So this post has been a while in coming, but on the other hand, the Hello Fresh boxes have just stopped coming (there may be one more…?) so I suppose it’s just on time.
We tried Hello Fresh, which is one of those meal-ingredient delivery services, and found it, overall, perfectly cromulent.
So if you haven’t been bombarded with 4,000 ads for this (maybe it’s just YouTube? I watch a lot of YouTube lately…), what Hello Fresh does is:
* picks three meals for you, or you can change it up with a number of different meals from an offered list
* Sends you a paper bag including all the needed ingredients (except salt, pepper, butter/olive oil, water, and, sometimes, sugar?)
* Also sends a little vacu-sealed pack of meat for each meal (Not that little, it’s usually 8 oz, I think), or in one case, Plant-Based Proteins.
* And a recipe card, the size of a piece of printer paper (8-1/2″x11″), with usually about 8 steps with photos.
(if you’re interested, there are always deals and coupons floating around. Just pay attention to the details).
The one trick that got us every time was that you have to pick your meals early in the week (several weeks before it’s sent) and we didn’t do well at remembering to get rid of the option we weren’t interested in and replace them with something more our style.
(This is why there is a burger option waiting in the fridge, you see…)
The meals generally take about a half-hour of prep time. They usually have a starch, a protein, some sort of sauce, and not quite enough vegetables.
Some examples we liked:
with Roasted Green Beans & Jasmine Rice
Chicken & Biscuit Pot Pie (Pillsbury fridge biscuits)
Southwest Chicken Sausage & Rice Skillet
With Salsa Fresca & Lime Crema
Crispy Buffalo-Spiced Chicken
With Blue Cheese Sauce, Scallion Mashed Potatoes & Roasted Carrots
Plant-Based Protein Ragù Rigatoni Bake
with Italian Cheese & Crispy Panko
So all in all, it’s one meal, no worries about substituting an ingredient or running out in the middle, all in one bag.
It’s not as cheap as grocery shopping, even allowing for food that we end up tossing in the compost bin.
But it’s fun for trying things we wouldn’t normally do, flavor combinations that we don’t normally aim for, and, well, little finishing touches that aren’t in our normal range of finishing. (Crema. Crema on everything).
In terms of food quality: the meat is tasty, good-quality, well packed. It tends towards ground meat, but whole pieces (chicken breasts, pork chops) are evenly cut and well trimmed.
The vegetables are between decent and lackluster. The last two meals we’ve had have involved a pico de gallo, and in both cases the tomato was the sort of bland grocery-store roma I don’t buy anymore. They tend towards a certain collection of vegetables which are easy to prepare, long-storing, easy to transport, and easy to cook: lots of carrots, green onions in almost everything, onion onions in a lot of dishes, the occasional green bean, and a lot of zucchini and cucumber. Oh, and poblano peppers.
(Then again, House Thorne also tends towards a selection of vegetables that are long-storing, easy to get in our current grocery stores, and easy to prepare (it’s just a slightly different selection) – except in the summer, when we tend to rotate through whatever’s fresh in the garden at the moment. )
The recipes themselves are very simple, and while they often include ingredients to make sauces (and those cremas!) they also will sometimes include a little packet of like “Bulgogi Sauce” or “Tuscan Spice Blend” which does make it a little harder to replicate these with home ingredients.
(We did replicate the Firecracker Meatballs. That was pretty tasty).
I find their rice kinda boring – it’s always white rice, and they never season it with anything but salt and pepper. I’ve gotten used to rice cooked in chicken/turkey/etc. broth and/or with spiced added to match the meal we’re making.
I did really like some of their topping ideas – quick-pickled cucumber ribbons (made by just continuing to peel the cucumber until you get to the seeds), for instance, the world’s fastest mashed potatoes, (probably not the fastest, as it didn’t involve a pressure cooker or a food processor)… there were carrot ribbons once, too, and of course the ubiquitous crema, which is usually lime juice, sour cream, and a little water to thin. Sometimes it’s something other than lime juice!
(oh, yeah, there are also perpetual limes, of which you are usually using half a lime. I’m at the “come up with a dessert that uses limes” stage.)
We did try one of their desserts. I found it … tasty but that’s about it? Like, it came prepared and all you had to do was heat it in the oven. Meh. If I wanted to buy prepared foods, our grocery store has a freezer aisle.
(we do sometimes buy prepared foods: We normally have pierogis and/or potstickers and/or shumai in the freezer or tortellini in the fridge, for that day when you just Don’t Want To Cook, or rather, T Doesn’t Want to Cook. And we buy brownie/cake mixes for similar times, but for dessert.)
Oh! The packaging. sort of positive/negative. I wish the boxes didn’t preach at me about How Recyclable They Are. (especially when every meal comes with each ingredient packaged in its own little bag, except the bigger veggies)
Good job, box, you’re cardboard, well done. The cats do think the boxes are the perfect size for playing in, and have a little cat fort of three of them in the living room right now. The boxes are not clay-covered to make them white, so they burn better and would compost better as garden topcover if it were spring.
Half of the boxes are lined with this wax-coated insulative cardboard – +++. Burns like a charm. The other half are lined with like, Mylar bubble wrap. Less useful. If I didn’t have 8 million Styrofoam coolers because of my MS meds, maybe somewhat useful.
The freezie packs go in the garbage; they’re made to be single-use and sometimes they leak once they’re out of the box. But the meat is always cold enough when it arrives, and the veggies are all intact.
Oh, my cats think the paper bags, crumped up, are a great size for playing with, too. So the cats love the packaging. Except those Mylar bubble wrap things.
To sum up: I think Hello Fresh is a very nice Sometimes Food. It adds variety to our meals without us having to think about the variety. It’s tasty, and with coupons, not too expensive. And the recipes are easily half-hour start to finish with two people.
I wish they didn’t default to burger-like-things when we don’t remember to choose the meal, but burgers are easy and commonly loved in America so that’s not all that surprising, and the two non-meat (but not vegan) options we tried were every bit as tasty as the meat options.
If you’re looking to try something different that shows up at your door and have the room in your budget, it’s worth a try.