Quarantine has made cooks out of us all, whether we like it or not.

Still, if you want to cut down on trips to the grocery store, simplify your cooking process — or even give the gift of food to somebody — Pittsburgh has a number of locally-based meal kit delivery services to choose from.

Here are five worth checking out:

Louisiana Bayou Chili. Photo courtesy of Chip and Kale.

Chip and Kale

Chip and Kale features vegan-friendly plant-based meals, like Southern Corn Fritter Bowls, Sweet BBQ Pizza (with tofu), Coconut Corn Chowder, Lentil Picadillo Tacos and Mediterranean Quinoa Bowls.

“We deliver plant-based comfort food kits all across the Pittsburgh area as well as ship across the country,” says John Lopez, of the Beechview-based Chip and Kale. “Our kits are prepped, frozen and ready to cook. We are different from some national brands in that if you like to cook but hate the cleanup, we have simplified the process.”

Recently, they featured a simple, warming dinner of Louisiana Bayou Chili — a twist on a traditional Louisiana stew — with onions, peppers, garlic, red beans and Cajun seasonings simmered in tomato broth.

All the shopping, chopping and measuring is done beforehand, and each meal kit is frozen fresh, without preservatives, and labeled with instructions that require only your pots and pans.

“Our meal kits are different from others because of the prep,” explains Lopez. “Our kits arrive frozen, numbered and prepped for cooking. Kits can last up to six months in the freezer. What we are able to do is lower the food waste because of this feature. No more wasting food and no more ‘eating your money,’ which is extremely important in today’s climate.”

They’ll also send meals outside of the Pittsburgh area as far as the Midwest, Miami and Maine.

Pistachio butternut squash soup from PGH Fresh.

PGH Fresh

PGH Fresh delivers “heat and eat” dishes that split the difference between comfort food and healthy nourishing cuisine, like Butter Chicken with colorful heirloom root vegetables and broccolini, Chicken Parmesan with Asparagus, and Teriyaki Turkey Meatballs with Asian Vegetables — which is also available in a vegan Impossible meatball version.

“We have been very busy for the first two weeks of the quarantine,” says Ling Wollenschlaeger, the company’s founder and head chef. “This past weekend, we flattened back to our normal order numbers. We are very fortunate in that sense. A lot of people reach out to send meals to their elderly parents and we are very honored to be able to help out with the elderly that definitely need services like us during this time.”

There are single-serving dishes, and portions that feed a family of four available.

The poultry is antibiotic and hormone-free, the beef is grass-fed and the pork is sourced from farms that treat their animals humanely, says Wollenschlaeger. “Making every dish/dressing/sauce from scratch also means we can accommodate clients’ dietary needs, such as low/no sodium, gluten and cheese.”

PGH Fresh delivers food via a subscription service, which saves you 20%, or offers one-time purchases.

They deliver all over Pittsburgh — a 30-mile radius from Downtown, as far north as Zelienople, as far west as Beaver, east to Irwin, and south to Washington, PA.

Photo courtesy of Fresh Prep PGH.

Fresh Prep PGH

Fresh Prep PGH specializes in simplicity. All meals are cooked and ready to eat, and just need to be heated up.

“At the moment we are still operating during these tough times,” says Bobby Franklin, CEO of Fresh Prep PGH. “All of our deliveries are contactless, and we text our customers prior to drop off.”

They specialize in comfort food classics like Pan-Seared Tilapia, Shrimp Scampi, Ground Turkey Stuffed Peppers and Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce —a ll rounded out with a side of grains and/or veggies.

The specials rotate with each season and most meals can be customized, says Franklin, who notes that everything they cook is fresh, never frozen.

Discounts begin when a customer orders 11 meals or more. “We also have monthly meal packages of 40, 60 and 120 meals that can be used however the customer likes,” he says. “All the customer has to do is heat it up in the microwave for 1:30-2 minutes, and they have a meal ready.”

Fresh Prep is based in Penn Hills, and deliver for free within a 25-mile radius of Pittsburgh.

“The quarantine has affected our business like many others,” says Franklin. “Each week fluctuates, but the orders haven’t spiked like we thought we might. We are thinking people are doing more cooking now than ever, and eventually they’ll get tired of making multiple meals a day.”

Remedy Kitchen
Chickpea Shawarma Bowl from Remedy Kitchen.

Remedy Kitchen

Peters Township-based Remedy Kitchen is a “whole food, plant-based meal service” that delivers to customers’ doorsteps.

“I’m fascinated with the benefits of plant-based eating and find my inspiration in concocting dishes that will be savory and filling for my husband and deceptively nutritious, yet tasty, for my three young children,” says Remedy Kitchen’s Michelle Urban Magrino. “It’s a challenge that results in rigorous taste testing.”

Breakfast Burritos — featuring a tofu scramble with mushrooms, spinach, black beans and an original Remedy chipotle sauce –have been a big hit, so they’re permanently on the menu.

“This week, there’s an amazingly flavorful African Peanut Stew on the menu that is one of my favorites,” says Magrino. “Bonus: all three of my kids (ages 6, 4 and 2) eat it too.

Other customer favorites include Enchiladas with Spanish Rice, Bulgur Wheat Caesar Salad, Cubano Sandwiches and Coconut Curry on Golden Rice, says Magrino.

Meals are delivered in glass containers and reusable totes for customers in the South Hills which are collected after use. For customers outside of the South Hills, meals come in reusable and recyclable containers.

Some of Magrino’s customers aren’t vegan or vegetarian.

“What’s most distinctive about Remedy Kitchen are the high-quality ingredients that are used and the care that goes into the planning and preparation of each menu item,” says Magrino. “I’m diligent about designing menus that are wonderfully nutritious but are also ‘normal’ dishes. Just because my meals aren’t a part of the standard American diet, doesn’t mean that they will be totally foreign to those who are interested in trying Remedy Kitchen.”

Japchae (Korean stir-fried glass noodles) with chicken. Photo courtesy of Girl Friday Cooking Co.

Girl Friday Cooking Co.

Like many businesses, Gretchen McNary’s catering business and event space was wiped out overnight by the pandemic. Luckily, she has another venture. “The meal delivery service has blown up,” says McNary.

Originally focused on the paleo diet, McNary found a niche serving CrossFit enthusiasts looking for nutrition-packed meals. Now, she’s serving anyone who wants healthy, simple cooking.

Girl Friday offers breakfast dishes such as Coconut Latte Overnight Oats, made with brewed coffee and toasted coconut, and entrees featuring classic comfort foods, like Beef Stroganoff, Slow-Roasted Chicken Tacos and a Flat Iron Steak in a dijon marinade. One of Girl Friday’s more distinctive items is called “Aunt Kay’s Ballz”— made with orange and dried cranberry, Medjool dates, vanilla whey protein powder and sliced almonds — which can work as a quick breakfast or pre-workout snack.

What are the most popular meals? “Thai Beef with coconut rice, and Buffalo Chicken-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with a goat cheese dressing,” says McNary. “People go bananas for it. I put both on my menu last week, and made 150 orders of each, which is a lot for us.”

McNary has posted a list of strict guidelines for food safety addressing COVID-19 — making sure drivers use single-use gloves for each delivery, for instance.

For now, Girl Friday, which is based in Finleyville, delivers to homes in the South Hills, from Washington, PA to Mt. Lebanon. There are plans in the works, however, to branch out toward Downtown with a new location closer to the city.

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.