• Beau Steward

Tovala - Microwave Convenience Without The Leftovers Taste

I’ve been looking for a while for a good meal kit service. Blue Apron is good, really, but services that work like them have taught me that I’m good at following directions and producing good results, resulting in good tasting meals, but I don’t really enjoy it. So I moved on to looking into services like Freshly, which provides already cooked meals that you simply reheat. While Freshly put in a lot of work to create good meals, they still tasted like leftovers.

Then I saw an ad for Tovala. I wanted to hate it for the oven they offer to get the most out of their service. But I don’t have an oven like they offer and I saw value in having it should I decide Tovala is not for me. It can still work without their meal kits, I can still use the app with it and make my own cooking plans on it. So I had a hard time hating it for that reason. It became even easier to buy in because of the deep discount over the holidays.

So I bought an oven. And I started my subscription. It was the holidays so I wouldn’t get my first kit for a few weeks.

I've had a few deliveries, now, and while it's not perfect, as of now I see myself continuing with the subscription. So what is it like?

Well, the best concise thing I can say is it's like having the convenience of a microwave without the leftovers taste. In fact, every meal I have enjoyed has tasted fresh. The chicken has been juicy and tender. I had one meal with cornbread that baked with the the main part, and that turned out great. The chicken hasn't smelled off nor tasted weird like I experienced with Plated. Nothing was dry or rubbery like Freshly.

But I did mention it hasn't been perfect.

The meals come in a standard size box. They're all the same. Most will have 2 tins, though a few just have 1. The tins are sealed with plastic pasted over top. If there's add-ins to be added during prep, those are in a compartment on top of the tins. The packaging is nice, to be honest, but I've struggled with the plastic on the tins. On almost all of the tins, I've torn the plastic. For most of them, I was able to remove all of the plastic. But there's been a few where I just cooked the meal with a bit of plastic left on the tin. So long as there is no plastic overhanging the food, this is suppose to be fine. If I can't get the plastic to peel off, I have ended up just cutting it out so no plastic hangs over the food.

And I've run into another issue with this week's order. It's an issue I've run into with all meal kits except maybe Freshly: Something major was forgotten in the kit. As I prepared another meal in its place, I contacted Tovala and they immediately credited my account. So it basically just means one less meal planned for the week.

So how is it like the convenience of a microwave? Well, you open the meal kit and pull the contents out of the box. Usually there's 2 tins, as I mentioned, and maybe some other stuff. The card will contain any additional instructions, such as sprinkle something on the chicken. Once that's done, you pop the tins in the Tovala oven, push the scan button, scan the card's QR code, then push start. At this point it differs, as most microwaves don't take 20 minutes to cook your food, so with this, you wait. But that's about it, once it's done cooking, you plate it and eat.

Tovala is not the cheapest option. It works best with the oven as they provide pre-programmed routines for cooking the meals, and this comes at a cost of $200 if you catch it on sale (seems to be always on sale). The meals are about $12 per meal. There's definitely cheaper options.

And to be honest, I think it's worth it. I'm buying cooking convenience where my meals are curated and prepared for me, I just have to toss it in the oven and run the provided cooking routine. You could think of it in how much time and effort it saves and how you would value that. To me, as someone who doesn't really enjoy cooking, it's worth it. Especially since it tastes so much better than leftovers. Freshly is not that much cheaper, and while it has similar convenience, that extra $2 for better tasting food is fine.

But what about the portions? This is where some people might struggle. To me, the portions are fine. But I also believe Americans have become far too accustomed to large portions. I use to weight over 350 lbs (about 160 kg) and have lost a lot of weight simply by adjusting my portions and eating sensibly. Tovala provides the right portions for me, as a still overweight person. And to be honest, for most people, the portions should be fine.

So I'm on Tovala now. And I'm enjoying it. I've only had one major hiccup, and only come across one unappetizing meal. I would recommend it to anyone who is fine with the cost.

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