Today marks my first post in a new series on some of the most popular meal delivery services out there. If you’re new to this concept, companies like Blue Apron, Plated, Hello Fresh, and many others will ship you all the ingredients necessary for a week’s worth of meals, plus step-by-step recipes, at a cost similar to going to the grocery store.
The draw varies depending on who you ask; some people like that these get them out of a “meal planning rut” while others appreciate being exposed to new recipes and ingredients they might not ordinarily choose. Other just like the simplicity of not having to make a list and go to the grocery store.
I’ve been lucky enough to receive a few of these boxes recently, and I’ll cover how we think the various companies performed here on the blog over the next few weeks.
First up: Hello Fresh!
Hello Fresh started in Germany in 2011, and now delivers nationwide in the US. There are three options for packages – the “classic” box (3 meals for 2 people each week), the “veggie” box (3 vegetarian meals for 2 people each week), and the “family” box (3 meals for 4 people each week).
The classic plan starts at $69 a week, and you can choose your 3 meals from among 6 available recipes. Since our free box coupon was worth up to $79, we added a 4th meal for just an additional $5, but ordinarily additional meals will cost you an extra $15. Shipping is included in the price.
Hello Fresh was less expensive than the other boxes I’m trying (though only by a few bucks), however, if you were to assemble the same ingredients yourself at the store, it’d be less expensive still. Of course, you’re paying for the simplicity and recipes as well, so I don’t really knock them for being slightly more than a trip to the store.
The whole kit comes in a cute box with fun sayings in the company’s signature lime green color. Inside, a foil wrapper encases each meal’s “sub-box” of ingredients, with the proteins on the bottom, next to a large ice pack. Unfortunately, the ice pack had shifted in transit, and so the protein for one of our dishes (the pork) arrived only mildly cool, not even cold. And I was actually home when the box was delivered — had it sat outside in the Texas heat for any length of time, at least that one meal would have probably spoiled.
Meal 1: Argentine Spiced Steak: 8/10
This was definitely our favorite meal. The steak was well butchered, but a little on the stringy side — we tend to buy slightly higher quality meat. Still, the couscous/spinach mixture was great and definitely something out of the ordinary for us, which was nice. We did make one alteration, replacing the red bell pepper strips with red pepper flakes, as we aren’t big bell pepper fans. Also, their instructions for how long to cook the steak would have resulted in a medium-well steak, so we scaled that back by a few minutes. I also thought this was one of the easier recipes to make.
Meal 2: Cherry-and-Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops: 5/10
First of all, let me just state for the record: broccoli, and ESPECIALLY cooked broccoli, is disgusting. When we saw it show up in our box, we offered it to the dog, and when he wouldn’t eat it either, we threw it away and replaced it with peas. But for the remaining meal, the pork, potatoes, and sauce, we thought these were just sort of “meh.” Cooking the pork per their instructions left it at only a 140-degree internal temperature, so I took it a few minutes further, and this resulted in a somewhat tough piece of pork. The sauce was ok, but a little heavy on the shallots for my taste. The difficulty on this one was also a little higher, as towards the end of the dish, you had to do several steps in very quick succession to make the sauce. I probably won’t try to make this again on my own.
Meal 3: Tortellini Gratin: 6/10
I had really high hopes for this meal – it smelled great as it was cooking, and I liked all of the ingredients that went into it; in the end though, it wasn’t a favorite, and the reason was really the bland, low-quality tortellini that were included. We regularly make the Buitoni brand fresh tortellini at home, and it has a much better flavor and texture. I also felt the ground beef was not the greatest quality – I encountered several pieces of gristle in mine. However, this was the most generous meal portion-wise, and we had enough for both of us to have leftovers for lunch the next day, bringing the overall per-portion cost of the box down even further.
Meal 4: Mediterranean Skillet Chicken: 7/10
This was the “simplest” and easiest to cook of all the meals in our box – you just sautéed chicken and vegetables and combined with bulgar wheat and a few spices. Overall, it was one was the hubby’s least favorite, but I actually thought the (somewhat unexpected) addition of dried apricots in the bulgar wheat gave it a nice sweetness. Again, the portion on this one was generous, and neither of us finished all our plate. This one also used the fewest pans of any meal – just one skillet, a cutting board, and a prep bowl.
Overall Rating: 7/10
We enjoyed our week of Hello Fresh meals, and could definitely see ordering one from time to time just to spice things up. The meals were well-composed and the recipes were very easy to follow. There were a couple instances where the ingredients weren’t really up to par of what we’d normally buy in the store, and the number of pots and pans many of the recipes required was a bit excessive. But in the end, we thought this would be a great option for someone who was seeking either the convenience or variety that a meal delivery service provides.