Cool factor 4/5
Usability 5/5
Value for money 5/5

UCook is a local service that offers a dinner "solution" for busy families and stressed-out execs. This is not a precooked meal, or takeaways, and not quite a groceries delivery service.

Rather, UCook plans the menu, does the shopping, measures out the ingredients, and bundles this all up for you to cook.

It is a smart solution to a handful of middle-class problems: lack of time, lack of know-how, and lack of inspiration.

Signing up for the service means weekly deliveries of insulated boxes (on Sundays or Mondays, area-dependent), with the components of each meal all neatly packed into separate brown paper bags, and a meal card that runs you through preparation and assembly step by basic step. Nice touches include an estimation of cooking time for each meal, and "cook within X days" stickers so you get through the most perishable items first.

And the instructions navigate that fine line between over-and under-explaining, so even those with no cooking experience can put together a great meal.

Even if you are a good or experienced cook, the service providers put a lot of thought into keeping it varied and fresh. Trout, for example, is not a mainstay on my weekly menu, but as of this week, I’ve cooked it and successfully so. I like that there are fresh greens in virtually every meal, with a good basic veg-carb-protein balance in the "easy-peasy" menu option.

I especially like that there’s next to no waste of the ingredients — you use what you get, and don’t let extras wilt and spoil in the fridge. They do assume that you’ll have butter, salt and pepper, and cooking oil in the house though so it’s not a cooking starter pack in that sense.

Portions are reasonably generous, so even though you’re paying roughly R100 a meal, you might squeak squeeze a lunch from it too.

The boxes are a bit cumbersome, but empty boxes can be collected at the time of your next delivery.

UCook currently delivers around 80,000 meals a month — to Joburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, as well as a few smaller towns like George, Knysna, Jeffery’s Bay, Richards Bay, East London, Langebaan, Worcester, Rustenburg, Haartbeespoort. Check out ucook.co.za visit their its website to see if your area is covered.