Is anyone else concerned with how we're being watched and listened to all the time on our phones etc.? Seriously, it seems like I'm being targeted by every meal-plan provider in Singapore on my social media nowadays – it's all I get now! Oh, well, at least it gives me more meals to review and blog about.
After a week of moving apartments and trying to maintain a (relatively) healthy diet without my usual meal deliveries (thank goodness Daily Cut exists with their online macro calculator), I chose to order from Grain, one of the aforementioned companies that popped up in targeted adverts over the past few days. My timing couldn't have been better, Grain has just launched a menu revamp across their three offerings: meals on-demand, meal plans (which I'll focus on) and catering.
I find it a little bonkers that I haven't heard of Grain before because their marketing is so good. Seriously, Grain, give the person (people?) behind your marketing a raise because I think they're doing a way better job than other meal-plan providers: nicely designed social media posts, informal and concise email marketing, and even a bunch of posts on Medium (some of the posts are pretty random though, see How to host a virtual baby shower – haha!)
As I said before, meal plans are one of three offerings from Grain. Their menu isn't as diverse as other providers and has no options to cater to different dietary requirements, such as omnivore or vegetarian etc. The options to order a purely vegetarian menu are very limited and you'd have to repeat a lot of your meals to fill a week of lunches and dinners. So, I chose to go for a mix of vegetarian and pescatarian meals.
While I strive to be vegetarian the vast majority of the time, I've recently been craving more fish and have tried a little salmon and tuna for the first time in a long time. I don't think we should "label" our diets too much and while I do feel guilty eating fish, I don't feel it's a bad thing to respond to what your body craves (unless it's a 24-hour doughnut and cookie binge ... we've all had those, right?)
Grain's approach to building your meal plan is much more free-form than its competitors. Every day, you have a selection of 8 different savoury meals, 4 different desserts, and several drinks to pick from – you can order as many or as few as you like each day. The choices available remain the same from Monday to Friday and then refresh with new options at the start of the next week. There are no customisation or size options.
Due to the lack of daily diversity, especially if you don't want meat options, I spread my 4-day meal plan over a weekend, so I could order from the Thursday and Friday menu and then from the refreshed Monday and Tuesday menu. It's important to note that this way of building meal plans does require you to be more diligent: you pick what you want for lunches and dinners as well as the calories and macros that come with those meals, they are not controlled for you (like other meal-plan providers).
Generally, two Grain meals per day (there is only one meal size) total 1,150–1,450 calories. I aim for 2,500–2,600 calories each day, so ordering one lunch and one dinner each day best suited my needs.
Usually, I would now tell you how much each meal plan option or subscription costs but, since Grain doesn't provide fixed meal plans, I will instead list a few of their meals to give you an idea of how much they cost.
Torched Sous Vide Salmon at S$19.00
Impossible Hamburg with Japanese Curry at S$20.00
Basil Thunder Tea Rice at S$13.00
Spiced Creamy Chicken Masala Potato Salad S$14.00
Greek Yoghurt Granola Cup S$7.00
Delivery is calculated dynamically based on how far from Grain's kitchen you live and how much you order. On most days, I was charged S$3.44 per day for 2 meals and a S$1.95 CBD surcharge.
After selecting my mix of vegetarian and pescetarian meals, I clicked checkout and added my payment details, delivery information, and a promo code. I then received an email confirming my order which contained a list of the meals I selected and how much each of them cost.
Here are my observations and opinions on some specifics that contribute to the overall experience: user experience and customer service, packaging and delivery, and cost and rewards.
User experience and customer service
I think Grain's user experience is one of the cleanest I've encountered and it is extremely easy to use. All the information you need is located on one page and the ordering process is outlined in 3 clear points at the top of the Build your Meal Plan page.
I was shown the next 10 days that were eligible for meal deliveries and could click on each day to see which meals were available. It was a little confusing to have all the meals marked as "chilled", however, I now understand that this is because all meals can be enjoyed chilled or warmed up.
I was able to easily add or remove the meals I wanted to receive each day, however, I do want to mention that it wasn't immediately obvious that I could click each meal's image to bring up further information, such as ingredients, calories and macros.
