Monday, November 16, 2015

Hacking My Food Bag

My Food Bag is old hat these days, positively mainstream (well, in the corporate world anyway). When it arrived in Wellington we were pretty interested (I'd watched the fanfare when it launched in Auckland) and signed up immediately.

It is pretty pricey, but depending on your circumstances can still be beneficial. I thought I'd share my tips on how to get the best out of it, because although the concept is great I reckon there are a few things you can do to maximise the benefits.

1. Give it a try before deciding you're in it for the long term

There is no minimum term so you can try it once and never touch it again. It is largely cooking from scratch and not everyone has time for that (especially during the working week) so don't stress if it's not you. The flip side is that giving it a go once is pretty doable, so there's not much to lose.

2. Don't assume you have to get the bag "designed" for your family

Do what suits you! When we first got it there were just the two of us, but we chose the Classic bag, which is designed to serve 4-5 people. We had it delivered fortnightly, which allowed us to continue our well-established habit of only cooking every second day, and having leftovers in between - and it's cheaper. I recommend you look at all the options and if you're not sure, try a couple of different ones. 

3. Make notes on the recipes you like - and throw out the ones you don't

In my mind, expanding your cooking repertoire is one of the biggest benefits of My Food Bag. You could just buy a new recipe book, but if you're like me you'll make one or two of the recipes and then stash it away. My Food Bag essentially forces you to try lots of new recipes - but that doesn't mean you'll love them all. 

We found the flavours and quantities of the recipes great, but sometimes there's room to simplify the process. Example: anytime kebab sticks are used we ignore that step altogether. Quicker to prep, easier to cook and easier to eat (unrelated: does anyone have alternative uses for kebab sticks? We seem to have accumulated quite a few). 

There's also sometimes a level of luxury that we don't need for everyday dinners, e.g. an extra drizzle sauce or sour cream for serving - so I'll make a note that it's optional if I intend to make the dish again. 

4. Use it for a while, then stop

I reckon My Food Bag is most beneficial when used for seasons in life. If you're looking for a menu reset it might make sense. If you're trying to break a takeaway habit it'll probably save you money and get you eating more healthily. If you are working too many hours it can save you the thinking time on what to have for dinner. But the benefits start to abate after a while. 

Partly this is because cooking new recipes all the time is more difficult than having a regular rotation. And partly because once you form new cooking habits they become more automatic, and maybe you don't need the magical ingredient delivery anymore. 

I recommend thinking about how long you might do it for (e.g. 3 months, 6 months, a year) and then re-evaluating at the end of that time. Have a break and see how much you miss it. And when you're not reaping the benefits anymore, stop. 

Life after My Food Bag

We got the Classic bag fortnightly for about a year. These days we get a veggie box delivered, and then plan our dinner menu using My Food Bag recipes (we have a few old favourites that sneak in as well). I flick through the current season's recipes in the folder and flag the ones that work with the week's produce, then write a shopping list for the ingredients we don't have on hand. It works pretty well for us, and doesn't take that long to plan and shop (maybe 15 minutes or so to pick the meals, and a few extra minutes in the supermarket or on the Countdown website). 

I'm pretty sure that the veggie content of our meals has increased, so we're eating better, and we definitely have a lot more variety in our menu now. The Little Monkey eats pretty much everything, though occasionally we'll add some yoghurt to spicier meals to suit his palate - but there's no need for separate cooking.

I'd definitely get the deliveries again - maybe when our new family member arrives and we're getting new routines sorted - but for now we're good with our hacked solution.

Have you tried My Food Bag or any similar services? How did you find it?


  1. I got the Classic when it first started. With two hungry boys, and myself, I was still buying a fair amount for breakfast and lunches so I stopped My Food Bag. I thought that some of the recipes were great and still use them. If I was alone, or only two adults, I would certainly consider it again

    1. Exactly Jenny - you still have to buy food for other meals so it's not a magical no-more-grocery-shopping solution. That definitely erodes the benefits a bit. But definitely some awesome recipes in there. :-)

  2. This is such a thorough write up with great tips. I've never tried My Food Bag before but I can see how the cooking from scratch part could suit or deter some people. I've been getting a produce box plus meat delivered fortnightly and I really enjoy the part where I get to make up recipes based on what is in season. It's hard work though and some people might not be bothered with that. I also prefer to cook enough for 4 to have leftovers, though we usually have them for lunch rather than the next day. We're so lucky to have lots of companies like this now that are listening to what users want and making life that little bit easier. I still have to go to the grocery to buy the bunny his preferred vegetables (he's a fussy eater) but it's nice not having to carry a week's worth of groceries home with me. I definitely look forward to delivery week. My schedule is to get meat and vege delivered fortnightly, top up vegetables weekly and do a big supermarket shop for non-perishables about once every 3-4 weeks. It doesn't always work out but that's the goal.

    1. Thanks Genie! I'm definitely more a baker than a cook so while I don't mind tweaking dinner recipes, unlike you I don't really enjoy inventing them. And I definitely don't enjoy cooking daily! So love that these companies are popping up. I'm quite jealous of you Auckland folk in the WOOP zone as that looks even better, though pricey. Definitely nice to minimise the supermarket trips! :-)

  3. My husband and I waited until our kids were away at University and it worked well although sometimes my husband finds the meals a bit rich and not quite to his liking but it has pushed us out of a food rut and I feel inspired after years of cooking for a family of x 4 and having to come up with inspiration/ideas every week/night. It's been refreshing

    1. It definitely helps to change things up a bit. Glad you've been enjoying it - and I have to say I am quite jealous of you being past the stage of cooking for the whole family. That's a very distant horizon for us. ;-)


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