We’ve been preparing Hello Fresh meals now for at least 12 weeks, and we’re ready to spill the beans on the truth about the most popular Meal Kit Delivery service in the US. This isn’t one of those “once-in-a-row” reviews – we’ve been through a variety of recipes, experienced some hiccups, and developed some must-know hacks.
Hello Fresh is one of many “Meal Kit Delivery” services. They choose recipes, pack the ingredients, and ship them to you on a weekly basis. For around $69 per week, we’re getting four meals for two people. That works out to around $8.60 per meal per serving. But more on that below…
Truth #1: The Food Tastes Good.
It’s actually really, really good. And Hello Fresh has nailed the flavors. They take advantage of sauces and toppings in clever ways. For example, you’ll often make a sauce in the same pan you cooked your meat in, scraping up the bits off the bottom of the pan, to make an extra-tasty burst of flavor for the recipe. We’ve tried many recipes, and only once was it just “ok”. Everything else has been impressively tasty. And the Smoked Gouda Pork Burgers – well, those are just off-the charts delicious….
Truth #2: The Prep Time is a Lie.
Most instruction cards say “Prep: 10 Min”. 10 minutes? Seriously? I don’t think of myself as a slouch in the kitchen, and there’s no way I can make any Hello Fresh meal with less than 30 minutes of active time. And sometimes, I’m really hustling. I think I’ve sorted out where they get that rediculously low time, though…. looking at the recipe instructions (organized into 6 “steps”, even when there are more) – step 1 is always titled “Prep”. Clean, chop, dice, etc – and that first step takes the “10 minutes” all by itself. And honestly, often the total is incorrect as well: unless my oven is already preheated, the ingredients and utensils are already out, and I’m hydrated and ready for the race, there’s no way I can get the meal done in the time they suggest. Typical active cooking time is 40-60 minutes.
Truth #3: It’s Real, Fresh, Quality Ingredients.
The ingredients that show up in the box are real, fresh food. They conveniently provide “special” ingredients like spice packets or packets of honey or sour cream, so you don’t have to have an inventory of your own of those ingredients. There’s no “processed foods” in there – it’s all fresh, good stuff you will feel good about eating.
Truth #4: The Cost is Worth It.
I mentioned earlier that it’s around $8.60 per meal per serving. And, if you really go for it, you could get that down to right at $8 per serving. (But beware – the $8.60 price is lower than you might pay – we’ve developed a price-cutting “hack” I’ll discuss below). But honestly, even when we were paying more like $12 per meal per serving, it was still worth it. The food arrives on Monday. We’re zonked Monday after work. We don’t have to think about food, which means we aren’t tempted to go out, order out, or get fast food. Which saves us tons of money. And, since the food is real, quality food, we know we’re eating better than we would if we ate out. Even though it takes longer than they say it will, the investment both in time and money is absolutely worth it.
Truth #5: The “Waste” Factor is Debatable.
Yes, debateable. There’s pros and cons, and Hello Fresh clearly works to minimize their environmental impact.
I get a box, an insulation liner, and an ice-pack or two in the mail each week. Depending on their mood (or supplies, or the phase of the moon, or… ?), the insulation liner is recycleable. I’ve now seen three different variations: a fiber insulation liner that was recycleable, a silver plastic liner that did not seem to be recycleable, and a corrugated cardboard-like liner that was recycleable. The ice packs claim to be recycleable, but you have to dispose of the liquid inside in the trash (after letting it thaw), then recycle the bag.
Things like sour cream comes in 2 Tablespoon packets. So if a recipe calls for 4 tablespoons, or 8 tablespoons – you guessed it – you get 2, or 4 packets. Small packaging, but packaging nevertheless. And this appears to be the case for all of their accessories – honey, spice packets, the cute little mini-jars of jam, etc.
Interestingly, they appear to alter the number of ice packs depending on the weather. I’m not sure if that’s true, or if it’s just a “downgrade” from 2 to 1 icepack. If we’re still doing this when it starts warming up again, I’ll circle back and update you on this observation.
Truth #6: You’ll Be Doing Some Dishes.
You’d better have a couple of saucepans, a pot or two, at least two baking sheets, at least two cutting boards, and a variety of spoons, spatulas, and tongs. For one recipe, I had pans or pots on all five of our cooktop burners! Granted, I was using one of their “advanced tips” to prep ahead, but still – looking back, that sort of cooking isn’t for the faint of heart. And it turns into a lot of dishes to do. But, still – truth #4 is accurate – it’s worth it.
Truth #7: You Can Hack The System
In the next article, I’ll share the Hello Fresh “hacks” that we’ve developed to keep costs low, to make the meals Whole 30 compliant, and one special “bonus” that we’ve started applying to other areas of our nutrition lifestyle…