My girlfriend and I like to have a lot of control over what we eat. We also like to cook. For the first year we dated, I would cook steaks and veggies for dinner a few times a week and we’d eat out or order Sprig the rest of the time. But we found it really difficult to eat the way we wanted to when we were out in San Francisco. Surrounded by delicious burritos made by hipsters, $14 cocktails with weird names, and places with fresh-shucked oysters on top of everything.
We were spending a lot of time and money eating food that didn’t make us feel good and wasn’t healthy. In fact, I spent just under $10k eating out last year – just on my personal credit card, not including cash expenses or my corporate card.
So we did an experiment in January: we didn’t eat out, didn’t drink booze, and ate our ideal way. Within a few days we felt much healthier, had less mental fog, and had dropped a few pounds. By the end of the month we’d also dramatically reduced our spending.
But now we were encountering new issues: We were running out of recipes we liked that fit our tastes and constraints, tired of making meal decisions 7 nights a week, annoyed by tedious & time-consuming shopping, and frustrated by trying to track down specialty ingredients. We spent days trying to find Kaffir lime leave for a curry we wanted to make and after using 3 or 4 leaves for their recipe, we eventually threw the rest away. I hate wasting food.
So our month-long experiment had been a big success for us and we’d checked a lot of boxes. But we needed to make some major changes if we were going to have any hope of keeping up our new habits long term.
Fortunately, I had a chance encounter with a good buddy of mine who had me over for a home-cooked meal. Two of his roommates started cooking right after us and they made a delicious pork loin from a meal service delivered to their front-door every week. I’d heard of services like this before and had even used Sprig (ready-to-eat meals delivered to your door) when I’ve been too busy to cook.
We did a bunch of research, talked to our friends who used different services, and finally found the right service for us: Sun Basket
Our core priorities were healthy, low carb, under $15 per meal, meaty, ready-to-cook meals & recipes delivered to our door. Here’s what we got with Sun Basket:
- Low carb
- Cost-effective (under $15 per meal)
- Organic, non-GMO
- Ready-to-cook (we enjoy cooking!)
- Reasonable portions
- Sustainably grown & raised
- Meat (they cater to vegetarian, paleo, and gluten free eaters)
- Pre-measured ingredients (no more throwing away excess ingredients)
- Scheduling flexibility
- Free shipping and sustainable packaging
How Sun Basket Works
Every Tuesday evening we get a box delivered to our door filled with 2 portions of 3 healthy meals. The box contains every ingredient we need, except the occasional dash of salt, pepper, water, and cooking oil. Everything else is included and you won’t need any exotic cooking instruments (so far we haven’t even needed a blender, food processor, or fancy mixer. A few stove-top pans, a baking sheet, and basic cooking utensils are all we’ve needed. Oh, we do some occasional zesting and grating – you’ve been warned.
Every week our box contains recipe cards, three brown paper bags with all of the ingredients for each meal, our three proteins, and all the ice packs insulation and other packaging. The recipe cards have a photo of the finished meal, a brief description, instructions for how to prepare and cook the meal, and estimates for prep time, cook time, and calories per serving.
My One Complaint
My one and only complaint about Sun Basket is actually with the information on these recipe cards: the times are consistently on the low end by a few minutes (for us at least) and some of the recipes have vague or inconsistent instructions. The reason this isn’t a big deal for me is that if this newish service is going to have some kinks in it, then this is a fine place for them to be. The food in our box has been fresh, on time, and not missing any ingredients every single time. Spending an extra minute decoding a recipe or having to closely examine the photo to find out what the chef means by “finely chop” today is a minor, solvable issue.
So why did we pick Sun Basket over Blue Apron, Plated, Hello Fresh and whatever else is out there? Simple: We both generally feel like crap when we eat breads, pastas, cereals, sugar, and legumes. We really try hard to avoid carbs, sugars, and processed foods. Sun Basket is the only service that we could find that consistently had options that met all of our needs. Sun Basket has three broad classes of meals each week – Vegetarian, Paleo, and Gluten Free – and we feel like we have plenty of options picking from the paleo and gluten free recipes.
