A dietitian’s opinion of the meal kit delivery system, Hello Fresh.
A couple of weeks ago I received a standard promo discount card from the popular meal kit delivery system, Hello Fresh. It was for $80 off, which was significantly more than the $40 or $50 ones I frequently see in our mailboxes. I assume they saw an opportunity related to the COVID-19 pandemic and took it.
Well, it caught my attention and I have a feeling it worked for many others since during the pandemic going to the grocery store can cause anxiety and local delivery/pick up times can be hard to find.
I have never used Hello Fresh or other meal kit delivery system. I chose to use the service for 2 weeks before writing a review because I wanted to make sure I had a well-rounded opinion before sharing it.
Summary of How Hello Fresh Works
If you are like I was and have never tried a meal kit delivery system keep reading. If you know what they are and just want to read the review skip ahead to here.
When you subscribe to Hello Fresh you choose between their different meal plans; pronto, family or veggie. You can see the weekly menu you would be choosing from for each plan just below the selection box. I chose pronto as it seemed to be their most popular plan. The price per serving varies depending on the plan you choose, how many people and how many meals. An increase in people or meals decreases the cost per serving, however total cost will increase. I chose pronto, 4 people, 3 meals/week.
After you subscribe to Hello Fresh you choose your 3+ meals each week to be delivered to your door once a week. You can add an extra meal at any time. They come with recipes and all ingredients are separated in bags for each recipe with the larger items stored underneath with the ice pack.
They have no cancellation fees and you can skip any week if you are at least a week away from your delivery date. You also have to choose your meals a week before your delivery day. So, just make sure you stay on top of it.
Here’s how our delivery looked.
Week 1 Meals
These were all so yummy. I think our household favourite out of both weeks would have to be the chicken power bowl with lemon dressing. It is absolutely the first one I will recreate. It was so flavourful and hearty without feeling heavy. My 3-year-old twins also loved it!
The butternut squash ravioli seems to be a regular occurrence on the Hello Fresh menu but served in different ways. We had it twice in the two weeks, but the end products were quite different. It was a nice reminder that something simple like ravioli can be on a weekly rotation but just prepared differently. This can help so much with meal planning to keep things easy while preventing boring, over-repetitive meals.
The paneer dish was also super tasty and the whole family again, loved it. I have cooked with paneer before but really enjoyed the addition of frying the paneer first. It gave a different texture that fit well with that meal.
Week 2 Meals
This week felt different. Part of the issue for us this week was two of the meals had best before dates of the day after delivery. It was not a big deal for us, and I know that, like most delivery services, they are extremely busy during the COVID-19 pandemic. I decided to switch up our meal plan and include them for supper day of delivery, and for the day after. But if you do not have the option to be flexible, it is something to be aware of, at least for now.
The first meal we tried this week was the Spicy Chinese Style Lemon Chicken. This one had the most issues for me from a meal prep standpoint. I am unfortunately, very picky about meat. In week 1 the chicken breast was awesome, and I was super impressed. This week the chicken thighs were less than ideal. The recipe asked that they be cut up and I ended up throwing out an amount equal to almost one chicken thigh. This meal also required chopping bok choy. This was not something I had done before. So, I had to spend some extra time figuring out how to cut up bok choy. Luckily, it’s simple. Just cut off the bottom 1/2″-1″ and chop the rest. The meal itself was yummy tasting, but the Hello Fresh description of spicy was accurate. I only used 1/2 the sriracha in the recipe and my husband and kids were very thankful.
The second meal was the Chinese Glazed Roast Chicken. I was so excited for this one, as I have been eager to cook with a spatchcock chicken but just have not made it a priority to figure out a recipe. This is one of my favourite things about Hello Fresh, it lets you try stuff you haven’t, or otherwise wouldn’t with a recipe that has been tried and tested. This was an easy recipe and came together nicely.
The third meal this week was the Cheesey Baked Ravioli. I mean come on! It was yumilicious for the whole family but felt fancier than most kid-friendly meals. I chose to serve this one with a salad to add a bit more vegetable goodness.
My Overall Thoughts
- Little to no food waste
- Reduces decision fatigue of meal planning
- You get to keep the recipe
- Some extra packaging waste
- Some recipes require intermediate to advanced cooking skills
- They are not low calorie
- They treat it like a community
With Hello Fresh you only get what you need for the recipe. So, there is no risk of something going bad in the fridge that you forgot about or buying too much of an ingredient and then trying to figure out what to do with it. In my experience there was a small amount of food waste depending on your recipe choice, only because garlic and shallots need to be peeled before cutting and I am picky about meat.
