Veganism is increasingly popular: some go plant based for the environment, some for the animals, some for health. Whatever the reason, it’s changing the food landscape. There are a host of vegan options in my local supermarket and new companies pop up online all the time. I decided to try a number of online services and products this World Vegan Month.
My selection criteria were simple: anything that popped up in my timeline in a particular week I’d investigate/try. Below is a list of products that I ended up buying, from frozen meals, to meal replacements and crisps. (There’s a vegan, 3D printed vitamin which, unfortunately, didn’t pop up in my social media timelines until after I’d closed the purchase window. I’m slightly sad about that, but only slightly.)
Below I give you the type of product, why I tried it, what I thought and the cost by serving/100 calories/100 grams. For meal replacement powders, the actual meal is powder + water but since you don’t pay for the water, I’m only including the powder. It affects the cost per bulk, but not the cost per 100 calories. Cost per calories isn’t a value I’ve thought about before but with meal replacement products it makes sense. What will 2,000 calories set you back?
So, in no particular order, here are the products I tried.
AllPlants – frozen meals by post
- Cost per meal: £5.80 per portion (when you buy for two; postage not included, £4.99 if you get a subscription – the values below are based on the higher price).
- Cost per 100 calories: £1.16-£1.44
- Cost per 100 grams: £1.42-£1.57
What it is: Frozen vegan meals for your freezer and oven/microwave. Buy or subscribe to six meals (for one or two) at a time. There are a wide number of recipes to choose from, picked from all over the world.
What appealed: Honestly? Colourful packaging and ease of use. I very rarely buy ready-meals but this service appealed to me. I hoped that it would be less fatty/salty/sugary than the things I find in the supermarket. The vegan label made me hope for healthy.
Overall thought: Not bad, actually. Most of the recipes are fairly straight-forward ones (I made a lentil bolognese pasta bake after trying theirs) so you can taste the ingredients. This is a great plus – the food manages to be fairly fresh and not taste too processed despite being ready. The bhaji daal is my favourite. It could do with a little more texture but it’s fragrant and soothing as anything I can make – I’d be happy to always have this in the freezer. I also enjoyed the rigatoni bolognese and the lasagne noci. It feels healthier than a supermarket ready meal and tastes good. It might not be mind-blowing, but that’s not what I expect from convenience food.
This is not the only vegan frozen meal delivery out there, but it’s the one I’ve tried. I love the packaging (which can be returned or recycled, your choice) and I like the range of recipes and am about to recommend it to a friend who is trying to go vegan.
Christopher has taken upon himself to make a couple of the recipes at home to see how they compare price-wise when you make from scratch. You might hear more from me on this topic in future.
Feed. – meal replacements by post
- Cost per meal: £3.8-£4-5
- Cost per 100 calories: £0.59-£1.11 depending on the type of product.
- Cost per 100 grams: £0.70-£4.50
What it is: A French meal replacement service with shakes (ready made, ready-to-shake, or powder pouches) and bars. It’s similar to things we’ve looked at before, like Huel or Purition, but has a very different set of flavours, offers larger portions and uses a different macro nutrient breakdown (read: less protein focus).
What appealed: Flavours beyond fruit and chocolate; the promise of vegetables and savoury shakes.
Overall thought: I really enjoyed the savoury powders. Christopher thought the green vegetable shake tasted of cup-a-soup and he’s not entirely wrong. Still, if I’m going to have a meal replacement, I’d rather it made me think of food than sweets.
I really enjoyed the fig and almond bars with their slight curry spice hint, and the tomato powder. It took a while to get round to the bottle shakes: they hold 600+ calories and I don’t need a lunch (or dinner) of that size most days. The strawberry and basil was lovely with a lot of chewable seeds, and the mushroom one is probably my favourite. It’s quite oaty in flavour, with a deep, quietly soothing, mushroom umami.
I’m not going to do full week on these products but I don’t mind having them in my convenience-food cupboard. Because, yes, meal replacements are convenience foods. Their whole thing is ‘oh, I’m too busy hitting the gym to cook, let me just chuck some water in this bottle and off I go, yeah baby, who needs to chew anyway?‘. With these, I get to chew. There’s no need for a blender so there are some complete seeds for your molars to work on. For which I say thank you.
Bexfast – breakfast puddings by post
- Cost per meal: £4.99
- Cost per 100 calories: £1.39 – £1.53
- Cost per 100 grams: £2.27-£2.50
What appealed: Yummy flavours that would be a faff to make at home, like caramel crunch and cherry bakewell.
What it is: Overnight oats in cheerful colours and dessert flavours made in London. Freezable.
Overall thought: Yes, tasty, and yes, they’ve made more fuss with their overnight oats than I do. Never will I make a date-fudge sauce layer for my oats. On the other hand, they’re overnight oats and there’s only so much excitement I can muster about that as a product.
I was very excited about the Coconut collective bakewell collab but the raspberry cocoa turned out to be my favourite. I love that they can be frozen without losing texture or flavour, that makes them excellent back-up breakfasts.
The problem for me is that I can make overnight oats. They might not have a caramel sauce but which are otherwise perfectly tasty and (much) cheaper. And that’s not a thought you should have when you order overnight oats by post. I’m not the target audience for this product and that’s OK. The company is doing very well and it’s exciting to see it grow.
Human Food – meal replacement bars by post
- Cost per bar: £3.30 with the 3-bar trial pack, less if you buy more.
- Cost per 100 calories: £3.37
- Cost per 100 grams: £4.40
What appealed: It’s a bar! (And I’m a sucker for bars, despite rarely eating them and not necessarily believing in bars as a force for good.)
What it is: A balanced, organic food bar in three flavours, each delivering a hefty dose of something that’s considered super-healthy (turmeric, goji, spirulina). They can be eaten as is, broken over yogurt or porridge, or added to shakes.
Overall thought: Yes, they did taste better than I expected. Apparently, people look at the brown bar and doesn’t immediately think it’s going to be dead delish. I was one of those people. Human Food reminded me of nut and seed bars I used to eat: chewy, kind of chocolatey. I like that they keep seeds whole for crunch (and to stop their oil from going rancid, if I remember the info leaflet correctly).
You can switch things up by not using Human Food in other recipes. I tried it as a bar, as a cereal on yogurt and in a smoothie. The latter was fun because the colour of the bar came out: the green bar was brown but gave me a green smoothie. On yogurt it was too much as a raw brownie for my liking. My favourite way of eating Human Food was as a bar.
I already eat nuts, fruits and vegetables so I don’t really need this product. It’s fun to eat because, to me, a bar falls into the same psychological space as a cake-treat, but I won’t be re-ordering.
Satisfied Snacks – salad crisps
Cost per serving: £1.19 if you buy four cans.
Cost per 100 calories: £1.59-£1.68
Cost per 100 grams: £5.95
What appealed: Veggie crisps with none of the normal fat content – sounds great.
What it is: Veggies, mixed together, dried and cut into crisps.
Overall thought: Yeah, the idea was great, the pepper ones even quite nice but I wasn’t so keen on the carrot and kimchi flavour. The main pleasure of crisps, to me, is as a dip scoop. These were not substantial enough to stand up to hummus so they can’t fill that purpose.
It turns out that I’m not so crazy about crisps that I feel I need a crisp replacement made from dried veg. I can just go without.