No offense to pizza, but Indian food is my current takeout obsession. For me, it all comes down to flavor. I love heaping my plate full of cardamom-spiced biryani, creamy palak paneer, fluffy jasmine rice, and buttery garlic naan. I can’t get enough! I’m not sure I’ve met anything on the menu of my local Indian restaurant that I don't like, but my favorite dish has to be chicken tikka masala. The combination of spices, the rich tomato gravy, the tender chicken? I mean, big time yums.
If money and calories were no object, I’d happily order up food from my local spot a few times a week, but— sadly— there’s no way that would work for my wallet or my waistline. As such, I’m always on the hunt for healthier and more affordable ways to get my Indian food fix.
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Freshly is a prepared meal delivery service that specializes in quick and healthy meals that are designed to heat and eat, and it’s one of my favorite ways to stock my fridge with meals that are ready in a snap. The menu features home-style classics and comfort foods, and there are a lot of dishes that I order regularly. My favorite, though? CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA!
Freshly’s version of chicken tikka masala features chicken thighs and chickpeas in a creamy masala sauce, and it’s served with a side of spiced veggie rice. It’s not quite as good as takeout, but it comes pretty darn close, and at only 570 calories, it’s easy for me to work it into my diet for lunch or dinner. When I order a big box of meals from Freshly, the cost per item is around $9.50 (including shipping). At first, I struggled to justify the price because I could pick up frozen meals at the grocery store for less, but the truth is that Freshly’s meals are a lot better. I also like that they’re fresh instead of frozen and made without any preservatives.
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When I first signed up for Freshly, I'd order a box with a variety of different meals every few weeks, but before I knew it my order was getting heavier and heavier on the chicken tikka. When that day came that I placed an order that contained 50% of my fave dish, I figured maybe it was time to try making it for myself. I’ve never really been one for meal prepping, but I have a few friends who do, so I thought I’d give it a try. Why not, right? I freed up a Sunday afternoon, stocked up on reusable lunch-sized containers, and made plans to cook up a big batch of my very own tikka masala.
The first step? I needed a recipe. (And I wanted it to be as close calorie and taste-wise to Freshly’s.) I started by checking out the nutritional information on Freshly's website, which helped me identify the main ingredients and veggies in the dish, but I ran into my first snag almost immediately. When cooking up Indian curry, the spice blend is super important, and Freshly’s must be a closely guarded secret. On the list of ingredients posted on their website, all I got was “spices.”
I dug around and found a couple of highly-rated recipes online, and I used them to pull together a new recipe that I felt was likely to resemble Freshly’s. I made sure to incorporate as many of Freshly’s listed ingredients as I could: green beans, carrots, chickpeas, peas, chicken thighs, Greek yogurt, basmati rice, half & half, and lime juice, to name a few. Based on my recipe research, I mixed up a spice blend that I hoped would be similar. I opted to use a mix of garam masala, ginger, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, ground coriander, salt, and pepper. (Luckily, I had most of these in my spice cabinet already.)
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Come Sunday afternoon, I dove in. I prepped my ingredients, followed the recipe I’d created, and cooked up a big pot of chicken tikka masala. All-in, it took me about two and a half hours to make, and when I was done I portioned the food into dishes to save for the coming week. My version of the recipe tasted pretty good, but it wasn’t the same as Freshly’s (I’m CONVINCED there’s something special in their mystery spice blend). Here's the thing: after factoring in the time it took me to shop, cook, and clean, my Sunday afternoon was pretty much shot.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cooking… but would I want to do this every single weekend? I don't think so.
Cost-wise, I definitely spent less cooking at home than I would have just ordering a box from Freshly, but I think I got a little bit lucky there. Since I already had most of the spices I needed, my grocery bill wasn’t as high as it would have been otherwise.
So, what’s my takeaway from this little experiment? Well, I’m pleased that I was able to whip up a tasty tikka, and following the ingredient list used by Freshly, I was able to make similarly sized meals that were pretty close in calorie count. In terms of cost, I even saved money making the food myself. But I can’t get over the time I needed to make it happen. When I factor in shopping and cleanup, it probably took me 5 hours from start to finish. I value my free time on the weekends, and I don't think I’m ready to give up an entire afternoon every Sunday to prep meals for the coming week. With all that in mind, I think I’m going to stick with Freshly. I might do some batch cooking once a month or so (and I’ll certainly still order my beloved Indian takeout from time to time), but I’m grateful to have discovered a meal delivery solution that keeps my refrigerator stocked full of chicken tikka masala.
Want to learn more about Freshly?
The Subscription Box: Freshly
- 4 meals per week: $45.96 + $5.99 shipping
- 6 meals per week: $56.94 + $5.99 shipping
- 10 meals per week: $89.90 + $9.99 shipping
- 12 meals per week: $101.88 + $11.99 shipping
The smallest plan available from Freshly delivers 4 meals per week (each meal serves 1), but if you order 10 or 12 meals per week, you’ll receive a reduction in the per-meal price.
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