So you’d like to have a make-at-home meal kit or ready-made dinner delivered straight to your door, but you don’t want to support a problematic, venture capital-backed behemoth like Blue Apron?
You’re in luck! More than a few Greater Boston-based businesses offer meal delivery with a side of sustainability, whether you want to experience the joy of cooking locally grown fruits and veggies yourself, crave healthy, hormone-free ingredients on a fully-prepped plate or are the kind of person who prefers poutine to produce. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites here.
Just Add Cooking
When it made its debut just over four years ago, Boston’s Just Add Cooking looked very different than it does today. It was initially conceived as a cook-at-home kit company that could compete with Blue Apron and other national meal delivery options. But chief gastronomic officer Amanda Mayo explains that the focus changed entirely after Just Add Cooking’s team took a long, hard look at the way their own lifestyles differed from what they were doing at work.
“We’re composting at home, we’re eating locally, we’re trying to watch our carbon footprints, we recycle like crazy,” says Mayo, who also cofounded the local meal delivery kit company Pantry (R.I.P.) in Brookline. She says close to 90 percent of the staff are bike commuters; she’s answering questions in a conference room where she’s surrounded by three bikes. “We really love the Boston food community—the farmers, the fishermen, the local producers of great products. If that’s what we’re bringing into our houses, why shouldn’t we be sharing that with our customers?”
Part of that philosophy is supporting local chefs and businesses who share their dedication to sustainability. They’ve developed dishes with Jody Adams and last year worked with Bondir‘s Jason Bond. Somerville Bread Company is a new collaborator, and they’re also making meals with Josh Lewin of Juliet in Union Square. Mayo just put the finishing touches on a recipe for a butternut squash soup topped with a parmesan crisp and Taza cacao nibs. “It’s that perfect combination of chocolate and cheese … and it’s a 30-minute meal!” Mayo exclaims. “My kids will eat it.”
To Mayo and the Just Add Cooking crew, that’s the most important thing: making cooking accessible while emphasizing conscientious consumption.
“We don’t want to make cooking easier for people at the expense of our planet,” she says simply.
Cuisine En Locale
JJ Gonson’s Cuisine En Locale is a lot of things: a bar, a restaurant, a music venue, an event hall. But in 2005, before it was any of those things, Cuisine En Locale was a program called ONCE a Week, a CSA-style meal delivery service and catering company with a commitment to dishing out balanced meals made with local ingredients. That mission endures in 2017—almost every farm she works with today is located within 100 miles of Cuisine En Locale’s Highland Ave. home.
“We say that when you eat with us, it’s political action,” Gonson says. “You’re directly paying farmers. Thirty percent of everything we take goes directly to a farmer. We write checks to farmers, not to distributors.”
And even when it comes to distribution, Gonson and co. keep it local. Cuisine En Locale works closely with the bike delivery business Metro Pedal Power, which both delivers produce to her kitchen and delivers completed meals to customers around town. She says it’s way easier to get local food now than it was 10 years ago—but it’s still not as easy as it could be. “I don’t think anybody realizes what they’re eating here in Boston,” she says. “Most of what we get comes from much, much, much further away.” She doesn’t lay the blame on consumers. After all, it’s hard to know where food is coming from. How can you tell where that tomato you pick up in the supermarket was grown? To that end, she says she’s happy when people patronize Cuisine En Local and any place that’s doing anything local rather than supporting businesses and restaurants that make no effort whatsoever.
“There is a real focus for me on growing and supporting local farms so that there are local farms,” Gonson says. “Fighting against those monster distributors is really hard.”
Several years ago, al FreshCo founder Laurel Valchuis was working on an organic vegetable farm in Ireland that yielded a surplus of produce—and no one knew what to do with it. They didn’t want to waste the food, and members of their CSA didn’t want to take more than they could store and prepare. As a graduate student who had investigated issues related to food access, she saw an opportunity.
“There are so many barriers to people being able to eat good, local vegetables,” Valchuis says. “I came up with the meal kits as a solution to the barriers of price, convenience and knowledge when it comes to food that’s available seasonally.” When she moved back to Boston, she continued trekking to farmers markets throughout the area with her tricycle to sell kits chock full of local produce. Eventually, she founded al FreshCo, a provider of healthy, sustainably sourced make-at-home meals.
Things have changed a little for Valchuis and al FreshCo in the three years since she started the company—the meals are delivered by bike rather than trike these days, for example—but she’s as committed as ever to marrying sustainability and convenience for customers. She communicates with local farmers to learn what they have a surplus of, and if there’s been a banner year for, say, napa cabbage, she’ll work that into upcoming recipes. The emphasis is on creating balanced meals where vegetables are the main focus, rounding those out with grains and proteins. But Valchuis is inspired by her grandmother’s cooking, too. She’s reimagined her shepherd’s pie to create a “cottage pie” with lentils, carrots and rutabaga that’s topped with mashed potatoes.
