5 Maternity Must Haves and What Not to Waste Your Money On

Ramble On, Sustainability

The maternity industry, like many others, is a cash cow (no pun intended). Slap a maternity label on something and you can be sure you’ll get an ad for it during your 9 months of pregnancy. Everything from maternity tees to maternity underwear to maternity shoes – if you use it pre-pregnancy, someone somewhere has made a maternity version. But what items do you actually need and what items can you skip and save money on. I wanted to make this list because as a first time mom, I was completely overwhelmed at all of the options at first. It felt like I had so much to buy to prepare for pregnancy and beyond and it made me anxious seeing all the money I would have to spend to be comfortable. But luckily, this is not the case. There are really only a handful of items, in my experience, that you should absolutely buy for pregnancy. Please note that this is from my own personal experience, and it may be different for everyone depending on your pregnancy. Please also note that I am not compensated for any of my opinions shared here. These are all my own opinions based on my own purchases and experiences.

  1. Belly Bands
Maternity Bellaband Support Belt - Isabel Maternity By Ingrid & Isabel™ :  Target

One of the first items I suggest buying within the first couple months of pregnancy are a couple belly bands. I bought a black one and a white one which worked perfectly for my wardrobe, but you can also find them in nude and other colors. What is a belly band? It’s basically a stretchy tube of fabric that makes it so that you can wear your pre-pregnancy bottoms during pregnancy. This is awesome because maternity clothes are not cheap, especially when you consider the short amount of time you’ll get to wear them. These belly bands have made it so that I can wear my favorite jeans, shorts and skirts over my bump and have saved me so much money. You simply wear your pre-pregnancy bottoms unbuttoned and slide the band over the top. The band hides the opening of your bottoms while also smoothing the creasing of the opening. The brand that I found to work best and be most cost effective is the Isabel and Ingrid Bellaband. They have a sticky plastic border on one end that helps hold the band in place, and they can be worn up over your belly or folded down. Sometimes I even wear these under dresses for a little extra support. They are super comfortable, and at only $17 a piece at your local Target these are a must have for pregnancy. You can find other colors on the Isabel and Ingrid website here.

2. Bra Extenders

Women Elastic Back Bra Extenders 3 Hook and 2 Hooks Bras Extension Strap  6pcs at Amazon Women's Clothing store

If you’re like me, you’ve experienced a little (or ALOT) of growth in the girls during pregnancy. Sometimes this growth can make it feel like your pre-pregnancy bras are trying to squeeze the life out of you – or at least that’s what happened to me. My bras still mostly fit cup-wise, but the band around was starting to feel like it was strangling me. Again, I didn’t want to go out and buy all new bras for just this occasion so I found these bra extenders on Amazon. These have made it so that I can save my money for nursing bras (because, yep, that’s a thing too) and keep on wearing my favorite pre-pregnancy bras throughout my pregnancy. The pack that I bought came with black, white and nude which is perfect for most bra collections and was only $5 for a pack of six – can’t beat that!

3. Body Pillow

Sleeping in your new body shape can become a bit of a challenge towards the middle and end of pregnancy. But this doesn’t mean you need to go spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy “pregnancy pillow”. I found that a simple body pillow worked just fine for me. It was long enough to hold my belly and also to wedge between my legs to give my hips support. It also is the perfect size to have in bed, where as the pregnancy pillows are so huge I’m surprised anyone can sleep with them and still keep their partner in bed with them at the same time. Want something a little fancier but still don’t want to take over the entire bed? You can find body pillows that are made of memory foam or higher support materials for less money than a crazy pregnancy pillow. Most major retailers that sell home goods will sell a nice body pillow. Another tip is to make sure whatever cover you buy is appropriate for the weather and that elevated body temperature you might experience while pregnant.

