Easy does it
"If I'm going to write about it, I need to know what I'm talking about," I explained to my manager. And just a few days later I became one of the thousands of people around Australia using Lite n' Easy.
Of course I'm a sample size of one – the experience I had on Lite n' Easy may not be the same as the next person's, and I won't assume it's indicative. Plus I was only on it for a week, so I can't vouch for what it's like if you're on it for longer.
But if you're contemplating using Lite n' Easy, here's an insight into what to expect. If you're already a customer, or have used Lite n' Easy previously, I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments section below.
Registering with Lite n' Easy was all very straightforward. I entered my details (gender, age, weight etc) in the website tool and was recommended the 1200 calorie plan, which is the number of calories I'd be limited to on average each day. That's about 5000kJ, for those who prefer to think in metric (for context, the average Australian adult consumes about 8700kJ per day).
Then I set up an account with my address and (CHOICE's) credit card details and made note of the delivery day for my area.
Placing the order
Placing my order was a little more complicated, as I have a few food allergies. Lite n' Easy makes it pretty clear that it doesn't cater for specific dietary requirements (such as gluten free) or food allergies.
Its website, however, provides comprehensive ingredients information for all the foods it supplies, along with allergen details for each food, so I figured I'd be able to navigate my way around the menu, and select food that suited.
Lite n' Easy Spring menu brochure
For breakfast and lunch it's a matter of choosing between two different options each day – 'popular' (the default) or 'optional'. But it took me a while to work out what I could and couldn't eat. Because I wasn't choosing between brands I buy on a regular basis, I had to check the ingredients lists for each type of bread, cereal, salad dressing, cracker and cake. This was rather arduous, although I imagine it would get faster each week once you became familiar with the options.
So I was pleasantly surprised to find I was able to select seven breakfasts and lunches from the menu that catered to my allergies, and only have one snack that I wouldn't be able eat. I'm not sure if I'd have the same experience each week, as you can't go off-menu and request the same snack every day of the week, for example (although you can swap items around and eat them on different days once they've been delivered).
For the dinners, I selected seven meals from a list of about 50 options. I had to check the ingredients lists for these too, but it was a straightforward process.
After placing my order, I set the delivery schedule in my account to 'on-call', which means you only receive a delivery when you place an order – I didn't think CHOICE would appreciate paying for my food on an ongoing basis. You can select a regular weekly, fortnightly, three-weekly, or four-weekly delivery if you prefer.
Lite n' Easy delivery box contents
I was more than a little excited about receiving my delivery – a whole week of food that I haven't had to shop for, what luxury! It turned up just as I as was rushing out of the house in the morning, so I left the large polystyrene box inside the door to attend to later. I didn't get back until lunchtime, and was pleased to find the contents were still perfectly chilled.
A quick word on dry ice. After I'd removed the contents from the boxes, I picked up what I assumed was an ice-block with 'Warning' on its plastic wrapper. I quickly dropped it after noticing a burning sensation in my fingers, and when I read the small print under the 'Warning', discovered it said 'Contains dry ice. Do not touch. Can burn skin' (or similar). I can now vouch that this is true.
One week of Lite n' Easy in bags
The bags are all clearly marked with the day (one to seven), the meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) and where you need to store the food (fridge or freezer).
I hadn't really considered the quantity – my fridge was already heaving from a recent grocery shop for the family – and it quickly became apparent that I'd struggle to make all the Lite n' Easy bags fit.
It took a bit of reorganising, but I managed to squeeze them into one large shelf in the fridge, and two drawers in the upright freezer we (thankfully) have in our garage. I'm not sure what I'd have done if I only had a little fridge or freezer.
Packaging from lunch on Day 6
At the end of every day there was a certain amount of leftover packaging, and for some meals the amount of packaging was quite substantial.
