I am not an ambitious cook nor do I enjoy grocery shopping so a home delivery meal service seemed to be the answer to all my nutrition and meal prep woes. My ideal choice would be easy on the budget, ready made, and flexible. Upon comparing several companies and thinking about what my personal nutrition needs were: low GI, whole foods, and athlete focused; I decided that Fuel Foods would be the best option for me to try. I hit a snag in that plan when half way through the sign up process I realized that I had to pay for all my meals ahead of time in a lump sum, instead of in incremental payments. So, Fuel Foods got tabled and I further investigated my second choice, HelloFresh.


Pre Purchase Thoughts

There are several options available on HelloFresh, including a strictly vegetarian choice, but I opted for the HelloFresh Family Box since it offered the lowest price per meal at, without including the first box sale offer, $8.75 per serving ($105 total).  Even though I’m a single lady I could get, by their estimation, 3 meals serving 4 people each meal, for a total of 12 lunch/suppers for one person per box.

This was a little more expensive per serving than the Fuel Foods options that I’d originally hoped for and I’d have to do my own cooking but, I wasn’t required to sign up for a large number of meals ahead of time and it seemed easier to skip weeks or stop delivery all together.

I had hoped to avoid the actual act of cooking my food, which sounds terrible but I have good reasons. Having a multitude of jobs (at last count seven) leaves me little free time to spend in the kitchen. I would much prefer, as sad as this sounds, to just keep pushing through work and projects that needed to get done.

Plus I hate doing dishes and don’t own a dishwasher.

From a sustainability standpoint, I was concerned about the amount of packaging and waste that would be involved. While I thought sending exact portions sounded like a great idea, each of those ingredients would have to be individually packaged. This was balanced in my mind, marginally, by the fact that I wouldn’t be wasting any food. Spoilage had been a major source of guilt in my rare shopping forays since I’d buy fresh produce and then not eat it in time to avoid fungus growth, refrigerator liquification, and eventual composting in my mom’s backyard garden.

My last and final trepidation was that I’d get sick of re-eating the same meal multiple days in a row.  I am a bit food ADD and I generally like a pretty wide variety of options. The HelloFresh recipes did seem like a great way to try to force myself to try new recipes and experiment though.

So, liking the great ‘Introductory Offer’ deal that would put the per serving cost of my box below $8 and only planning on doing one box, I signed up for an account and ordered up a Family Box to be delivered the next week. I didn’t chose the initial three recipes that they would send because I wanted to see what type of variety they would normally send out.


Initial Impressions

My box showed up on Tuesday evening of the following week and I found myself surprisingly excited to see what was inside.

Upon opening I found everything packed in a thermal bag with an introductory card and recipes tucked on top of the ingredient boxes. The ingredients for each meal were packaged by meal in thin cardboard boxes. Underneath each box was a large ice pack that helped keep the meat for the recipes from going rancid.

Since it was St. Patrick’s day, the recipe card’s intro informed me that we were celebrating all things green and it even gave me some tips on adding greens to my meals. I was excited to see this focus on including more veggies in meals since most people don’t eat nearly enough fresh produce.

**My favorite tip: try grating zucchini and adding it to ground meat dishes and sauces**

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HelloFresh Recipe Cards

My three recipes for the week were Lemony Pan-Seared Chicken with Pesto Potato Salad and Peas, Spring Tortellini Gratin with Asparagus and Parmesan Breadcrumbs, and Herby Sausage Risotto with Tomato , Parmesan, and Parsley. I was very pleased to see that with each recipe nutritional facts were listed per person and included calories, fat content, protein and carbohydrate levels, sugar, sodium, and fiber. There was also a listing of additional tools that would be needed, such as a small pot, large pan, or medium mixing bowl.

I decided to start with the Herby Sausage Risotto because I hadn’t had risotto since the time I spent studying abroad in Italy in 2008. It also happened to be gluten and nut free and, according to the recipe card, the most difficult of the three. If I could survive the risotto the other recipes would be easy right?

I was surprised at how easily and quickly the meal came together.  Due to my complete ineptness in the kitchen I was expecting the quoted 45 minutes to turn into at least an hour and a half. (It was right around an hour from box to plate.) The instructions were very clear and easy to follow and created a sense of confidence in me that allowed me to believe, if only for a night, that I could actually cook.

Greedily dishing up a bowl for my supper, I took my first bite of the only action my kitchen had seen that month, and I loved it.

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Spicy Sausage Risotto from HelloFresh

I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t exactly follow the recipes. Where it called for extra Parmesan I didn’t add it and where it called for garlic I doubled it.  I also added spices to every recipe in some combination of the following: cumin, cayenne pepper, ginger, paprika, lemon, and Cajun seasoning.

I like food to be a little on the sassier side.

Inspired by my success with this first, and supposedly most difficult meal, and wanting to limit the amount of dirty dishes I’d get stuck with, I made the Lemony Pan Seared Chicken right away using the same (but rinsed) dishes I’d just used for the risotto.

Again, the recipe was very easy to follow and the meal came together quickly.  My friends were particularly excited about this recipe since it offered a Mayo free version of potato salad that was still tasty and had more veggies than traditional potato salad recipes.

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Potato Salad with Lemony Chicken from HelloFresh

Waiting for a few days, I talked myself into making the Spring Tortellini Gratin over the weekend.