As I chose my meals, a shopping cart updated on the right-hand side of the page with the meals I'd picked, how many and when I would receive them, and how much it would all cost. Once I clicked Go to Checkout, I simply added some details and the order was processed – simple and very easy!
I didn't have any experience with Grain's customer service as I didn't have any problems, so I don't have any commons there.
Packaging and delivery
Meals arrive in a recyclable paper bag and are packaged in transparent BioPak containers, which are made from plants, are compostable/recyclable, and are 100% carbon neutral – well done for being sustainable, Grain. I liked their labelling, which displays the meal's name, cooking instructions, dietary information, calories and macros, as well as a sweet short description of each meal (its history, flavours, or some change Grain's chefs made to the original dish).
While Grain does say that "meals will be delivered by 1:30pm", my meals usually arrived between 11.30–12pm, a comparatively later delivery time which may be troublesome for those that lunch early. I also did not receive any notification that my meals would arrive soon, which is something I've become accustomed to from other meal-plan providers. With that out the way, delivery was otherwise exactly what I expected: a knock at the door and a quick handover of the 2 daily meals I'd ordered.
Note that Grain orders must be placed 3 working days in advance by 11am.
Cost and rewards
I went for 2 meals per day over 4 days plus (cheeky) 1 dessert, which cost S$119.57 including delivery and benefitting from a S$30 first-time order discount. You can get this first-time order discount too, just add the code "NEVERWORRY" at checkout.
Sadly, Grain does not have any referral program or rewards system.
Full-day calories and macros: 1,424kcal, P77, C118, F72
For the first time, a meal plan started strong – hallelujah! Monday's lunch (Torched Sous Vide Salmon) was a welcome and great-tasting surprise with a solid portion of salmon, which is a nice change from the frugal amounts of protein in some competitors' meals. The pasta was well cooked and had a great texture, and the broccoli had a firm crunch. There was a general fatty sensation from the meal but it wasn't too bad.
Dinner (Impossible Hamburg Japanese Curry) was the best meal I received from Grain. Similar to Green Kitchen, Grain uses Impossible meat in their meals, a high-quality plant-based protein I recommend. The meal's roasted vegetables had a great texture and the curry sauce – the star of the show – was flavourful and more-ish ... I wish I'd ordered more than one of these for the week.
I was happy to get a sizeable amount of protein (77g) from Thursday's meals and I felt fuller and better for not relying so heavily on my supplements.
Full-day calories and macros: 1,282kcal, P64, C155, F48
Due to the lack of pescetarian and vegetarian options available, I had to double-up my order of the Torched Sous Vide Salmon for Friday's lunch (which is why I've not bothered to include an image of it above).
Duplicating the same order did raise a previous concern though: the accuracy of the calories and macros on meal labels (something I mentioned before in my YoloFoods review, Monday). Lunch looked like it contained a larger portion of salmon than the day before (I'd say around 25g), however, the calories and macros listed for this meal remained the same. Don't get me wrong, I've no complaints about receiving more value for my money, but how can two meals' calories and macros remain the same if portion sizes change? This is certainly something I want to address in a future post.
In stark contrast, Thursday's Dinner (Basil Thunder Tea Rice) was the lowest point of the week. The macros were bad (P14 C87 F15) and, in my opinion, the black-tea-flavoured dressing wasn't appealing. There was a sparing amount of tofu in the meal and it was generally underseasoned. The meal included a very nice ramen-style egg but that wasn't enough to save the meal – I wouldn't order this again.
To ensure I tried a variety of Grain's options, I ordered an item from their dessert menu to add to Friday's dinner (Churros Waffles) ... just for testing purposes ... not because I have an insatiable sweet tooth ... honestly!
This was good and had a nice chewy texture, wasn't overly sweet and went well with my favourite ice cream from Creamier (pistachio flavoured if you must know). While the waffles get bonus points for being vegetarian, Grain let themselves down by not including any calories and macros, which is the case for all their desserts (it just lists "coming soon" on their website).
