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Culinary Convenience: The Who, What, Where, and How of Local Meal Prep Companies 


Across Alberta, a culinary revolution is quietly taking shape with the increased demand for conscious eating paired with convenience. The trend emerged in 2015 and has seen significant growth since 2020. The local companies in this space not only cater to our stomachs but also to our hectic pace of life. 


During the pandemic, the absence of restaurant dining options propelled a monumental shift towards freshly prepared, home-delivered meals. As the world found itself spending significantly more time at home, the inherent complexities of balancing professional commitments and family responsibilities, along with trying to put wholesome, delicious meals on the table every day, became increasingly apparent.


Local Meal Prep companies have become heroes for time-strapped individuals, offering a blend of convenience and health. But it’s not only convenience, we’ve had people write to us who are concerned about an elderly parent living alone but no longer able to cook, and they’ve asked if we can recommend a company that can deliver delicious and nutritious, and even gourmet, meals. And similarly, to recommend meals for children who can’t cook for themselves, but need to have something on hand that’s safe, quick, and easy to heat.


While the concept of meal prepping isn't new, its widespread adoption in the past three years has sparked the attention of diverse communities, particularly those devoted to holistic well-being and fitness pursuits. Unlike meal kits that provide measured ingredients and instructions for you to cook the meals yourself at home, these are ready prepared meals, portioned and packaged individually for ease and convenient use. The fundamental premise remains simple: pick your weekly meals for delivery, and free yourself from the daily chores of cooking, grocery shopping, and meal planning.


These carefully curated meal packages come with informative nutritional labels, and promise safe and convenient storage, and the assurance of meeting dietary requirements, for discerning, health-conscious consumers. While some of these companies have chosen to focus on one particular dietary area, others offer options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with regularly rotating menus to keep their customers engaged.


If you are thinking of subscribing to a meal prep service, consider your personal preferences as well as health aspirations and fitness objectives. Start by sampling single deliveries from different providers within your economic and dietary boundaries, before committing to regular deliveries.


 

The search for Alberta’s best Meal Prep dishes


An article on meal prep and the companies who make it would be meaningless without the proof to back it up, so we set out to find out for ourselves the variety and quality of these meals, and which we could recommend to you. 


We had intended it to be a competition to find the best, and as we knew we couldn’t tackle it all ourselves, we engaged three local food experts to judge too: Rosemary Bacovsky, Andrew Schultz, and Patricia Lau (see below). We invited eight companies to drop off their best dishes - an appetiser or snack, main, and dessert (if offered), and spent half a day tasting them all blind and evaluating them, not knowing who had made each dish, only its name and ingredients.


What were we looking for?

* The Dish: does it make sense? Would someone be well served by a dish like this if it was ordered?

* The Flavour: how does it taste? Do the ingredients make sense? Is the dish well-balanced?

* Appeal: does it look enticing, with the right amount of ingredients, colour, or pizzazz?

* And finally, with twice the weight of each of the previous categories, we asked ourselves how highly we would recommend this to a friend.


We scored each dish, and ultimately it was too close to call – each company had a standout dish, so below we’ve included our comments. Our best advice? Try them!

-Linda Garson


 

Diverse Delights: A Culinary Tapestry


The meal prep industry is as diverse as our rich demographic. Each company brings its unique culinary flair and expertise to the table, catering to various dietary needs and preferences. Whether you're a vegetarian seeking plant-based goodness or a fitness enthusiast aiming to hit specific macros, there's a meal prep company out there that speaks to your taste buds and lifestyle.


For those seeking a global culinary adventure, The BRDGE, founded by Daniela Jasper Okumagba, is a place for all international flavours. Inspired by her Nigerian heritage, Jasper has created an online platform for local vendors that allows you to order food that transports you to far-flung corners of the world. The BRDGE works with different vendors who specialize in cuisines from all over the globe, so you can discover the wide world of food without having to travel.