This recipe turned out to be my favorite and one of the better ones calorie wise. Each serving is said to have 592 calories and mine would have wound up being a little less because I didn’t add the cheese. This recipe also had the greatest veggie content of the three but it still fell short of a well balanced meal.

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Asparagus Tortellini Gratin from HelloFresh


 Reactions

I genuinely liked all of the recipes that were sent in this box but I also had several issues with it.

Garbage wise, there was an unnecessary amount of non recyclable packaging. Aside from the thermal container and ice packs, which are very necessary, instead of coming in complete packets, the ingredients in each recipe box were divided into twos. For example, where pesto was called for in a recipe instead of sending just one bag with all the pesto in it, two smaller bags were sent in it’s place.

The fresh produce, i.e. the asparagus, potatoes, etc, was sent loose inside each recipe’s box, which I loved because this marginally balanced out the excess waste from the packaged ingredients.

Nutrition wise, while there was thought given to include vegetables, there still was not nearly enough proportionally compared to the starch/carbohydrate portions of the meals.

Calorie wise, I was able to make the meals fit into the ideal 400 calorie meal limit by serving myself smaller portions. I actually wound up with nearly 18, instead of the proposed 12 meals. I was happy about this because it stretched my budget a little further but at the same time I still needed to find additional fresh produce to help create a balanced diet.


Delaying/Cancelling 

While I very much enjoyed my HelloFresh box, there was no way I could continue to have them delivered every two weeks. (Which is about how long I stretched my leftovers out over.)
Not wanting to have to continually remember to pause my order for the week I wanted to cancel my recurring order.
I didn’t realize when I signed up that in order to cancel your recurring order, you had to have one final box delivered.  Not planning on spending another $105 on food from HelloFresh, I was a little annoyed.  So, grudgingly dishing over the extra cash, I scheduled my final box to arrive the week after Easter so I could just be done with the issue.
I also tried to change the recipes in this box but apparently I had waited too long and the menu was already set to the automatic selections.

The Final Box

In this round’s into letter, I was informed that I’d be getting handy kitchen tips each time I got a new box and that this week’s was a conversion chart for both liquid and solid measurements.
The three recipes sent were Jamie’s Tasty Grilled Chicken with warm Green Bean Salad, Heirloom Tomato Flatbread with Fresh Mozzarella, Pesto, and Arugula, and Turkey Meatballs with Chive Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach.
I was pleased with all of these options save the flatbread.  Wanting to limit and start to cut out gluten all together I wasn’t thrilled about yet another starch/carbohydrate based option.
My favorite, and the most nutritionally balanced, was Jamie’s Tasty Grilled Chicken with the Turkey Meatballs coming in a close second.
For some reason these recipes weren’t marked with gluten free even though all but the flatbread qualified as being so.
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Jamie’s Chicken with Green Bean Salad from HelloFresh

These recipes also seemed to step up the difficulty level.  Jamie’s Chicken required many tools that I didn’t own and wasn’t going to purchase so I improvised where I could and made the best of my available options.
I found the flatbread recipe the most challenging because the dough very quickly went from the 1/4″ thickness it tells you to roll it out to, to nearly 6″ thick in its first 5 minutes in the oven.  It also created so much steam that it set off my fire alarm.
I think this could have been fixed by simply slicing across each loaf before the first baking but…as I said, I’m cooking inept so I simply followed the directions.
While it turned out tasting very well the flatbread was also messy as all get out. The pesto insisted on running in every which direction to the extent that it wound up dripping off the baking sheets and getting all over my oven.
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Heirloom Tomato Flatbread from HelloFresh

I also for the life of me could not get the little bottle of balsamic vinaigrette open. I finally wound up getting a screwdriver and hammer and pounding a hole through the cap and dripping it out over the arugula.
I should also note that where I had no problems with my first box, the bay leaves and scallions that were sent in this box were rotten and unusable. The scallions were so far gone that they had already begun to liquefy when they arrived on my door and the bay leaves, which I opened the next day, had oozing brown patches on all the leaves in both  packages.

Conclusions

I most likely will not order a another box from HelloFresh in the future simply because the quality and amount of ingredients sent is not worth $8.75 a serving.  I could very easily get these ingredients at the store and spend less than half of what I paid to get these boxes.
I also have issues with the lack of recyclability, especially of the ice packs. From just two boxes I have 8 square feet of ice packs in my freezer. If I were to continue getting a family box every other week, I’d need a freezer just to store all the ice packs that come. Yes, I could throw them away, but I’m concerned about water and land pollution that could result from the chemical’s decomposition in landfills.
Finally, the amount of unusable food that came in my final box negates the no food waste idea.  I still wound up sending a generous mixing bowl full of the rotten produce and the trimmings from the rest of the ingredients out to the compost pile.
The sole redeeming factor in my experience was trying the new recipe’s. While the recipes were easy and tasty, you don’t need to be a subscriber to get them.  If you go onto the HelloFresh website you can download recipes from the menu tab. Since they were fairly well laid out, came with great nutritional information, and were easy to make I can guarantee you that I’ll be going onto their website in the future for new recipe ideas.
I hope that this helps you make a more informed decision if you’re considering starting a home delivery service for you or your family’s meal options.