There's a chance you made a New Year's resolution to eat healthier in 2018. You wanted to stick to a well-rounded diet, eat fresh vegetables, or make your own meals on weeknights. But now you're starting to struggle and wonder how you'll keep it up?
While food boxes, delivery programs, and meal kits certainly have their problems, including some packaging and environmental challenges, the local Bay Area and health-conscious companies that offer these services can be a useful option to keep you on track. Meal kits have become a booming business, with boxes arriving at your doorstep full of ingredients and directions all pre-packaged for your evening cooking. Even Ayesha Curry is getting in on the meal kit business. And Michelin-starred Dominique Crenn has partnered with the national company Chef'd to offer her meals in prepared kits.
There are kits for you to cook and pre-made meals for you to simply heat, like Methodology (which has a waiting list). There are local grocery providers who are getting into the meal business and meal providers getting into the restaurant business. Many of them even have options that stick to strict popular diets, if that's your thing.
While a lot of these programs are relatively new, CSAs (community-support agriculture) have actually been around for decades. The premise is that you get boxes of produce from your local farms delivered weekly or semi-weekly or even monthly. In exchange, you join and pre-pay for a membership, which helps the farm with orders and cash flow. Often the best way to find a CSA is just to talk to the farmers at your local farmers market. There are some larger providers, however, if you're not sure where to start, like organic Fully Belly Farm and Tara Firma Farms. We also outline some other options below for getting fresh food at your door.
Try these local meal kit companies, fresh farm Bay Area delivery options, and healthy prepared meals. Maybe one of them will keep you on on track in the new year.
Before it struggled and had to lay off employees in 2015, Good Eggs had long been the online spot for local farmers market items. You could have fresh bread and fresh strawberries delivered (in season) to your door. Now with a revamped business plan, Good Eggs also launched a meal kit service that brings you ingredients and recipe instructions for you to make your own farm-sourced meals. Ingredients come in less packaging than the standard meal kit, and are delivered with your regular Good Eggs' grocery order if you have one. The company says 85 percent of the food comes from local farms and the recipes rely on items they already stock, meaning the produce is fairly fresh. Three meals for the week, with three servings each, costs $75/week. There are vegetarian options.
Of the major national meal kit companies, Sun Basket is the most Bay Area-based. Executive chef Justine Kelly came from the famous Slanted Door restaurant. Much of the Sun Basket food is also sourced from farms in California or on the West Coast, and is predominantly organic and farmed with sustainable practices -- including seafood that conforms to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Watch List. A three-meal kit, with two servings per meal, cost approximately $72/week. Sun Basket also has a number of dietary options for your weekly meal plan: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, pescatarian, the Mediterranean diet, Paleo, or their healthy "lean & clean" choice.
Purple Carrot is the vegan version of your standard boxed meal kit. Other than the fact that all the recipes are plant-based, it's a fairly straight-forward meal kit service. Not strictly a Bay Area-based company, Purple Carrot was actually started on the East Coast and then expanded to the West Coast after New York Times food critic Mark Bittman joined the company. (He later left.) The vegan recipes are unique and sometimes time-intensive: eggplant falafel wraps. Purple Carrot also, perhaps oddly, has partnered with Tom Brady's TB12 Sports to offer "high-performance" meals. A plan with three meals each week, for two people, costs $72/week.
If you want to cook your own meals, Thistle isn't necessarily the system for you. These meals are pre-made and arrive in clear plastic containers in an insulated bag. These are healthy bowls, salads, soups, and parfaits. A tofu scramble or winter muesli might not be exciting for dinner, but are great for a mid-day meal or snack at the office. The meals are generally gluten-free and dairy-free, and you can build up your meal choices based on what kind of protein you want. The focus, though, is generally on healthy fats and foods low in sugar or sodium. Started in San Francisco as a pressed juice pop-up, Thistle also allows you to add a juice to your meals for an extra $6. For three meals per week, you'll pay $12/meal for vegan meals and $16/meal for meat options.
Kitava (formerly Mealmade)
If you're following a strict diet, then Kitava can be a life-saver. Originally called Mealmade and started as a delivery meal service in 2015, the healthy food company opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant called Kitava this past year, which we reviewed this past November. The restaurant now serves up meals that meet a variety of diets -- including Paleo and the strict Whole30 program. Meanwhile, the delivery program continues to bring those meals to people's homes. It's not exactly a meal kit, but rather a normal delivery service. Order dishes of plantain bowls, sweet potato mash, or zucchini noodles online. Meals cost $11-$16.
Started in 2010, Luke's Local has always been a small, local food delivery company, with a focus on sourcing high-quality meat, fish, produce, and dairy. But in the last couple years, Luke's has expanded to offer meals, chef's snacks (which change weekly), and boxed lunches -- all made in-house by the company's own chefs and butchers. With next-day delivery expanded around much of the Bay Area, Luke's probably delivers to your home Monday-Friday or you can find a pick-up location. There's also a catering arm and a store in Cole Valley that opened in late 2016. The Luke's Local meal bundle plan comes with two each of a meat meal, fish meal, veggie meal, and side salad for $75. Or you can opt for individual meals and sides, or any combination of groceries. A box includes all the meals, produce, meat, and items you've chosen for the week.
Inspired by the CSA modal, Three Stone Hearth calls itself a "community supported kitchen." That means there's a Three Stone Hearth store in Berkeley where you can pick-up orders from local producers at set times: fishery day or hot broth bar day. The worker-owned co-op also has individual or group deliveries for a fee. Almost everything is packaged in mason glass jars, which are then returned and recycled. Along with individual items, there are also weekly menus. Right now, for the winter, Three Stone is making hearty soups, beef stroganoff, quinoa salad, and baked spaghetti squash pie. Those meals are about $16-22, depending on serving size, and require a deposit on the glass jars.
If you simply want to participate in a CSA and get fresh, organic groceries delivered regularly, then Eat With the Seasons from Farmhouse Foods is an efficient option. Farmhouse Foods started as a single farm in Hollister, with their own CSA back in 2002, but has since expanded to create the Eat With the Seasons program, which partners with other local farms. The items offered vary based on production, demand, and season. Choose a pick-up or delivery option and what size you want for your membership, then choose any add-on options like salads or eggs or even granola, breads, and meats. There are also on-demand choices for a single delivery or pick-up if you don't want a subscription plan. Boxes are then delivered weekly in most of the Bay Area counties. A medium-sized box is $40/week. Or you can visit the cafe in Hollister.