What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
OK. So maybe I didn't spend five days eating exactly like Queen Bey. I don't know exactly what she actually eats on a daily basis, but I did get to try eight meals (3 breakfast, 5 lunch/dinners) from the new Beyoncé-approved vegan meal delivery program in an attempt to become #flawless. I need all the help I can get on this quest, as I am currently waking up like this:
A little history on how this service came to be: Back in the winter of 2013, Bey and Jay completed the 22 Days Nutrition Challenge, and the world would be forever changed. Fueled by a desire to bring plant-based meals to the masses, Beyoncé joined forces with exercise physiologist Marco Borges, and a 100% organic, GMO-free, soy-free, gluten-free, vegan meal service born and made available to all.
The service is simple. Through 22 Days Nutrition, you order as many of the meals as you wish to consume in a week. They then deliver fresh, never frozen, fully-cooked meals to your doorstep for you to heat and eat. The more meals you order, the cheaper they get. One meal a day (lunch or dinner) will set you back $15.68 per meal, two a day brings it down to $11.50 per meal, and ordering three meals for each day gets you your food for $9.76 per meal.
If you follow my writing at all, you've probably picked up on the fact that I am not vegan. However, I am striving to be less of a garbage person and eat more plants, and what could be "less garbage person" than eating Beyoncé's food? Nothing, that's what.
I contacted the people at 22 Days Nutrition and they agreed to send me eight meals, along with some of their protein bars, because they are very nice.
In the interest of what we will loosely call "science," my husband agreed to also go vegan during the duration of the service, so that we could compare the cost, convenience, and satisfaction of eating "vegan like Beyoncé" (using 22 Days) vs. eating "vegan as a non-Beyoncé commoner" (cooking at home and occasionally eating out).
My box o' Beyoncé food arrives, all neatly packed in black plastic trays and ready to be heated and eated. They don't look very glamorous, but they do stack neatly in the fridge. (The heating instructions are the same for every meal: poke holes and microwave, scoop into a pot and heat on the stove, or transfer to an 0ven-safe dish and heat until warm.)
- Breakfast - I was in a hurry for some reason, so I had a 22 Days organic protein bar (Pineapple Chocolate Chip Wonder). It was pretty good, though I didn't taste a lot of pineapple. I ate most of it, and was full until lunch. (Cost: $35.88 for a box of 12, so $2.82 for one bar.)
- Lunch - I prepared and ate a salad of lentils, half an avocado, and Kalamata olives with olive oil and apple cider vinegar. It was very good. (Approximate cost: $1.87)
- Supper - I went for a four-mile run before supper and was starving by the time I sat down to eat. I inhaled my "Baba's Beans," a baba ganoush-inspired kidney bean dish seasoned with tahini. It was very filling and well seasoned, though I did add a teeny bit of sea salt. The only criticism I have is that some of the beans were a little under-cooked. (Cost: Technically free, but we'll calculate this as if I were paying. Since I received more than one meal per day, we'll say this would cost $11.50.)
- Snacks - Snacks throughout the day included a rice cake with almond butter ($0.81), a tangelo ($0.50), hummus with crackers ($1.50, if I ate a quarter of the entire container of hummus, which I'm pretty sure I did), and olives ($0.50).
Claire's total costs Day 1: $19.50
- Breakfast - Waking up, I was nervous. Not nervous about having to eat vegan food, but nervous I would accidentally put dairy creamer or bacon bits in my coffee or something. I started with 30 oz water. That’s vegan right? I’m not a New Yorker so I didn't have to fret over the shrimp in the water. I usually don’t eat breakfast, and if I do it’s a small yogurt. Instead of that, I tried a little Nature’s Oatmeal packet. (Cost: $0.40)
- Second Breakfast - Once I was super-loaded with 200 calories of oats, I decided to go for a 45 mile bike ride through the Banks-Veronia Trail in Nowhere, Oregon. This effort required a second breakfast, which consisted of: Hammer Heed -- a low-sugar energy powder I put in my water and drank throughout the ride -- and Hammer Raspberry Gel, a plant-based, low-sugar gel pack. (Cost: about $1.50)
- Lunch - By this point I was super hungry. Instead of hitting a coffee shop and eating EVERYTHING from the pastry case, I went home and had a banana and two rice cakes with almond butter. (Cost:
- Supper - I make pasta with LOTS of fresh bell peppers. The bell peppers cost more than the rest of the ingredients put together, I think. (Cost: $9.50 for the whole batch, makes 4 servings at about $2.38 per serving)
- Snacks - Throughout the day and evening, I had: olives ($0.25),
TJ's Mediterranean hummus and Savory Thins (around $1.31), and two rice cakes with almond butter and Costco organic strawberry jam ($1.74). I also had an Americano from Peet's earlier in the day, which rang in at $4.70 (the price of a happy meal, if you will) after the $1.20 up-charge for almond milk.
