Once, upon a time, there was a girl who fell in love with a microwave. She used it daily and became accustomed to the beautiful (but also irritating) chime. She cooked soup and hot chocolate and the occasional frozen dinner in her microwave. But something didn’t feel right. The girl was missing something in her life: (a lot of things, but particularly) the domestic touch that society deems appropriate for her gender.
Dramatics aside, what happened was a coworker of mine had some extra free HelloFresh boxes that she hadn’t used in 2016, so I requested to use one of hers. (I know, this story is much more anticlimactic.) I was excited to try out some new recipes (and basically have an excuse to not grocery shop for a week), so I signed up.
HelloFresh is a meal delivery service, focused on healthy eating, good quality ingredients, and less food waste. Unlike what you might think about a “meal delivery service,” HelloFresh sends you ingredients, not full meals, for you to prepare yourself. The brand is highly recommended for people who want to get out of a food funk and people who spend too much money at restaurants.
HelloFresh only delivers during the week, which is a little tricky for people who work typical 9-5 hours. However, they allow you to specify where you want the deliveryman to put the box, so if you have a trusted neighbor or live in a building with a front desk, you can have HelloFresh leave the box with them. I purposely scheduled the box to arrive on MLK Day because I knew I’d be home all day just in case there were any delivery complications.
I wasn’t sure if I’d get an email notification, so I was planning on making regular trips downstairs to see if my package arrived. When an email came through confirming that the delivery was complete, I was pumped! I ran — a rare occurrence for me — down the two flights of my apartment and came across it, the massive package.
How the hell am I going to get that thing up to the third floor? I thought, sizing up the box. The label said it only weighed sixteen pounds, but the girth of the box was enough to intimidate me. I wrestled the whole thing up two flights, taking a break halfway up to readjust my crushed fingers. As I bent over to gently place it onto the floor of my apartment, a sense of victory flashed across my eyes. There was only one thing I could do right then and there: I did the Rocky pose to myself. Once I refreshed my deodorant and caught my breath — yes, I’m pathetic, I know — I opened up the thing.
The external packaging was pretty basic (as expected, because it’s a box) but once I opened it up, my inner Monica from Friends was dancing for joy. Everything was organized and in its place, divided by dish. At the bottom of the box was an ice pack, which was laying on top of the raw meat cuts, most likely to keep them extra cold. I loved how all the external packaging is made of cardboard (minus the bubble wrap, understandably); I was able to recycle all the boxes after each meal. Some of the ingredients, however, are stored in plastic bags, as they normally would be at a grocery store, but I was able to overlook that. Basically, HelloFresh doesn’t use extra plastic than you would use if you went grocery shopping.
When I unloaded everything out of the box, there was a little pool of blood (from the steak) at the bottom. Vegans, shield your eyes!
I was excited to embark on this mini-adventure, improving my cooking skills and experimenting in the kitchen. So, how did it go?
Oven-Roasted Cauliflower with Tunisian-Spiced Yogurt Over Cumin-Scented Rice
You know a meal is going to be good when it has lots of adjectives in its title. This stood up to that notion! Of the three meals, this was the easiest to cook by far, and it was the furthest dish from what I might normally cook for dinner. The spices were unique, the nuts and raisins as protein made the meal filling and textural, and the yogurt sauce was the highlight of the dish. I never think to make a “yogurt sauce” because I’ve always seen it as unnecessary, but it was great and easy.
One hesitation I had was the onions. I’m not a fan of onions, but I wanted to make the meal properly. I didn’t cry while cutting up the onion, which is a big step for me! However, I felt like my hands smelled like onions for days after cooking this even though I shower daily and wash my hands more than the average person. (This was probably due to the fact that I’m not used to the smell of raw onions.) The onions worked in the dish though! They took on the flavor of the spices pretty well; I forgot they were even in there.
I purposely chose to cook the cauliflower dish for my first meal for two reasons: 1. I wasn’t very hungry at dinner-time, so the lowest-protein meal made sense, and 2. It was Monday, AKA Bachelor night, and eating a low-calorie meal every Bachelor night makes me feel better about myself during the two hours of watching skinny biddies running around. It’s a thing, okay?
Would I cook this again? Absolutely! It was quick, easy, and stress-free. And the leftovers, which I brought to eat for lunch the next day, were just as delicious! Day one of HelloFresh killed it!
Rapid Maple Balsamic Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli
Maple balsamic sounded like a strange combination when I first read the recipe, but it was delicious! Unlike the recipe, I decided to use the leftover sauce to top off the broccoli. Also, I added in spinach because 1. Why not? and 2. I had some spinach that was starting to go bad.
I’ve never cooked sweet potatoes before — weird, right? — but I thought it would be pretty simple. Nope! I managed to screw them up! Even though they were cooking for what seemed like an eternity, they were still undercooked. What I decided to do was pour a ton of olive oil on them and throw them in the microwave for a few minutes so they would soften. This ratchet alternative worked a little better, so the sweet potatoes were somewhat edible.
This meal was a little bit more challenging than the cauliflower dinner, but this felt a little more substantial. This meal is when I really started to notice the high quality of the vegetables and meat. Once I perfect the infamous sweet potato, this would be a really great meal to serve to people who aren’t me.
Would I cook this again? Yes, and the ingredients are all super easy to find, so it shouldn’t be tough to recreate it.
Hearty Steak and Potatoes with Balsamic-Cranberry Pan Sauce
My version of the meal kind of looked like a murder scene, but DAYUM! I’ve been trying to cut out red meat for multiple reasons, but this could be easily imitated with turkey or chicken. The cranberry glaze was delightful! The potatoes were beautiful! The cabbage (which I’ve never cooked before) was perfect!
