Are these cooking kits the secret to getting picky eaters to try new foods?
Eat2explore delivers family-friendly culinary adventures to your doorstep.
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I've lost count of how many days I've been stuck at home with my kids: Is it 43, 430, or 43,000? Whatever the official number, the point is that it's a huge amount of hours that I've needed to fill with lots (and lots) of educational activities. As I'm not a crafty Pinterest-mom who has the ability to whip up magical projects from garbage and glitter, I've been spending an obscene amount of money on various subscription kits to keep my kids busy.
My latest foray into educational at-home activities designed to keep my kids occupied for longer than five minutes? Eat2explore.
What is Eat2explore?
Eat2explore bills itself as a "family dinner club" because it encourages parents and kids to cook—and eat—together. The subscription service was created by a mom who wanted her kids to learn about the world while also mastering valuable cooking skills.
Each month, Eat2explore sends boxes (called Explorer Kits) containing easy recipes, spices, and sauces for three dishes inspired by a specific country. Each Explorer Kit also includes a fact sheet about the highlighted country, an activity sheet, a flag pin, and a cooking tool that kids will need to complete the recipes. This is not a meal kit, however: There are no fresh ingredients included in the Explorer Kits—just sauces, spices, and grain mixes—so a shopping list is included that details all the perishable items you'll need to purchase in order to complete the meals.
How does Eat2explore work?
There are three subscription options available: Explore a Country, Explore a Continent, or Explore the World.
Explore a Country offers subscription lengths of either one or three Explorer Kits. If you want to try Eat2explore one time before committing to a monthly subscription, this is the best option, as it enables customers to select from any of the 17 countries offered:
- The United Kingdom
- USA North
- USA South
Explore a Continent includes four monthly shipments from either Asia, Europe, The Middle East / Africa, and The Americas (a combination of North and South America).
Truly adventurous diners can eat their way across the globe with the 12-month-long Explore the World membership. Boxes are timed to coincide with holidays or celebrations specific to each country.
The company also offers gluten-free and vegetarian options for families with dietary restrictions.
How much does Eat2explore cost?
The cost of Eat2explore depends on whether you prefer to pay monthly, or for the entire cost up front. The monthly cost, which is the same as the price for a single kit, is $24.95. The Explore a Continent and Explore the World subscriptions provide customers with a chance to save 10 or 15 percent off the cost of each box by paying for the entire subscription in advance. If you choose to pay up front, the cost per box for the Explore a Continent subscription comes to $22.46, and for the Explore the World selection, $21.21.
Shipping is not included, and adds an extra $5 per box.
What are Eat2explore kits like in real life?
We decided to try the "Explore Japan!" kit, and when it arrived, I was surprised at how small and compact it was. Eat2explore packs a lot of items into these little boxes, so when we opened it up, I felt a bit like Mary Poppins pulling things out of her carpet bag—with every element I took out, another one was uncovered.
The recommended age for Eat2explore is five and up, but if you're hoping to set your kids loose in the kitchen—or at least occupy them with the included activity and information sheets—you'll need to have a child who can read. While my kids, ages five and seven, found it interesting to learn about another country, the fact sheets were full of dense, detailed culinary information that seemed more geared towards preteen cooks rather than younger kids to whom the kits are more likely to appeal.
Here's what was included in our "Explore Japan!" kit:
- Recipes for salmon (or chicken) teriyaki, chicken (or pork) katsu, and okonomiyaki (a cabbage pancake)
- Teriyaki sauce
- Crunchy nori sesame
- Gingerly panko mix
- Ketchy tonkatsu sauce
- Homey Okonomiyaki sauce
- Umami bonito flakes
- An itemized shopping list
- Kid-friendly reusable chopsticks
- An Eat2explore passport and Japan sticker (for marking off the kit you've used)
- A Japanese flag pin
My kids really loved the chopsticks and the flag pin, and while they're already pretty adventurous eaters, I can see how the included culinary "toys" might motivate pickier kids to try new dishes.
What's it like to cook with Eat2explore?
The first thing to realize is that you will need to provide the bulk of the ingredients with Eat2explore. What you're getting inside your Explorer Kit are three recipes and two ingredients (sauces or seasonings, typically) for each one. While I appreciated that Eat2explore did the meal planning for me, it didn't alleviate the need for grocery shopping, which is especially stressful at present when certain ingredients are difficult to source.
I let my kids choose which recipe they wanted to try first, and (not surprisingly) they selected salmon teriyaki. While I had most of the required ingredients on hand—garlic, rice, olive oil, and salt and pepper—I had to make a trip to my local Asian market to pick up good quality salmon, some scallions, and a bunch of spinach. Armed with our ingredients, I set my kids free to prep our meal.
The recipes overall are simple and easy to follow. Each step on the recipe cards includes a chef's toque rating scale: A one-toque rating means it's an appropriate chore for young kids, while a three-toque rating means it requires adult assistance.
My son, Noah, who is seven, is able to read well enough that he was in charge of communicating the directions. This worked out well because he would read what needed to be done, and Rose (who is five) would gather the supplies so that the steps could be executed. Their teamwork was effective, and they prepped the meal in about 15 minutes; all I had to do was put the rice on the stove and the salmon in the oven. They were excited to eat what they'd prepared, and were especially proud to share their culinary masterpiece with their dad, who is a chef.
One thing to note is that each recipe is designed to feed four people, so if you have a large family or kids with bigger appetites, you'll need to supplement with extra side dishes.
What does Eat2explore taste like?
Overall, the dishes were fine, if not especially flavorful. My seven-year-old described the teriyaki as bland, and we all thought the sauces for all the dishes were too sweet. They weren't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but if you're expecting to produce authentic, flavorful dishes with these kits, that's not going to happen unless you add some extra spices from your own kitchen.
Should you order Eat2explore?
If you're looking for a fun cooking activity to do with your kids while they're not in school, it's certainly worth trying at least one month of Eat2explore. I also think that it's a great way to engage kids who tend to be picky to try new dishes. By getting them involved in the process—whether it's just learning about a different cuisine or doing all of the prep work—kids feel excited about tasting their culinary creations. Plus kids who are old enough to do most of the prep work for Eat2explore will learn valuable cooking skills that they'll be grateful to have when (if) they're ever allowed to leave the house again.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.