Smart Home Cooking with Din
Here at AppMyHome, one of the most challenging questions we ask ourselves every day is “what’s for dinner?” And like most of our challenges, we choose to try to solve it with technology.
About six months ago, in an effort to be a bit more healthy, we started ordering from Blue Apron, a subscription service that delivers all the ingredients needed to cook fresh meals at home. For the most part we have been really happy. Blue Apron has allowed us to try a lot of different recipes without having to do all the planning and shopping, and it has saved us from wasting a lot of food since we get just what we need for that recipe – two stalks of celery or just a small chunk of cheese, for example. From what I have read about the company it seems to be the first (started in August 2012) and the largest, shipping more than 1 million meals per month as of January 2015, but there are many competitors. After a couple of so-so meals recently we thought it was time to compare our options.
We start this week with Din.
Din has been advertising on Facebook like crazy lately and with their promise of limited prep and four free servings, trying their service was difficult to resist. We ordered the minimum portion: two each of two different meals.
The first great part about Din was the smaller minimum order. Blue Apron requires us to buy a minimum of three meals of two portions. We travel a lot and with busy schedules sometimes it is hard to commit to cooking at home three days in one week. We wasted a couple of Blue Apron meals, while we were able to freeze the meats from the boxes, some of the vegetables spoiled, and it is unlikely we would go buy all the ingredients again to re-create recipes we missed. Din’s delivery flexibility was also a bit better – we were also able to choose delivery for Wednesday – Friday, unlike Blue Apron which delivers in our neighborhood only Thursday and Friday. (note that this may vary depending where you live)
For our first shipment we chose two out of the six meals on offer in our area. There were plenty of choices including meat and vegetarian options. We selected lemon ricotta ravioli and salmon with nori-roasted tomatoes.
The meals arrived on Wednesday as promised. The packaging was similar to Blue Apron – a large box with ice packs in the bottom and a cooler bag around the entire package. Din had a really nice touch of including a carry bag with a tag on it identifying the meals. The tag made it feel like the box was packed just for us.
The ingredients for the meals were gathered together in brown bags to put right in the fridge. One of the bags had a note to remove the tomatoes first. Everything in the bags is pre-portioned, similar to Blue Apron – one noticable difference was that Din only provided one garlic clove – we have a big basket full of garlic since Blue Apron always sends us a whole one for each meal.
Part of Din’s value is that the dishes are conceived by talented chefs and that much of the prep is already done for you. We definitely noticed this with our first two Din meals. There was very little prep and chopping required – simple things like slicing tomatoes and tearing basil off the stems was about it. In both dishes there were items that had been actually pre-cooked and vacuum sealed: nori-roasted tomatoes, roasted shallots, pesto, vinaigrette, etc. Cooking both meals was really easy – they claim 20 minutes or less but it felt even easier than that.
Both meals were really tasty – with some unusual flavors – and light and appropriate for summer. The quality of the ingredients was also really high – heirloom tomatoes, wild salmon that looked (and tasted!) amazing, really fresh and crispy pieces of nori.
For all of Din’s value, it is a lot more expensive than the other alternatives – $15 per meal. Considering the quality ingredients, extensive preparation and the above and beyond packaging, I can see why it is more, but at that price, you start to get close to take-out or restaurant options. Outside of the price, we had two concerns about Din – first, our meals only had a four day shelf life – we are used to at least a week from Blue Apron meals. Our other concern was the lack of nutritional information. The meals were both very good with generous portions – but we had no way of knowing if they were 500 calories or 1500. We do know that we added more oil than we normally do in the Blue Apron meals.
Another really nice touch was that we received a personal note from Din customer support asking us how we liked our first shipment, and after we responded they acknowledged right away. We have rated all of our Blue Apron meals using their online tool but we’ve never gotten a personal response from the feedback.