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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Real Food Fast v. Fast Food

This Saturday, Mark Bittman (author of many cookbooks including the How to Cook Everything series and real food advocate) wrote a New York Times Op-Ed, “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper.”   He compared the price of a normal meal at McDonalds to the cost of ingredients to make meals at home and showed that, in most cases, cooking real food is less expensive (in dollars – the difference in health, environmental impact, worker treatment, among other issues would take a few more Op-Eds) than fast food.  He went on to ask, if it isn’t really cheaper, why people still eat fast food.  His answer was that fast food has become a soothing, habitual part of American culture that we need to actively exhume from our collective consciousness.  So how do we challenge the fast food paradigm when we lead busy lives and revel in the pleasure of being served?

Last night, Tara and I got a taste of an intriguing answer to this very difficult question.  We joined the Boston Brunchers at the Healthy Habits Kitchen for an explanation of their business model, demo of their kit making process, and a (comped) sampling of their already-made kits.  Healthy Habits Kitchen in Wellesley provides pre-planned real-food kits for home assembly by busy people who want to transcend the crutch of “fast food.”  We met with HHK’s owner Susan Schochet who explained the company and showed us what goes in to one of her company’s meal kits.  The company plans the meals, sources the ingredients (on-season, their vegetables come directly from local farmers’ markets!), chops, measures, and does all of the thinking.  Busy food lovers then take the kit’s components and assemble them on the stove or in the oven for a less-than-30 minute meal.  The kits can be made fresh, refrigerated, or frozen which makes them a good option for a variety of eaters from the person who stops by the farmer’s market rather than the fast food kiosk after work to the new parent who receives an HHK stash from a baby shower and freezes the kits.  In short, you get high quality source ingredients, no preservatives, and you get part of the “fast food” satisfaction of being served because most of the work is done for you!

The most impressive feature of the service was the price.  Sold in either a small (2-3 servings) or large (5-6 servings) kits, the average price is about $5 per person.  Based on Mark Bittman’s calculation of the price of a meal at McDonalds, Healthy Habits Kitchen kits beat out the fast food meal by almost $2 per person per serving!  

You can find Healthy Habits Kitchen kits at Metrowest farmers’ markets, at certain specialty stores, at the Kitchen in Wellesley, and online at the Healthy Habits Kitchen website.

We at the Boston Food Swap understand that, even if you are passionate about the art of cooking and love to make your own food, not everyone can cook from scratch every night.  Because we are even more passionate about real food, regardless of who makes it, we are happy to see that there are healthy options for those days when “from scratch” is not an option.  I would be remiss in my duties as advocate if I didn’t mention that, if you care as much about real food as we do, you should RSVP for an upcoming food swap or our Community Sourced Potluck before you finish this post.  Whether you make your own dish or, in HHK fashion, want to enjoy other people’s real food, we can make it fun to eat real!  Once you’re finished with your RSVP (you mean you haven’t done it yet?), enjoy some pictures from last night’s adventure!

1 comment:

  1. Bummed that I missed it! Looks like fun (and a good alternative to fast food). I will say that if price is an issue, you can make real food for even less money if you're willing to do a little more prep work. I make big batches of pasta or a crockpot stew over the weekend and portion it out for the week so I'm not tempted to spend money on takeout. It really stretches the food budget, especially when I plan my meals around in-season produce.