Plated Review

Back in June, I gave my husband Mark a gift card to Plated for Father’s Day. We had so much fun with it! Enjoying food rather than being scared of it is one of the best things about leaving binge eating behind, and Plated was definitely a fun way for me to truly enjoy food and eating. For this week’s post, I thought I’d do a little review of Plated and share some pictures of the gorgeous culinary creations Mark and I put together with Plated this past month. ūüôā

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What Is Plated?

Awesome. That’s what Plated is: awesome. No, but really. Plated is¬†what you could call a “meal subscription service.” Essentially, it’s a website that allows you to order boxes full of fresh, delicious ingredients that are then mailed straight to your home. Each box contains the ingredients and instructions for you to make a complete, beautiful meal right in your own kitchen. No grocery shopping required!

While I do most of the cooking at our house due to my husband’s full-time job and part-time student status, Mark really does like to cook. I thought Plated¬†would make for some fun date nights in for my closet-chef husband and me.

How Does Plated Work?

To start up a Plated subscription, you hit Plated’s website and create an account. From there you can decide how often you want a box to come to your home as well as choose the particular meals you want delivered. The smallest plan (what we did) allows you to choose a box containing two meals per week, with each meal serving 2 people apiece. However, you can skip as many weeks in a row as you want, and you don’t pay for skipped weeks.

On your designated date, you’ll find a big ol’ box on your doorstep packed with ice and padding so that all your ingredients arrive fresh and cool. I’m not going to lie‚ÄĒit was really fun and excited to have those boxes arrive! The boxes include not just the ingredients but also detailed, step-by-step directions for how to make your meals.

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plated review
Here’s everything included, exactly as it arrived, for the Steak Tostadas.

Since it was Mark’s gift, he did¬†all the choosing of the meals. Our first box contained ingredients for Steak Tostadas and Maple-Glazed Pork Chops with Peach & Arugula Salad. Our next box, which we scheduled for two weekends later, contained Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps and Chicken Enchiladas Suizas. There are vegetarian options to choose from as well.

How Much Does Plated Cost?

The simplest, cheapest Plated plan gets you two meals, which serve 2 people apiece, for $54. That’s $12 a plate with $6 for shipping. You can customize your plan to give you more meals each week or feed more people per meal, but $12 a plate is the basic cost for Plated meals. ¬†Optional fancier¬†“Chef’s Table” meals cost a bit more (depending on what the meal is). You can also add on desserts for a few bucks apiece as well.

 

plated review desserts
Mark opted for Peach Shortcakes with our first box. I didn’t try them because I was stuffed after our meal, but he said they were killer.

Are Plated’s Meals Healthy?

Overall, I’d say yes, but it depends. You can look at the nutrition data on each meal and see for yourself what the numbers are. Our pork chop dinner rang in pretty low at about 350¬†calories a plate whereas our chicken enchiladas (which I could barely finish‚ÄĒthe portions were huge!) came in at about 700 calories a plate. All nutritional data for the meals is listed right on the website where you choose which recipes to have sent in your box, so you can scope them out beforehand if you’re at all concerned about those numbers.

Mark grilling up some peaches and pork chops.
Mark grilling up some peaches and pork chops.

 

It’s also worth mentioning that Plated makes a real effort to give your organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free, locally sourced ingredients. So the food you get is wholesome, quality stuff.

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Chopped tomatoes, garlic, spinach, and tomatillos for our Enchiladas Suizas. All of the produce arrived fresh, tasty, and beautiful.

What Did I Think of Plated Overall?

If I had the budget, I’d keep Plated rolling indefinitely. Cooking a fabulous meal at home is really, really fun! Plus, the cost per plate isn’t more than you’d pay at a restaurant. And honestly, these meals tasted better than most restaurant meals I’ve eaten lately. Plated was a ton of fun for Mark and me, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

thai beef lettuce wraps from Plated
The finished Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps. They were absolutely delicious.

I’ll also add a note about Plated’s stellar¬†customer service. I had a little misunderstanding about the gift card terms of use: there was a good promotion going on for the month of June that I hoped Mark could¬†take advantage of so we could get even more bang out of our buck. However, it turns out you can’t apply promos when using Plated gift cards.

