Smart Home Cooking with Hello Fresh
Update April 17, 2020: We reviewed Hello Fresh in 2015. Read our latest meal service recommendations.
Hello Fresh is next up in our comparison of boxed, ready to prepare meals. We received a coupon recently for $40 off our first Hello Fresh shipment, which translated to about four free portions. The minimum order is for three meals of two portions each, a relatively risk free way to try the service.
The website is clean and easy to use and the service has a very flexible delivery timetable since they use UPS ground. In our area, we can choose to receive our meals Monday-Friday, unlike Blue Apron and Din, which have more limited delivery windows.
We ordered our meals about two weeks ahead of time so we were not able to choose exactly what we wanted. One thing that troubled us right from the start was that there was no way to store any food preferences in our profile. We are not vegetarians, but we do not eat beef. Hello Fresh promised to send the meal choices ahead of the shipment to give us a chance to choose which meals we wanted.
Imagine our surprise when our first order showed up including beef. We immediately thought we must have screwed up and either ordered the wrong thing or somehow missed the email selection. We contacted the customer support and got an answer almost immediately. After some back and forth, we found out that we never received an email with choices, just a newsletter. Customer service credited us a free meal, which was nice, and we substituted some ground turkey so we were still able to prepare the recipe. However, we would not feel comfortable worrying about that on a weekly basis. One of the reasons you subscribe to this kind of service is to reduce any need to think about what you might get.
The Hello Fresh shipment was packaged pretty well, in a large box with ice packs.
There were about four pretty substantial ice packs in our 14 pound box, since it is shipped UPS ground the meat must thaw in the two days it takes to travel to us. The ingredients for the individual meals are boxed separately which is really convenient, you can just pull out the entire box out of the fridge when you are ready to cook.
Our first shipment included three meals – Blistered Corn & Salmon Salad, Lemongrass Chicken Skewars, and Za’atar Pita Burgers.
The recipies come in a nicely printed little book with well written instructions. It includes full ingredient lists plus the measurements for two and four servings. Many of the ingredients are in their original packaging, which means that sometimes you have extra. In our recipes, we had extra coconut milk, vinegar and spices. This is fine as long as you are reading the directions carefully. With the other two services we have used, everything is pre-portioned, so if the recipe calls for vinegar, you use the entire package. The Hello Fresh spices seem to be packaged in whole teaspoons, so if the recipe calls for ¼ teaspoon you throw the rest out. For the garlic, Hello Fresh not only separated the clove, but also peeled the garlic which was a nice touch compared to the mountains of garlic we get from Blue Apron.
The meals were a bit more difficult to prepare than Din, but still seemed a little simpler than Blue Apron. Everything was tasty and the ingredients were fresh and seasonal. We cooked a couple of the elements on the grill which was a nice alternative though it wasn’t required. The salmon salad was by far the best meal, both flavor and portion size. The lemongrass chicken was also good, especially the coconut rice, but the carrot and cucumber slaw was hard to eat. The za’tar burgers included some zucchini fries as a side; with one small zucchini it seemed almost a waste of time to prepare; a lot of work for a very small portion. It also felt like we could have used more than one pita bread.
All in all, Hello Fresh was okay. If we did not have any dietary restrictions it would be a nice alternative. I did appreciate the detailed recipes and the nutritional information. It would be easy to prepare one of these meals again. However, it is just too risky for us to take the chance of getting a beef meal by accident, so we will be cancelling the service.