The Kiwi start-up on a mission to make meal planning easier than ever

  • 25/03/2022
  • Sponsored by - Dell

A young couple determined to make it easier to plan and prepare nutritious and delicious meals has created an online platform they hope will become this generation's Edmonds Cookery Book.

MenuAid, founded by Toby Skilton and Elise Hilliam uses smart technology to offer users fresh weekly recipe ideas, served up alongside an editable list of ingredients that can either be self-shopped, click-and-collected or delivered by your local supermarket.

The platform, which the founders liken to a digital cookbook, provides an updated take on traditional meal kits, with more flexibility and less waste.

MenuAid is this month's Dell Change Maker. Dell and The Project have been recognising New Zealanders who have made a positive social impact in the community through the Change Maker campaign.

Toby and Elise.
Toby and Elise. Photo credit: MenuAid

Starting at $4 a week, MenuAid gives users five new weekly recipes, with the platform automatically generating a categorised shopping list containing the necessary ingredients that you can then tweak to your own needs. 

"You can add in things that you need for the week like toilet paper or dog food, you can remove anything that you've already got at home and you can swap out things that you don't like," says Hilliam. People can then do their own shopping or order their groceries online through the site's integrated platform and have them delivered by their local supermarket. 

Hilliam says the freedom to source your own ingredients not only means there is less waste, but also gives users much greater flexibility.

"You can buy your favourite brand and support your local fruit and veggie or butcher, etc if you want," says Hilliam.

"It's a lot cheaper and more affordable and you can work it within your budget. The other thing that people really love is they can use what they've got at home already."

The Kiwi start-up on a mission to make meal planning easier than ever
Photo credit: MenuAid / Instagram

The couple came up with the idea of MenuAid, which they launched in September last year, after being frustrated by constantly dealing with the "what's-for-dinner dilemma".

"Every Sunday we would sit down and trawl through cookbooks, look at Instagram, try and browse recipe sites and it was so time consuming and we'd always end up eating the same meals every fortnight anyway, so we thought there's got to be a better way."

Although they tried using various meal kit options on the market, Hilliam says they were put off by the amount of waste they saw and frustrated by the lack of flexibility on offer.

"We looked for a solution, but couldn't find it so decided to build it ourselves."

While the tech side of MenuAid was spearheaded by Skilton, who has a passion for disruptive technology and is also the founder of Mutu, an app that lets people rent out their unused household items such as tools and sporting equipment, the food side was driven by Hilliam, who has a background in nutrition.

The Kiwi start-up on a mission to make meal planning easier than ever
Photo credit: MenuAid / Instagram

The couple say the platform is mainly used by busy professionals like themselves, as well as "families who are constantly trying to keep the kids involved and keep them excited about dinner and educate them around healthy eating, but are sick of nagging all the time".

The recipes are created by Masterchef New Zealand winner Brett McGregor and food writer and chef Helen Jackson, and Hilliam says they are thoroughly tested before they go out to users.

"We need to know that what we're sending out is delicious," she says, adding that as well as being tested by McGregor and Jackson's families, every second week the MenuAid team go into the kitchen and cook 18 recipes in a day, to photograph and test them - "so it certainly goes through a few mouths before before it gets to our users".

Hilliam says the focus for the company this year is to keep pushing the technology to create an even more personalised experience for the platform's users, by using artificial intelligence to predict what shopping items you will and won't need based on your recent orders.

MenuAid founders, Elise and Toby, and chefs/recipe writers, Helen and Brett.
MenuAid founders, Elise and Toby, and chefs/recipe writers, Helen and Brett. Photo credit: MenuAid / Instagram

The goal is then to continue to grow the company and in the process help others avoid that annoying "what's-for-dinner dilemma". "We want to refine it really well for the New Zealand market and then start to look to move overseas," says Hilliam.

"The exciting thing about dinner is that everyone in the world needs dinner so there's a lot of people that we can help solve this for."

This article was created for Dell.