Sean's total costs Day 1: $14.09
- Breakfast - Coffee with hazelnut-flavored coconut creamer (about $0.25) and Hearty Nut Granola ($11.50). Like everything else delivered by 22 Days, the granola was gluten-free and soy-free. It was nice and crunchy and lightly sweetened with maple syrup, with bits of almonds and walnut distributed throughout.
- Lunch - I had plans to cook spaghetti squash for supper, so I ate my Beyoncé meal for lunch. Day Two's offering was "St. Bart Black Beans and Rice" ($11.50). The beans and vegetables were cooked properly, but overall it was very bland. I added soy sauce, which revoked the dishes status as "soy-free" but added much needed flavor. Even with that, I only ate about three quarters of it before my mouth got bored.
- Supper - I cooked a giant spaghetti squash and made a tomato sauce, subbing in olive oil for my usual butter ($2.10 per serving, made four servings). The lack of cheese made me sad, so I only ate one serving.
- Snacks - Due to the fact that I hadn't eaten a lot of my lunch or supper, I got very snacky. I ate: a rice cake with almond butter and sliced banana ($1.00), a tangelo ($0.50), two fruit leathers ($1.50), a vegan cookie from Whole Foods ($1.00), a Whole Foods Popsicle ($0.67), and potato chips dipped in apple cider vinegar ($0.50).
Claire's total costs Day 2: $ 28.42
- Breakfast - Coffee at home with almond milk. It tasted kind of weird and definitely not creamy but I had no trouble drinking it. (Cost: about $0.25)
- Lunch - A small serving of reheated pasta from the day before along with a small glass of Organic Grapefruit juice. (Cost:
- Happy Hour - My friend had Monday off, so I took my "real lunch" during the ABV Happy Hour. I was a bit confused as to whether the (V) on the menu meant "vegan" or "vegetarian" so the next thing you know I am that guy asking a bunch of questions about the menu like “What type of oil is used to make the fries?” I ended up ordering: a Suge Knite beer, sweet potato fries, and candied peanuts. (Cost: $11.50)
- Supper - Two bowls of Claire's spaghetti squash with homemade sauce. I really like this with cheese, but it was also good without. (Cost: $4.10)
Sean's total costs Day 2: $18.92
- Breakfast - Banana-Walnut Breakfast Muffin ($11.50). Good banana bread flavor, not too sweet, but a bit dry. A glass of milk or pat of butter would have really helped it.
- Lunch - Vegetable roll from Whole Foods ($6.00) and a banana ($0.19).
- Supper - "Lunar New Year Pasta" ($11.50) I may have been grumpy from a particularly painful run, but this was the most disappointing meal out of the eight. Every piece of broccoli had been drained of flavor due to being overcooked and the noodles were all over the place. Some were al dente, some were crunchy, and some were mushy. I ended up eating about a quarter of it before sending Sean to Whole Foods to buy a vegan pizza ($6.00). (He was going there anyway!)
- Snacks - Whole Foods Popsicle ($0.67), a Chocolate Cherry Bliss Bar ($2.82), a rice cake with hummus ($0.81), a pickle half ($0.35), five olives ($0.25), a spoon of peanut butter ($0.14) and two spoons of Cookie Butter ($0.39).
Claire's total costs Day 3: $29.12
- Breakfast - I went to Peet’s for my large Americano, but ordered it black and added almond milk at home to save $1.20. Then I ate a maple oatmeal pack. (Cost: $4.15)
- Lunch - I went to Whole Foods and made a salad which I was very careful to not accidentally put any cheese in. It was very large and filling. [Claire's note: he was terrified he was going to accidentally put cheese in things. It was a big concern for all five days.] (Cost: $12.69)
- Supper - Two bowls of whole wheat pasta with the peppers, followed by two rice cakes with almond butter and jelly. (Cost: $6.50)
- Snacks - A handful of nuts ($0.34), some TJ's Savory Thins ($0.56), and a glass and a half of grapefruit juice (about $1.00)
Sean's total costs Day 3: $25.24
- Breakfast - Hummus wrapped in a tortilla ($0.66)
- Lunch - "Country Style Sweet Potato Lentils" ($11.50). I love lentils, and I eat them even when I'm on my "normal" diet of "whatever the heck I want" so I was excited about this dish. It was one of my favorites, and this sweet and garlicky dishy felt more like comfort food than "vegan meal plan food," but again I had a problem with the vegetables (see EXHIBIT A).
