Don't have time to shop and create a meal from scratch? Then check out Kroger's new Prep + Pared meal kits.
Kroger chef Shelly Thompson says that for around $14, you'll get a ready-to-cook gourmet dinner that can be on your table in 20 minutes or less.
"They are fully prepped and ready to cook," she said. "All of us, we have busy lives. We have kids that have functions and sports. You have a busy day at work. Now you can walk right into Kroger, walk right out that door with your meal kit and be ready in about 20 minutes."
It's similar to online services Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, but you can pick it up and be home in 10 minutes, ready to cook. There is no waiting for a package to be delivered.
Kroger shopper Jennifer Ebelhare is interested.
"I love this idea. I hate chopping vegetables," she said. "You get home, and that all takes a long time. I love the idea of taking it home, putting it in the skillet, and you're done."
Kroger says these meal kits are the most convenient you will find. There is nothing to thaw, unlike some shipped meal kits. Nor do you have to purchase meat or chicken separately as you do with some other kits.
But we wanted to know whether they are any good.
We test them out
To find out, we brought home two kits: achicken enchilada dinner andchicken bacon Alfredo meal.
One of our 9 On Your Side staffer's moms, Sandy, cooked the Alfredo meal, while I cooked the enchilada dinner at my home.
In both cases, all the ingredients had been pre-measured, right down to the exact amount of spices. And most of the ingredients are fresh, sealed in plastic pouches.
Sandy pan fried the bacon, then the chicken breasts, and put it all together with the provided noodles and Alfredo sauce. The longest prep time, she said, was for the two chicken breasts, which took just over 15 minutes in the skillet.
Back in my house, I sliced and smashed a fresh avocado (provided in the kit, of course), shredded a pre-cooked chicken breast, and rolled it all in tortilla shells, with cheese, pico de gallo, and fresh cilantro to top it off.
Sandy's verdict? "Delicious," she said upon tasting the chicken breasts on top of fettuccine Alfredo, with bacon and parsley sprinkled on top.
My enchiladas were pretty good, too. The only downside I found was that I used a bit too much tomato sauce. Either they provided too much sauce in the kit, or I just got a little too sauce-happy putting the enchiladas together. Next time I will know that I want more shredded chicken, less sauce.
Except for that, it was a lot better than the last enchilada frozen dinner that I tossed in the microwave.
So the bottom line: If you like cooking but hate finding all the ingredients and using a cutting board, these meals could be for you.
However, just realize that it is not like a frozen "skillet meal" that you toss in a pan for 10 minutes. These do take work, just like real cooking.
Where and how much?
Right now, you can buy these kits only at four upscale Cincinnati-area Kroger stores: Hyde Park, Oakley, Harper's Point, and Sharonville. But the company says more are coming soon.
What about the cost? The kits cost are all in the $14 range for two people.
If you are feeding a family with two teenage kids, you would need a second kit, making it $28. While that is not cheap, it's still a lot less than taking the family to a nice Mexican or Italian restaurant chain.
And that way you don't waste your money.
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