“I started making New England, vegan versions of those sorts of homey, cozy dishes,” she says. “It’s traditional New England cooking with our own twist on it.”
Bonus: Use the code “scout” for a 10 percent discount on your al FreshCo order. Good through February 5.
Boston Burger Company’s BurgaBox
Boston Burger Company founder and co-owner Chuck Sillari was pretty skeptical about meal delivery kits like HelloFresh when one of his employees had one delivered to the restaurant’s offices last winter. “I said, ‘I can’t believe this really goes on in the world! Seriously?'” Sillari laughs.
But the more research he did, the more Sillari realized the appeal of a service that combined the fun of cooking with the convenience of having ingredients delivered right to your door. The only problem?
“I’m looking at the meals, and nothing’s too exciting. It’s all kind of healthy—a lot of greens, a lot of veggies,” he explains. In August, Boston Burger Co. launched a make-at-home kit for carnivores who want to spice up (or meat up, or cheese up) their meal delivery. The BurgaBox comes with simple cooking instructions and everything you need to make beloved Boston Burger Co. creations like the Hot Mess and the Green Monstah at home. Meat lovers can also subscribe to the BurgaBox of the Month Club, which debuts a never-before-seen sandwich, fry and mac and cheese each month. And you don’t have to be local to get in on the beefy box. They can be shipped around the country, and Sillari says they’ve already delivered kits to hungry Boston transplants and long-distance fans in each of the 48 continental states.
“We want to educate people about what they’re actually going to get—making them comfortable enough ordering a burger through the mail,” Sillari says. “It’s the craziest thing you’ve ever heard of.”
Red Apple Lunch
Red Apple Lunch founder and CEO Lisa Farrell wants to keep her company small and locally focused. She tested a pilot lunch kit program in Arlington and Cambridge in fall 2015, and in October, she launched Red Apple Lunch in earnest. She now delivers lunches to 10 towns in Greater Boston.
But keeping things local can present a challenge when your customers are kids and most of your bread is baked by Iggy’s. “My youngest customers are three years old,” Farrell chuckles. “They just can’t bite it!” (Those kids get whole wheat pullman bread with the crusts cut off instead.)
As a busy, working mom, Farrell—a former pre-med and environmental studies student who’s always been interested in the intersection of healthy eating and sustainability—knows too well that making well-balanced lunches at home is a time-consuming task. But cafeteria food can vary widely by school district, and there isn’t always a guarantee it’ll be healthy. With Red Apple Lunch, kids get fully-prepped packages that can contain everything from turkey and cheddar sandwiches to soba noodles, with plenty of customization options for picky eaters. And you can feel good about this meal delivery option, as Red Apple Lunch is a one-for-one company. Every purchase provides a healthy snack pack to a child in need. Lunches start at $6 a pop, and there’s no delivery charge. And the midday meals are now available in small, medium and large.
“The second most frequent question I was getting [from parents] was, ‘What about my lunch?’” Farrell laughs.
BONUS: Use the code SVLLE Loves RAL to get your first week free—a $25 value—through 2/28.
“We like to call it ‘nourishment,'” explains the Foodery cofounder Mike Speights. “Our nourishment philosophy, and our ingredient standards, are super important to us.”
In sourcing the meats, grains and produce that make up the Foodery’s delivery options, Speights and his team stick to hormone-free, non-GMO ingredients. There’s no high fructose corn syrup in their fully-prepped meal offerings, and there’s no aspartame, either. In fact, a banned ingredients list is prominently featured on the Foodery’s site, alongside information about the local farms they work with—most of which are along the East Coast, from New Jersey to Maine, and many of which are located right here in New England. “It’s food the way our grandparents used to make it, from smaller farms.”
It isn’t, however, your grandparents’ user interface. In addition to his passion for entrepreneurship and fascination with the modernization of food, Speights—himself a time-strapped thirty-something—wanted to make it as easy as possible for other busy folks to get well-balanced meals that suited their lifestyle. As such, the Foodery website is gorgeous, fast, intuitive and easy to use. And it’s home to a massive menu, which changes weekly and includes at least one brand new meal each week. This week’s dishes include a chicken mac and cheese made with cauliflower, peas and pasta from Capone Foods in Union Square, but the Foodery has more than 140 recipes in its arsenal. There are no subscription plans—Speights says the goal here is to offer convenient, week-to-week options that accompany a range of lifestyles. “We’re a food business,” he says. “But we’re equally a tech business.”
BONUS: Use the code Scouteatwell2017 and get 20 percent off your first order with the Foodery through 1/27.