Meal Tastiness, Ingredient Quality & Variety
I had a lot of expectations for our first few boxes. But the thing that I didn’t really expect was how damn good the food would be. Simply put: the meals are delicious. We’re being exposed to ingredients and meals that we would have never thought to pick or cook ourselves – or even with the half-dozen cookbooks we already have.
As I mentioned above, when we weren’t eating hipster burritos, we were cooking a lot of steaks and veggies. My steaks are great but they’re a bit time consuming to dry age and cook. And after a few months we were starting to get bored of them and would be tempted to eat out. Oh, and they were like $20, just for the steak (more on cost later). Every single one of our Sun Basket meals has had more ingredients, more textures, and more flavors than anything I’ve cooked in the past 5 years. The ingredients are typically from a nearby farm and the quality has been superb. Everything is certified organic & non-GMO. Our meals are far more colorful than they’ve ever been.
Shipping & Packaging
Shipping is convenient & free (aka baked into the price already). The packaging is all either reusable, recyclable, or compostable.
The box is cleverly insulated with “compostable denim trimmings discarded after the manufacture of yellow jeans,” packed into plastic sleeves and packed with non-toxic, no-sweat ice packs to keep the ingredients inside cold and fresh. We’re typically home when our box arrives so we can open and refrigerate it’s contents right away, but I would guess the box would stay cold for at least 24 hours given how well-engineered the packaging is.
Every other week we put the ice packs and insulation into a single box and schedule a free pickup for the contents to be taken back to the warehouse where they are sanitized and reused.
Scheduling & Pausing
Pausing a box is easy and quick – which was really important to us since we don’t want to pay for food we’re not going to eat and I think I already mentioned that we hate wasting food. It takes about 30 seconds to pause for a week and we’ve already used this feature for a recent vacation. Ingredients for each meal are placed in a brown paper bag so you can easily hand the bag, the vacuum sealed protein, and the recipe card to a friend or neighbor if you won’t be able to cook it.
Currently, Sun Basket is available on the West Coast (CA, WA, CO, UT, OR, AZ, NV, & ID) but I suspect that they’re working hard to reach the rest of the US as soon as they can.
Cost & The Meal-in-a-Box Model
At $11.49 per meal, we’re getting 3 healthy dinners for 2 people for under $70 per week. We were spending more on a single meal out before we switched to Sun Basket.
The business model is brilliant by the way – they can buy fresh, organic garlic or kale or whatever in bulk for cheap and portion it out for us. This business isn’t about more quantity, it’s about the right quantity… and quality. If we were to try to buy the ingredients for one of these meals at a grocery store we like, we’d not only spend more money (by at least 2x), but we’d also get fewer variety, and end up wasting more food.
Portions & Our Other Meals
Speaking of portions: I’m a pretty average eater for a guy and I’ve never been left hungry after eating one of our Sun Basket meals. About once a week (once every three meals) we’ll have some leftovers.
The three meals in our box arrive on Tuesdays which means that we usually eat them Tuesday, Wednesday, and either Thursday or Friday. We make a hearty stew most Sundays or Mondays that we jar and freeze for lunches & dinners throughout the week – it’s really nice to always have healthy, ready-to-heat meals around. We’ll still have one of my steaks at least once a week and we’ll often cook with friends another night. Sun Basket has integrated into our lives really well and we’re big fans. We’ve actually discussed ordering two boxes a week but haven’t given that a try yet.
Sun Basket as an Investment
Okay so why did I call this an investment? For $11.49 per meal, I’m purchasing a ton of planning, decision making, shopping, travel, waste-free portioning – all things I don’t enjoy when it comes to dinner. So by using Sun Basket I’m investing my money to preserve my time, energy, and willpower while focusing on the thing I love about dinner: cooking and eating meaty tastiness.
If you’re interested in giving Sun Basket a try, get $30 off your first Sun Basket order now.