one of the most-dreaded tasks in this household is choosing what’s for dinner. it’s not making dinner that’s at issue. we both can cook. it’s figuring out what to cook. we’re obviously not alone. a not-suitable-for-work website and book exist for people like us.
but what about the other hurdles to putting a home-cooked meal on the table—a lost art, sacrificed at the stone-table reality of long work hours and longer commutes, second jobs and prepared meals?
realmealz is a slick website that makes figuring out what’s for dinner, shopping for it and preparing it a simpler affair. the website offers an array of 30-minute recipes, a baked-in shopping organizer and instructional videos. it helps you find recipes based on what you have on hand and what you want to avoid. then it filters the recipes based on what meal you want to cook. in an ode to flipping through a cookbook, you can scroll through their attractively photographed selections for more random meal discoveries. each dish is broken down to show you its nutritional makeup according to what connie kwan, one of the founders, calls “VPG,” or vegetable protein grain. in a smart move, realmealz syncs users’ account with their android app. once you pick a recipe and make a shopping list, that shopping list’s automatically with you whenever you eventually hit the grocery store.
so far this may seem reminiscent of epicurious, the food network or other cooking sites. one difference is that many of the realmealz recipes are actually kwan’s and not chefs’ or nutritionists’. the key difference is that realmealz believes employers should be in the kitchen too. for companies, they offer “eat well challenges.”
in these challenges, employees—working in teams—rack up points as they interact with the realmealz website. go online? get a point. hunt down a recipe? get points. make a shopping list? point. and so on. kwan and her co-founders feel the more you use the site and its tools, the more your cooking confidence will grow and the more you’ll cook. they use this “gamification” element to encourage and reward that desired behavior.
realmealz has piloted their challenge with practice fusion, an electronic medical records company and realmealz advisor. practice fusion employees took to the idea so much, they expanded upon realmealz’ approach with their own activities, including a potluck cook-off. realmealz is also piloting their challenge concept with some blue shield of california employees.
realmealz is definitely on to something, but i have some reservations. a simple one is the reliance on kwan’s and other individuals’ cooking recipes. in our current climate of extreme chef adulation, will people be interested in cooking recipes from someone they don’t know? another reservation is whether employers are ready to get into the kitchen with their employees—and if employees are ready for them to be there.
my biggest reservation is about the cost. at $2 per employee per month, realmealz is pricey, particularly for the large employer who needs to consider this outlay alongside competing wellness budgetary priorities. a large employer i bounced realmealz off of told me that “for $2 per employee per month, i’d want realmealz to come cook the meal for the employee in his or her home.” that’s the voice of one, but i echo the concern and wonder if others might too.
still, realmealz has a great concept and a good-looking, well-functioning product. they’re looking for additional employers and considering how to expand the product so users can also shop for cooking products directly from their site. our collective cooking skills and time devoted to cooking have dropped with the advent of prepared foods and the separation between work and life growing ever blurrier. i’ll be watching to see what comes out of their kitchen next.
have you explored teaching employees how to cook? do you have a response to realmealz’ eat well challenge? share your thoughts in the comments.
more about realmealz: realmealz helps workers eat right
more about cooking and health:
- why cooking skills are the key to healthy eating
- a report on low-income families’ efforts to cook healthy meals
- wait. so people are cooking?
- cooking matters