I got home from work one evening recently, exhausted and famished. I was bored of takeout, which is essentially what has sustained me during the lockdown. I was craving a hot home-cooked meal.
So, I tried to think of a quick fix, but couldn't quite figure out what to have. After rummaging in my kitchen shelves, I realised that I didn't have most ingredients. Fearing to go to bed hungry, I went on an online search for meal ideas.
Thankfully, I stumbled upon The Dinner Box, an online-based company that delivers meal kits to customers' homes. Excited, I placed an order of herb crusted chicken breast. An hour later, someone knocked at my door with the package. Within 40 minutes, I served myself a steaming dish of chicken and a generous helping of salad.
The best part is, for Sh1,600 only, I had my fill and left a portion for the following day. With this discovery, it will probably be a very long time before I order takeout. With local innovations such as The Dinner Box bursting into the Kenyan food scene, it is now possible to order a meal kit and to prepare it at home.
“Meal kits are packages of pre-portioned ingredients for different dishes. They also come along with a recipe,” explains Eva Mugo, the founder of The Dinner Box.
“You pick and order a meal plan online after which it is delivered to your doorstep. This way, you get to enjoy restaurant-style dining, by preparing the meal at home according to your liking.”
With this arrangement, you do not have to worry about the hustle of buying groceries or determining portions of the components of your meal.
Some of the offerings from The Dinner Box include recipes for chicken, lamb, fish and beef.
“We have vegetarian options too, consisting of pasta and veggie wraps,” Eva notes.
Alongside meal plans are spices, sauces and other seasoning elements. Offerings come in different sizes that serve one, two or four, she adds.
While they’re a fairly new concept in Kenya, meal kits are a booming business in the western world. Most Kenyans, she notes, are only familiar with takeaway food.
But why meal kits?
Hotels and most restaurants may have reopened, but most diners still do not feel safe enough to eat out as the risk of infection remains high.
Stringent safety and health protocols at eateries have dampened the thrill of eating out. The sitting arrangement, for instance, has changed to allow for social distancing, while food and drink offerings have dramatically been compressed.
Eateries that did not initially have a takeout option are now making meal deliveries to compensate for the reduced footfall.
For foodies and creators of food content though, takeaway falls short of the experience of sitting at an eatery for hours to savour a hot meal and a good talk with friends and dates.
This is where meal kits come in, Eva says, arguing that most working millennials suffer from “decision fatigue”, and are often unable to decide what to eat after an exhausting day at work.
“Coming up with a quick, healthy and flavourful fix isn’t always easy. This concept suits people who like to try out recipes and to learn.”
The method, she says, is cost-effective, speedy and convenient. On the one hand, a plate at most eateries in Nairobi costs between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000. On the other hand, whipping up a meal at home is significantly cheaper.
“You don’t have to go out to eat at a restaurant especially with the risk of infection still high. Besides, if you're busy at work and barely have time to shop for groceries, you simply order a ready package that you can cook within minutes,” Eva adds.