While I'm guilty of being an over planner in every other aspect of my life, when it comes to food I'm definitely a grab whatever is closest to hand kind of shopper. The result: far too much money and time wasted on almost daily trips to the supermarket, or by giving up entirely and eating out too much instead. So I was intrigued by the potential promise of a Donald Russell meal planner - a newly launched range of meat boxes, with the aim of providing quality and value for money meat in an easy manner to time-strapped households. Could this tempt me out of some of my worst food-buying habits?
Donald Russell are an Aberdeen-based butcher, holder of nothing less than a Royal Warrant, who offer a wide range of quality product online. From their tempting range I selected the Tarbert pack, which includes a variety of versatile meat products: pork sausages, steak burgers, lamb fillets, chicken fillets as well two ready made lasagne and two chocolate and cherry desserts. Before I even got to the actual meat, the actual pack was a wonder to behold: a large polystyrene crate, packed using dry ice so the meat arrived in optimum condition. You couldn't get this to arrive at your office and sneak it in as you would a ASOS package - you'd either want to schedule it to arrive when you are at home or have a proper means of getting it back (I learnt the tube wasn't so good).
Once you get into the wonder that is box, each product is individually packed to make them easy to freeze. We kicked off the week of meat last Friday by sampling the lasagna. A Friday evening ready-made carb feast is something of a guilty treat for me - my usual products were pale imitations of the Donald Russell lasagna. I would have been more than happy if this had been served to me in my local Italian: creamy sauce with delicious meaty mince - you could really taste the quality of the ingredients. The rest of the products didn't disappoint either: Sunday night's Glastonbury was accompanied by the steak burgers, a juicy treat that complimented Beyonce's triumph perfectly, the pork sausages added some great flavour to a simple pasta tea while the cherry and chocolate bakes, shown below, provided a great end of a hard day reward. In each case you could really taste the quality of the ingredients - which seriously made me question the standard of meat that I normally buy.
Although my boyfriend and I are both very greedy, we've had the pack for about a week now and we're probably only half way through it. With no good local butcher, I'm enjoying having these sat in the freezer and being able to create tasty meals around them. I went for quite a simple planner but there are plenty of different packs to inspire more adventurous cooks: the Linlithgow, for example, contains very traditional ingredients suited to slow cooking, such as beef, ox tail or ox cheeks, while the Rothesay contains different fish products. What I especially like is that each pack contains one ready meal - there's always the promise of a treaty non-cook day without compromising on flavour.
Eilean Donan pack - a selection of easy cook meat, estimated at 16 to 22 servings. The pack I tried costs £34. Certainly it's more than supermarket prices but you can really taste the quality and flavour of what you are eating. Although I'm not sure how frequently I'd buy a box, I would definitely consider getting one in the future. Perhaps at a time when I know I'm going to be really busy and strapped for time and otherwise end up eating rubbish. My box has certainly made eating this week a lot easier and more pleasurable too. Anything that does that has hit a winning formula.