Companies like Blue Apron and HelloFresh became all the rage a few years ago, delivering easy-to-make meals directly to customers each week. The catch often can be the hefty price tag and subscriptions that lock customers into a long-term relationship they might not need.
But you can ditch the national chains. Get rid of those subscription meal plans, and discover what’s right here in the tri-states.
We found several meal programs and small organic farmers who will deliver right to your door or to a local pick-up point.
Complete meals, locally sourced
At MercyOne Dubuque, Healthy Variety originally was launched to meet the needs of patients with congestive heart failure.
“It was difficult for some patients to cook a meal with their dietary restrictions after they left the hospital,” said MercyOne nutrition coordinator Miriam Troutner. “The focus for us initially was making sure it was heart-healthy.”
Healthy Variety offers complete meals with entrees like roast beef, salmon, chicken or pasta, and they’re available to anybody who wants to order them.
“There is pretty much a taste for everybody,” Troutner said. “Each meal has an entrée, a vegetable and a starch. We have breakfast options, too, like quiche, French toast and omelets.”
Each meal has less than 600 milligrams of sodium, less than 50 grams of carbohydrates and a low amount of saturated fat.
“Even if you don’t have any health issues, this is an easy, convenient and healthy meal,” Troutner said.
Prices range from $4.50 to $5.75 per meal, and there is no minimum order required.
“If you don’t have the time or energy to cook, or even if you don’t like to cook, this is a perfect option,” Troutner said.
Anyone who wants to order Healthy Variety meals can go online, place their order and, if they live in Dubuque, can have it delivered to their home. Orders also can be picked up at the MercyOne Dubuque cafeteria or the MercyOne Dubuque Elm Street Pharmacy.
“These are good quality meals,” Troutner said. “We make them in our own kitchen. It’s real food and it’s produced by people right here in Dubuque.”
HomeFresh Prepared Meals, a partnership between Convivium Urban Farmstead and City Girl Farming, also offers dinner packages and ala carte meals that can be ordered online. Orders can be picked up or delivered.
Hy-Vee’s Mealtime to Go or catering offerings are available for pick-up. Just order through Hy-Vee’s Aisles Online, and they’ll have it ready and bring it right to your vehicle when you arrive.
Small farms, big flavors
Community Supported Agriculture programs have existed since the 1980s, but it often has been difficult for families without a lot of financial resources to take part since the programs require consumers to pay up front for a season’s worth of produce.
But some farms sell their surplus vegetables and produce directly to consumers.
One such operation is Sandhill Farm in Sinsinawa, Wis., owned by Dubuquers Andie Donnan and Ashley Neises.
This is the couple’s third year farming on an acre of land through the Sinsinawa Mound Collective Farm.
“CSA agriculture is important because we get the money ahead of time,” said Donnan, 30. “It’s expensive to start each season, so CSA members are investing in us. But the most important thing for Ash and I is for us to provide people with food.”
Sandhill Farm’s bounty boxes are available directly from the farm. Customers can order the box each week and pick it up at the farm, at River Lights Bookstore in Dubuque or at the farm’s booth at the Dubuque Farmer’s Market.
Bounty boxes range from $20 to $25 and often include everything from herbs and greens to tomatoes, onions, peppers and more.
Donnan said buying directly from local farms not only provides customers with fresh, organic produce but is a learning experience as well.
“They get to bask in the bounty with us,” Donnan said. “But they also learn about how plants grow, what works what doesn’t, how some seasons we don’t have successful crops of some things.”
The couple recently joined a new local collective, the Mighty River Food Collective, which allows people to shop online from local farmers and producers and pick up their order in one place.
At Jupiter Ridge Farm in Garber, Iowa, farmer Adrian White, 31, and her husband, Will Lorentzen, 33, also are farming on donated land.
Through the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT), White and Lorentzen were matched with farmer Steve Beaumont, who had donated his farmland to the trust.
In addition to greens, tomatoes, garlic, onions, squash, eggplants, peppers and more, White and Lorentzen also grow an abundance of mushrooms, including shiitake, oyster and the lesser known lion’s mane, which has been known to have medicinal uses.
“The trust has enabled us to have access to the land,” White said. “We’re able to purchase equity on the land, which has been a beautiful opportunity. We are purchasing the house on the land and live here.”
SILT requires its participants to be certified organic, which is a goal White said they have finally reached.
“We’ll be certified organic this winter,” she said. “One of the stipulations with organic is that before you certify, you have to have been using organic practices for three years. So, we’ve been doing that for as long as we’ve been here.”
Jupiter Ridge, which also participates in the CSA program, has farm share boxes that they sell direct to their customers. They offer delivery to Dubuque every Wednesday and Saturday.
“We’re a small farm, so our farm share boxes are limited,” White said. “But we deliver straight to the customer. We do have some pick-up sites and on-farm pick-up, but it’s mostly home delivery.”
Jupiter Ridge also sells at the Dubuque Farmer’s Market. Jupiter Ridge’s farm share boxes cost $30 and include delivery, or you can opt to pick up your order at Jupiter Ridge’s Farmer’s booth at the Dubuque Farmer’s Market and save $5 a box.
For more information
MercyOne Healthy Variety Meals: www.tinyurl.com/y2bpq9lz
Convivium Urban Farmstead HomeFresh: www.convivium-dbq.com/homefresh
Hy-Vee Aisles Online: www.hy-vee.com/grocery
Sandhill Farm: www.sandhill-farm.com
Jupiter Ridge Farm: www.jupiterridgefarm.com
Mighty River Food Collective: www.luluslocalfood.net (Under the Market Finder tab, click on Mighty River Food Collective)
Sustainable Iowa Land Trust: www.silt.org
Community Supported Agriculture: www.localharvest.org/csa
Michelle London writes for the Telegraph Herald.