There was more than the usual grumbling on Twitter this week when the Wellingtonista (slash some of the individuals contained within) tweeted about the food bags they received from My Food Bag. Here is the thing: in order to be able to review something, we have to see it/hear it/taste it/use it. So yes of course we accept freebies. We always aim to make it very clear when we have been given something rather than paying for it. We only write good things about something if it’s actually good. And My Food Bag is very good at what it does.

If  you’re unfamiliar with the concept:

“By bringing you new recipes, ideas and ingredients each week, we want to take the chore out of cooking. We’re replacing that sense of dread as to what you’re going to cook, with eager anticipation of what might be in your weekly food bag.”

The recipes are planned out by Nadia Lim, who we enjoyed at Wellington on a Plate last year, and the company is chaired by Theresa Gattung, who whatever you may have thought of her time at Telecom is doing really really great stuff with Wellington SPCA now.

To cover our bases/cater to our wider audience, I played the role of a childless yuppie and got the gourmet foodbag designed for two people, and Martha took the classic one for four people. She’ll share her experiences at the bottom of this post.

Joanna’s thoughts on the gourmet bag

Foodbag foodI am very much the target market for this. I love to cook, but but when I get home from work it’s generally pretty late and I lack inspiration. Given that I accept I won’t own a house anywhere I want to live until my parents die, I have an okayish amount of disposable income that I like to spend on decent things. Often it’s easier to just go out for dinner rather than cook for one, so I was excited by the prospect of having everything there ready for me.

My first thought on unpacking the bag was wow, this is a lot of food, and it’s packaged beautifully. All the produce was lovely and fresh, and the meat was of gorgeous quality – snapper caught off Waiheke Island, Freedom Farm pork, and free range chicken . I liked how almost everything was pre-measured (obviously bought in bulk and then redone for individuals). The recipe cards and folder were pretty to look at, and there were extra treats included, like scorched almonds and a lovely-smelling candle. Fun! The delivery woman offered to put it in the kitchen for me too, and was super friendly, which was an added bonus.

The gourmet foodbag is $140, including delivery, which works out to be $17.50 per serving (not counting leftovers).  That’s not cheap, but if you break it down further, it starts to become more justifiable – Countdown charge $13 for delivery, and not having to do the shopping or planning cooking saved me at least two hours (and I generally put my time at $25 an hour when thinking about things like whether cleaners are worth it, etc).  Then there’s the variety and quality of the ingredients. I put three kinds of herbs in the bulgar wheat salad – that would cost $12 alone at the supermarket, and that’s before you get started on the feta and the preserved lemon, things you can’t actually buy in small amounts.  Plus, at the end of the week there were leftover veges, and if I was a person with a smaller appetite, there would have been more dinners that I could have taken for lunches. However, the freshness of the foodbag played against this a little bit too, because no one wants to be the dick reheating fish at work, and also, microwaved venison doesn’t appeal. The bulgar wheat salad made a faaabulous lunch though.

snapper with red pesto and brocoliniIf I had a partner who had a similar income to me (public servant salary, nothing glamorous), I would definitely be signing up to get a bag once a fortnight, because it would mean I’d be guaranteed to eat my veges (rather than missing the vegetable markets because I’m too hungover) and a wide variety of food. It saved me money in that I didn’t have to go out for dinner (oh the humanity, I know) so that was a saving on booze and taxis and staying out for “just one more drink” etc. I don’t recommend having friends over to dinner for four nights in a row unless you have a dishwasher though.

Since I don’t have a partner, ordering a foodbag regularly will remain a distant dream, but I may do it when I am scheduled to be very busy but have company planned. Or alternatively, you might see this and realise that you want a foodbag too, and you could leave a comment, and we could fall in love and move in together and  serve My Foodbags at our wedding?

Martha’s thoughts on the classic bag

I was stoked to snaffle this trial. I have three children and while I’ve always been a good cook,  frankly the joy of producing a meal every day has morphed into being  a fairly tedious chore. Having My Food Bag make the decision each day about what we’d be eating was liberating.

The bag isn’t cheap,  each meal is about $37 ($189 for five days). I did a tally on the Countdown website to see how much the food would cost, and it came in bang on $188. I think the reason each day costs as much as it does is that the portions are huge. We had leftovers every day, enough for the kids’ school lunches, and enough to cater for occasional guests.

As Joanna mentioned it also includes all the ingredients you need for each meal, so while I might make some jolly nice curries at home I probably steak and orzowouldn’t go out and buy lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves each time, and it was these touches that made the meals delicious. The quality of the food was great. Where possible it seemed they’d sourced organic, in fact the items that were organic they probably could have got away with not (rice, tomato paste), but I was pleased that they’d made the effort. Everything is cooked from scratch by the consumer, the bags don’t include premade sauces (except chutneys), so you are actually cooking, you’re just not thinking. Glen is a very competent cook, but doesn’t really revel in menu planning, and he was very pleased with the meal he cooked, a steak and orzo salad.

It’s probably obvious by now that I’m sold on the concept. Having seen the sheer quantity of  food it actually does seems like great value. I cannot justify handing over all my cooking unfortunately, but we’ll be going for the fortnightly option for sure.