Category Archives: Review

The Kitchen According to Hello Fresh

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.

A rare attempt at plating – usually I’m too busy eating.

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.

Review: Le Tote Dress for Success

Nearly 2 years ago (wow) I started subscribing to the clothing rental service, Le Tote. I wrote my initial review a few totes in and I was still iffy on the service. The results were mixed but I’d had some fun and even stepped out of my comfort zone to try a dress. Or maybe I should say I stepped into my comfort zone.

Continue reading Review: Le Tote Dress for Success
Gritty in Pink

BJJ: Gritty in Pink

We’ve all heard of the law of unintended consequences. You do something to get result A, result B comes along for the ride. I spent a few weeks doing “focused freewriting” and suddenly noticed that my Sudoku skills had made a major leap forward. I might not have made the connection except that the writing guide I was using mentioned that surprising gains in other areas was a common phenomenon. Recently I’ve realized that my training in BJJ has had a rather interesting, if incongruous, unintended consequence: I’ve started to explore being girly.

Continue reading BJJ: Gritty in Pink

Le Tote #2

Le Tote Review: Meh Tote or Yeah Tote?

Years ago, I tried out Stitch Fix and experienced multiple rounds of disappointment. If you read those posts, you’d probably be surprised to hear that I tried another clothes subscription service. Then my sister, who’s transitioning from scrubs to business clothes in her career, told me about Le Tote. There were a few significant differences that drew me in: Continue reading Le Tote Review: Meh Tote or Yeah Tote?

Stitch Fix Review #3: Getting Warmer

You might be surprised that I got another Stitch Fix package after my disappointment last time.  I ended up having an extended email conversation with a stylist who answered my service complaint. My original stylist was no longer with them, but the stylist (Kate) assigned to my ticket suggested that she be my stylist since she could use all the information from our conversation in addition to my style profile to choose my next fix. Continue reading Stitch Fix Review #3: Getting Warmer

Stitch Fix Review #2 Part Deux-Over

After my disappointing last Fix and frustrating initial follow up emails, I received an email from Stitch Fix informing me that they were going to send me a do-over. I would be comped the $20 styling fee and they would have a Senior Stylist review my profile and all my notes to prepare my fix. I was given a chance to give more detail and did so. I even went so far as to take a photo of my long sleeved work shirts and sweaters so they could get a sense of my winter work options. I won’t copy the entire email – it was long – but I will note a couple of key items:

I made sure to put in red bold letters No Dry Clean Only or Lay Flat to Dry.

I noted, after reviewing what I had for sweaters “If you couldn’t already tell, what I really need is a work-friendly shirt that isn’t a boring, collared button down.”

They used the notes from my previous fix, which specifically requested fall to winter transition pieces and twill pants or thin wale cords that were office-appropriate (fitted, NOT skin tight). 

The fix arrived last night and I opened it with a mix of excitement and trepidation. It turns out that dread was a correct reaction because this fix was an even bigger stinker than the last one. Not because any one item was awful, but because they didn’t listen to most of the things I said in my original stylist note OR the extra information I sent in the customer service emails. When they were trying to make up for not listening last time! Hello?? McFly?? 

So, to the nitty gritty… which is a fitting term because the photos look a bit gritty. Aaron got quite the look on his face when I asked him to take these photos, no way I was bugging him for a reshoot. 

Item #1: Holland Zipper Detail Ombre Sweater by RD Style ($74)

