Gluten Free 'My Food Bag' Review
For almost five years now, I've been gluten free.
It started with the gut healing journey for my daughter's allergies and eczema (now resolved) but during that time I also discovered I had high levels of thyroid antibodies commonly associated with a condition called Hashimotos in which being gluten free is also important. So along the way I've learned a lot about the benefits of eating a predominantly wholefoods diet so despite some of the raised eyebrows I get, I am committed to being gluten free for a long time - with a focus on real food rather than processed substitutes that are likely to still contribute to inflammation.
I'm sure you've all heard of My Food Bag by now. We were living in Australia when Nadia Lim was becoming well-known on the telly, but certainly her healthy glow and relaxed but informed approach to food has been really interesting to follow since we've been back. I'm not surprised by the success of the concept - it's simple but clever and very appealing. Bags of delicious fresh ingredients being delivered straight to your door with some not onerous and tasty recipes in which their nutrition value has also been considered. The target market is busy families and individuals who may want to save time but not sacrifice their dinners. The Gluten Free option is much needed. Many people are now wanting or needing to avoid gluten in their diets but may struggle with variety, a feeling of deprivation or understanding that gluten free can actually mean tasty good food the whole family, gluten free or not, can enjoy. Given the amount of time I spend talking about food online - with my health coaching clients but also in both my 6,000+ strong communities: Healing Food Allergies (and more) Naturally and Real Food in New Zealand, it's probably no surprise that some days I have little mojo left for our own meals. I've never really been that good at lunch - it's the meal we're most likely to buy out - so breakfasts and dinners have tended to be my focus and that's what I tend to showcase, but lately in between a growing business and busier life, dinner had begun to feel a little overwhelming (in between some great flashes of inspiration which made up my "dinner thread" posts) so I really was looking for something to make the creation of our dinners feel fun again. So given all this and the fact people were beginning to ask for my thoughts, I approached the MFB team. I received a one week trial and this is my review. I'll share my overall thoughts and then a breakdown by each meal.
// M Y S U M M A R Y
* Firstly, with the delivery - instantly I felt more inspired and excited. Not having to think about what I was going to make for dinner for the next five days, plus two kind lads delivering all the ingredients to my door gave me that chance. Thanks to an email, I already knew what the meals would be, so despite having a rough day that day, the sense of gratitude for all this just turning up at my door was immediate.
* This concept is around delivering the ingredients for five creative and inspiring recipes designed to feed 2 adults and 2-3 younger children (we currently have 1). My question was always going to be around how "real" the food was - as I say above, I'm not really into GF substitutes so I was pleased to see that there was only one item that left me a little cool and that was the wraps (more on those later).
* On your first order, you'll get a binder in which you to put all your recipe cards but also with some information on how it works and some other handy information.
* The ingredients are high quality and fresh - and ingredients were generous. Not organic sadly, but the meat is free range and the vegetables crunchy, and easily identifiable ingredients that for the most part I often buy anyway. The serves are also quite large so you do end up with leftovers for lunch the next day so keep this in mind when considering the cost.
* You will need to ensure you have some pantry staples on hand - an email tells you what these are.
* These bags are endorsed by Coeliac New Zealand.
* The recipes come with options on how to make them dairy-free where possible, however this bag probably wouldn't be consistently suitable for a totally dairy free family as you'll be paying for a few ingredients that won't be needed. (Let me know MFB when you're planning your paleo/organic bags - there is a demand for these!)
* Both my husband and I agreed the whole experience is good value for money, and the GF bags are only priced nominally Family Food bags higher which is to be expected. We both said we would contemplate buying again in the future, perhaps not on a regular basis because of where we are at, but in those times when I need to regain my mojo or life just gets really busy, these will be a very welcome addition to our kitchen - some of those recipes were just so good
// W H A T W E A T E
Salmon with Lemon, Potato and Leek Crush
This was our favourite meal - what a way to start! That potato and leek crush was seriously good and I'm so making it again! Before the feta went in, I took out a small portion for my daughter who got more butter added instead.