4. Maternity Leggings

black

Staying active during pregnancy is a must. Whether it’s full exercises or walking it’s important to have clothing that works for this type of activity. This is where maternity leggings come in. In a pinch I’ve found that I can wear my pre-pregnancy leggings folded under my bump, but there’s something so comfortable about having a nice supportive pair of over the belly leggings that just makes exercising easier on your pregnant body – bonus points if they have a little compression to help with blood flow. Keep in mind though, not all maternity leggings are created equal, and this is the one area where you might want to splurge a little bit to make sure you’re getting the bang for your buck. I made the mistake of buying cheap maternity leggings and actually ended up buying new leggings and changing in the car while running errands – I hated them that much. They kept falling off and provided no support whatsoever to my growing bump – I digress. My favorites during pregnancy have been the Blanqi Everyday Maternity Belly Support leggings, which are super ultra supportive and stay in place all day. These are a bit more compressing feeling so if you don’t like tight then they might not be for you. They have sales regularly and will often sell out so make sure you follow them on social media or check their website regularly for deals. I just ordered another maternity legging from them in another style and got two pairs for under $50 which is a major steal. They make these in a wide range of colors which is also fun and makes it so that you feel like you can still be fashionable. My other favorite leggings are from Ingrid and Isabel and come from Target – the Maternity Crossover Panel Active leggings. These are actually the ones I bought and changed into in the parking lot! I love the lower cut back on these for our hot California weather and the material is super soft and breathable making them super comfortable to wear all day long. Both brands make bike shorts as well that I highly recommend if you are pregnant during warmer weather. Having comfortable active wear is great for staying on track with exercising, but it’s also nice to have clothing that is similar to what I wore pre-pregnancy (2020 basically changed my entire wardrobe into active wear). Leggings and bike shorts are also great for later in pregnancy when everything feels too tight but you also want to look cute. You can pair them with almost anything and not feel like you’re wearing pajamas. (Here’s a $20 credit for Blanqi for anyone who might be interested: http://fbuy.me/q6Mp_)

5. Reusable Water Bottle

YETI Rambler 36 oz Reusable Bottle With Chug Cap

If you don’t already have a reusable water bottle (or two!), pregnancy is a great time to invest in one. Staying hydrated during pregnancy is one of the best ways to avoid aches and pains, curb morning sickness, keep your skin soft and overall improve your health. I have a few different options depending on whether I’m on the go or at home. My home bottle has a stainless steel straw which is super nice for lounging around the house. I also have an on-the-go hydroflask style bottle that seals completely so I can throw it in my bag and it keeps my water nice and cool especially if I add a few ice cubes. Reusable water bottles are also just a great item to have in general and will keep you happy and hydrated throughout pregnancy and beyond. There are so many different options these days available at most retailers. Bonus is that you can customize most of them with fun stickers if you want something a bit more personalized.

I hope this list is helpful for all you first-time mommas out there like me. The world of maternity shopping can feel so overwhelming and it’s tough to know if you need to go out and purchase all brand new items to make life easier. I’d definitely skip certain items like the special underwear, shoes, and heck even the crazy outrageously priced clothes. Stick with what you have for as long as it will work for you, and worst case if you end up needing to spend more money you can always order those items later. Good luck and happy baby growing!

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

Recipes

Fall is pumpkin season! Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes – everyone is going crazy for pumpkins! But let’s not forget the rest of the pumpkin – let’s remember to roast the seeds. Letting food go to waste is not the business, especially when that food can be a bit pricey when purchased in stores. Roasted pumpkin seeds make a nutritious snack that’s worth the time it takes to make them. Keep reading to learn how to roast your own pumpkin seeds at home.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • The seeds of at least one pumpkin
  • Salt, pepper or other seasonings you desire (some use pumpkin pie spice, you can also use chili powder – get creative!)
  • Olive oil, if desired
  1. Once you’ve removed the pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin, remove as much of the pumpkin “guts” as you can with your hands and place in a large bowl of salted water (the amount of salt varies depending on your tastes, I use about 1/2 cup) and let soak overnight.
  2. Once the seeds have soaked, remove from the water and let dry on a foil lined baking sheet to dry overnight – cover with a paper towel if desired to help dry and keep covered.
  3. Preheat your oven to 300°F. If you would like to use olive oil, drizzle some over your seeds now and mix with your hands to coat. Add desired seasonings and mix again.
  4. Bake seeds for about 1 hour, stirring half way through. The seeds are done roasting when lightly browned and their aroma fills the air.
  5. Store in an airtight container such as a food container or mason jar and enjoy!!

