When Fresh City Farms contacted me recently and offered me a complimentary shopping spree, I was thrilled to participate! Even though I don’t live in Toronto, I have been a huge fan of Fresh City Farms’ approach to fresh, locally grown, organic food for many years. They are both a city farm and an online grocer (with a focus on healthy food options).
They offered me a $100 credit to their online store to purchase one of their new Fresh Meal Bags, which consist of made-from-scratch organic meals that are chef-prepared and nutritionist-approved. The balance of my credit could go toward whatever other foods or ingredients I chose. Fresh City Farms was also kind enough to provide recommendations of healthy options that I might like to fill my order.
Here is what I picked out for my shopping spree:
- One Falafal Salad (shown above)
- One omnivore Fresh Meals Bag, which I customized to include the Pesto Salmon & Quinoa, Tempeh Buddha Bowl, and Masaman Curry Shrimp (these meals are pictured below)
- Orange & Lime Sea Salt by Vancouver Island Salt Co.
- Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups by Green Zebra Kitchen
- Cold-pressed Be Calm juice by the Village Juicery
- Live plain yogurt made from the milk of grass-fed, free-roaming water buffalo by H.O.P.E Eco-Farms (a cooperative of Amish farmers in Aylmer, Ontario)
- Mild Pico De Gallo Salsa by Mad Mexican
- Queen Bee cheese by Blyth Farm Cheese
- Fresh pea sprouts
Because I love variety and trying new things, my add-ons were mostly foods that were new to me or that I haven’t had in a long time!
Ordering from the Fresh City Farms’ online store was seamless, intuitive and very easy to use. In the online marketplace, each food includes a description of the product, ingredients and nutritional details (if applicable), as well as manufacturer or farm info. I loved how easy it was to customize my bag to include the meals I really wanted. I also appreciated that I could customize any add-ons.
For example, you can choose to receive them on a recurrent basis with every order (such as eggs) or on a “one off” basis only when you run out (such as salt).
To shop for items, you can search individually by category, by manufacturer (such as Sunflower Kitchen, which I did because I love their Zest-Oh Cilantro Pesto… though it is sadly not stocked by Fresh City Farms), or by a custom search using the search bar to find what you need.
One of my other favourite features of the Fresh City Farms’ online ordering system is that the foods include unique handling and use instructions. For example, when I looked at the Vancouver Island Salt Co.’s seasoned salts, I learned about several culinary uses for my chosen salt (orange & lime sea salt), proper storage conditions for flavour-infused salts, and proper equipment for these salts (e.g. not using a grinder or salt shaker but instead using a pinch bowl or similar).
Customer service was absolutely top-notch from start to finish! I have very high customer service expectations (in general) and I was very impressed with Fresh City Farms and their commitment to service. I received regular automated updates about my order and I received a friendly “hello” phone call welcoming me to the Fresh City Farms family and letting me know I could get in touch if I had any issues.
I really appreciate those special extra touches!
I didn’t have a chance to try the direct home delivery because it wasn’t available to my chosen location in Scarborough (nor to other locations I tried with the day(s) I could arrange it), but the pick-up option is very useful and will probably serve you if delivery isn’t yet available for your area.
Fresh City Farms offers pick-up via Penguin Pick-Up, which has locations all across Toronto and many parts of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
I appreciated that I received regular email and/or text notifications (if you choose to enable them) that gave me updates about when the package was received from Fresh City Farms at my chosen Penguin Pick-Up location and available for pick-up, as well as a real-time notification when my package was picked up from the location. This is especially handy if someone else if picking up your package for you (as it was in my case).
All of the ready-to-eat Fresh Meals are vacuum-sealed in glass containers, which is fantastic. At home, I only use glass to prepare/package food and I avoid plastic as much as possible. With glass, there is no leaching of BPAs and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals into the foods that we then eat – which is common with plastic containers. Glass is also recyclable and reusable, so I love that Fresh City Farms is looking at the multiple impacts of their food delivery service.
All of the food was very well packed in sturdy insulated totes, with accompanying ice packs, and very, very cold when I received it, even though it was a multi-hour drive up the 400 from Toronto to my home north of Barrie (especially on a Friday night in rush hour, ha!).
I was curious how well the food would hold up if it were, say, left outside someone’s home for hours until they arrived home, but I am confident that the produce, dairy and other temperature-sensitive ingredients would be safe to eat. And if not, and there was a problem, I am even more confident that Fresh City Farms would do everything they could to make it right. This is the kind of company I love to support!
FOOD AND FLAVOUR
As mentioned above, I chose an omnivore, gluten-free Fresh Meals Bag that included the Pesto Salmon & Quinoa, Tempeh Buddha Bowl, and Masaman Curry Shrimp. Everything tasted great and very fresh! You simply needed to re-heat and eat. The Fresh City Farms instructions suggested using a microwave or re-heating the meals in the oven. I don’t use a microwave and I didn’t necessarily want to turn my conventional oven on, but it was fast and easy to heat the meals in a pan on the stove.
I appreciated that each meal included all the ingredients and labelling such as dairy-free, nut-free, gluten friendly and vegan, where applicable. For those who are interested, full macronutrient panels are also included.
One caveat is that if you have any food allergies or food sensitivities (beyond gluten-free, which they can accommodate), this service may not be a perfect fit because the service cannot accommodate any changes or customizations to the ready-to-go meals. Some of the meals do contain dairy and other foods that some health-conscious shoppers may be sensitive or allergic to.
To make these meals part of my day-to-day, I would normally expect a higher quantity of vegetables and protein. I found them a bit too grain- and bean-heavy for my normal diet. Although there don’t seem to be any paleo-type options, I would happily pay more for similar options.
The Fresh Meal Bags are ordinarily a subscription-based service, so you can sign up for a bag on a weekly or biweekly basis. If you are going out of town or on vacation, you can also put your service on ‘hold’ by making the necessary update in your account. Best of all, you can add or change products in your order up to 24 hours before your normal delivery or pick-up day.
TRY IT FOR YOURSELF
Would you like to have someone else make dinner for a change and try out the Fresh Meals service for yourself?
Or perhaps you’re intrigued by the Fresh City Farms’ Recipe Kits (which include all the food and instructions you need to whip up a fresh, healthy, delicious meal in your own kitchen)?
Have a question or comment? Let me know below! Life is a plate… Eat up!
Disclaimer: I believe in full, clear and honest disclosure. As mentioned above, I received a $100 store credit for the Fresh City Farms marketplace courtesy of Fresh City Farms. The decision to write about this service was my own and you can trust that all opinions, comments and content, unless otherwise specified, are solely my own. The sponsor did not have the opportunity to read, review or comment on this before it was published, and no further compensation has been provided or solicited. This post may contain affiliate links, and you may click here for more details about that.