My Hello Fresh Review – From Box to Belly

Sep 21, 2018 | Food and Culture

Based on the nature of what I do for a living I am regularly asked about delivery meal kits. I think it’s probably fairly obvious that I’m not the type of person who would generally buy this type of thing. But, I want to be able to answer these questions when I’m asked as I do see value in what these companies are doing. And so, with that in mind, I reached out to Hello Fresh. A few weeks ago. I asked them if they would be willing to send me a sample box so that I could honestly and thoughtfully answer people’s questions. I was asked to fill out an influencer application which I did and then never heard anything back from them. I did, however, get a coupon in the mail for 55% off the first box. And because I really just want to be able to answer people’s questions I used that coupon to get the box to write this review.

I chose Hello Fresh because frankly, I didn’t know there were other companies doing this until I started looking deeper into it. As I said, this isn’t something I generally would have any interest in. I do now know that there are other companies and in time I may do reviews of their products as well.

 

Hello Fresh Review 

 

Let’s take a second and talk about Hello Fresh as a company. According to Wikipedia, they are a publically traded company based in Berlin. They are the largest meal-kit company in the US and also operate in Canada, Australia, and Western Europe. Hello Fresh was started in 2011 and according to the company they were delivering over 1 million meals a month only three years later.

 

Pronto Plan Versus The Family Plan

 

The first thing you do is choose your HelloFresh Meal Plan. They give you three to choose from. The Family Plan. The Pronto Plan. And, The Veggie Plan. Both the Family and Pronto plans have the option of either three or four meals a week. The Veggie Plan only has a three-meal option. The Family Plan is for four people, the Veggie Plan is for two people and the Pronto Plan can be for either two or four people. So, clearly, the Pronto Plan Gives you the most choice.

The price per serving varies by the meal plan. For the Family Plan, the standard price is $10.83 a serving. So, for four people, at three meals a week you’re looking at $129.96 a week. $173.28 if you go for four meals.

For the Pronto Plan, the standard price is slightly higher at $13.33 per serving. On the low end, a two-person box for three meals would be $79.98 a week. On the high end of the Pronto Plan, that’s four meals for four people the weekly price would be $213.28.

As the veggies plan only has the option for three meals for two people the standard price is $73.98


HelloFresh Start Page

There is an obvious difference between the Veggie Plan and the other two options. No meat. However, the difference in food between the Family Plan and the Pronto Plan is much less clear. In fact, I’m not entirely sure there is a difference at all. But, when choosing either the Family Plan or the Pronto Plan you do have five meals to choose from. With the Veggie Plan, it seems that you get what you get.

The next step after choosing your plan is to sign up for a membership. You can also download the app for your phone. After registering, you fill in your delivery address, a method of payment and preferred delivery day and the date of your first delivery. I was given the option of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. You are then given an 8 am – 8 pm delivery window. They also ask you for any specific delivery instructions. As I found out, they just leave the box. I live on the corner of two busy streets in an urban area with only one step separating my front door from the sidewalk. They left the box on that one step. Luckily, I was home when they delivered it and was able to grab it before anyone else did.

 

HelloFresh Sign Up Screen

Once you have finished registering, you choose your meals from the five options and then wait until the appointed day for your food to arrive.

I should also mention that at no time was I given an option for allergies or anything like that. You do get to choose from a list, one item or ingredient that you don’t want to receive. I chose shellfish because I’m allergic. So, if a shellfish option ever came up I would be given the vegetarian option instead. I found it very confusing and frustrating that there were no gluten-free options.

The five-meal options that I was given to choose from were as follows:

Chorizo Burrito Bowl with Avocado Pico De Gallo and Cilantro-Lime Rice.

East Coast-style Beef Donair With Sweet Garlic Sauce and Frites.

Rich Lamb Ragu With Basil Ricotta Clouds.

Crispy Chicken Parmigiana with Baby Spinach and Yellow Pepper Italian Salad.

Burrata Margherita Pizzettes.

I chose the Chorizo Burrito Bowl, the East Coast-style Beef Donair, and the Rich Lamb Ragu.

