Locavore meal kits from Green Fork let you save time and cook tasty dinners

Meal kit services that ship a box to your door with all the ingredients you need to cook your own meal are all the rage, and this week we’re trying out Green Fork — a local meal kit with produce and meats from Central New York farms.

Fresh food shows up and you get to do all the cooking! 14850 photo by Mark H. Anbinder.

If you enjoy cooking, but don’t enjoy shopping or coming up with a menu, meal kits are perfect — you get to do all the cooking after someone else has taken care of the recipe planning and putting together top-notch, seasonal ingredients. You get portioned, fresh food and easy to follow, illustrated recipe steps.

At $10-15 per meal, it would be easy for you to save money by buying your own ingredients at the supermarket — but Green Fork sends only what you need, and you won’t have to figure out how to use the rest of a bag of potatoes or carrots or the other half of a bulk pack of chicken, or buy a whole bottle of balsamic vinegar when you need a tablespoon.

The cost also compares well to dining out. Sure, you can get an inexpensive eatery meal for $8-12, but add a drink, tax, and a tip, and you’re no longer saving money.

Green Fork is special because they’re buying from the same farms and producers you already know, like Black Diamond and Sweet Land Farm, Flour City Pasta and Crooked Carrot, plus meats from the Piggery and Murray’s Chicken. Most of what they send is sourced from within 250 miles of the Finger Lakes. In fact, farmers from Early Morning Farm, not far from Ithaca, launched the service last summer, and have teamed up with dozens of other local producers to keep things interesting.

Winter fresh rolls and hot, fast miso soup.

There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan meals, like beet and chevre risotto, and winter fresh rolls with tofukan from Ithaca Soy. Those rolls featured soba noodles, cabbage and carrot slaw, and a coconut-peanut dipping sauce, with a side of shiitake miso soup.

The creative beet and goat cheese risotto would have been enough to eat, if a little monotonous, as a complete meal for two, but worked even better as a colorful side dish for four next to fish and brussels sprouts we picked up separately.

Roasted carrot “fries” are a nice nod to healthful, seasonal eating.

We were also impressed with the seared mustard pork shoulder “steaks” with pear and watermelon radish salad, and the marinated beef and bleu cheese sandwiches on Ithaca Bakery rolls with roasted carrot stick “fries.” Included side dishes like the carrot fries, and the miso soup, make these dinners at once more interesting and more complete.

Green Fork has partnered with the Piggery to collect the reusable ice packs that come in the weekly box to keep everything chilled. Toss your ice packs in the blue bin behind the Piggery, near Papa John’s and the Sciencenter. Most of the rest of the packaging, which is assembled by Challenge Workforce Solutions, is recyclable or reusable. We can certainly see uses for the zip-top plastic bags and the small plastic bottles of liquid ingredients, perhaps after a good rinse.

A weekly box of three meals each for two people is $72, or $12 a serving, and there are family-size boxes for four that drop the per-person cost to $10 or below. Pick the dishes you want each week, and skip a week or cancel your subscription any time. To be clear, this isn’t fast food; most of the dishes aren’t difficult to make, but they require some time and actual cooking, including peeling and chopping fresh, seasonal vegetables.

The group is still working on how to reliably list food allergens and identify meals as vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free, for example, but they’re very responsive and helpful at answering specific questions about how each dish fits certain dietary needs.

If you’re in range of Green Fork, which so far covers New York State, and adjoining areas of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Western Massachusetts, you can give their service a try at $35 off your first box with a coupon they’ve been kind enough to share with our readers.

There are mainstream meal kits like Plated, HelloFresh, and Blue Apron, and narrow-focus services like the all-burgers, all-the-time BurgaBox, but a convenient meal kit that helps us put fresh, seasonal, local food on our tables sounds like a win to us.

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