Ever since Blue Apron came onto the scene, meal delivery services are all the rage nowadays. There are so many options to choose from: Plated, HelloFresh, Blue Apron, and even Walmart's new meal kit service. Designed with the home cook with no time to grocery shop in mind, HelloFresh delivers your pre-selected meal plan to your door every week with pre-measured ingredients. The packaging is sustainable and recyclable; there's no unnecessary waste with HelloFresh. So why did I cancel my plan after the first week? That's a good question. My HelloFresh review is that this service just isn't the right one for me, even though I can see why some people love it.
To begin, I should tell you a bit about me. I'm a home cook with limited time to run to the grocery store, living in a small apartment with an even smaller kitchen, and I make dinner just about every night. It's just my (very hungry) boyfriend and I at home, and we're open to new flavors, new techniques, and new recipes.
In fact, making new recipes each week (at least one!) is a priority for me as the Managing Editor of Wide Open Eats. After all, if I'm not trying new things at home, especially after a long work day, then how will I know what to truly recommend? So that's our set-up at home. Here's how we fit HelloFresh into our schedule and our review of each meal.
Meal 1: Tex-Mex Tilapia with Cilantro Lime Couscous and Green Beans
When you log onto HelloFresh, you select the meals you want to use beforehand. The options aren't endless, and in fact, there are just enough to make you feel like you have a choice without being overwhelmed.
I chose three dinners with different types of meat to cover all my bases. They do offer multiple vegetarian recipes and options for veggie lovers, but we're a meat household so, meat it is. The first box I chose was Tex-Mex Tilapia.
I was most excited about this meal, and it didn't disappoint. The flavors were spot-on, zesty and crispy all around, and the accompanying recipe cards were easy to follow. The packaged, fresh ingredients (shown above) were easy to read and the meal kit directions were easy.
My boyfriend, who affectionately refers to tilapia as "trash fish," even loved it (he's a picky eater when it comes to seafood). This HelloFresh meal made way more couscous than I anticipated, and overall my review for this particular HelloFresh meal was that I was pleased with the meal choice I made from the other meal options. The portion sizes were large, but not too much. I could clear my plate easily, which is rare, but my boyfriend was reaching for a snack only an hour later.
Meal 2: Juicy Lucy Burger with Tomato Onion Jam and Arugula Salad
By the time I was ready to make the second meal, a part of me was missing my regular grocery shopping trip and picking out the fresh produce myself. The Juicy Lucy Burger was on the menu next, with supplied Brioche buns and directions for a Tomato Onion Jam that will stay in my recipe rotation forever.
A Juicy Lucy is a famous Minnesota burger and is stuffed with cheese inside instead of a slice on top (although I would have liked that, too).
The ground beef was high quality and tasted delicious, as did the Tomato Onion Jam. Unfortunately, we just couldn't wait while we were making dinner, and so the Arugula Salad isn't pictured because we ate it in about six minutes over the stove as the burgers cooked.
By this second home-cooked meal, I was almost ready to come around to HelloFresh and turn over to the dark side of meal subscription services. The jam was an exciting recipe to make for the home chef, and the step-by-step instructions for this recipe, again, were easy to follow.
Meal 3: Pineapple Pork Chops with Sugar Snap Peas and Jasmine Rice
Opening the refrigerator to see a different meal in the classic HelloFresh brown paper bag, cooking had lost its luster late in the week. Still, I laid it out on the counter and persevered despite the fact that all I wanted to do was pan-fry some chicken, peppers, and onions for a quick meal of fajitas.
The pork chops were moist and not chewy in the least. The Pineapple Salsa, like the Tomato Onion Jam, was a more advanced recipe than I imagine most of us whip up when we make pork chops or burgers, so it was nice to make something outside of my comfort zone with that recipe.
This was, by far, my boyfriend's favorite meal. He was so excited with his first few bites, I had to look over to make sure he wasn't quietly choking. No, he was shoveling it in his mouth and loving every second of it. Praising the healthy meals we had eaten that week, he wanted to know why my HelloFresh review wasn't that enthusiastic.