I was pretty bugged once I found out the problem, but when I emailed Plated and explained my frustration they apologized and allowed us to combine the promo and gift card anyway. How cool is that?  Online businesses can be pretty cold and impersonal, but Plated treated me like a real person.

I’ll admit it: we did cancel our subscription after the two meal boxes covered by the gift card. But the only reason for that was the price. With Mark in school and a baby on the way, we stick pretty closely to our conservative budget. And while our budget does allow us to spend money on each other on special occasions, it doesn’t allow for us to regularly spend as much on food per meal as Plated costs. Down the line, though, I’d absolutely start up our subscription again.

Everything about Plated was spectacular. The ingredients arrived fresh and beautiful, the finished meals were delicious as well as simple to prepare, and the overall experience was a blast. I give Plated five stars!

Sarah enjoying Plated

20 Best Things at Trader Joe’s

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love Trader Joe’s, and those who haven’t been there yet.

Trader Joe's storefront

 

 

It takes me about 30 minutes to get from my home in Kaysville, Utah to my nearest Trader Joe’s in Salt Lake City, but it’s worth the trip. I load my kids and a cooler full of ice in the car 2 or 3 times a month to stock up on our favorite things. Since Trader Joe’s is relatively new here in Utah, a lot of people see me toting around my reusable TJ bags and ask me (1) if Trader Joe’s is really all that and (2) what I like to buy there.

The answer to #1 is YES! The products are amazing, the atmosphere is fun for kids and adults alike, and going there makes me feel all-around positive about eating well and feeding my family quality, nutritious food.

best things at Trader Joe's include cute kid carts
Here’s my two-year-old¬†Rorie, all ready to fill up her kid-sized cart.

And the answer to #2? Read on for my list of the 20 best things¬†at Trader Joe’s.¬†(Side note: these are in no particular order. They are¬†all amazing!)

1. Salsa Authentica

¬†This is my ultimate go-to salsa. It has exactly the right blend of chunkiness and heat. It is a little strong for my kids, but my husband and I dump it on everything from burritos to eggs to nachos. Better still, it’s only slightly more expensive than your standard store-brand salsa (yet tastes about 10 times more fresh and delicious!).¬†At any given time I have a stash of 5 or 6 jars of this stuff in my pantry. It’s that good.

Salsa Autentica is one of the best things at Trader Joe's

2. Coconut Oil

¬†I hardly ever use coconut oil in my cooking. That’s still on my bucket list. But I do use it as a beauty product! I have long, long hair that I use heat on often. Part of how I keep my ends from looking totally fried is to leave coconut oil in the ends of my damp hair just after a shower once a week. Too much oil all over your head is hard to wash out, but just a bit on the ends keeps my hair growing strong, long, and healthy. It’s also a great moisturizer for skin (again, if not used TOO liberally). You can buy massive tubs of coconut oil at wholesale places like Costco, but if you’re like me and don’t use mass quantities, the TJ coconut oil is your best option because the ounce-for-ounce cost is about the same as the Costco price, but you don’t end up wasting any of it.

Trader Joe's coconut oil

3. Parmesan Ranch Salad Dressing

¬†I’ll be honest: if you asked me if I like this or full-fat buttermilk Ranch dressing better, I’d pick the fatty stuff. But for day-to-day eating and snacking, this is a great way to get tasty Ranch taste without as many fat and calories. It’s a delicious dip for veggies as well as an awesome go-to dressing for salads.

Trader Joe's ranch dressing

 

4. Sweet Potatoes

¬†I like baking up sweet potatoes to eat as a side with some kind of protein and veggies. Sprinkle on just a a bit of brown sugar and melted butter and you’ve got yourself one indulgent-tasting source of quality carbs. However, it seems like my local grocery store only carries sweet potatoes the size of my head. Trader Joe’s carries bags of awesome LITTLE sweet potatoes that are just the right size for one person to eat as a side dish. Unless I’m chopping and peeling a ton of sweet potatoes when cooking for a crowd, these little guys are the exact size I want.

