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Give InKind is honored to feature Ruth Fowler.

When I sat through finals, I ate. I ate as much sugar as one could humanly consume without imploding, and I jacked myself up with Diet Coke, coffee and tea. When I was pregnant, racked with nausea and averse to food I usually loved, I had to carefully figure out through trial and error exactly how I could give my growing baby the nutrition we both needed without making myself sick. Coming up with new recipes and ideas was exhausting.

When my husband left, I simply stopped eating, my body running on adrenalin and endorphins 24/7, the occasional piece of toast and a latté I could ill afford, my sole nutrition for days on end. Some kind soul bought me a crock-pot after warning me my milk supply would drop if I didn’t eat, and then when my baby started to eat real meals, I found it easier to coax myself into eating again. The simple acts of measuring, sorting, cleaning, chopping, sautéing, browning, grilling and roasting was almost like therapy for me. I fed my baby, and I fed my friends as thanks for listening to my confused emotional rants, and eventually, I fed myself.

Food is inextricable from life, from emotion, from how we interact with the world. Whether it’s overeating, overindulging or at the opposite end of the spectrum, starving ourselves either consciously or inadvertently of the nutrition we need, stress manifests itself in how we nurture – or punish – our bodies. At different stages in my life, food has served a different purpose.

 When I was extremely sick after having lost a lot of blood giving birth, I needed prepared meals, take out, delivery and the warm familiarity of people coming by to show their love with meals I couldn’t make myself. I was exhausted looking after a hungry baby which ate every 90 minutes and I couldn’t use the bathroom without help – at this time, without a doubt, I needed friends and family to cook for me, or to send me a meal from a local restaurant. Even getting out to buy groceries and basic essentials was difficult.

For years I’d used CSA’s – Community Sustainable Agriculture, or what we commonly know as farm boxes. I would get a free box of vegetables and fruit for allowing other people to pick up their food from my home, and that free box – or twenty dollar box, when I wasn’t hosting – really helped me out in hard times when I was relying on junk food and didn’t have access to farmers markets. As a gift for someone, a box of fresh, wholesome seasonal vegetables and fruit from a local CSA can be a lovely thought, but sometimes just having a box of unprepared vegetables and fruit can be really overwhelming.

I was a chef for several years in my twenties and I love to cook, but chasing after a baby as a single mother, freelancing full time, worrying about money and having to show up to court once a month for a grueling custody battle meant all the enjoyment went out of cooking for me. Getting a box of delicious vegetables and fruit I needed to research how to cook compounded my depression and exhaustion. I was so broke and so tired, how could I be throwing out organic vegetables? The crockpot worked for a while: I was able to buy in advance, plan a menu a week ahead and throw the ingredients together – including most of the veggies from the farm box – after my son had gone to bed, and it would be ready in the morning. But when summer rolled around, the last thing I really wanted was a hot meal, and I had exhausted my supply of recipes and had found myself in a rut.

It was while I was moving house, besieged by unseen expenses and annoying Russian moving guys, that a friend sent me a free week of Blue Apron, and I was hooked immediately. I was surprised that it was way more affordable than blundering around Trader Joe’s trying to google recipes so I didn’t just make the same uninspired menu I’d been making for months. My home is tiny and space is important to me, and the way the meals are prepared: measured exactly, suits my needs for space, while the ingredients were all fresh, organic and most of all – different. There’s still some preparation involved, but as someone who loves to cook but doesn’t necessarily have the time to plan a menu and never has the time to shop, the variety is incredible. I found myself not eating very much the last couple years, and when I did eat, it was automatic, without enjoyment. Blue Apron taught me how to enjoy and appreciate food and cooking once again.

Whether you’re trying to eat healthy, moderate your intake or simply get more nutrition into your diet, having someone else take over is an enormous relief. There are so many expenses I have to be conscious of as a single mother, and paying for a service such as Blue Apron seemed enormously decadent and ridiculous, but I’ve found both my son and I are snacking less, shopping less and looking forward to our dinner together.

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