I think HelloFresh is worth it for large families, especially when food delivery is much easier than loading the kids into the car to head to the grocery store. Knowing your dinners arrive on the same delivery date in the HelloFresh box each week is helpful for meal planning, and I think that this meal service can fit into a family's budget without breaking the bank. I also appreciate that the amount of packaging isn't overwhelming.
For first time meal kit users, there are reasons to try the service, including the ability to customize to certain dietary restrictions (though not specific allerigies) and a good number of vegetarian options. And if you want to track your nutritional information, all that is available on their website. Plus, you can usually find a promo that offers a certain number of free meals, which makes it less of a risk to try.
In spite of all that, here are three reasons why I'm not sold yet.
1. I genuinely missed planning dinners.
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We love pesto so much, we put it on everything! Presto Pesto Panko Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Green Salad, on this week's Classic menu. #HelloFreshPics #GetCooking #Sunday #Pesto #Panko #Chicken #Salad #HappySunday #HelloFresh #Recipe #YummyEats #RecipeIdeas #Foodie #Dinner #Yum
I hadn't realized the joy I took in finding new recipes to try, even if it's just one each week. The structure of HelloFresh means it's designed for fairly thoughtless cooking; you simply select your meals through the classic plan and you don't need to think about them anymore. And that works for most people!
I, however, am not most people. Despite the lack of food photos on my own social media (I loathe pulling out the phone during dinner), I take pride in my cooking and laugh it off when I fail. With the pre-packaged ingredients especially, I felt constricted to stay on track. Of course, this part of my HelloFresh review wouldn't necessarily be a problem for others.
2. There were no leftovers.
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Quick-pickled shallots and Parmesan cheese add some delicious balance to this feel-good veggie bowl. They are the yin to each other's yang! ⚖ Butternut Squash Power Bowl with Farro, Pistachios, and Pickled Shallot, on this week's Veggie menu. #MeatlessMonday #Vegetarian #HelloFreshPics #GetCooking #HelloFresh #Veggie #Vegetables #RecipeIdeas #RecipeOfTheDay #Dinner #Chef #Delicious #Yummy #Yum #BuddhaBowl #BuddhaBowls #SuperFood #ButternutSquash #VegetarianFood
Look, you're getting just as much as you need with HelloFresh, but nothing more. While this is great for not overeating, there were no leftovers at all. One of the ways we try to save money throughout the week is to take leftovers for lunch. While that means I'm making a much larger dinner regularly, it also means that those lunches will keep us full at work for at least two days after.
With HelloFresh, I did save money on dinner ingredients (after all, I wouldn't typically buy Brioche buns for hamburgers), but the money I saved went right back into buying lunch materials like deli meat. I was also in the kitchen much longer whipping up those lunches whereas, on a typical night, dinner cleanup and lunch-packing happens at once.
For our pro-leftover lifestyle, this just didn't fit. In hindsight, we could have switched from the classic box for two people to the family plan box, but I still think I'd be buying lunches.
3. I wasn't excited enough to commit.
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This steak comes with a DIY pesto made with scallions and a zing of ginger and garlic 👌 Hoisin-Marinated Rib-Eye Steak with Bok Choy, Scallion Pesto, and Mashed Potatoes, in this week's Classic box. #HelloFreshPics #HappyCooks #GetCooking #Yum #HelloFresh #Recipe #InstaFood #FoodGram #SteakNight #Pesto
What you see all over social media regarding HelloFresh is true: the food is delicious. I would make each of these recipes again, but the problem is that I just wasn't excited by them. Maybe it was because I knew I'd be writing this review after, but each brown paper bag of HelloFresh ingredients loomed in the refrigerator and made me feel as though I had a deadline to keep.
I felt stifled and tied to the recipe cards and instructions, and that inhibited me. I've been practicing intuitive cooking for the last six months or so, and my cooking has improved by leaps and bounds. That confidence I felt in the kitchen didn't translate over to cooking with HelloFresh.
So while this is certainly a quality service, my review is that HelloFresh just didn't fit into my lifestyle. Have you tried meal delivery kits before? Let me know in the comments what you thought of the service you tried! I'd love to be proven wrong...
This article was originally published on January 10, 2019.