The BRDGE’s multiple and flexible meal-delivery or catering options can fit your preferences from Nigerian to Ukrainian and anything in between, their wholesome meals are prepared authentically. thebrdge.com


Both the BRDGE’s Jerk Chicken and Beef Patties scored highly:


“Definitely one of the most memorable Jerk Chickens I've had in Calgary! It's so succulent, flavourful and I couldn't help but reach for seconds after the first bite!” PL


“We really enjoyed these Beef Patties. They’re visually very appealing, a large half-moon shape of buttery pastry filled with perfectly spiced beef.” LG


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For those seeking variety without sacrificing convenience, Just Bite Me, founded by Jason Story, offers a marketplace of flavours to customers in Calgary and Edmonton. With locations in both cities, you also have the option to choose between delivery or pick up. Their customizable subscription allows you to select your proteins for them to create a menu specifically catered to your preferences. 


Story believes healthy eating should be flexible and enjoyable, allowing you to make choices that fit your unique lifestyle. Their mission naturally supports the goals of becoming the go-to meal prep company for busy people seeking convenient, healthy, and flavourful meals, and they aim to make healthy eating a seamless part of everyday life, empowering individuals to make informed choices that nourish their bodies and taste buds. justbitememeals.com


Just Bite Me scored highly in each category with their Wagyu Beef Gyoza: “Delicious gyozas with meaty flavour, complemented by veggies and oriental flavours. Delectable dumplings.” RB

The Med Shawarma Chicken Bowl: "The chicken thighs were grilled to perfection - and I loved how the pickled turnip really made the dish 'pop'" AS

and their Pumpkin Spice Donuts: "A sweet treat that elevates the 'pumpkin spice' craze to a new level!" AS


 

Fit Kitchen, founded by Jason Zaran, is a leading provider of healthy meal solutions to greater Calgary and Edmonton, inspiring people to embrace a healthy lifestyle without sacrificing taste or convenience. Their meals, created with balanced nutrition in mind, make it easy to stay on track with your health goals without compromising taste. 


By participating in local fitness events and health initiatives, and promoting healthy eating, Fit Kitchen supports the community in achieving wellness goals. When collaborating with local fitness trainers, Fit Kitchen found ways to create meal plans based on sound scientific principles and nutritional guidelines, ensuring that people receive the right balance of nutrients to support their fitness goals, whether weight loss or muscle gain. fitkitchen.ca


Fit Kitchen’s Casbah Chicken and Bangkok Green Curry were both very much enjoyed: “This Moroccan-inspired dish is a total flavour bomb! That zesty yogurt dressing totally made the dish stand out!” PL

“A winner of a dish, this Thai green curry is exactly what you’d hope for from the name – spicy but not too spicy, with plenty of crunchy peppers and snap peas as well as coconut rice.” LG


 

Mindfulness on a Plate: Nourishing Body and Soul


Founded by Rikhil Kawa and Jasen Stein, Menu Mandala’s mission is to elevate plant-based cuisine and incorporate mindfulness practices into their culinary creations. When building communities bound by the vision of a better future for people and the planet, Menu Mandala make their wholesome meals in alignment with practices that are nutritionally balanced to support a healthy lifestyle without compromising on taste, and remaining completely cruelty-free. The meals are all gluten-free too. 


Kawa and Stein came together to make plant-based eating more convenient while creating a conscious culinary community through food that is good for you, the planet, and animals. Two sizes are available, ‘convenient’ meals, enough to satisfy one hungry adult, and ‘communal’, equivalent to four convenient meals for when family and friends gather. menumandala.ca


Adding a little spice to the tasting and waking our taste buds, Menu Mandala’s Massaman Curry was a hit with our judges: “They nailed the flavours on this rich, yet mildly spicy, Thai curry! This is definitely my kind of comfort food on a chilly day.” PL


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Flexibility and Customization Tailored to Your Needs


Recognizing the diversity of individual needs, Alberta's meal prep companies offer a variety of flexible subscription plans and customization options. Nutri Meals, founded by Sam Hale and Grace Clark in 2017, provides flexibility for their subscribers in that you can engage in a subscription service that allows for skipping deliveries without locking yourself into a long-term commitment, which is ideal if you’re testing the waters or prefer a more adaptable approach to your planning. They aim to provide convenient meal solutions that fit into busy lifestyles, and empower individuals to make healthy choices. 


