Got dinner plans? Can’t decide whether to eat out, deliver in or cook from scratch. You’re not alone. Emily Eaves considers the overwhelming multitude of options now available to city dwellers.
Dinner. If you’re anything like me, you’ll start thinking about what to eat for dinner, or supper as many like to call it, around 9am each day. I’m reassured that I’m not alone in this. I’ve worked in offices where large parts of our daily conversation mulled over last night’s dinner or tonight’s plans. I’ve been in yoga classes where the teacher has actually encouraged us to clear our minds of planning our dinner whilst lying in savassanah. On a dull day, sometimes the thought of dinner pulls you through; it’s a hot topic.
No longer is it just a topic of what to cook either. In fact, many friends of mine rarely ever cook. Their London kitchens are filled with unopened olive oil bottles, or a fridge with coffee, vodka and some vitamin supplements. Perishable items are generally bought and wasted, bags of spinach thrown away with only a few handfuls gone. On the other hand, when people do cook there are a million and one recipe books, websites and apps to consult; want to go with Miso Aubergine from Deliciously Ella, a quick ham hock pie from Jamie Oliver or some sumptuous pasta dish from Nigella? Store cupboards become stocked with Himalayan rock salt, pomegranate molasses and fridges filled with fresh herbs.
Speaking of which, cooking dinner calls for ingredients – so the next consideration is where to buy them? I’ve experimented with a variety of options – from setting up online delivery to stocking the kitchen entirely from things lugged home from the high street. My least favourite option are mini supermarkets – the express stores which are convenient and ideal for last minute panics but funnel you into buying a more expensive version from a narrower range.
The lack of inspiration in artificially lit express stores is in stark contrast to another dinner option I’ve explored – the ‘Hello Fresh’ (amongst others like Nosh Healthy Kitchen meal packs) option. I recently signed up to a free trial of this and was bowled over by the arrival of a box with a week’s worth of meal ingredients in it, and a corresponding menu card for each. Although it requires a quiet week (when you’ll have almost every evening in, and time to cook) some of the recipes were things I’d never have tried before and every little ingredient (even the sprinkling of herbs) is rationed out and ready for you.
Granted however, the quiet weeks are often few and far between, and cooking up the aforementioned feasts led to a kitchen where practically every pan had been used and needed to be washed up. Then there’s the “bring in, the take out” option. Zero fuss, delivered within minutes and increasingly far more healthy than it’s ever been before. Deciding which cuisine you fancy and having it at your doorstep shortly after is a pretty impressive luxury that many of us have become accustomed to. The downside of take outs however are that they are still a pretty expensive way to eat, not to mention the environmental costs to the sea of plastic containers and cardboard in which they often arrive.
Also expensive, yet excellent fun are restaurants. Especially in London where we are spoilt for choice with anything we could ever feel like eating to be found if we look hard enough. Every so often, a good restaurant – whether it’s your local neighbourhood place or a swanky central treat – is what you need; for a date night, for a dinner with a friend, for a special occasion. Nothing beats it, and we should enjoy them always.
So what’s the best dinner option to go for? It really doesn’t seem like one size fits all and so much depends on the time you have during the week, the budget you’re working with and the type of food you’re after. Admittedly it’s probably clear we could all cook from scratch a little more, and save money by buying and using ingredients properly. However there’s also something to be said for enjoying the ease and variety of everything on offer in our city – be that top restaurants, raw vegan take outs, hangover friendly pizzas or top notch healthy vegetable boxes.
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