Going to the grocery store is no longer a simple Sunday chore (#stayhome). While some people are packing their pantries with two weeks’ worth of non-perishables, many of us are still searching out ways to stay stocked up on fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and cheeses without weekly market visits. This is meal prep in the time of COVID-19.
Luckily, Canada boasts a bounty of food (or meal) subscription services and community-supported agriculture (CSA) boxes filled with fresh, local ingredients sent right to your front door (or, a few steps back, as social-distancing demands). These boxes help to put money in the hands of local farms and greenhouses — particularly at a time when they really, really need it — so you can support your community simply by eating supper.
And, yes, it’s safe. In addition to already-strict food-safety measures these businesses must follow, many are adding protocols such as increased hand-washing, mandatory temperature taking, and increased distance between employee workspaces, to ensure safe, uncontaminated deliveries.
If you haven’t signed up for one yet, you may want to ASAP, especially if you're looking into a CSA program (late spring is best time to apply to enjoy the summer bounty to its fullest.) Plus, with social-distancing measures likely lasting until July, some food-delivery services are already wait-listing new sign-ups.
Apply now and, while you may not know where your next roll of toilet paper is coming from, you can rely on delicious affordable farm-fresh ingredients while helping local producers. Here, we've rounded up some of the top food subscription boxes and community-supported agriculture programs across Canada.
From chef-made meals to custom produce baskets, plus optional pantry staples, Mama Earth Organics is a one-stop subscription service to sustainably stock your kitchen with nutritious, local food. (Even better, a portion of its proceeds support food-insecure families.) In response to a spike in demand amid COVID-19 concerns, Mama Earth Organics has temporarily limited new orders, but staff is working hard to increase capacity, and you can add yourself to the waitlist while they do. (Toronto area only; from $12.45.)
Community-Supported Agriculture Memberships
Let’s face it, we’ll all be missing our local farmers' markets this summer. CSA programs are the next-best thing — and the best possible way to support your local growers by directly investing in their farm. Here's how they work: Pay upfront to buy a share in the farm’s harvest, and have the freshest, most in-season ingredients delivered right to your door or a nearby pick-up spot. While these aren’t pre-planned meals with perfectly portioned ingredients, it’s an awesome opportunity to discover a newfound love for foods you aren’t typically drawn to (who knew swiss chard was so good in soup!?), and some farms even send recipe suggestions showcasing how their supply can shine. With hundreds of CSAs across Canada and counting, there are simply too many for us to list, but it's easy to find a nearby option from Atlantic Canada to British Columbia to Ontario and beyond.
Cook It offers healthy, nutritionist-approved recipes designed for busy families that even the pickiest kids (and even pickier adults) can enjoy. In addition to meals ready in 30 minutes or less, Cook It offers ready-to-eat options as well as a virtual pantry full of artisanal Quebec products to supplement your meal plan — so it’s akin to visiting your favourite farmers' market and your top French foodie shops. (Available only in Quebec, Ontario, and Maritime provinces; from $7.76 per serving.)
While all food kit services offer vegetarian options, Plant Prepped offers meal kit boxes that are exclusively meat-, poultry-, and fish-free, made with produce from mostly local and organic farms, plus other ingredients from artisanal suppliers. The makers of Plant Prepped tout the many physiological and environmental benefits of plant-based diets and they want to make it easy to make the switch while eating gourmet. (Available only in Quebec and Ontario; from $11.66 per serving.)
Also on waitlist-only due to a spike in demand, Toronto’s Fresh City Farms offers produce, pantry staples, pre-made meals, and DIY meal kits with ingredients from high-quality, small-scale local vendors. With everything from baked goods, dairy, deli, and cheese to oils, vinegars, and sauces plus, of course, produce, meat and fish on the menu, Fresh City bring the best the region has to offer to your front door. With a bounty of options, you’ll be able to order those favourite local brands you'd otherwise have to visit specialty stores to source. (Toronto area only.)
An online shopping porthole that curates the best in organic and sustainable local groceries sans subscription or commitment, Spud prioritizes locally grown food and sustainability. In fact, they boast one of the lowest food waste rates in the country by selling imperfect produce (say hello to carrots that look like branches), donating leftovers, and composting what can’t be sold or donated. (Serving Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, and Calgary.)
When Chef’s Plate releases a new recipe — including ones from Canadian celebrity chefs like Vikram Vij and Ned Bell — they devote a whole team to sourcing and taste-testing the best-available ingredients from local and national farms. So, whether you customize your plan with chef’s recipes, 15-minute-prep options, or their super-economic family plans, you can feel confident you’re cooking with high-quality protein and produce from the closest-possible producers. (From $8.99 per serving.)
This urban farm collective is all about getting back to our, well, roots: farming the old-fashioned way with many hands and hard work. In fact, despite coronavirus, its farmers are still planting more to deal with increased demand. For $20, Fresh Roots veggie box program provides a week's worth of produce and advice on how to cook the fruit and veg on offer. (Pickup in Vancouver only.)