Vegan Potato Salad

Recipes

Spring transitioning into summer months is probably my favorite time of the year. The days aren’t too hot yet and the evenings still cool down enough to wear a sweatshirt. It’s the perfect weather for barbecuing. Cooking and eating outside is a warm weather activity that I wait for all year, and luckily, living in California affords me the opportunity to do this far more often than most. When I first transitioned to eating a more vegan diet I was worried that I wouldn’t have many options for barbecue-type foods, but fortunately, there are so many more options than I originally thought. Vegan burger patties, vegan sausages, vegan hot dogs, ALL of the things you would think of for an outdoor cookout. And beyond that, there are so many ways to change up your sides recipes to make them vegan. This is one of those recipes that I’ve been playing with for a while and is one of my favorite barbecue/cookout sides – potato salad.

This potato salad recipe uses red potatoes, but any type of potatoes will do. You can also peel them if you prefer – I like skins on for the extra nutrition boost and the whole less work and time argument. I used Follow Your Heart vegan mayo which is my absolute favorite. I’m actually not usually a mayo person at all, but this mayo is bomb. I also used fresh dill from our garden, but you could use dried, just be sure to use less if doing so (about half of what you’d use fresh). Without further rambling, let me just post the recipe…

Vegan Potato Salad

4-5 cups of red potatoes, cut into about 1 inch pieces

1/4 c red onion, diced

1/4 cup dill pickle, diced

2-3 Tbsp of fresh dill

1/2 c vegan mayo

1 Tbsp mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Boil a large pot of salted water and once boiling add potatoes. Cook potatoes for about 10-15 minutes or until pierced by a fork, stirring occasionally to avoid the water boiling over. You can also turn the heat down a bit once a boil is reached to avoid this.
  2. While potatoes are cooking slice and dice all other ingredients and add to a large bowl for mixing.
  3. Drain potatoes and rinse with cold water. Let potatoes sit for a while to cool off. You don’t want to mix your mayo with super hot potatoes or it will melt and be an icky looking mess. If you’re in a rush, leave cold water running over potatoes until mostly cool or slightly warm.
  4. Add potatoes to bowl with all other ingredients and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours before serving.
  6. Enjoy!

Vegan Buffalo Sweet Potatoes

Recipes

Things are getting crazy here in California amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. I won’t get too much into it in this post (might do another one later), but what I will say is there are some silver linings mixed in with the chaos. One of those silver linings is having the time at home to prepare delicious and healthy meals. It’s so important right now to eat healthy and keep your immune system in tip-top shape. There are several documentaries and series out there that describe vegan diets as one of the best ways to guard against sickness and disease. It makes me happy that I’ve decided to make the switch, and I hope that I can inspire others to do the same with this blog.

This recipe (adapted from Running on Real Food) is delicious as all hell, super easy to make and can be made with mostly pantry items. If you don’t have avocado (thanks quarantine), you could use guacamole or leave it out all together. Another good green option is spinach or any type of salad mix, or you can leave that part out all together and it’s still so tasty. The ranch that I used is Follow Your Heart vegan ranch. I think it tastes better than regular ranch (and better for you), but I digress. If you’re in a rush, half the sweet potatoes before cooking and cook for 30 minutes instead of the 45-60 minutes. The last thing I want to mention is the HEAT. This recipe is spicy, at least to my standards. If you like more spice, you can sub the Frank’s wing sauce for a spicier version, if you want it less spicy choose a buffalo sauce that is more mild. Okay, enough chit-chat, let’s get to the recipe…

Vegan Buffalo Sweet Potatoes

2 sweet potatoes (or garnet yams)

1 15oz can garbanzo beans

1 bottle of Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Wings Sauce

Follow Your Heart Vegan ranch (or something similar)

1 avocado, halved and sliced

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Poke holes all over the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake for 45-60 minutes or until the potatoes are soft when pierced.
  2. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans and place in a small sauce pan over low heat. Add buffalo sauce until all beans are covered. Heat over low until warmed through, and smash some of the beans with the back of your spoon to give some variety in texture.
  3. Once the sweet potatoes are done, cut them in half and remove the skins (or you can skip this part if the skins don’t bother you). Lightly mash the sweet potatoes and top with the buffalo chickpeas, then the avocado slices then the ranch.
  4. Enjoy!

Easy Vegan Cauliflower Alfredo

Recipes

I love pasta! Who doesn’t, right? Red sauce is fairly easy to replicate as a vegan dish. It’s easy because it’s made of mostly vegetables. Simply omit the meat in meat sauce and you have a vegan red sauce (at least, usually). Alfredo can be a bit more tricky. It’s creamy and thick and has loads of cheese and dairy in it. But it doesn’t have to! This recipe is the perfect example of how eating plant-based can be easy, oil and gluten free and still just as delicious as a traditional alfredo. The main ingredient is cauliflower, and I never would have guessed that blending up this sometimes misunderstood vegetable would be so tasty!

