My husband has never been a cook. He is many things but he is no culinary god. One night, he assured me he was making dinner. He proceeded to make baked potatoes using a recipe. I was confused but he assured me it would be great. But that was it. Just baked potatoes. No toppings. I’d lived in Britain on a student budget so I was no stranger to a jacket potato. But the problem was, the recipe was for smaller baking potatoes. I warned him that, at 350 degrees, these large potatoes would be cooked in about 3 hours. He pulled them after an hour. And then the moment of truth -hard as rocks. Another time, he made himself and omelette without cooking the meat he put in it (pork) and I had to tell him “you can’t eat that”. So, my husband is not a cook.
I’m our sole cook. And I’m always looking for ways to cut my cooking time down. I actually used to enjoy cooking. That was until I decided to cook all of our meals due to health concerns, environmental concerns, and the desire to save money when we recently put a large amount of money into my husband’s car (thanks, Chevy!). I’ve found the best way to do this has been to buy a chest freezer and to bring in a pressure cooker. Besides the Baby Brezza, these were my best purchases of 2016. Still, I’m always looking for ways to make things easier.
So, I tried Hello Fresh. I wanted to try other services but few were allergy-friendly. I’ve got to give it to you, Hello Fresh, you made me feel a lot safer as an allergy sufferer than Blue Apron or most of your competitors. My friends loved Hello Fresh and preferred it to Blue Apron so I was convinced I would love it. Millennial parents often work so much that they don’t have much time to meal prep and turn to take out. We know takeout is awful. Also, many people don’t cook much, so I see why a service that explains all recipes in detail and teaches you about cooking appeals to younger people living on their own for the first time as “real” adults.
No matter how much I wanted to love it, I just didn’t.
Hello Fresh had great recipes but from the start, I found it hard to choose “family” meals we could eat. You see, I don’t cook pork (I don’t eat it) and I’m allergic to nuts and shellfish. So, the pickings were slim. Meals for two were better. I picked three choices I was jazzed about – a “premium” meal with steak and a chicken meal with a salad. Overall, I was excited. I thought this was a way to make meal time more fun on nights when I would be apt to turn to take out. It wasn’t cheap but if it was good, I decided I would probably use the service again with a coupon code as a way to have a date night in.
When the meal kit arrived, it was still very cold. It was neatly packed, which impressed me. But the packaging was huge (more on that later). My delivery was delayed by a day for some reason but Hello Fresh alerted me ahead of time. I appreciated that. It was pretty painless because I didn’t have to shop. That was a plus. The ingredients were high quality – grass fed beef and free range chicken. The veggies were great an well-sourced. I liked all of that.
But as I began to open things, I realized that this was maybe not all it was cracked up to be. First of all, I still had to prep everything, which is why I meal prep. I wanted to avoid that. I knew things wouldn’t be fully prepped but the recipes were not 15 minutes of prep like many reviews I had found. They were more like 20-30. That’s a lot of work for me at a time when I am wrestling an almost-toddler, trying to feed her to keep her from being too hangry, and also getting the dog out and fed. It’s a lot and it’s my number one stressor in the evening.
The other thing I worried about immediately was that the portions were anything but generous. My husband eats like a freight train. He’s a tall dude with a crazy metabolism. I don’t know where the food goes. It’s totally unfair! One 8 oz chicken breast was supposed to serve us both on a salad with mostly just spinach. The picture of the meal showed a big, meaty chicken breast coated in Parmesan. I was let down. 4 oz of chicken would barely serve me but it would be piddly for him. It led to my husband eating Ramen 15 minutes after our meal. That defeated the “healthy” point of this experiment. The steak was nice but one 12 oz steak between the two of us, again was not worth the $30.00 it cost before the discount! We eat steak fairly regularly. I could get a similar steak for $12.00 and enough for both of us for about $20.00. The asparagus that came with was good quality but, again, not enough for both of us. We love that stuff. The potatoes were a little too runny for us. Overall, it was unimpressive. If the portions would have suited us, it would have been a good deal. However, the portions were just tiny.