Full-day calories and macros: 1,158kcal, P28, C160, F39
Continuing my foray into pescetarian meals, Monday's refreshed menu kicked off with a very filling and tasty lunch (Tuscan Garlic Cream Dory). The fish was cooked well and was coated in a thick creamy sauce that was very flavourful. Sadly, the macros were again poor (P12 C83 F20), a theme that would sadly continue throughout the week. The carbs are just so high in so many of Grain's meals; I'm not sure how this contained only 12g of protein with so much fish.
Dinner (Fluffy and Hearty Upma Salad) gets points for the best-named meal I've received since starting this blog but was otherwise quite forgettable and, again, had a large number of carbs and low protein (P16 C77 F19).
What I started to notice on Monday was that the cooking instructions are generally insufficient to heat Grain's chilled meals. They say to heat their meals for "2 minutes on medium", however, this often leaves meals chilly and unevenly heated. I recommend that you heat meals on medium or high for at least 3–4 minutes.
Full-day calories and macros: 1,321kcal, P30, C202, F33
I felt a sense of déjà vu on Tuesday as both meals were only slight variations of meals I'd previously received – I think you'll agree with me if you compare the above images to Monday's dory meal and Friday's rice meal respectively.
Lunch (Lemongrass Green Curry Dory) was as good as the dory dish from the day before and tasted similar, so there isn't that much to report. I couldn't taste the flavours I'd expect from lemongrass or green curry but everything was well cooked and had a good texture. As you can see from the full-day macros above, the number of carbs got really out of hand on Tuesday due to Dinner (Black Peppered Twin Mushroom Multigrain Rice), which contained 115g of carbohydrates – insane!
Dinner was well-seasoned but was just generally boring, I mean, let's be honest, it's just rice, mushrooms and green beans. The meal was fine as a menu filler but I wouldn't order it again and, as I said above, the meal's macros are some of the worst I've received (P16 C115 F19). Suffice to say, Grain did not end things on a high note.
4-day calories and macros: 5,185kcal, P199, C635, F24
Average daily calories and macros: 648kcal, P25, C79, F192
My time with Grain reminds me of the recent Justice League movie (Joss Whedon's version, not Zack Snyder's improved version), where things started so hopeful and strong but ended with a whimper. It was great to mix things up with some pescatarian meals and I think I'll do this again as I appreciated the increased daily protein and how much fuller I was each day.
When I weigh up my overall experience of Grain, its saving grace is its price point; I do think that the meals I received were worth the S$119.57 I paid and, in my opinion, is better value for money than a similarly priced competitor like FitThree. I would order from Grain again but only when I need meals for specific days and don't need a full week's worth of meals. It's great for ad-hoc meal planning, but I prefer the convenience and control of other meal-plan providers for my weekly subscriptions. Grain is without a doubt a great entry for those trying meal plans for the first time due to its accessible website, and fun and informative marketing. Oh, and I recommend trying Grain's churros waffles – they're yummy!
Some areas where I think Grain could make improvements are:
Include some more vegetarian and pescetarian options each week if you are going to maintain the same menu for 5 days. I appreciate that you're likely batch cooking and this method works better for that, but having to double-up meals and receive only slight variations of some meals does get boring.
Improve and update meals' calories and macros. In my opinion, the number of carbohydrates in Grain's meals is very high and I'd like to see a boost to the amount of protein in vegetarian meals. Also, double-check your calories and macros for meals – I'm uncertain how they can be the same when portion sizes change (correct me if I'm wrong and you do weigh everything, Grain!)
Update your cooking instructions – "2 minutes on medium" is simply not enough to have properly warmed meals the majority of the time.
Take your Build your Meal Plan section out of beta – it's great as it is. I didn't experience any bugs whatsoever and maintaining that "beta" label on the website doesn't fill users with much confidence.
Meal variety ⭐️⭐️☆☆☆
Plan options ⭐️☆☆☆☆
Packaging & delivery ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️☆
Ease of use ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️☆
Next week, I'll again deviate from my usual reviews with a special interview with the head chef and owner of a meal-plan provider I recently purchased. Keep an eye on this blog and my Instagram to be among the first to read my write-up of our fascinating discussion.