This recipe is incredibly easy. It takes a handful of ingredients and about 20 minutes or less to make depending on how you time it out. I used gluten free fettucine, but of course you can use whatever pasta you like. Pair this pasta dish with your favorite veggies – we did broccoli – and enjoy a creamy bowl filled with pasta entirely guilt free. I think next time I’ll throw in some Beyond Meat “chicken” strips, YUM!! Let’s show you the recipe…

Easy Vegan Cauliflower Alfredo

12 oz. gluten free fettucine, cooked and drained

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets (size for this isn’t super important, since you’ll be blending it up later on, just make sure the sizes will fit in your blender)

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk (or dairy-free alternative of your choice)

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Fill a large pot with water and cauliflower, cover and place over high heat until it comes to a boil.
  2. Once mixture is boiling, reduce heat to low or medium-low and let simmer for about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is softened. (You can use this time to cook your pasta if you like, or do like I did and wait for the cauliflower to be finished so you can use the same pot.)
  3. Drain cooked cauliflower and then place into your blender along with all other ingredients (except pasta) and mix on high until smooth.
  4. Taste mixture to see if you need more seasonings and for salt and pepper.
  5. At this point, you can add directly to your cooked pasta, or you can put your sauce back on the stove to stay warm.
  6. Once you’re ready to serve, mix the sauce and pasta well. Top with pepper and fresh herbs of your choice. Serve with a side of steamed broccoli.
  7. Enjoy!

Vegan Applesauce Ginger Oatmeal

Recipes

Oatmeal is an easy and filling breakfast staple. Mix it with fruit and you’ve got yourself something really tasty. This particular version uses my Easy Sugar-Free Applesauce recipe, or you can use your favorite applesauce instead. I do add sugar as well but if you prefer to leave that out feel free to do so. I love the kick of the ginger especially as a morning pick-me-up and the almond milk added at the end gives this oatmeal the perfect creamy texture. The portions here make about 4 servings so adjust as necessary for your family. It also keeps well as leftovers in the fridge for a few days if you enjoy meal-prepping.

Vegan Applesauce Ginger Oatmeal

1 cup old fashioned oats

2 cups water

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup applesauce

2 tsp brown sugar

Pinch of salt

Almond milk, or other milk alternative for topping

  1. Bring water and oats to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and allow oats to cook fully.
  2. Add all ingredients except almond milk and mix well.
  3. Make sure all ingredients are warmed through.
  4. Serve in a bowl and top with desired amount of milk alternative.
  5. Enjoy!

Vegan Sweet Potato and Portabello Fajitas

Recipes

Fajitas are easily in my list of top five easy dinners. They are quick, they are cheap and they are absolutely delectable. These particular fajitas are also great because the ingredients are so versatile. Don’t like mushrooms? Add more sweet potatoes. Not a sweet potato fan? Add more mushrooms! Or heck, go get some Beyond Meat chicken strip thingies and leave both out if you prefer, but I hope you won’t! Because the sweet potatoes and Portabello mushrooms are absolutely divine in this recipe. Especially when mixed with some fresh smashed guacamole. Mmm, mm, mmmmmm. Okay, honestly, everything is delish with guacamole – am I right?

When I made this recipe, I cooked the mushrooms separately from the rest of the veggies because hubs doesn’t like them, but you can totally cook all veggies in the same pan to save time. Another tip is to always wrap your sheet pans with foil before roasting veggies. This makes for super easy clean up at the end – you’ll thank me later. Another tip that’s helpful if you’re not super familiar with Portabellos (like me), is to scrape the gill looking portion of the portabello caps out before slicing and cooking. The gills area very dark brown and can turn whatever else is in the pan with them dark brown as well making it look less than appetizing. They are easy to scoop, just use a small spoon and carefully scrape the bottoms of the mushroom caps. You can then rinse if you’d like or go to straight to slicing. They are super delicious cooked up and in these fajitas! You won’t be sorry! (Also, sorry for the poor image quality – I took videos and forgot to take photos so these are crappy screenshots)