My husband complained about the portions but, more than that, he was distraught over the dishes. He whined about how this was supposed to help him and consolidate my dishes. Instead, because I was cooking a new recipe for each of these, I was using more dishes than I probably would normally. I also just found they were dish-consumptive. If you are looking for a break in dishes, you won’t get that. I used 3 pans and two cutting boards for one recipe. Never mind all the bowls and utensils. It was no less-intensive than a typical night of cooking and probably more intensive, in the end.
The value for money wasn’t great for us because of the portion sizes. Larger portions would have made up for this, I think. After all, these were high quality, expensive ingredients. Even with a coupon code, I was out $33.95 for two recipes. Without, it would have been over 50 bucks for these two meals. That, for us, is more than two nights of something I didn’t have to cook that didn’t generate a bunch of dishes. I’ve got to say I wanted this to be one of those “worth it” things but, economical it was not.
And, without choosing the “premium” meal, we wouldn’t have had any choices that didn’t include seafood or pork. That’s a limitation of this service (even with allergies). If you have any special dietary needs, it will be easier than with other services but still difficult. Also, I could only indicate one allergy or food to avoid. Since our household as multiple allergies or avoids pork, this would mean if we forgot to choose our meals for a week and had a subscription, we might receive food I couldn’t eat.
I also think while Hello Fresh was below my cooking knowledge level – I have preferences about how to do certain things that made me realize I really liked things better the way I did it. If you have been making intensive meals for years (I have yet to find many things that intimidate me and have been cooking since I was a kid), this won’t be hard for you but you might be bored or say “I’d rather do it this way”. However, I thought maybe my husband would engage with it. He didn’t. Unfortunately, he was overwhelmed by it. That was not Hello Fresh’s problem. It’s just an observation.
The packaging is rather wasteful. People say you can recycle most of it. We don’t have curbside where we live and we couldn’t recycle most of it locally. That made us sad. But that aside, the environmental cost of transporting this HUGE box for two meals, ice packs, and the cost to the environment of plastic bags no one can recycle was a big loss. It bothered my husband’s tree hugging heart enough that he really couldn’t handle doing this again barring all of our other issues. This is not a Hello Fresh problem, either, it is the cost of the consumption of any one of these services.
It was kid-approved here. If you have picky kids, I could also see this not being a “win”. Even the baby eats anything we do. She loves it all. She loves asparagus. If you only have one kid, you might find the 4 person meals expensive but I think it would be enough to be “worth” it for three people.
One thing I expected and was not surprised by was the lack of leftovers. This is a plus if your husband won’t eat them (mine won’t). However, it’s not something that is right for everyone. For me, it’s okay to not have leftovers every night since he won’t eat them. But, if you eat leftovers every day for lunch or rely on those to give you a cooking break, this is a consideration. You could also just get the larger meal.
Overall, I am not sold. Hello Fresh and other meal delivery services may be for you if:
- You only eat organic, grass-fed meat.
- You already spend a lot of money and time on these ingredients. If you shop at Whole Foods already, this probably would be cheaper for you and it would save you a ton of time.
- You are newish to cooking and need to learn more recipes and skills but you already have some baseline knowledge).
- You don’t mind doing the same amount of prep (or slightly more) and washing up as you would on a “normal” night.
- You don’t have many food allergies or preferences.
- You are just looking for new recipes and ideas.
- You are searching for a fun thing to cook together on date night.
- You don’t eat leftovers.
- You are dieting and focusing on portion size.
- You aren’t bothered by the environmental impact of transport and recycle-ability.
If you’re a decent cook looking to spend less time on prep every night, prefer to meal prep, are budget conscious and shop primarily at Aldi and bulk food stores, and like to eat a larger portion size, meal delivery services may not make you happy. I know they are uber popular among millennials but I was not impressed. It was nothing that Hello Fresh did wrong. It just wasn’t the solution for us.
My advice: buy a Pressure cooker and use Pinterest if you are like me. It will save you a lot of money and time. Pressure cooker is BAE.