South Taranaki Star

Testing out New World’s meal plans

- Rob Stock

OPINION: Trying out New World’s ‘‘5 family dinners for under $100’’ was rather fun, and illustrate­s the sound home economics of shopping to a menu plan.

If supermarke­ts have been hurt by the rise of meal kit companies like My Food Bag and Hello Fresh, their bottom lines haven’t shown it.

These meal kits come delivered to your door, with ingredient­s in handy little bags and pots, and a set of cooking instructio­ns that builds up into a cook book over time. They can break the cycle of monotony that sometimes settles on household meal making and give people who think of themselves as time poor one less thing to think about in their oh-so-busy weeks.

We’ve enjoyed My Food Bag and Bargain Box in our household but decided to give New World’s menu planner a try. If anyone is in a position to cash in on the meal kit trend, it is surely the supermarke­ts, if they can muster some clever menu design, and careful pricing.

It wasn’t as if getting a delivery of My Food Bag or Bargain Box really saved any meaningful amount of time for us. We still had to make a trip to the supermarke­t for staples, and groceries to cover breakfasts, lunches and weekend meals.

The New World meals were OK and very family-friendly: quinoa and chickpea salad, chicken rice, fish cakes, summer quinoa tabbouleh and lamb chops, and a Friday night curry.

There wasn’t a great deal of excitement of new tastes, which the packaged meal kits can bring, and some took a bit longer to cook.

But they genuinely were five meals for less than $100, as my shopping bill squeaked in at $99.90, and it could have been less, except stocks were low of several of the items, and the cheapest version was not available.

Shopping in a pandemic does mean a few gaps on the shelves. I also had to slightly overbuy lamb and tuna, as the precise amounts I was instructed to buy were not available in the New World I went to.

Oh, and there was no fresh parsley, which I wasn’t sorry about. Paying $3.99 for a sprig of parsley is outrageous.

The ‘‘under $100’’ is a claim that has an asterisk after it. ‘‘Pantry staples’’ like milk, eggs, oil, seasonings, vinegar, garlic, mustard, breadcrumb­s, and flour are ‘‘usually found in your pantry and not included in the budget’’, the menu planner says.

That almost seemed to imply I would find them there without my having had to buy them.

Even so, I reckon the under $100 was close enough to avoid any claims the supermarke­t had broken the Fair Trading Act. The meals were also generous. There were leftovers that became next day’s lunch.

What I enjoyed most about the menu planner was that it combined some of the best aspects of shopping to a list. Shopping to a list cuts down food waste (not that we have much), and reduces my tendency in store to buy things on a whim, which is a must in a period of high food price inflation.

Unlike planning a week’s meals from swanky cook books, there are no hard-to-find ingredient­s. And as New World was the one planning the menu, it was gratifying­ly seasonal. The only way to keep your grocery bill sane is to shop seasonally.

My mind stayed focused on the mission at hand. Menu planning also focused the mind on the core meals of the week.

I was pleased to see that New World’s menu planner was free of sugar-laden non-food and ultra-processed food categories which have displaced healthy food in so many of our weekly shops.

The menu planner was composed of the core stuff families should be eating, although here I note some of you won’t agree. There were no vegetarian or vegan menu planners on offer, let alone gluten-free, or paleo.

It’s ironic that New World, which is such a pusher of ultraproce­ssed foods and drinks, should have a menu planner that’s so much the opposite.

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New World’s 5 Family Dinners for under $100 menu planner.
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