Recently, the folks at Hello Fresh were kind enough to send me a box of their delicious meals to try at home with my family. They provided the meal free with no strings attached. I was not paid to write this review and it was not required in return for the box. I’m excited to share with you my honest opinion about the product.
Cooking more often is one of the most important things that I think anyone can do to live a healthier life. When we cook our own food, we control the fat, salt, sugar, and flavor in a way that we can’t when we eat out. But there are barriers and challenges, right? The biggest is time. It takes time to grocery shop, plan meals, and then to actually prepare and cook the meals when it’s time to eat. Time that sometimes we just can’t seem to squeeze out of our busy lives. Cooking skills – or lack of – is also another big challenge for many people. Cost is a third thing that keeps folks from cooking (health foods) at home. These barriers CAN be overcome and working with a registered dietitian nutritionist can help.
Delivered meal kits like Hello Fresh is a tool that can be useful for encouraging people to cook more at home. The week I received our Hello Fresh box I had been traveling on business, so it was perfect timing. The fridge was mostly empty and I hadn’t had the time to really think about what I was going to cook when I returned. It was so nice to have a box full of healthy food delivered to our door! Here’s what was on our menu:
- Pan-Roasted Chicken with Dijon Mushroom Sauce and Israeli Couscous
- Jamie’s Super Salmon Parcels with Baby Potatoes and Homemade Basil Pesto
- Loaded Lentil Salad with Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprout:
To give you a good overview of our experience, I want to share the pros and the cons according to me and the hubs. Let’s start with the pros…
First, I loved the home delivery. It’s super convenient to have someone else do the menu planning, shopping, and delivery. I’m not sure how much time I redeemed, but it was definitely hours. Next, the food itself was really nutritious, whole-foods. They were all things that were right up my alley and portion controlled. Thirdly, I liked that the recipes and foods included encouraged me to try recipes or ways of prep that I might not have otherwise tried (I don’t usually make sauce for my proteins, but it was super easy to do with my Hello Fresh box.). Finally, I felt like the provided recipes required only easy to moderate cooking skills which is a very good thing for folks that might not cook often.
Of course, it wasn’t perfect. Here are a few things that I thought were “cons” to the Hello Fresh experience…
One of the biggest cons for me is the cost. Compared to the cost of buying the food yourself at the grocery store, Hello Fresh boxes cost about 50% more than just buying the groceries without the service. BUT you’re paying for the meal planning service and delivery. If time is something that you just can’t afford, the cost of Hello Fresh might be a reasonable trade for you. The second thing that was a con for me is the packaging. While it was handy to have everything separated in individual containers and bags, there was a LOT of package waste. On the plus side, we were able to recycle most of it. Lastly, my husband wasn’t super impressed with the flavor of each of the dishes. For me, the loaded lentil salad was amazing and I totally LOVED it. The other recipes were milder in flavor to me and my husband wasn’t crazy about them.
One final consideration…time. This one is a tricky one. I definitely saved time by not having to go to the grocery store, plan a menu or search for recipes. However, the hands-on time for the recipes was a little more than I might usually plan for on a weeknight. I have a 3 year old and have mastered dinnertime with 30 minutes for prep/cook start to finish being the sweet-spot for us. That means I usually choose a simple prep for protein and focus on one side that needs more attention, plus a simple salad or fresh fruit side. With the menu I received, the prep/cook time was more like 40-45 minutes. That additional 10-15 minutes isn’t a lot of time if you don’t have a fussy toddler at your feet. So this is one of those very personal kinds of situations.
I shared my thoughts with Rebecca Lewis, Hello Fresh’s RD and here’s what she said about my “cons”:
- With the average American spending 50% of their food budget on foods prepared outside the home, the cost of meal-kits compared to eating out will absolutely save money. That said, the cost of meal-kits to shopping at the grocery store depends on how savvy of a shopper you are! HelloFresh helps to save money on items you would normally buy more of than needed (like fresh herbs, spices, and sauces). It also of course depends on what value you put on your time.
- The packaging is something we are continually working on – it’s a balance between how much to use and what will keep the ingredients food safe upon arrival. We’ve worked to make sure the majority of the items are recyclable.
- For flavor, that’s always a tough one with so many different preferences out there! This is why we offer 6 options each week for our customers to select from, that way if there is a flavor profile or ingredient you don’t like, you can only select the meals you actually want to eat.
- For time, we have really focused on this element in our boxes as we know how much of a barrier time is to cooking at home. We’ve found that cook times can vary based on cooking skills (on a positive note, customers that are with us longer do write in to say that the meals get quicker as their skills and confidence increase), and they can vary on what else is going on in the kitchen, like yourself, for those with families and kids – it usually takes a bit longer. We are always testing to find more shortcuts without decreasing the quality of the ingredients or changing value of actually doing the prep and cooking.
Overall, I think Hello Fresh is a good option for many consumers, including those who travel a lot (like I sometimes do), new parents, and busy individuals who want to eat healthy, but don’t want to spend time grocery shopping or mail planning. It might also be a good option for folks who want to eat healthy, but lack skills or creativity in the kitchen and want to learn on their own. Finally, it might be a good option for folks trying to lose weight, because the portions are controlled for you.
Have you tried a meal delivery service? I’d love to hear about your experience too!