I enjoy cooking, so making dinners for my husband and I isn’t usually a chore, it’s fun. But when we don’t get home before 6pm most nights, trying to get dinner on the table before bedtime isn’t always easy. Plus, I tend to make the same things over and over, so when a friend gave me a coupon for a week free of Hello Fresh I jumped at the chance to try it out.
Hello Fresh is one of the many dinner-subscription services that sends you pre-packaged meals to your house with all the ingredients you need for the meal, all you have to do is cook them. Almost all their recipes are designed to cook in around 30 minutes and need minimal effort for prep work. You are expected to have on hand basics like olive oil, butter, salt and pepper, milk and pots and pans.
Here’s my review of my week eating Hello Fresh (and no, this review isn’t solicited, I just wanted to do it for anyone else considering the service). Since it was free, I didn’t get a choice of the meals they sent, so what we got was a fun surprise.
Key things I learned:
- Open each meal box right away and take note of what was sent. They don’t send you instructions for what to do with everything when it arrives. Meals come in a big travel-worthy cold box to keep things fresh. Meat is on the bottom, with each meal’s dry ingredients/veggies in their own labeled and sealed box. I didn’t open each individual box, just stuck it in the fridge at the advice of a friend. This turned out to be a mistake, as a few of the ingredients for each meal aren’t necessarily items that should be refrigerated, like red wine vinegar, garlic cloves or potatoes. Nothing was ruined, but I may have cost the quality of a few items since by the time the fourth meal rolled around, stuff had been in the fridge a few days.
- Items aren’t labeled very well. It’s a good thing I cook a lot and know my way around various ingredients, their quantities and appearance. While most everything came pre-packaged and labeled, one of my meals had 4 liquid items that were in pouches with no label to say what it was or the quantity. I had to compare my knowledge with the recipe card, considering the item they had listed was a completely different color than the one they sent me, plus they sent more than what was called for, so you needed to actually measure it out, not just dump it all in. Not a huge deal, but if you weren’t seasoned with certain oils, sauces, etc that could get confusing and ruin your meal.
- Figure about 10-15 minutes longer than it says it takes. Between the little bit of prep work needed (chopping carrots,potatoes, garlic, scallions were typical duties) and the actual cooking, I usually had everything done and on the table in about 30-40 minutes – this included opening everything up, reading the instructions carefully, chopping, waiting for water to boil, cooking, plating, etc. I only had one thing that didn’t go as planned – they wanted you to poach chicken breasts in a pan of water for 10 minutes to cook them….the breasts were so thick they were nowhere near done in 10 minutes and everything else was, so into the microwave they went to finish cooking.
- Parmesan-Crusted Cod with herbed potatoes and carrots. This was really good. I’m not a fan of cod, so that part was meh, but the panko/parmesan crust was really good, as was the seasoning for the veggies. I’d make this again but with a different type of fish.
- Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Kale in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce. I really liked this, my husband is not a fan of kale so he didn’t enjoy it as much and just ate the agnolotti part. (Agnolotti is fancy ravioli). If we make it again, we’ll use spinach. One recipe-change I had to make on the fly – I can’t have pine nuts, so I pulled out some walnuts I had on hand and substituted those.
- Sesame Chicken Noodles with Crunchy Cabbage and a Chili Oil Drizzle. Yum! I don’t believe I’ve ever made something like this, although I do enjoy it when we eat out. I will be making this again! While my final product didn’t look like the picture, it sure tasted good. I hardly used any of the spicy chili oil they sent, as we’re not spicy fans, but I’d be open to adding a little more next time. It made a ton of food, so we got leftovers the next day.
- Classic Poblano Beef Chili with Jack’s Borlotti Beans. The chili was the easiest of all of them to make, fewest ingredients and very little prep. The only reason it took longer than 30 minutes was I let the chili simmer for 20 minutes instead of the stated 10 to give it more time for the flavors to mesh. It was the perfect Saturday evening meal.
Pricing: The Classic Plan is $9.99 per meal per person. So, if you order the 2-person, 3 meals a week plan, it’s $59.94. To me, that’s Expensive! I can buy the same ingredients at the store, and while the grocery bill might be a bit higher to start with, most of those ingredients you will use for multiple meals, cutting your cost per meal down considerably. (For instance, you’d buy a bag of carrots or potatoes that would be used for multiple dinners, snacks, etc. not just 3 potatoes for one meal.) We also buy part of a cow and pig annually, so most of our meat is already paid for and in the freezer, we just need to buy dry ingredients and veggies.
The only time where it wouldn’t be as cost-effective is for the items that you might only use a bit of, like the sesame oil or chili oil. But to me that just means finding more recipes I can use it in.
Overall we enjoyed the meals – and while they were similar to things I might cook myself, they each had a different twist to them I probably wouldn’t have thought of. You get to keep the recipe card so you can make them again with your own ingredients. I’d alter them a bit next time to our own preferences and allergy issues.
I don’t plan on continuing with the service as it’s too expensive for us, but it’s given me some ideas of what I can cook to add variety to our dinners. I do recommend a free trial if you can snag one from a friend.