Vegan Sweet Potato & Portabello Fajitas

3 Portabello mushroom caps, scraped and sliced into about 1/2″ wide pieces

2 Sweet potatoes (or garnet yams), cut into wedges

1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow bell peppers, sliced

1 yellow onion, sliced

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

Salt and Pepper

Olive oil

Guacamole or salsa for topping

Tortillas

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place sweet potato wedges on a prepared sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil and half the cumin plus salt and pepper. Once preheated, bake sweet potato wedges for about 25 minutes or until cooked to desired consistency.
  2. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, heat 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil in a pan and add veggies (or you can cook them separately for picky eaters).
  3. Season with cumin, garlic powder and salt and pepper.
  4. Once potatoes and veggies are cooked, you can add them all to the same pan for easy serving.
  5. Add a scoop of veggies and potatoes to a tortilla, top with guacamole or salsa if desired and enjoy!

Vegan Pumpkin Alfredo

Recipes

It’s finally fall and that means all the pumpkin flavors you can handle. This recipe may seem surprising, but having used pumpkin purée with pasta before I hoped it would turn out as delicious as it did. The pumpkin gives this pasta dish an undeniable creaminess that won’t have you thinking twice about it being dairy-free.

This recipes does use almond milk, but you could substitute that for any type of dairy substitute you like. I typically have almond milk on hand so I went with that out of convenience. Since this recipe only calls for 1/2 a cup of pumpkin purée, keep in mind that you can save the leftover purée for future recipes like vegan pumpkin bread or muffins.

I love combining pumpkin with garlic. It creates such a surprising flavor combination that will leave even pumpkin-haters in awe. Savory with a tid bit of sweet really makes this pasta dish pop, and I can’t wait to make it again this season. I hope you enjoy!

Vegan Pumpkin Alfredo

4-6 servings of fettuccine cooked and drained (I used gluten free fettuccine for this, but you can use whatever pasta you have on hand)

1/2 cup pumpkin purée (I used canned)

1/2 cup almond milk (or other milk substitute)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2-4 fresh sage leaves (2 for cooking, 2 for garnish if desired)

Salt and pepper to taste

Cornstarch to thicken if needed

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat.

2. Once heated add the garlic and 2 sage leaves. Cook until fragrant about 2 minutes.

3. Add pumpkin purée and stir to combine.

4. Slowly pour in almond milk and mix. Mix in spices.

5. Let simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken sauce. If sauce does not thicken add cornstarch, about 1 tsp at a time to desired consistency.

6. Once the sauce is finished, mix in the cooked pasta. Serve immediately.

How to Harvest and Roast Sunflower Seeds

Recipes

Seeds and nuts are a great source of snacking protein. Unfortunately, some varieties can be quite expensive making it difficult to add them into a daily routine. Luckily, sunflower seeds are not usually too expensive, and are even less pricey if you grow and harvest them at home. Sunflower seeds are also a great source of Vitamin B, calcium and iron making them a great alternative to junk food type snacks. Another benefit of growing and roasting them at home is that you can control the sodium levels. Sunflower seeds packaged and sold in stores often times contain high amounts of sodium that can outweigh the nutritional benefits of this easy to produce snack.

Growing sunflowers at home is fairly easy if you start your seeds at the right time and maintain the growth of the plant. I have several blog posts on this topic if you’d like to check that out. In this post, I’m going to mostly focus on the harvesting and the roasting of the seeds themselves. I do highly encourage everyone to try growing their own sunflowers. They are fun to watch grow because they start as tiny seeds and grow into monstrous sometimes 6 feet tall flowers that follow the sun with their big golden faces. Our sunflowers were of the Mammoth variety, making them very large in size and produced loads of seeds per head. All in all, 4 flowers were originally seeded and 3 of them made it through a full life cycle. The flower you see in these images was actually the smallest of the 3, but still produced enough sunflower seeds to keep us snacking for days if not a couple weeks.

To begin, make sure that the sunflower head has spent enough time on it’s stalk to completely dry out. This can be determined by the stalk and the back of the flower itself turning yellow and even brown in color. Some people have issues with birds and other critters stealing the seeds as they dry, if you have this issue, you can always cut the heads of the flowers off first and dry them inside by hanging them upside down by their stalk. Once the seeds have completely dried out, you can remove the head of the flower from the stalk by cutting it with your garden shears or scissors.

