Imagine getting up in the morning, going outside to pick up the paper, and finding breakfast, lunch and dinner, neatly packed in a cooler, waiting on your doorstep. No, this is not a dream.
Chef by Request, based in Washington state, prepares fresh meals for residents in Washington state, parts of Western Oregon and the San Francisco Bay Area. They specialize in the zone and paleo diets, which are comprised of 40% carbohydrate, 30% lean protein, and 30% favorable fats. The zone diet is designed to give you the right mix of foods to keep insulin levels steady, and prevent afternoon fatigue. The paleo diet excludes grains, dairy, soy and legumes, using animal based protein. My Chef by Request can make meals free of: gluten, dairy, soy, egg, corn, fish, shellfish, sugar, yeast, and nuts.
I sampled their meals for a week and was impressed with the quality and taste of the food. Breakfast varied from eggs, omelettes, sausage, gluten free oatmeal, fruit and yogurt. Lunch was typically a salad with an ample portion of vegetables, some beans and an adequate topping of meat to keep me from getting hungry in the afternoon. An energy bar and a high protein snack were provided each day. For dinner, the usual fare was meat with steamed vegetables. Everything was cooked, only requiring a gentle heating in the oven.
I requested dairy, gluten and beef free meals, and experienced only one slip up on the beef. This is one of the pitfalls of eating out anywhere, whether in a restaurant, a friend's house or ordering through a personal chef. It's important to recognize the risk of human error, and weigh the costs and benefits of having meals prepared for you.
I figured the service saved me two to four hours per day in meal planning, shopping, preparation, and clean up. The cost per day for My Chef by Request is $18 to $40 per day, depending on the meal program and calorie level. When you figure the cost of food you regularly buy combined with the cost of your time, it's a pretty good deal.
This type of service would be nice for anyone with a busy schedule, and especially valuable in these situations: (1) a college aged child who needs help with meals, (2) newly diagnosed with food sensitivities and not enough time to prepare meals, (3) vacation or business trip where locating or transporting food will be difficult, (4) hospital stay, and (5) special gift for a busy friend or relative with food sensitivities.
There are personal chefs and food delivery services who will accommodate special diets around the globe. A couple are listed on this site: the Holistic Kitchen in Arizona and the Gluten Free Chef in Oregon. If you are interested in such a service, try a google search to find one in your area. Or, if you know someone who is doing a great job accommodating special diets, leave a comment.
Another option is to have meals shipped to you. The following companies will ship your meals frozen to anywhere in the United States. Each provides ingredient lists for their products online:
Everybody Eats, a nut and gluten free facility, cooks pizza, pasta, desserts and breads in New York.
Your Dinner Secret delivers gluten and casein free meals.
This post originally appeared in March, 2010.