 

HelloFresh Meal Selection

 

On Tuesday, around noon there was a loud vigorous knocking at my door. In the special delivery instructions, I asked them to know loudly which they did. However, I was sitting maybe fifteen feet from the door and by the time I got to it the person was gone, and the box was left alone.  I scooped it up off my step and brought it indoors. Unable to contain my curiosity, I opened the box. This is what I saw…

Hello Fresh BoxHello Fresh UnboxingHello FreshHello Fresh BagsHello Fresh Meat CompartmentHello Fresh Meat BagHello Fresh ChorizoSirloin Steak StripsGround Lamb

 

Inside the box is another, insulated box containing all of your ingredients and recipes. Along with the recipes, there were a few pamphlets about some of the packaging. Both the exterior and interior boxes are recyclable. The bag containing the ice packs is compostable. The ice packs can be melted and then the liquid can be poured down the drain. They also have a program in place for returning the ice packs for reuse. It is important to note that they are in fact trying to reduce waste because frankly there is a lot of packaging which you will see in a few minutes.

Okay, I think it’s about time we actually start talking about the food.

 

The Food 

 

I first want to say that I made every effort to go into this with an open mind. I did my best not to look at these three meals as a chef but rather just as a busy person trying to feed myself and my wife. I followed all directions explicitly and took no liberties except for two. Those two exceptions were simply to substitute gluten-free ingredients for non-gluten-free ingredients.

As I said, the box arrived around noon on Tuesday. My wife and I hadn’t eaten lunch yet so it made sense to try one of the meals. We started with the Chorizo Buritto Bowl.

 

The Chorizo Burrito Bowl

 

Hello Fresh Chorizo Burrito BowlThe Chorizo Burrito Bowl consisted of rice mixed with the whites of some green onions, lime zest and cilantro. Chorizo Sausage cooked with corn, Mexican seasoning, garlic, and a bit of water. Pico de gallo made with avocado, cherry tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, and lime juice. And finally, sour cream mixed with lime juice and lime zest.

The first thing that stood out to me was that the Mexican Seasoning on the Chorizo sausage seemed redundant. I found it actually took away from the dish. Chorizo is already very flavourful and would have worked well on its own. I’m just kind of being picky though I think.

All of the vegetables were very fresh. The avocado was maybe a little too fresh as it was very very hard.

The instructions were easy to follow and very accurate except for two issues. One issue which I found to be consistent with all three recipes was the temperature of the stove. All three recipes suggested a medium-high heat. I have an old stove that needs the elements replaced and even I found this was too high. The other issue I found was minor. It said to add two tablespoons of water to the Chorizo, corn and spice mixture. I found I had to add three times that much.

According to the recipe card, the prep time should have been ten minutes with a total time of thirty minutes cooking. I found this to be accurate. Also, according to the recipe card, the meal came to 942 calories per serving.

All in all. This meal wasn’t too bad. The portion was massive for two people. The pico de gallo was good, would have been better with a slightly more ripe avocado but I don’t fault them for that. The cilantro-lime sour cream was flavourful. The rice was perfectly cooked. The only two real issues I had were that everything was okay but not great and with the meat. Again, the Mexican Seasoning seemed unnecessary.

I think that most people would be happy with this dish. And in all honesty, I was pleasantly surprised. If I was served this again I would eat it.

 

Hello Fresh Chorizo Burrito Bowl Ingredients

 

 

The East Coast-Style Beef Donair

 

Hello Fresh East Coast-Style Beef Donair IngredientsHello Fresh East Coast-Style Donair Finished

All the goodwill that had been earned with the Burrito Bowl went right out the window the next day when I ate the train wreck described as an “East Coast-Style Beef Donair”. Now, to be clear, this is not East Coast Donair snobbery. You can tell by the picture on the recipe card that it is not even close to a donair. Even so, I went in with an open mind.

Again, the recipe was easy to follow and the timing was fairly close to accurate at thirty minutes. According to the recipe card, this dish contains 1234 calories per serving.

The first thing the recipe card asks you to do is to cut the potatoes into fries, toss them with half the provided shawarma spice, a bit of oil, and salt and pepper. It then tells you to bake them at 450°F for 25-28 minutes.

At the bottom of the card, there is a note that says “Add some fires to your pita for an extra crunch.” Based on this I made the assumption that the fries would be crisp. They were not. Even after a few extra minutes in the oven.

The next thing you have to do is “marinate” the beef. You mix the beef with some chopped garlic, onions, the rest of the shawarma spice a bit of oil, and salt and pepper.

The beef was strips of sirloin that were cut with the grain. When you cut meat with the grain it becomes very, very chewy which was an issue I faced later while trying to eat this.

Next, for some reason, came the coleslaw which consisted of a bag of sliced carrot and red cabbage mixed with 1 tbsp of vinegar, 1 tbsp of oil, half the provided parsley, and a bit of salt and pepper. That’s it. Now, I’m not sure if they gave us the four-person bag of coleslaw mix accidentally, but this was a lot of “coleslaw”.  I made myself and my wife each a plate, made a salad with the leftovers and there was still enough for at least one more plate. It was way too much coleslaw and it wasn’t good.

