentioned above, Hungryroot isn’t the cheapest choice, and it may not be right for large families. In my experience, the company’s largest box provides about two weeks worth of groceries for my household, but others may not find that it stretches quite as far. Secondly, Hungyroot sets a customer’s delivery to weekly by default. You can change your delivery calendar to more closely reflect what you need, but they don’t make the process as easy or intuitive as it could be, and the decision to make the delivery weekly by default could mean that you accidentally order food you don’t need if you forget to skip an order. Still, Hungryroot has undoubtedly helped me build a routine for cooking dinner, and it’s increased the amount of whole grains and vegetables I eat on a regular basis. The fact that customers can easily customize their meal options to exclude gluten or animal products is also a bonus.
Meal services can be a bit of a splurge, but if you’re looking for a way to cook more healthy food and actually use the groceries you cook, then Hungryroot can help you on both counts. For some, the process of putting together the daily meal may be relaxing, but for those of us plagued with culinary decision fatigue, knowing that a healthy dinner is only a few minutes of effort away is an enormous comfort.