Ok, so part of this is my fault. When I describe my sweater needs, I said I could use a basic light v-neck… I followed that with a mention of gray and black, but it appears the stylist took “light” to mean color when I meant lightweight. The color is eh for me. I’m pale, I tend to avoid clothing that might accidentally blend with my skin tone. But then there are two things that are not on me and make this a no-go. #1: The zippers don’t have any backing, so if you are someone like me who doesn’t wear layers (and stated such in multiple places), that means cold zippers against both sides of my stomach. Sure, they’d warm up after wearing them, but one strong breeze … or just a strong draft in my frigid office … and brrrrrr. #2: The clincher, Lay Flat to Dry. Seriously?
Item #2: Mauna Border Print Fringe Detail Scarf by Look by M ($38)
Ok, so I asked for a scarf. But almost every scarf I’ve seen in a Stitch Fix review has been an infinity scarf so that’s what I was expecting. Probably my fault again because I mentioned having a pashmina. I didn’t want another one, but I didn’t say that. I said doesn’t have to be neutral but needs to go with a wide variety of things. I would pair it with mothballs and sensible shoes…
This was supposed to be a “let me pinch your cheeks” little babushka pose but came off more mysterious Middle Eastern.  Whoops. Anyways… the scarf is another pale blah item. And this thing is huge. The styling card showed a suggested way of wearing the scarf and when I did it, I had a wad of cloth up to my chin and about 6″ of fabric hanging.
Caution: Scarfs may be fatter than they appear.
Item #3: Roman Slub Knit Colorblock Sweater by Ellison ($64)
Ok, not something I would wear to work, but I don’t mind the pattern. The knit is a problem though. Do you see that color variation in the green? The bright parts are my skin, the dark parts are my bra. Um, no. I don’t do show through sweaters. Something I mentioned after the hooded sweater in original Fix #2. Sigh…Care instructions? Hand Wash Cold, no instructions for drying but I bet you they want me to lay it flat.

Item #4: Will Mixed Material Knit Top by Loveappella ($58)

So the stylist made a big point of saying how he thought I’d love this one. Great color for fall and hey, it’s machine washable! Dude, don’t pat yourself on the back too much. You sent a woman in Maine a short sleeved shirt when she requested fall to winter pieces. The shirt is OK, I might have even considered it as a Spring item. But I’m COLD, I want SLEEVES.

Item #5: Jonathan Corduroy Skinny Pants ($68)
These are the pants I’m wearing in every picture. They are actually a dark brown, the lighting issues make them look black. Remember what I said at the beginning about pants? Thin wale cords? Check. Fitted but not skin tight? FAIL. These are like the black jeans I got in my first fix, so tight that they wrinkle and stay wrinkled under the knees. Again, in concept, not awful. I’m open to skinny pants. Too tight on the lower legs, but a good fit otherwise. But once again, it is NOT what I asked for. 

Final Verdict:
I’m sooooo disappointed. I am giving so much specific feedback and getting a complete mismatch to my requests. I emphasized needing work friendly shirts that aren’t a boring button down. I tell them repeatedly my office is freezing. I get sent two sweaters and what is essentially a short sleeved t-shirt. I tell them fitted not skin tight, I get sent skinny pants. I ask for a versatile scarf to help me stay warm and I get a big, clumsy, granny-looking sheet. I was comped the styling fee so I have that $20 credit to use against any purchase and I’m not keeping anything

Oh and to top it off, when I logged in to the website, it said that my checkout was due on October 27th. News flash, that’s yesterday. The day the package arrived. I’ve already sent two emails to customer service – one when I was bummed about the contents, another when I discovered the checkout error – and unlike last time I haven’t received any response. Maybe they are cutting their losses since their algorithm doesn’t seem to work for me. 

IF I use this service again (and that’s a big if), I will definitely be requesting my original stylist. What she sent wasn’t a home run but (besides the red pants) everything was outside my norm but something I would consider and that worked for my request.

Stitch Fix Review #2: New Duds

After an underwhelming first fix, I was really hoping for a win the second time around. My first fix had some pieces headed in the right direction, so I figured things would improve after my detailed feedback (I even shared my review link with them).

Continue reading Stitch Fix Review #2: New Duds

Stitch Fix Review #1

I decided to jump on the bandwagon and post my Stitch Fix* reviews. Sure, this is a home improvement blog, but self-improvement happens in the home, right? 

I needed to get out of my comfort zone style-wise. Friends and family had started trying Stitch Fix and liking (or loving) it.  I filled out the lengthy form and added as much commentary as I could to the note to my stylist. I decided to ask for Labor Day BBQ style since I was getting the package in late August. I made sure to mention that it needed to be family safe/appropriate (aka needs to pass the bend over, bend down, etc test!). 
Continue reading Stitch Fix Review #1