- Supper - Soy chorizo (from Trader Joe's) and the beans and rice Sean had made with mushrooms and olives ($3.41)
- Snacks - Tangelo ( $0.50)
EXHIBIT A: Below you will find a picture of four different pieces of carrot, all wildly different sizes, which were picked out of the same dish. They weren't peeled, and it appears that the prep cook was a wood chipper. This does not make me feel as if my meals were lovingly prepared by a Queen Bey-approved chef, which is the illusion I was hoping to be under. Aside from aesthetics, the variance in chop size caused the carrots to differ vastly in terms of "doneness."
Claire's total cost for Day 4: $16.07
- Breakfast - Another Peet’s Americano, black with Almond Milk added back home. I also ate a banana and a packet of flaxseed oatmeal. (Cost: $4.15 )
- Lunch - Bowl of spaghetti squash with tomato sauce (Cost: $2.10 )
- Supper - I made a batch of beans and rice with brown basmati rice, organic corn and beans from Costco, Trader Joe's Taco Seasoning, and carrots, red onion and garlic. I ate it with tortillas. (Cost per serving:$2.04)
- Snacks - Nuts ($0.34), Savory thins and hummus (around $1.31)
Sean's total costs Day 4: $9.94
- Breakfast - Berry Chia Seed Pudding ($11.50). There is a reason I left this one for the last day. I am not big on gelatinous textures. Besides celery, the only thing I flat out refuse to eat is Jell-O. The pudding was Jell-O-like enough to give me pause, and whether it was mental or otherwise, I wasn't able to make it past that first bite. That's on me though, because it's purely a textural thing. Jiggle aside, the flavor of the pudding was pretty good, more tart than sweet with a lot of whole berries.
- Lunch - Stir-fried lentils with mushrooms and onion ($1.86)
- Supper - Winter Ratatouille Brown Rice Pilaf ($11.50) This was similar in texture to the St. Bart's Black Beans, though not as bland. I got more seasoning in the way of thyme and rosemary, with a wide variety of vegetables. I added a bit of soy sauce to this one too.
- Snacks: Five Guys Fries ($2.79)
Claire's total costs for Day 5: $27.65
- Breakfast - Exact same as Day 4, though with a different oatmeal flavor. (Cost: $4.15)
- Lunch - Remainder spaghetti squash that had a ridiculous amount of sauce left making it kind of soupy (Cost:$2.10)
- Supper - Two flour tortillas with my beans and rice mix hummus in them. (Cost:$2.54)
- Snacks - Rice cake with almond butter and jelly, washed down with two CMYK Saison Beers. (Cost: $6.98)
Sean's total costs Day 5: $15.77
Cost: After everything was said and done, my food for the five days came out to $120.76 (assuming I had paid for the 22 Days meal service) and Sean's rang in at $83.96, saving him over $35, even with all of the Peet's coffees and going out for Happy Hour.
Claire: I found my Beyoncé Meals to be filling and convenient, but not quite flawless. I expected a lot of vibrant, colorful vegetables, and was a little disappointed to find that the meals were a bit on the beige side. My favorites were the beans and lentil dishes, but I wouldn't call them "irreplaceable." Both of these are things I'm able to make at home much more cheaply. I realize that Sean's homemade beans and rice aren't 100% organic and GMO-free, but it only costs us $8.17 for four servings. My lentil stir fries and salads cost me two bucks per serving at most. And, if I'm being honest, I found my homemade vegan dishes to be more satisfying and flavorful.
However, it's worth noting that my palate is inundated with super salty and processed foods on a regular basis, so it may not be fair for me to call 22 Days' meals "bland." The 22 Days Vegan Challenge is based on the idea that it takes twenty two days to change a habit. Given that I only "challenged" myself for five days, it's totally possible that my palate would have eventually adjusted to the more subtle seasoning.
Sean: I found being vegan not too difficult. I try to eat mostly plant-based meals anyway, and a lot of the food I eat regularly can be made vegan with little modification. (Like using oil instead of butter in my beans and rice.) While I use roughly 50% organic ingredients, I doubt it would be super difficult to step up the organic game and still come in cheaper than any meal service.
I do a lot of training, and a meal service isn't going to know what I want after a triathlon or trail run. It would be ridiculous to expect anyone to anticipate my post-race cravings, and it's just easier to keep a stock of vegan stuff I like. While I'm no Scott Jurek, I often eat almost vegan meals after training sessions and have never found it particularly difficult.
And that's it from the Lowers. What do you guys think about this service? Would you ever try it? Who do you think cut those carrots?