This mission is supported by a vision to be Alberta's most customer-centric meal prep company, prioritizing individual needs and preferences while providing exceptional service and quality. Nutri Meals also offer self-serve, automated kiosks that are accessible 24 hours a day. You can choose up to three meals in one transaction that takes less than a minute. nutrimeals.ca


Nutri Meals’ starter of Mixed Green Salad with roasted chickpeas, honey goat cheese, peppers and house made lime vinaigrette was a popular and really good-looking dish: “Enticingly healthy. A delicious, refreshing, visually appealing complex salad with diverse flavours and textures, enhanced by zesty lime vinaigrette.” RB


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Weight Loss Goals Supported with Flavour


Lean On Meals, founded by Zachary Plamondon in 2015, takes weight loss goals to heart, offering delicious meals to align with your calorie requirements. Founded with a vision to alleviate the burden of calorie counting and the anxiety of overeating, the company focuses on a balanced approach for those seeking a path to sustainable weight loss without compromising on taste or variety. At the forefront of Lean On Meals is the creation of carefully curated and filling meals, each customized to maintain a healthy calorie deficit.


They understand that achieving weight loss can be challenging, and they are committed to making the journey easier and more enjoyable. Lean On Meals’ mission is to change the way you look and feel with their chef prepared meals. leanonmeals.ca


The judges couldn’t stop eating Lean On Meals’ Hoisin Braised Pork Ribs: "Delicious! Would be the 'MVP' as an appie for Game Night - or a meal on its own." AS

And their Oreo Donuts were a big hit too: “Oreos! Donuts! What can be better? Oreo-donuts – decadent, delicious, moist and addictive!” RB


 

Celebrating Busy Lives: The Story Behind Sprout Society


Sprout Society was born in 2020 out of a passion for giving back time. Founded by Amy and Connor Kadziolka, the business is a testament to their dedication to providing healthy, plant-based meals to busy individuals. Inspired by childhood favourites, the meals offer a nostalgic touch while adhering to modern-day health standards. 


Sprout has a rotating menu to introduce variety, and make sure that each week brings new options, making healthy eating a dynamic and evolving journey. They are commited to the restoration of balance for people striving to lead healthier lives without compromising the quality or integrity of their meals, and giving back to the community to eradicate food insecurity. sproutmeals.ca


Sprout Society’s Roasted Beet Hummus was a big hit all round: “This is a great snack or starter dish – very smooth and creamy – and striking with its red beet colour. You’ll be glad that it’s a generous portion, so you can keep going back for more!” LG


 

Locally Sourced Goodness: A Commitment to Service to All Needs


Made Foods, founded by Blake Ducharme and Chris Dobson in 2015, takes a conscious approach to food sourcing. Partnering with local businesses and organizations, an impact created from outreach helps them to foster resilient communities based on healthy eating practices. Their chefs prioritize locally grown ingredients, ensuring their meals are delicious and environmentally responsible, and they have partnered with more than 40 farms and ranches who supply the ingredients for their meals. 


Their easily customized delivery options let you pick the number of meals and frequency of deliveries based on your budget and preferences, but you can also pick up Made Foods’ meals at Calgary Co-ops, Calgary Airport, Community Natural Foods, and other locations.


Made Foods dishes scored highly in each category. The Mediterranean Couscous Salad had local veg, goat feta, and seeds: "I loved the complexity of flavours brought about by the unique ingredients - and the honey vinaigrette was the perfect complement" AS

For a main, the Curried Pork Tenderloin with baby potatoes and blistered kale: “Delicious moist and tender pork rounds with al dente veggies complemented by a fragrant, mildly spicy curry sauce.” RB

And both their desserts were much acclaimed - the Blondie: “This decadent buttery Blondie is the perfect bite-sized indulgent sweet treat.” PL

And the Holy Fudge Brownie: “It’s hard to believe these decadent and rich fudge brownies are gluten-free. Anyone would be happy to end a meal with these, cold or warmed.” LG


 

Next time you find yourself stressing over an empty fridge and needing more time to prepare healthy meals for the week ahead, know that multiple options are available to you. These local companies are working hard to make your life easier.



Our Judges:

Rosemary Bacovsky, local, national, and international restaurant judge.

Andrew Schultz, broadcaster, QR Calgary host, and true foodie.

Patricia Lau, aka Miss Foodie, social media blogger, and food writer.

Linda Garson, who eats, drinks, and writes about it for a living.


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