According to the Lite n' Easy website, all of its plastic containers are recyclable, and its dinner trays and lids are made from sustainable paperboard and can be recycled in some Australian councils if clean and dry – so I'll be checking with my council quick smart. The website also claims that the day bags and shopping bags are degradable and will break down in landfill. However I'm pleased there's a REDcycle bin at my local supermarket, as I wasn't keen on contributing so much plastic to landfill.
Breakfast and lunch
For the most part breakfast wasn't dissimilar to what I'd normally eat – a bowl of cereal and maybe a piece of toast. The lunches as well – a sandwich or a wrap, a bowl of pasta, or a salad.
Most days the options I selected had some form of bread – sliced for toasting, a roll for lunch or flat bread for a wrap – and it was always multigrain or full of seeds, which I enjoyed. And there were two serves of fruit daily, including at least one fresh item such as an apple, mandarin or kiwifruit, paired with a packaged fruit cup.
Each day you also got a small snack, which in the week I ordered included choc cranberry trail mix, rosemary and rock salt crackers, roasted almonds and double chocolate cake. And I found these just right to tide me over until the next meal.
Lite n' Easy cereal portion (L) vs my usual cereal portion (R)
One thing that struck me was the portion sizes. The cereal serves were all about 35g, which if you check the label on your cereal box, is pretty standard. But it's tiny compared to what I normally eat (I weighed what I normally serve myself, and it tipped the scales at around 80g!). The bread rolls for lunch are of the rather diminutive 'dinner roll' proportions, where I'd normally buy a much larger roll from the bakery. And most of the snack serves are quite small, around 25g. Even the portions of yoghurt are smaller than what I'd serve up myself. Regardless, each day I felt pretty satisfied with the quantity of food I ate.
Another thing that stood out for me was the quantity of fresh produce. The week started off strong with salad leaves on offer the first three days – my first lunch was a tasty crispy noodle salad with cucumber and Vietnamese vinaigrette, for example. But in the last four days across breakfast and lunch I was reduced to a single tomato each day, in addition to the fresh fruit. Obviously any fresh items need to remain edible and appealing over a whole week. However more salad ingredients wouldn't go astray, in my opinion.
I sometimes feel bored to death with my own cooking, so I was excited to be having new dinner options for a change. I was also pleasantly surprised by how substantial the portion sizes seemed, and I was comfortably full after finishing each meal.
Honey soy chicken after heating
The dinners are all frozen, apart from a handful of salads which are only available in Queensland. I rarely eat frozen dinners, and being a bit of a food snob I had quite low expectations. But the first meal I ate (creamy tomato tortellini) I thought was quite delicious. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that the veggies in the honey soy chicken and the spinach & ricotta tortellini dishes in particular were plentiful, vibrant in colour and still quite crisp.
Of the seven meals I ordered, however, I only really enjoyed three. But with 40-odd more to choose from, I assume (hope) I'd find others I'd be happy to eat on a regular basis.
And while I loved being able to eat just minutes after I'd taken the box out of the freezer, the novelty did wear off by the end of the week and I missed eating the same meals as my family.
There's no denying that Lite n' Easy is incredibly convenient. For a whole week I didn't have to meal-plan, shop, cook or even think about food for myself. I pretty much just had to eat, which I can manage rather well. And I think it's this convenience I was most looking forward to experiencing.
But because I still have a family to cook for, I didn't feel like I was getting the full benefit of the convenience Lite n' Easy offers. I couldn't exactly turn around to my partner and young kids and say, "Right, I'm sorted for food this week. You'll all have to fend for yourselves." But I can see how handy it would be if I lived on my own or if every member of my household was using it – not least how much time it would free up.
All in all I quite enjoyed my Lite n' Easy experience. If I wanted to lose weight, then I think it could really help to kick-start the process. At the very least, the additional cost on top of my family's usual grocery bill would be an incentive for me to stick with it until I saw some results.
Even if I don't use it again, I feel I've learnt something from my week on Lite n' Easy that I can benefit from going forward. Particularly in relation to the amount of food I serve up for myself, and how much – or indeed little – I need to feel satisfied. So for that, it was worth it.