Way back when I first moved to my little slice of suburban heaven, Dave and I tried Green Chef. You could limit the meals to Paleo and the food was also delicious, but the price was more than we could justify (especially since Dave’s a great cook – which is not coincidently when I let my meal planning skills get so bad). I tried Sun Basket a few years later. The meals were good and I was able to opt for Paleo only offerings, but it wasn’t much cheaper than Green Chef.
Back in early May, I decided to take my poor meal planning by the horns and … subcontract it out to Hello Fresh. Here is what I’ve gathered.
Meals According to Hello Fresh
- Add salt to everything, pepper to almost everything
- Drizzle is a unit of measure for cooking oil but a method of application for sauces
- Butter always makes starches and sauces better
- Everything on the stovetop is cooked on Medium-High heat
- Everything in the oven is put on the top rack (unless it’s full, then middle too)
- Add a flavor/spice to mayo and it’s aoli
- Add vinegar, salt, and pepper to veggies and it’s slaw
- If you add sugar instead of pepper, they are “pickled” veggies
- Mayo isn’t part of slaw nearly as often as chain restaurants would have you think
- No meal is complete without a little dairy and/or wheat
- They say it’s “highly requested” but there is no option to accomodate allergens/diets
What I’ve Learned from Hello Fresh
- I like things slightly blander than the recipe calls for (unless you’re talking about salt)
- I don’t care if my sauce plops instead of drizzles, so I can skip the “add water until” step
- Medium-High heat on my range is 4.5 out of 10
- I wasn’t using the top rack to my advantage
- Most Hello Fresh recipes include a packet of something you can’t buy elsewhere
- Months of “a little dairy and/or wheat” adds up to some damage
Overall, I would say the service needs improvement.
There is the allergen/diet accomodation I mentioned earlier. A summer of “a little wheat and dairy in almost every meal” left me in pretty rough shape with my seasonal allergies. I had my first real allergy attacks since my big Paleo switch in 2013. I skipped those ingredients when I could, but a slow feed of inflammatory foods is much worse for me than a total “splurge” day (or weekend) and a return to clean eating.
The shipping process seemed a little iffy. There were a couple of times the box was marked as out for delivery but didn’t show until the next day – which meant I was scrambling for meals that night and typically a few ingredients had gone bad. Even when the box was on time, it wasn’t rare for an ingredient or two to be in perilous condition. They were very responsive to these issues. I was able to handle the bigger issues via live chat & they have a reporting function for missing or bad ingredients. In both cases, they reimbursed for as much or more than was fair. But when the service is supposed to save you trips to the grocery store, it’s a pain the neck.
For the most part, you also can’t use it as a service to gather recipes to reuse on your own. Many recipes include some Hello Fresh secret ingredient. A spice mix. A paste packet. A sauce or stock concentrate. You might be able to dig around online to find a substitute or experiment on your own. For me, I use this service because I don’t have that kind of creativity in the kitchen. After over 6 months of using the service, I have 5 recipes that I really liked AND thought I could duplicate. And 3 of them are taco varieties. This service is clearly about keeping customers cooking but not teaching the proverbial man how to fish.
For someone without allergen/diet restrictions to adhere to, I’d say it’s a fairly priced service that will give you a good variety of flavors. Just cook them promptly and be prepared to replace a few ingredients (and report them for credit off your next box). Oh and always make the meals with green beans first. For some reason, those are always the fastest to spoil.
For me, Hello Fresh is a stop gap that I really need to stop. I’m finding it hard to quit altogether because I still loathe meal planning. But then some weeks it’s a struggle to find 3 “I can make them compliant” meals on their list. So I’ve started skipping weeks with the intent to wean myself off of it slowly. Maybe they’ll come out with a diet/allergen accomodation before I cut them off altogether. One can only hope.