Trader Joe's sweet potatoes

 

5. Cinnamon Schoolbook Cookies

Move over, cardboard animal crackers. This little snack is one I buy for my kids but totally munch on myself! They are hard and crunchy yet have a cinnamony taste reminiscent of my mom’s homemade snickerdoodles. Delish! Now, I don’t get too worked up over high-fructose corn syrup or artificial colors in the food I feed to my kids, but I’m all about snacks that steer clear of those things when I find them at a reasonable price. Because of this, TJ’s Schoolbook Cookies are a snack I feel really good about feeding to my kids. Added bonus: because the cookies are shaped like letters and numbers, it’s good for my girls to shout out which letter or number they see before eating each one. They think it’s fun and I’m happy to see them reinforcing the things they’re working on in preschool. ūüôā

Trader Joe's letter cookies

6. Gnocchis Alla Sorellina

My husband, Mark, lived in Argentina for two years. Down there he ate a lot of Italian food, thanks to the huge influence of Italian immigrants to Argentina in the past century. I’d never tried gnocchis until he introduced me to them. Basically, they’re like a soft and squishy ball of potatoey pasta. The freezer section of Trader Joe’s carries three kinds of gnocchis packaged to be dumped straight into a skillet, complete with tasty sauces and seasonings. The sweet potato sage and gorgonzola ones are tasty but a bit high in fat, but the Gnocchis Alla Sorentina are both healthy enough to eat day-to-day and delicious too. At my house we eat them at least once a week as a lunch or a quick-cooking dinner. My kids have even been known to choose these over Kraft macaroni and cheese.

gnocchis are one of the best things to buy at Trader Joe's

7. Random Seasonal Awesomeness

Trader Joe’s carries amazing seasonal items. Their huge variety of pumpkin products in autumn are delicious, for example, as are their mango goodies in early summer. They also have other quirky products for holidays and seasons, like this build-your-own-Whitehouse I saw last time. Who says gingerbread houses are only for December? It’s products like this that make Trader Joe’s so fun. I’ve never been to a store with such distinct personality as TJ’s.

Trader Joe's white house

 

 

8. Sea Salt & Butterscotch Caramels

¬†I shop Trader Joe’s primarily to get healthy foods for my family, but I occasionally get some of their sugary goodies too. I’ve not been crazy about some of the bakery-type items, but in general, their candy is really tasty. These little guys are absolutely decadent. Mini balls of gooey caramel topped with thick grains of salt, all enveloped in rich, delicious dark chocolate? HECK YES! Honestly, these guys make a mere Twix or Snickers look simply pathetic. As you guys know, when I eat a treat, I make sure it is a GOOD one, and these are definitely on my list of Splurge-worthy candies.

Trader Joe's caramels

 

9. Mango Taffy

And while I’m on the topic of Splurge-worthy candy, you need to try Trader Joe’s Mango Taffy. YUM. It showed up this summer along with the rest of their scrumptious mango products. Because it is seasonal, you’ll want to stock up on it whenever you see it since it won’t be back until the next year. Of course, if you live in the Salt Lake area, you’ll have to hurry extra because I will swoop in and buy it all up before the rest of you get a chance. ūüėČ

Trader Joe's mango taffy

 

10. Chile Lime Chicken Burgers

¬†Here’s another winner from the freezer section. These thin, tasty patties of ground chicken and spices are quick to broil up in the oven or toss on the grill. At 150 calories a pop, I don’t feel one smudge of guilt tossing it on a big whole-grain bun and slathering it in fresh guacamole. These do have a bit of a kick to them, but they’re mild enough that my daughters (ages 2 and 5) eat them happily.

Trader Joe's chicken burgers

11.  Fresh Basil Plants

I have craved tomatoes and basil like a crazy person this pregnancy. But even non-pregnant, I love the color and freshness basil leaves can add to a dish. These are the biggest, leafiest, hardiest basil plants I’ve found (as compared to buying others at local grocery stores).

