Basic and budget personal chef services in Toronto
June 20, 2022 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a personal chef/home cook to prepare the same easy recipes every week and deliver them to me, nothing more, for $500/month. Is this realistic?

I'm dealing with long covid, I'm exhausted all the time, I'd like to hire someone to cook meals for me. I live in Toronto, and I can spare around $500 a month for 2 meals a day, 6 days a week. I know personal chef services are usually far more expensive, but would it be realistic if I had the following qualifiers? I'd like to ask Mefi first before I expend energy fruitlessly e-mailing personal chefs and getting shot down.

* Very basic meals - just bare-bones stir-fries and soups, all below 10 ingredients.
* I don't mind eating the same few recipes every week
* I live by myself, so I don't need family servings
* I would need the groceries to be bought for me, but I can pay for it on top of the monthly rate
* No cooking in my kitchen, just drop food off at my place once a week
* I can clean the dishes so that reusable containers can be used instead

I know a lot of the value of personal chefs comes from creating meal plans with rotating recipes, but I truly am just looking for home cook/line cook experience, someone to make stir-fries/sautés with soy sauce, one-pot minestrone soup, etc. The meals I'm looking for are like college 101 meal plans, same cooking style with a different sauce every week.

I'm imagining this could be a side-gig for a hobby cook, but previous AskMefi answers have said that it's important to get someone with assurances from the local health department/insurance?

I looked into subscription meal delivery services, but my issue is that I need meals with zero added sugar - I've found that this helps with my fatigue and inflammation issues.
posted by loonietrillium to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My friend did this in Toronto and hired a mom in their community to come over and cook in their kitchen with food they had purchased so it was just time / labour.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:53 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You may have to do some poking around Craigslist and maybe FB, possibly Yelp, but you should be able to find personal trainers doing this as a side hustle and they'll likely have all the locally-required creds and will be accustomed to routine-based meal plans and dietary restrictions.

In my area (Los Angeles though, so I'd expect nothing less) "meal prep" on Yelp returns the closest match to what you're looking for. You might also find your local Buy/Sell/Trade group on Facebook and post a request for the very specific things you're looking for. It's up to you whether you absolutely require someone fully licensed or if you're satisfied with references for someone who is maybe operating a little more under the radar.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:05 AM on June 20

I think that's reasonable and if I weren't swamped I would see if I could just bring you what we're eating - if you're in Southwest Scarborough and need soups + legume-type salads to get through until you find someone let me know. :)
posted by warriorqueen at 9:15 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]

Here in Cincinnati, my Indian co-worker gets a certain amount of meals prepared for his family from a person who cooks for the whole diaspora. I don't know the exact price but he has always framed it as very reasonable. I imagine that in Toronto there are probably many such people providing similar services.
posted by mmascolino at 9:24 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's looking like this is a reasonable request, which is great! The next question is how to find someone, especially someone I can trust. I'm relatively new to Toronto, so I don't really have many connections yet. It looks like I should start scouring Craigslist, FB, or Yelp - does anyone know if there's a more personal-help-focused site in Toronto I can use, that possibly has ratings? I'm a bit hesitant to engage with a complete stranger, but all the personal cook websites that do have ratings on Google seem to be more high-end than I need.
posted by loonietrillium at 9:34 AM on June 20

Best answer: I've seen services similar to what mmascolino describes advertised as "tiffin delivery"--that might be another avenue to look into. Good luck!
posted by invokeuse at 10:46 AM on June 20

Is there a reason you don’t want to use Uber Eats? Cooked food straight to your door, choose from many restaurants, within 40 minutes. I get it about twice a week and I always order extra items so it’s enough for 3 days of leftovers each time. If you’re using it this often you might also consider “Uber Eats pass” which is $11/ month to cover all delivery fees.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 11:13 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]

Also, can you share what neighborhood you’re in?
posted by nouvelle-personne at 11:18 AM on June 20

Response by poster: With UberEats, two issues are ingredients and cost. I'm trying to completely eliminate added sugar from my diet, as that impacts my long covid issues, and generally eat very healthy. I can't get this assurance from restaurants. With cost, UberEats with delivery adds up to at least more than $12 a meal, which then adds up to more than $500/month if I'm relying on it for all my meals. I'm hoping that a personal chef option where I use the same recipes and the same ingredients every week would amount to a bit less than $500, hopefully significantly less.

I'm in the Annex area.
posted by loonietrillium at 11:51 AM on June 20

Honeybee is a meal delivery that doesn't use sugar

Do your meals contain sugar?
Our menu is free of refined sugar, with the exception of meals containing pork sausage (which has trace amounts of sugar) and snacks/desserts prepared with chocolate.
posted by dum spiro spero at 12:19 PM on June 20

Refined could be doing a lot of heavy lifting in that statement. If it will be an issue you'll want to verify they don't use demerara, molasses, or honey, or other analogues.
posted by Mitheral at 12:45 PM on June 20

Would a meal service PLUS weekly or biweekly boxes of whole/pre-cut veggies and fruits seem like a reasonable option given your energy levels? Foodshare offers a variety of produce boxes, but the Wellness Box may be a good choice for you. Fruit would work as-is, some veggies could be crudites, and a few would need cooking. $18 per box, plus a small delivery charge. (Delivery is free for orders over $48. For orders under $48, there is a delivery fee of $3.50 + HST. ) Here's what a typical summer box looks like.
Weekly Contents (June 22 - June 25 2022)

4 Bananas
1 Broccoli
1 Lemons
1 Head Lettuce - Green Leaf
1 Cucumber - English - Medium
1 Micro Green Alfalfa-Radish
2lb Onions
1 Peppers - Green
1 Zucchini - Green
There's also a fruit box, but that looks a little high-priced to me - YMMV.
posted by maudlin at 12:46 PM on June 20

Hi, like you, our family is too busy and tired to cook (we have young kids). So I put out a request on my local mums Facebook group for someone who could cook for me.

We found a great lady who was happy cooking for us. I pay her US$ 30/ hr in cash, for four hours once a month. I would organise and buy all the ingredients for the recipes, all the person has to to is cook for us.

She does batch cooking of about three types of dishes, and each dish contains three family-sized portions each (so 3 dishes x 3 portions x 3 people = 27 single person portions), that are easy to freeze and reheat. It is amazing. It's still quite a lot of admin to organise and buy groceries though, I would say it takes up an additional 2-3 hours of my time, which I am happy to do but you may not be. And also, I have to buy all the food and ingredients myself, so that's extra $200. So budget that in too.

Best money I have ever spent.

The downside is repetition in food, and limited to food that I can freeze and reheat.

You may have to join local FB groups and ask around with your exact requests there.
posted by moiraine at 1:33 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]

Oh yes, try also looking for the term 'freezer fill'.
posted by moiraine at 1:38 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]

Advertise on Craigslist for a personal chef, describe what you want. Freezer fill is a great term, thanks, moiraine. My sister does personal cooking cause it's a fun hobby for her.
posted by theora55 at 1:50 PM on June 20

Best answer: I’m a fairly recent graduate of chef school and while unfortunately I can’t help you personally, it occurred to me that this could be a pretty good side gig for a culinary student. There’s usually an online place at George Brown for job postings which, for the life of me I can’t recall, but you could try asking someone through the GBC Culinary website.
Also, in second year, Culinary Management students have to do a placement for a semester, this feels like it could possibly work for that somehow, maybe?
(And hey, my daughter has had long Covid since March 2020 so sending best wishes and virtual support, I know it’s really tough.)
posted by chococat at 2:25 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]

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