(Disclosure: post contains affiliate links.)
If you’ve surfed the Internet, opened a magazine, or turned on the TV lately, chances are you’ve seen an ad for a meal delivery service. The latest in the wave of subscription boxes, meal delivery boxes like Hello Fresh, Home Chef, and Blue Apron are popping up to offer takeout-weary consumers an option to create healthy, gourmet-level dishes at home, with no shopping or fancy meal prep required.
I got a chance to try Hello Fresh last month and of course you know I have thoughts! So let’s get into a summary of how the subscription works, what I got, and what I thought overall.
Let’s start with how Hello Fresh works. You choose from the Classic, Family, or Veggie plan, choose whether you want to receive meals for two or four people, and select how many meals you want each week. I selected a Veggie plan in the smallest box available, three meals each designed to serve two people. You can pause or change your delivery weekly by logging into your account or cancel anytime. Your cost per box will depend on the subscription options you choose but each one works out to roughly $9-$10 per serving.
Everything arrives in a sturdy box containing an insulated bag and plenty of ice to keep your ingredients fresh. Inside, each meal is packaged in its own box for easy sorting, and colorful oversize recipe cards walk you through each recipe with detailed instructions and plenty of photos. If you really love a particular recipe, you can use the ingredient list and nutritional info on the recipe card as a guide to make it again from scratch.
So, what did I get in my Hello Fresh delivery?
I received ingredient boxes for three meals: Spring Greens Gnocchi, Warming Cauliflower and Lentil Dal, and Golden Grain-Stuffed Peppers. Each box contained fresh produce, herbs, and extras like cheese or vegetable stock to prepare the meal; I just had to add butter, salt and pepper, and olive oil.
The first dish I prepared was the gnocchi, and it was my favorite out of the box. I already know that I like gnocchi, but I was surprised to enjoy the asparagus in this dish, since it’s not one of my favorite vegetables. This tasted like something I’d order during a night out at an Italian restaurant; add some salad, garlic breadsticks, and a bottle of wine, and you’d have a legit fancy meal for two. I would definitely make this meal again.
The second dish I tried was the dal, and I wasn’t so in love. For starters, I’m not huge on Indian food. I’m also not big on onions, as anyone who knows me can attest, and this dish had a lot of onion involved! I think with some tweaks I may have enjoyed this more (less onion and no green beans).
The third and last dish in my box was…stuffed peppers. I already knew that I didn’t care for cooked peppers—it’s a texture things—and sadly this recipe didn’t change my mind. The stuffing was okay but with the zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes—two more veggies I’m not keen on—it wasn’t something I’d race to make again.
What I like about Hello Fresh:
- It’s convenient. No shopping trips and no meal planning; everything arrives in the kit.
- It’s fairly affordable. At least where I live, $10 is average for a takeaway order and on the low end for an entree at a nice restaurant. If you’re dining out or ordering a lot of takeaway, this is definitely a healthier, tastier option at a comparable cost.
- It’s healthy. Everything is fresh, seasonal, and health-conscious.
- It’s basically a cooking class in a box. If you already know your basics, this is a fun way to learn new things and try new recipes—it would be perfect for a date night in.
- The recipe cards are easy to follow. I’m not a pro so I appreciate the step-by-step pictures.
- It’s a good way to try new recipes without commitment. My biggest issue with trying exotic new recipes is that they can call for lots of extra ingredients like herbs and spices that are cost-prohibitive to buy if you aren’t certain you’ll use the whole package. Hello Fresh gives you single-use packets for each meal, so if you don’t like the result you’re not saddled with a wasted jar of something.
- Option to pause your service. Seriously, why don’t all subscription boxes offer this?!
What I don’t like about Hello Fresh:
- Limited meal choices. On the Veggie plan, you can preview your menus but can’t choose which meals to receive. I would definitely have opted out of the stuffed pepper entree!
- No options for allergens or restricted diets. The veggie option is great, but those trying to eat vegan, gluten-free, etc. will probably not like this service.
- Not the best choice for seasoned home cooks. If you’re already good at the whole shop-prep-prepare ritual, you’ll probably find that you save money and have better options at the supermarket.
- There’s a lot of packaging waste. I won’t claim to be the queen of recycling, but I do try to be eco-friendly. One shipment generates a lot of excess packaging in the form of boxes, bubble wrap, and ice packs. (It’s necessary to keep the food fresh, but still gives me pause.)
Overall, I would say this service is just okay for me.
If you’re too busy (or too overwhelmed) to choose and shop for recipes, then this service is a great alternative that’s healthier and cheaper than endless restaurant meals. I enjoyed the convenience of the delivery but wasn’t super-thrilled with two of the three meals, and I openly admit that I’m a somewhat picky eater, so I think taking the time to choose recipes and shop at the grocery store would be better for me.
What I loved most about my Hello Fresh delivery is that it provided a much-needed boost out of a cooking rut. I was getting dependent on one-pot meals and my microwave. I had forgotten how much fun I had putting on some music, pouring a glass of wine, and taking 30-40 minutes to prepare a nice meal. I actually had a lot of fun! I would definitely revisit this option in the future if I was in another cooking rut or was planning a staycation and wanted a few fancy dinners without the legwork of shopping and meal planning.