Once the head is removed, bring it inside and give it a good rinse to remove any loose leaves or other outside remnants. Remove the outer leaves as well. Once removed, you can start pulling the seeds from the flower. I did this by gently bending the body of the flower head outward and popping the seeds out with my hands, sort of like an ice cube tray.

Once all the seeds have been removed, place them in a bowl of water and add salt if desired. I used a couple teaspoons of Himilayan pink salt, but you can use regular salt or leave them unsalted if you prefer. Let them soak in the water overnight. This will keep the seeds from over-roasting in the oven as well as help the seeds to absorb the salt from the water (if added).

After the seeds have finished soaking, you can preheat your oven to 300°F and place the seeds on a parchment lined baking sheet. Try to remove as much water from the seeds as you can by first straining them out of the water and then patting them with a paper towel. This step can be a bit frustrating since the seeds will want to stick to the towel, but just try to make sure that all the seeds end up in a single layer on the parchment paper. Roast the seeds for about 30-40 minutes. Mine went for 35 minutes, and I could smell them roasting at about 30 minutes. You want the shells to turn a nice golden brown color.

Let the seeds cool before storing them. I like to put them in a plastic bag or in a jar to maintain their freshness. And that’s it! Now you have a surplus of snacking seeds and you did it all from home! It’s always so fun to see the fruits from your garden being made into things you might buy all the time without thinking about how they’re made. This was definitely one of those projects for me 🙂 I hope you enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever made sunflower seeds or if you plan on planting them next year.

Until next time,

MelissaRose

Best Meal Kits for a Vegetarian

Ramble On

Within the last few years, it seems like new meal kit subscriptions have been popping up all over the place. Each one offering full sets of ingredients delivered to your door with planned out recipes – making it easier than ever to cook your meals at home. They boast convenience and ease, eliminating the need for grocery store trips, menu planning and overall inspiration. All in all, they are a great concept. I personally enjoy trying them when I feel less inspired to cook or when I feel I’ve hit a wall with new recipes to try. I mean, let’s be real, you can only pin so many pins on Pinterest before you start to just feel like it’s hopeless. As a vegetarian (or in my case occasionally pescatarian), it can be difficult to figure out which meal kit might be best for you. This post walks you through my experience with several of the different meal kit subscriptions as a vegetarian. We’ll discuss the menu options, pricing, portion sizing and more. So if you’re vegetarian and have been thinking about trying out one of these subscriptions for yourself, then keep on reading.

Blue Apron

Blue Apron was one of the first subscription boxes I tried. I believe when I set up my account the whole meal kit thing was still a relatively new idea, and so there weren’t many other companies out there doing it. Blue Apron worked for my house because they offered vegetarian meals as well as meals with a meat focus. Recently, I received an email from them stating that they were even now offering Beyond Meat products as substitutes for certain menus. This makes Blue Apron a great choice for anyone looking to try out vegetarian options or someone already eating this way. Unfortunately, my biggest issue with Blue Apron ended up being that the meals all started to taste the same. This is likely due to the fact that many of the same spices and ingredients were used in their vegetarian options (ie. repetitive pasta dishes with oregano and red chili pepper). This isn’t to say that the meals weren’t tasty, just that the flavors began to feel a bit monotonous as time went on. This may have been fine if this wasn’t exactly why I was trying out meal kits in the first place. Pricing for Blue Apron was extremely reasonable as a new subscriber with coupon codes. My first two orders (which were 3 meals of 2 servings each) were only $35.00 per box. Later on however, the price almost doubled and the boxes were right around $60 each. This still might be a great deal to someone not wanting to go to the grocery store or menu plan, but for me it didn’t seem justifiable with the meals and ingredients I was being given (ie. all vegetarian, no fish or meat of any kind). If you’re looking to try out meal kits, I’d definitely give them a try using the introductory offer if only for the costs savings.

Every Plate

Every Plate was sort of an accidental try-out for me. A friend had sent me a referral link for basically a free box for my first order – which is awesome! However, I didn’t realize that when I signed up to view their menu that I was automatically subscribing to their meal kits. I was unable to view their menu before signing up which put me in a bit of a pickle since I soon realized that they did not offer vegetarian options. Once I realized a box had shipped out to me, I contacted customer service through their chat function on their website. Every Plate’s customer service was amazing. They refunded the $1 I paid when I signed up and still let me have the box for free. Now granted, I could not eat much of what was inside the meal kit, or use the recipes that went with it, but all of the ingredients were basically sent to me for free. If you’re a meat-eater, I would definitely check them out as their prices are reasonable and you can’t beat great service. They do have a sister-site that is vegetarian called GreenChef.com. I have not tried that service yet, but may have to at some point in the future.

