UPDATE: December 3, 2014: After this blog went live, we received some questions about Greenling and local farmers. In a followup post, we went straight to the source to find out what "local" means and to answer the following: does Greenling really help local farmers?
It's always lame to hear about people talk about how busy they are. We're all busy these days. With that being said, as someone who's currently juggling a dual career as a writer and as an IT consultant, I'm probably busier than most.
My days usually start between 4 and 6 a.m. I get up, write for a few hours, then put on my consultant garb and go downtown to take care of my IT clients.
Lunchtime is almost always a "working" lunch. I may interview a chef or check out a new restaurant. Houston's dining scene is so incredibly active that there's almost always some kind of event or review visit in the evening. To retain some personal sanity (and get to see my college-aged kids who are still living at home), I try and stick to a rule that I only go out on assignment every other night.
Despite the intense schedule, I love my life and my work, even when I feel, as Bilbo says in The Fellowship of the Ring, "stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread." Homecooked meals have become precious to me. It's a time when I have control over what goes into my family's mouths. People love reading about luxurious foods--fried chicken, tamales, cocktails and complicated works of edible art--but one should not live on that every day.
I love vegetables and feel better when my diet is more balanced. Conversely, when I've had a day where nary a green thing has ended up on my plate, I feel that, too. I adore the Eastside Farmer's Market on Saturdays, but often either don't get to go or relish a precious day at home too much to want to leave.
I'd been eyeing the Greenling deliveries for several months and finally took the plunge about two months ago. Greenling sources produce and other locally-made food items, gathers and assortment and delivers the goods right to customers' doors in bright plastic boxes. It's a joy to up a bin and see out the assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. They are tools for creative home cooking. On some weeknights, though, I don't even have time for that. That's where the meal kits come in.
The vegetarian meal kits are usually about $25 and easily feed four. Are you paying a premium versus cooking at home? Absolutely. Someone had to evaluate the produce, come up with a recipe, test the recipe, cut up and gather ingredients and pack it up for you. That's worth something--about an hour, in my estimation, and it's far below what I'd pay to take the family out. I can't even take them down to 59 Diner for less than $40.
It also removes the excuse of, "I just can't cook tonight. I'm too tired." Instead of sending in a to-go order to Chipotle, my brain instead goes, "Come on, lazy. It's already all chopped up for you. Get in the kitchen and get going."
The Greenling meal kits I've prepared take about 20 minutes of active time. Put some olive oil in a pan, sauté some onions and garlic, throw in some other ingredients. Let it simmer, go away and answer emails for 15 minutes. Come back, do a few more things and dinner is ready.
A soup kit is less expensive and runs about $14. The butternut squash-apple soup was plenty for a light dinner for four people.
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There's nothing stopping you from adding your own ingredients to the kits. I find that the basic recipe is underseasoned for our tastes, so I always end up throwing in extra spices. I recently made a vegetarian tortilla soup kit and it was a great excuse to halve some cherry tomatoes we had laying around and toss them in. The kit also came with fixing to have black bean quesadillas on the side. It made for a terrific lunch.
I do feel a little guilty about the plethora of little plastic containers the individual ingredients are packed in. They go into the recycle bin, but it would be neat if the ingredients were packed in containers you could wash and send back to Greenling when they pick up the green bins and replace them with new ones filled with a fresh round of produce.
The only other beef I have is I wish they didn't require a long lead time for orders. There's only one delivery day a week to my area. I don't necessarily want a delivery every week, and sometimes by the time I decide I want one, it's too late to get it in a timely manner.
Overall, though, the service is great. Whether I come up with a random meal to use the fresh produce or make a meal kid, I go to bed that night feeling like a decent mom. That's worth a lot more than the premium I'm paying for someone else to come up with an idea and chop up veggies for me.