I could not believe the size of the salmon portion, it was HUGE and fresh, and tasted divine. Instructions were easy to follow (and so I was able to avoid my usual trick of having the skin stuck to the pan) - this was also a quick meal. The whole meal was just lick the plate delicious. So far, we're pretty happy.
Moroccan Chicken with Pilaf, Salad and Eggplant Aioli
This was my five year old daughter's favourite! She asked what I did to the chicken to make it so much yummier than usual. That Moroccan chicken spice mix is another winner.
The salad dressing was okay bit if I made this again I'd make a different salad. I'm guessing this was here to keep things simple as it took only 35 minutes from go to eat. It was also an easy meal to make dairy free - you just needed to replace the butter with oil and that's it!
I love white rice (it doesn't love me though, sob!), however I often think it makes quite a nice addition even for a mostly grain free family if you cook it in chicken bone broth which is what we did.
Pork, Egg and Vegetable Pad Thai
I don't usually buy much pork so I'd never cooked pork sirloin before. They provided Harmony Free Range thankfully... and it ended up being super tender and tasty so that was a nice surprise.
The meal plates so well. We all love to eat with our eyes so all those lovely colours really popped! I added a touch of fish sauce, but also replaced the GF soy sauce with coconut aminos and with no sweet chilli sauce, I subbed with some chilli powder and a tiny squeeze of tomato sauce for sweetness.
It was a great dish though, and I'm pretty sure my daughter liked it too - I have a picture as evidence of her lifting the finished plate up to her mouth drinking all the delicious juice left.
Beef and Vegetable Quesadillas with Sour Cream and Salad
Who doesn't like Mexican? Not us! We make it often at home. This meal was okay but probably our least favourite of the week and there has to be one. I'm really glad I made some guacamole to go with it. My biggest issue wasn't the recipe itself but the wraps from Gerry's - they were not very pleasant and I'd be happy never to eat those again. I hear in other weeks bags include things like the Phoenix GF pasta which sounds like quite a decent alternative.
But hey, it's Mexican and there was sour cream and cheese which is pretty exciting for us.
Roast Kumara, Cauliflower and Feta Frittata with Warm Tomato Relish
Perfect for early autumn, I'd never made a frittata with sour cream as part of the egg mixture because and it did make it delicious and creamy! Overall a really nice combination and enjoyed both making and eating.
We saved this meal for a night my daughter wasn't home for dinner because it contained three types of dairy - sour cream, grated colby and feta - there was no way of making it dairy free!
The tomato relish was really yum - I had no idea you could make it so easily at home. I didn't have red wine vinegar, so subbed with Apple Cider Vinegar and only used 1T coconut sugar instead of 2T normal sugar.
// M Y O V E R A L L T H O U G H T S
This is what I liked about the GF bags:
* Generous portions
* Fresh high quality produce
* Free range meat * Flavourful meals
* Saves time shopping and meal planning
* Stress free cooking with easy to follow recipe instructions
* Most meals are ready within 30 minutes * Helps get your cooking mojo back
* Introduction to recipes or ingredients you may not normally consider or know about * Some meals can be easily made dairy free
* The GF bags are endorsed by Coeliac New Zealand * Most gluten free options are what I'd consider real food: kumara, potato, rice
* It turns up at your door! * Most of the time you get leftovers for the next day * Lessens the need for takeaways/convenient foods * Less food wastage * Not hugely more expensive than the Family bags. While it was overall a great experience, yes it's a pricier option. At $179 for the week, or $7.16 per plate this is not going to be an option for every family, but for the convenience, quality and inspiration, if you can afford it, I think this is a great combination that offers good value. My biggest issue was with those Gerry's Wraps - and while not every meal was amazing, overall it worked well. I look forward to seeing some more flexibility introduced in the future perhaps, and hopefully we'll see a paleo and organic option at some stage as well.
So here you go. My honest thoughts so I hope this helps someone out there determine if the Gluten Free bags are for them! Disclaimer: I support truth in advertising. I received a free Gluten Free bag and am sharing my review because I genuinely liked what I tried, their philosophy fits into mine into making good food more accessible and in the interest of growing the real food segment overall. I also really enjoy sharing my thoughts through the process of writing, so I hope you enjoy reading xx Maryana Lishman www.empoweredkitchen.co.nz