Each week you select your meals from Hello Fresh’s available selections for that weekly menu. There is a good amount of variety and my family and I were able to try recipes that were different from our normal meal plan. If you do not currently meal plan and struggle with coming up with recipe ideas this may also be beneficial to try for a bit until you have a good list of recipes you enjoy.
They send nice printed copies of the recipes with your delivery box. You also get access to their free library of recipes and it keeps track of the recipes for the meals you have received. Pretty great, especially considering they are constantly tweaking their recipes as they receive feedback from their customers.
While they seem to work hard to reduce packaging waste and use recyclable products, there is inevitably some extra packaging. For instance, instead of sending 1 small container of cream cheese for the cheesy baked ravioli meal in week 2 they sent 4 smaller containers. Felt unnecessary as I was opening each little container, but I totally understand this from their perspective. For items they outsource, like cream cheese, they will likely get a better cost if they purchase more of the same item instead of purchasing various sizes.
Hello Fresh gives each recipe a difficulty level. I think it is particularly important if you are a beginner cook or if you have limited access to kitchen tools to choose mostly level 1 recipes. Some of the level 2 recipes would be ok but look through the steps first so you are not frustrated or disappointed when you go to cook your meals. The recipes do a good job of listing the steps but if you, for example, have never chopped bok choy and are now being asked to do that, you will have to look up how to on your own. Hello Fresh does not provide that information. With cooking information so readily available on the internet, it is not necessary they provide this information but as a consumer I think it is important to know. They also used lemon zest in quite a bit of the recipes I chose. If you do not have a zester or know how to zest a lemon, you can use this opportunity to get one and learn how or just make sure you check the ingredients for a lemon.
I live, in Manitoba. Here the cost is $139.98 for the pronto box, 3 meals per week, 4 servings, to be delivered. This is $46.66/meal and $11.67/serving. I did a quick cost analysis using the Spicy Chinese Style Lemon Chicken recipe and Superstores prices on April 30, 2020. For the recipe, the ingredients purchased at Superstore would cost $27.73 or about 49% of the Hello Fresh cost. I think we all expected it to be quite a bit less money for the ingredients alone. When I do a cost analysis, I also like to look at what you would have to pay at the grocery store to make the recipe. Things like chili garlic sauce come in a container so you cannot just buy what you need. I made some assumptions about what the average household has on hand already by assuming you already have rice, corn starch and garlic salt. This gave a total of $41.39 pre-tax if you would have to purchase the other ingredients at the store. This brings you a lot closer (89%) to the cost of a non-premium meal and you don’t have extras of ingredients you aren’t familiar with and now have to store somewhere or figure out what to do with.
If you are not trying to follow a specific calorie goal, please ignore this part and skip to the next one. If you are trying to follow a specific calorie goal you may notice that the meals I received were not what someone would consider low calorie. Many of the meals have around 700 or more calories per serving. You can find some closer to 500 but it is usually only 1-2 per week. Of course, you can always decrease the calories per serving by decreasing your portion. Another alternative is to serve the Hello Fresh meal with a salad (like I did with the Butternut Squash Ravioli in week 2) or other side vegetable to round out the meal. This can also help extend the meal to 2 suppers or a supper and a lunch, decreasing the cost per meal and helping you keep within your personal health goals. If adding something extra takes away the stress-free nature of having meals delivered, ready-to-go, then please just enjoy the meal as is.
Another one of my favourite things about using Hello Fresh for two weeks was they gave me 3 freebies to give away! I got to give a box to some of our loved ones for free. This was a genuinely nice touch and it made our family and the families that got free food feel amazing. They also encourage the use of #hellofreshlife when posting images of the meals you make using their recipes.
Overall, my family’s experience with Hello Fresh was positive. It is something we will continue to use, perhaps monthly or during our extra busy times of the year. It feels low stress and by extending the meals using a side vegetable the cost fits within our monthly food budget. I really enjoyed not having to figure out supper for 3 days of the week and gaining 4-5 new recipes to add to our meal plans. I can see this being extremely beneficial for people who struggle with meal planning, have limited food storage space, or have a difficult time getting to the grocery store.
I hope you enjoyed my opinion on the Hello Fresh meal kit delivery system. Have you tried Hello Fresh before or something similar? Let me know in the comments what you tried and how it went.