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh was the second meal kit I tried (after the Every Plate snafu) and I was actually pretty impressed with their options. Although they don’t regularly offer vegan options, I was able to make their options work in our vegetarian/pescaratian household. The ingredients arrived super fresh which is always a bonus. My favorite part about Hello Fresh was, again, the introductory pricing. I paid only $21 for my first box which included 3 meals with 2 servings each. The portions were super generous as well which is always nice since I like to be able to pack leftovers as lunches when possible. The leftovers didn’t happen with every meal, but there were a couple that were incredibly filling and worked out that way. The second box was just over $30 which is still a great deal for the amount of food and the quality of ingredients. I also appreciated the variety in their menu. I was able to try a few things that I had never even heard of before such as grilling cheese and even eating raw dressed squash on top of a delicious farro salad. The flavors of each recipe varied greatly too which I love because, again, I’m usually using these meal kits to try and get out of a cooking slump. All in all, I would definitely recommend Hello Fresh, and may even use them again in the future to get more kitchen inspiration.

Sun Basket

Sun Basket is one of the first subscriptions I tried that boasted having vegetarian and vegan options. However, I had expected to see many more options than what was offered. Basically if you’re doing 3 meals a week you were stuck with the three vegetarian option in that weeks menu, and vegan options were even less available. This isn’t to say that the food wasn’t good, because it was, but I feel that if a company is going to boast a specific offering it should be more in focus than it was. The pricing for Sun Basket was reasonable at first (again, as a first time customer with an introductory offer), but once the coupon was used up the price skyrocketed. To sign up for a “vegetarian” plan for 3 meals, 2 servings, it’s $72. I believe the main reason for this is that you pay $7 for shipping when many of the other meal kits will offer free shipping if you’re doing a large enough plan. My only other complaint with them would also be the serving size. Typically with vegetarian and vegan food I find myself needing a little larger portion size than usual. I found Sun Baskets servings to be somewhat small, and even had to make disproportionate servings for my husband and I so that he would feel satisfied after dinner. The menu items were tasty though, I just wish there would have been a little bit more food especially for the price.

Home Chef

Home Chef has been my most recent subscription and possibly my favorite so far. The first thing I love about Home Chef is their range of menu options. Granted, they don’t offer vegan so if you’re looking for that it won’t work, but they do offer at least 3 vegetarian options per week as well as plenty of seafood options. I also love the additional smoothies that you can purchase. They make a great and convenient breakfast or snack and have healthy ingredients such as coconut milk or greek yogurt and, of course, fruit. They offer a wide range of flavors as well. My most recent menu included a sun dried tomato pasta, a sweet-chili shrimp bowl, as well as a panko crusted salmon. I also added their peanut butter banana smoothie, which was amazing! I think that Home Chef was the best for me because of the inspirational menus. It really got my wheels turning about cooking and mixing ingredients in new ways, and gave me several great recipes that I will definitely make on my own in the future. These boxes were a little bit pricier – the first two were right around $50 – however, I feel that if I’m receiving a box with seafood items that $50 really isn’t that much (at least compared to $50 with all vegetables and grains). This is their introductory offer and I believe the boxes are right around $70 after the first three. This includes 3 meals, 2 servings each (with decently sized portions, sometimes with leftovers) and one smoothie recipe of 2 servings. So overall, yes, a little pricey, but decent if you eat seafood.

Overall, meal subscription kits are a fun way to get out of a cooking cycle of using the same recipes over and over and over. They are also a convenient way to avoid eating out and maybe even learn some new techniques along the way. Unfortunately, I think they are a bit pricey for someone looking for a strictly vegetarian menu. When you aren’t adding meat or seafood to a meal it shouldn’t cost the same as if you were. There are a couple other meal kits I haven’t tried yet that claim to be more veg-life focused, such as Green Chef and Purple Carrot. I may try those on my next round of inspiration searching, but until then I’m happy to take the recipes I’ve gotten so far and try some new things (here’s looking at you shrimp tostadas!). Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever tried a meal kit subscription or if you would. If you have, let me know what your favorites are and if there are any not mentioned above that I should try.

Until next time,

MelissaRose