Finally, we have the garlic sauce. Mayo, mixed with vinegar, garlic, and a bit of sugar. It was fine. Mine was pretty thin but tasted all right. However, it definitely wasn’t donair sauce.

So, once you put this all together… the not crispy fries, the chewy “donair meat”, the bland but abundant coleslaw and the garlic sauce you are left with something that I really did not like at all. My wife thought it was okay but I didn’t even finish mine.

I should also say that I substituted the pita for a gluten-free bun. My wife actually really liked the pita. She said it was light and fluffy. However, in the picture on the recipe card, it very much looks like a Lebanese pita which would be traditional for a donair. We were given the Greek-style pita.

In conclusion, if you served this to me we would no longer be friends.

Rich Lamb Ragu

Hello Fresh Rich Lamb Ragu FinishedThe final meal on this journey was the Rich Lamb Ragu. I substituted the rigatoni for gluten-free rotini. This dish consisted of ground lamb cooked with onions, carrots, garlic, tomato paste, tomato juice, chilli flakes, Italian seasoning, and red wine vinegar. It was then tossed with the pasta, covered in ricotta and parmesan cheese and broiled. It was then finished with fresh basil.

This was by far the quickest of the three meals to make. The recipe card said it takes about twenty minutes and that was pretty much spot on. It also says the dish comes in at 892 calories. I did find the instructions on this one a little unclear or confusing at times.

This dish was okay. It would have done very well with a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg to balance the lamb and add a bit more flavour. And that’s kind of it. The flavour of this was just kind of flat. There was a bit of heat from the addition of the chillies (they offer a heat chart so you know how much to put in) but that was about it.

All in all, this wasn’t terrible. If I was served it again I would eat it but I would complain about it privately later.

 

In Conclusion

I think that anyone out there could easily make these same dishes, in about the same amount of time, for less money, and make them better. Having said that, it was nice to not have to think about what I was going to make for three days. The choice is already selected. But, you could easily preplan your meals and have a similar experience.

I think that for a busy couple, or family that has a bit of extra money this is an okay option. I think it makes a good starting point in getting people used to cooking and kind of seeing what’s possible. But to me, that’s all it is. It’s like culinary training wheels. Eventually, they have to come off.

Is it worth the money?

I think that’s a question you need to ask yourself. For me, definitely not. But, you may find that it is. Especially, if you are the kind of person who finds cooking to be a chore and not at all enjoyable. I would say, take advantage of any one-time discount offer and see what you think. But, be aware that they are just going to leave that box wherever they can and that there is going to be a pile of packaging.

Hello Fresh Rich Lamb Ragu Ingredients

3 Comments

  1. Brenda

    Several colleagues of mine have and continue to utilize this service. They are very satisfied and highly recommended that I try it. I hesitated given the cost seemed to far out weighed the convenience.

    I think having an idea of the costs at your local grocer could also be a factor when making a decision. Wouldn’t that extra cash be better off in one of many savings options and couldn’t cooking meals together with your families provide some additional quality time with your families. Finding the time to cook with family will surely provide greater reward.

    I know cooking with my children brought me much joy and like you Ben my children were passed on some of mom’s cooking skills and favorite family recipes.

    Thank you for providing an unbiased observation and opinion Ben!

  2. Chef Ben Kelly

    Thank you Brenda. I completely agree that the price seems out of balance with the convenience. Having said that, I think that might just be because you and I have the ability to cook for ourselves so it’s hard to see the true value.

    I do disagree wit one thing you said though. I see this as a way for families to cook together who normally wouldn’t. It might not be perfect and it’s definitely not family recipes, but there is the opportunity for people who otherwise would have just ordered takeout to introduce their children, and perhaps even themselves to cooking.

    Thank you very much for your comment Brenda. Have a great day.

  3. May

    This Hello Fresh is a TOTAL SCAM!! Stay away and buyer beware!!!! I had a gift card from friends. When I went in and registered, the system DEMANDED I log on a credit card!! Red flag. So when I picked meals, it CHARGED MY CREDIT CARD AND DID NOT GO TO GIFT CARD!!! I called customer service twice. They said I had to open another account and try again. I did that and when I picked the meals, and entered gift card, They charged my CC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then they said gift code was invalid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I called my credit card and disputed both charges. It is in dispute. I canceled the auto payment at my credit card level. I am totally PISSED. So they charged my CC almost $127.00!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I also saw other fees too. STAY AWAY. I am posting this on every medial outlet I can.

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