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My Subscription Addiction
My Subscription Addiction

The Unofficial Guide to Fail-Proof Home Cooking

Christen Russo
ByChristen RussoSep 30, 2022In partnership with Tovala

Spoiler alert: This oven is a better cook than me.

I like to cook. But I love to eat.

I put so much of myself into my days—I’m sure you can relate, there just seems to be no time at all to sit still and relax (unless I schedule it onto my personal calendar). So, while creating complex meals has at times been a passion for me, it’s now feeling so time-consuming, and I’ve noticed myself regressing to cooking whatever is quick and easy.

And yet, as my meals have regressed in their extravagance, my passion to eat delicious food has remained unchanged.

For a stretch, I bemoaned that hiring a personal chef was outside my pay grade. Then there came Tovala. Tovala is basically a personal chef. But better—you don’t have to make small talk with it!

What Is Tovala, Exactly?

Tovala is a meal subscription service that goes a few steps beyond the usual “box of pre-cut portioned ingredients sent alongside a recipe card.” (Not that those aren’t great.)

You start by purchasing a Tovala oven, which is about the size of a toaster oven. It’s a smart oven with a scanning device built in—it scans your meal’s QR code and pulls and automatically applies appropriate cooking instructions, like temperature and time, from the cloud.

Then you’ll receive a recurring shipment of meals. Before I stray too far from the personal chef topic, I’ll note that Tovala meals are designed and prepared by chefs, and shipped fresh weekly on the day of the week that suits you.

The Epic Time-Saver

Listen, we all know by now that shopping, prepping, and cooking meals takes hours.

Tovala saves me time by presenting me with 13 meal options for the week. I can choose the quantity of each meal I want and set some parameters for preferences, but then I’m basically just looking at a menu for my family. That I can manage. Then, as far as cooking goes, Tovala is quite literally a 60-second time investment.

Related: one of my favorite food bloggers consistently publishes so-called 30-minute meals that call for 2 Tablespoons of fresh thyme, which if you don’t know firsthand, it takes 15 minutes to pick off the stems alone. But the meal with the thyme vs. the meal without the thyme is not the same meal. Am I asking too much by wanting deliciousness in my life even on the most chaotic of days? Humbly, I don’t think I am!

A multitasker's dream

If you’re thinking 13 rotating meal options per week sounds restricting, and you want to revisit your old thyme-de-leafing ways, you can just use Tovala as a regular oven. You can also use it to steam and toast. Oh, and its scan-to-cook feature is compatible with QR codes on over 850 items found in the grocery store, including some things from—I’m freaking out—Trader Joe’s!

Tovala is connected to Wifi, and—get this—you can set it up to ping you on your smartphone when your food is ready to eat.

Something for everyone `

It’s important to me that my family sits down to enjoy dinner together. But if I’m being honest, that only works out about half the time, and the other half I’m leaving my plate at the table while I make a last-minute PB&J for my four-year-old who has no concept of the heroic efforts I just made in the kitchen.

My favorite workaround is to use my Tovala oven to make everyone exactly what they want.

My kid will eat Tovala’s chicken dishes happily, even going for the broccoli or green beans on the side. And of course, you can’t go wrong with mac ‘n’ cheese or a quesadilla. Meanwhile, my husband and I can enjoy the Italian Sausage, White Bean & Spinach Ragout, or the Lemon Herb Almond-Crusted Salmon.

Final Thoughts

Tovala has been a total game changer for getting dinner on the table for my family in practically no time at all. For meals that are so incredibly low-effort to prepare, they’re so flavorful. It almost feels like I’m getting away with something. Let me put it this way: I get all the proverbial thyme but also all the time. I win.