Capital Region

Heaping Helpings: Premade or prepped, picked-up or delivered, food providers that simplify mealtime

Meals from The Healing Meals in Albany
Meals from The Healing Meals in Albany

CAPITAL REGION – One year and counting—one year since we settled into living life almost exclusively within the boundaries of our homes. For those used to eating out, the dining-at-home lifestyle came as a surprise — for some a shock.

While tales of sourdough starters and one-pot meals took social media by storm, it was everyday cooking that felt the most taxing — a need to differentiate Monday from Wednesday, and Friday from Sunday.

Roughly three months in, I embraced meal prep and food delivery services for the first time, purchasing subscriptions to HelloFresh and Freshly. The former allowed me to try new recipes to create a well-balanced meal, without requiring me to leave the house to head to the store.

The latter delivered fresh, never-frozen health-conscious entrees, which made for a smart lunch, especially for someone like myself who rarely has more than 15 minutes to spare around the lunch hour as I bounce from Zoom call to Zoom call. But I also found myself ordering complete “meals to go” from local restaurants for an impromptu al fresco meal with friends or to celebrate a birthday with family.

Knowing that our lives include all of the above — exciting moments peppered into months of the mundane — here’s a roundup of national and local food delivery options you might want to consider as we bravely venture into Year Two.

Make-it-yourself meals

Gorsky’s Farm (Stillwater), @Gorskys
With offerings that rotate every week, you can build a menu that suits you and your family, choosing ready-to-heat options such as soups made with farm-grown veggies, enchiladas and build-it-yourself pizza kits, as well as fresh milk, cheese, meat and desserts, all delivered right to your door.

HelloFresh (national),
Choose a weekly recipe plan — Meat & Veggies, Veggie, Family Friendly, Calorie Smart, Quick and Easy, or Pescatarian — that will fit you and your household, receiving anywhere from two to six recipes a week portioned for two or four servings (so enough to feed a family of four or accommodate lunch the next day), delivered right to your doorstep in a cooler. Since you choose ahead, you can factor in prep time and calorie count, as well as choose options labeled “hall of fame” or “takeout favorites” like Crispy Cajun Chicken Sandwiches, Beef & Cheese Tostadas, Mushroom & Soy Ramen and Hibachi Sweet Soy Bavette Steak & Shrimp. What’s key is that everything is included except select pantry staples like olive oil, and the recipe cards have step-by-step instructions and photos to guide you — which means that even a less-than-confident or junior chef should feel up to the task. Although promo codes and deals are easy to come by (including “first box free” discounts), plans for two people range from $8.99 to $12.49 a serving and plans for four people range from $7.49 to $8.99 per serving (the more meals you buy, the lower the per-serving price), with $8.99 shipping.

Blue Apron (national),
Just as with HelloFresh, you choose how many servings you want (two or four) and how many meals (two, three or four) per week. Although their recipes are popularly seen as a bit more inventive — perhaps even more gourmet than HelloFresh — step-by-step instruction guides and preportioned ingredients are included to make options such as Honey & Chipotle-Glazed Chicken Thighs, Ginger Pork Meatballs and Vadouvan Chicken Pitas feel less out of reach. Some recipes are even labeled “Easy Prep & Cleanup,” like their Seared Cod & Zucchini and One-Pan Udon Noodle & Spicy Peanut Stir-Fry. Base pricing (for signature plans) begins at $9.99 a serving when you’re cooking for two, and $7.99 when you’re cooking for four, plus shipping fees (although these are often waived). Note that premium pricing is in place for select recipes such as Miso Butter Scallops and Pan-Seared Duck & Sour Cherry Sauce to accommodate higher-priced proteins.

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Ready-to-eat prepared meals

518 Dinners to Go (Niskayuna), @518dinnerstogo
With options like Grilled Chicken Vegetable Kebabs over garlic-lemon rice and Bruschetta Chicken with a choice of garlic olive oil pasta or roasted sweet potatoes, you can opt in when it suits you.
Order directly through Facebook messenger and pay per entree ($17), with pickups once weekly on Wednesdays from a Niskayuna residence (4:30-6:30 p.m.).
Portions are fair, so young kids could certainly share.

Armondo’s Villa Tuscan Grill (Rotterdam),
Tuesdays through Sundays, Armondo’s offers what they call “Family Dinners To Go” — an entree, salad and bread combo that feeds up to six people for $25.95.

Options include Chicken Marsala with Penne, Pasta with Meatballs and Sausage, Chicken Parmigiana with Penne, and Penne Pink Vodka with Chicken.

According to Armondo Cioccke, owner and executive chef, he began offering family meals to-go long before the COVID-19 pandemic struck as a way to further support his community by providing a restaurant-quality meal that’s affordable and flexible.

“The incredible uptick in family dinners to-go kept us alive last year when all we could do was takeout,” said Cioccke, before adding how grateful he was for the opportunity to stay open and keep serving.

MORE Perecca’s (Schenectady),
Offering “Family Style To-Go” meals with service for four from Tuesday through Sunday, MORE Perecca’s options include Chicken Parmesan over Penne and Chicken Tenders with Mac & Cheese, as well as rotating specials such as Chicken Francaise over Penne Pasta (Tuesdays), Lasagna Bolognese (Wednesdays) and Shrimp Scampi (on Fridays, specially priced at $44.95).

Most meals cost $35.95, and include a garden salad and a load of their house-made Italian bread.

Lily and the Rose (Ballston Spa),
When event catering went by the wayside last spring, Kim Klopstock transitioned some of the favorites from her catering business into what she calls “Curbside Concierge,” through which she offers a set menu for limited pickup options (from late fall to early spring, weekly Saturday pickups are available; April to fall, she will offer one pickup date each month).

Past entrees have included House-Made Ham with Scalloped Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus, Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with Sweet and Savory Salsa, as well as Brioche French Toast Pudding, with most options serving one or two persons.

To learn more, head to her website or join her email list.

The Healing Meals (Albany),
Completely gluten-free and designed with nutrition in mind, you can grab single meals or buy in bulk to carry you and your household through the week.

Maple Apple Walnut Overnight Oats and Chilaquiles Breakfast Casserole are among the breakfast options, while entrees include Ratatouille, Chicken Enchiladas and a Spinach and Sundried Tomato Turkey Burger.

According to owner Chris Small, who said business has picked up steadily since last spring, his Chicken Pot Pies and his Cheddar Herb Biscuit Bacon Egg & Cheese sandwiches are top sellers.

Pickup and delivery available Mondays and Tuesdays only, and there’s no minimum required to order.

9 Miles East (Saratoga Springs),
Self-described as “local food for busy people,” 9 Miles East delivers farm-made meals and vegetables they harvest themselves to subscribers and local workplaces across the Capital Region.

Offerings change weekly but include single-serve, ready-to-eat meals known as “GO Boxes,” made with organic baby greens, whole grains and fresh vegetables, and “GO Baskets,” made with healthy grains.

They also offer entrees for one as well as entrees with servings for four like their Chicken Tikka Masala “Dinner to GO.”

Freshly (national)
With individualized entrees that are “fresh, never frozen,” they’re ready to eat after a quick three minutes in the microwave — making lunches or dinners for one a breeze.

Ingredients and calories are fully accounted for, so you can choose with your needs and dietary preferences in mind.

Note that the more meals you order per week, the lower the per-meal price will be, ranging from $8.49 per meal to $11.49, although discounts and freebies are easy to snag.

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Categories: Food, Heaping Helpings, Life and Arts

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