I say it often, but my happy place is the kitchen and nothing brings me greater joy than cooking for family and friends. I believe I have a pretty healthy relationship with food, but must admit grocery shopping is like therapy for me (and probably more expensive). My comfort zone (and perfect Friday night) is a fully stocked pantry and refrigerator - and, don’t even get me started on my condiment obsession! I mean, how many different types of Dijon mustard does a person really need?
That being said, I do not find comfort in wasting food, or cooking for a party of six when it's only me and my husband. The weekly ritual of mourning the demise of veggies that didn’t make the cut in time, is to become a thing of the past. This year is all about eating leaner, cleaner and less wasteful. I vow to push through those evenings I'm too tired to cook and not give in to the temptation of the drive through. It is also about trying new things, experimenting and new twists on meal faves.
I was intrigued when I received an e-mail for the food delivery service HelloFresh and decided to give it a try. I signed up for the 3 meal for 2 people a week plan – which came to approx. $25 a week with the introductory discount I was offered. Based on our current spending for groceries and eating out, I couldn’t pass up this deal. Something about opening a box and not having to think about what to make, wonder if I have all the ingredients, tired of the same old stuff - all very appealing!
I thought it would be fun to share my experience and eventually compare a few other companies. I've scored them - 10 being the best.
Delivery (score 7): The delivery window is broad – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. I was not aware of this, but in all fairness it may be stated somewhere and I just didn't notice. I received my 1st e-mail stating my order was on a truck and on the way from a nearby city at 6:30 a.m. on delivery day. At 5:30 p.m. it still hadn’t arrived so I called and was told it would arrive within the hour. We got busy doing other things and assumed perhaps it just wasn't going to be delivered that night. I noticed an e-mail 2 hours later stating my delivery had arrived around 7:15 p.m. (it was now 9 p.m.) No knock on our door… no phone call from the building entrance. Low and behold our box was left outside the front of our building despite my name and apt. # being on the order (and box). It sat for 2 hours but thankfully no one walked off with it as we had been anticipating its arrival all day.
Mildly annoyed I’ll admit but won’t hold it against them as it was the first delivery and I was assured this is not their standard procedure. Not great news out of the gate, but figured we'd get that out of the way and full disclosure is important. You can add notes to your delivery about your location to ensure this doesn’t happen to you. That was the worst and now we can move on to more important things such as:
Meal Choices (score 10): I was pleasantly surprised by the meal selection and did not have a hard time finding meals appealing to me and my husband. I felt the choices were well rounded. For a few extra $ you can also upgrade a meal choice as well (I didn't do this). I will go into quality and details below but the meals I chose (listed in the order I made them) were:
Orange Chicken & Cashews
Orzo & Sausage
Packaging (score 10): The box was small, sturdy and came with a large solid ice pack. All 3 meals were individually packaged in medium brown bags and clearly labeled. The meats for each recipe were separately packaged underneath the bags and on ice. There was an envelope with 3 large recipe cards (pictures on front, instruction on back), and 1 card which contained the nutritional information.
Ingredients (score 8): All ingredients for each recipe were accounted for and the small items, such as garlic, chili pepper flakes, cheese, etc. were in their own individual mini packages. There was one misrepresented item – the tacos listed a red bell pepper, but a yellow one was included. This of course, did not alter the recipe in any way (again, full disclosure). The portion sizes of the ingredients included were perfect for the recipes. For instance, 2 recipes called for red onion so I received 2 medium sized red onions (1 for each recipe) which was more than enough for the dish with some left over. Only 2 items did I consider not fresh – parsley had a few stems I had to throw out and the cherry tomatoes were 1 day away from not being good. No ingredients were missing.
Meal Prep & Time (score 10): When choosing your meals the prep/cook time is stated. I felt they were accurate for my meal choices. The steps were clear and recipes easy to understand. If you cook like I do, i.e., a little of this, a pinch of that, etc. following the recipe was the hardest part but I did so with intention so I could see how easy they were to follow. You can easily just lay out the ingredients glance at the recipe and cook it your way. I realized this would be a great solution for my husband however, who doesn’t cook at all, as everything is there and the instruction is easy to follow (another reason for the 10 score). He was confident he could pull it off so we may just have to explore that soon!
Taste (score 8): Overall, I was pretty pleased with my selections, freshness of the ingredients and outcome of the meals. Here are my comments on each one individually:
Orange Chicken & Cashew – thought the finished product was a bit bland just using what was provided. If I made it again, I’d add a little more seasoning, or even marinate the chicken in advance to kick it up a notch.
Orzo & Sausage – I was surprised how much this recipe made – enough for each of us to have round two and save a little for lunch the next day. Ingredients were good with the exception of the parsley as mentioned (most of it was usable) and the cherry tomatoes, which were not completely fresh. The overall meal tasted fresh however and light, yet filling. My husband really liked it and he wasn’t even sure what Orzo was LOL. I would make this again.
Chicken Tacos – Who doesn’t love tacos?! Feels like I am making some type of taco every week so this meal was perfect for us. The ingredients were fresh and the meal made more than enough. They did provide a yellow pepper instead of a red one, which was shown in the picture, but this was not a big deal and in no way changed the recipe. Even a beginner cook could do this without instructions.
For my own entertainment, I wanted to breakdown all the ingredients I received to see what those meals would have cost had I grocery shopped myself for the items. The total cost came out to roughly: $36.29 (Safeway) – this was assuming I had some ingredients on hand which I do, such as sour cream and olive oil. I also priced out based on sale prices. I know if I had shopped myself for these 3 meals I would have spent at least $60 or more as I would have naturally bought larger quantities and other items while I was there.
Cost effective - not feeling I had overspent
Nice size portions – didn’t feel hungry after each meal and had some left over
Nothing wasted – just the right amount of each ingredient was included and nothing wasted
Decent meal choices – you can also upgrade meals for a few extra bucks
Delivery options – you can stop and start service to fit your schedule
Packaging – neatly packaged, cold, clear labeling, recipe cards and easy to follow instructions
Flexibility with ingredients – if you wanted to deviate from the recipes you could do so easily
So easy my husband could make the recipes :o)
Delivery – their delivery window is from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. so take this into consideration when you choose your delivery date. If you live in an apt. you may want to provide very specific instructions so you don’t encounter what we did.
Cost long-term - Without the discount and with the option to upgrade food options I believe this can be an expensive alternative to meal planning and budget grocery shopping.
Overall Opinion: I would definitely try this service again and look forward to trying some different recipes. Without having anything to compare to at this time, I would rate it overall an 8.
I could get on board with this if we were coming at it from a cost effective angle. If we don’t change our grocery shopping and dining out habits however, this would feel like an indulgent addition to our lifestyle out of convenience. removing the guess work out of “what to have for dinner” – and everything you need right in front of you. Definite selling points for me. I also believe that if I can get control of my grocery store addiction for the other days of the week, it could save us a ton of money in the long run. That may be worth tracking for a future article.
That's all for now! If you have anything to add or another experience, would love to hear it!