Trader Joe's basil plant

12. Greeting Cards

This sounds like an odd¬†one, but it’s one of Trader Joe’s best-kept secrets. They have amazing cards! Birthday cards. New baby cards. Thank you cards. Congratulations cards. Thinking of you cards. Simply blank cards. Basically, they have a huge variety of cards, all with gorgeous artwork or fun designs. They cost just .99 apiece but look like something Hallmark would charge you several dollars for.

Trader Joe's greeting cards

13. Thai Red Curry Sauce

One of my favorite freezer meals is crockpot curry. I dump chicken and a bunch of veggies in my crockpot, pour a bottle of this yummy stuff over it all, and let it go for a few hours. At the end, I shred up the chicken and mix in a can of coconut ¬†milk. It’s to die for! This is hands-down the yummiest red curry sauce I’ve found.

Trader Joe's red curry sauce

14. Sweet Potato Fries

¬†Obviously, it’d be hard to feel good and meet most fitness goals if fries were a part of your daily regimen. So whenever I find a baked fry that tastes as good as its deep-fried counterpart, I’m thrilled to be able to enjoy a slightly healthier version of the real deal that doesn’t feel like a sacrifice on the taste front. These little guys are absolutely scrumptious. They are the best freezer fries I’ve tasted, period. In fact, my Sophia turned five last week, and for her birthday dinner she requested these fries. So whether you are a little kid or just a kid at heart, you’ll love these.

Trader Joe's sweet potato fries

 

15. 100% White Whole Wheat Flour

If my husband reads this post, he’s going to feel a little bit lied to at this point. ūüėČ I do stick to regular white flour for most outright treats, ¬†like cookies and brownies, but whenever I bake things like pancakes, bread, and rolls for the family, I like to sneak in this flour. My kids don’t see or taste any difference, but it adds a huge hit of fiber and protein that regular white flour lacks.

Trader Joe's flour


16. Enchilada Sauce

This sauce is so good. I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to sauces, because most that come canned TASTE like a can, in my opinion. This bottled stuff tastes fresh and authentic. It makes my at-home Mexican dishes taste a million times tastier than they would with a store-brand sauce.

Trader Joe's enchilada sauce

 

 

17. Hold the Cone Ice Cream Cones

My husband makes fun of me for liking any food that’s tiny. Well, he’s right. If something is miniature and cute, I’m there. These adorable little chocolate-dipped mini cones are maybe¬†4 inches tall. More than for the cute factor, though, I like that these are the perfect size for my kids. Honestly, if I scoop them a big dish of ice cream, they rarely finish it. These small cones¬†are perfect for small kids. Also, at 70 calories apiece, I don’t feel bad about joining in and having one here and there. They come in both chocolate and vanilla, but my kids and I prefer the vanilla flavor.

Trader Joe's ice cream

18. Flowers

Like the greeting cards, this isn’t something you’d expect. But Trader Joe’s has amazing flowers. They are both fresher and cheaper than flowers I find anywhere else. I often plan my TJ’s runs for days when I’m in the mood to buy pretty flowers, because getting them at Trader Joe’s is the best and most budget-friendly way to go.

Trader Joe's flowers

19. Trader Joe’s Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

¬†My kids are kids, and they still like the¬†neon-orange variety of mac and cheese better than anything that isn’t a frightening and unearthly color. But in my book, no other macaroni even holds a candle to this stuff. It tastes rich, creamy, cheesy, and decadent, even if you add less butter than the package recommends (which I typically do). I often make up a box of this for lunch and split it three ways with my daughters. Yum!

Trader Joe's macaroni

20. Beef Steak Burritos

You may notice I like a lot of things from the freezer section. ūüôā I don’t mind cooking, but as a mom of two little kids I’m a fan of quick-to-make lunches I can throw together during nap time. These burritos are wonderful. If you, like me, ate a lot of those cheap El Monterey burritos in college, fear not: these are nothing like those sad, tasteless little things. I especially like these topped with the Salsa Authentic I mentioned earlier.

Trader Joe's burritos

So there you go! This list, in my opinion, is the guide to getting all the best things at Trader Joe’s.

What do YOU like at Trader Joe’s? Let me know in the comments if there’s anything amazing that I’ve missed!