But the onions. This time around, I should have excluded the onions from this meal, but open-minded me wanted to branch out. As I cut and peeled the onion, I repeated in my head, Ogres are like onions. Ogres are like onions. How could a movie as nostalgic and lovely as Shrek make me cry?! Ogres are like onions. But then I remembered how bad Shrek the Third was and the tears started coming. How could Dreamworks make such a poor-quality film? Shrek and Shrek 2 were fantastic, staples of my childhood really! And the worst part is they kept it going after that! More Shrek movies even through the suckiness! How could you sell out, Shrek franchise?! How could you?! As I wiped my tears — whispering under my breath, I just have something in my eye, like a male character in a movie who is trying to assimilate to toxic masculinity — I regretted my decision to chop this onion. Why do people enjoy a food that hurts you so bad? Why do people want an abusive relationship with their food?
This meal took forever. I had a shortened day at work due to an offsite conference, so I didn’t mind the extra time it took to make this… until I was almost done and I just threw everything onto a plate, snapped a quick picture, and dug in.
This meal was also pretty stressful. I was nervous about one thing overcooking while focusing on the timing of another item. I felt like a contestant on Hell’s Kitchen, but instead of being able to call out, “How long for garnish?”, I had to make the garnish myself. I was waiting for Chef Ramsay to approach me, yelling into my face that I’m a failure at life and nobody loves me, but then I remembered that this stress was stupid, that the only person eating this meal was me, myself, and I, and if I overcooked the cabbage a little, a restaurant wouldn’t go awry.
Of the three meals, this one dirtied up the most amount of pans. As someone who hates doing dishes — AKA, not a freakish human — I try to use the least amount possible. In addition to cooking this marathon of a meal, I had to deal with a sink of dishes after I finished eating it.
Would I cook this again? Maybe. Next time, I’d probably use all baked vegetables to cut down on the dishes and effort it took me to multitask. The cranberry glaze was super easy and delicious, so I’ll be bringing that back somehow.
Thai Pork Stir-Fry with Mint and Ginger
There is a reason why I didn’t include my own picture of this meal. I didn’t make this meal. What I did was store the ground pork in my freezer for later and left the other ingredients in my fridge (to hopefully not rot before I remember to remove them). The meal comprises of ground pork, green beans (which I hate), red peppers (which I hate), mint (which I think is gross in savory dishes), and ginger (don’t even get me started).
It’s a shame that one of the missions of HelloFresh is to reduce food waste, but the veggies in this dish have gone to waste.
Would I cook this again? I didn’t cook it the first time, so no.
What did I think about my experience?
-Two portions for each meal. A lot of complaints that HelloFresh gets is the fact that each meal is made for two (or four, if you get the family box) people. Single people can’t just get one meal out of it. I liked this though! I was able to wrap up half and save it to eat for lunch the next day. The meals made for pretty tasty leftovers too!
-Eco-friendly packaging. Yay, environment!
-Gets you outside your cooking comfort zone. The roasted cauliflower meal isn’t something I would ever think to make myself. I’m not used to cooking with a lot of spices, especially obscure ones. It inspired me to use herbs and spices other than just my ride-or-die, garlic.
-Delicious, restaurant-quality meals. One of HelloFresh’s missions is to allow avid restaurant-goers to cut down on money while still eating delicious meals. While I enjoy a meal out, I’m also not opposed to whipping up a one-dollar can of soup. For people who need quality, this is a great way to get them to cook for themselves and create healthy money-spending habits. It’s almost like the middle-man between getting takeout all the time and going to the grocery.
-The instructions are clear, but they allow for experimentation. You can toss in some extra veggies or leave some out. It’s all about trying something new and doing it yourself.
-High-quality ingredients. Everything in my box was extremely fresh, i.e. why the brand is called Hello Fresh. No further explanation needed.
-The ingredients keep dietary restrictions in check. Not only do they offer a vegetarian box, each meal specifies if its gluten-free, dairy-free, etc., and it details which ingredients make it not gluten-/dairy-/etc.-free. In the future, they might be able to market a gluten-free box or dairy-free box, but in general, it’s pretty easy to leave certain ingredients out without ruining the meal.
-Delivery for apartments. HelloFresh’s delivery seems much more targeted for people who live in houses. My building has only three apartment units in it, so I wouldn’t feel too worried leaving it alone for hours, but this would be really tricky for people living in large apartment complexes. It would be really easy for someone to walk away with your box.
-Price. It’s not terrible. But it’s definitely pricier than just buying the groceries. I understand that the price comes from the freshness of the ingredients and the idea of everything being portioned out perfectly, but I can’t justify spending $60 for three (two-person) meals.
-Dishes. This meal kit must be made for people with dishwashers (and an unlimited amount of pans).
-A lot of work. I’m the kind of person who likes to throw chicken and veggies onto a tray, set a timer, and walk away. I’m not into having two pans going while making sure whatever’s in the oven isn’t burning. After a long day of work, I want to come home and deal with something easy. I appreciate the adventurous “risks” I took in cooking these meals, but it’s not something that’s practical in my busy life.
-Picky eaters, beware! I’m not a picky eater by any means and I was still unable to make one of the dishes. I wish users could specify veggies they don’t like in order to truly make it a company against food waste.
To me, the cons outweigh the pros, so I will not be ordering from HelloFresh again. However, I would recommend it to anyone looking to mix things up in the kitchen (no pun intended — is that a pun? — I don’t know). The company knows what they’re doing but could absolutely use some modifications.
Does HelloFresh sound like something you might like? Check out this link to try it out! (No, this isn’t an ad. This is one of my first posts, settle down.)
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