Decided to try this service out for five weeks. I will follow this with another service to be determined later in the summer. Then I shall cease with the food service reviews. They (the services) take a lot out of me in ways I didn’t expect, but I see they can be useful, so my reviews are in that spirit. .
I picked Hello Fresh since currently it seems to be the most popular resource (in the US), and I am considering Green Chef or Sunbasket, because either do organic (and their meat is pasture-raised). . We shall see. (They also have a Paleo/Keto track.)
Hello Fresh does not know I am reviewing them. I get no bennies from doing so.
I am not going to stay with these services as a regular thing, but I figure being a foodie-blog, I should at least try one of these services. And, frankly, I’ve been a bit “down” this last winter, and the offerings they provide mostly didn’t sound bad. I do wish Hello Fresh would have pastured-ranged meats, but one can’t have everything. (I chose a lot of veggie dishes, especially for this reason, but not exclusively, during my taste/test run.)
You can choose any of the 23 meals you like for a given week – they provide defaults depending on the overall food type you want (meat and veggies, vegetarian, seafood, quick and easy….) but you can decline any of those in favor of something else. In your overall food type or not. There are also “add-ons” which a quick perusal of, did not usually interest me. YMMV. You can order things out to at least a month ahead, and you can decline any delivery for a given week or whatever your needs are. We don’t all hover around our doorsteps!
They don’t do individual meals. I had to choose from a two person, 3 person, or a 4 person plan. I’m only one here (Serenity doesn’t count), but I don’t mind leftovers, so I went with the 2 person plan. I could choose 3, 4 or 5 meals for a week. (If you are going with the 4 person plan, you can start off with 2 meals per week… makes sense, shipping-wise,) They do make a good effort at making packaging recyclable.
During the duration, I will be cancelling/postponing Misfits Market, although there isn’t a great overlap in food. (I cancelled during the height of Farmers’ Market time in the summer, as well, and will cancel during the majority of this next summer, too.)
My orders: (I did not place an order for every week.)
Fully Loaded Pork Taquitos
Lobster Filled Ravioli and Shrimp
Raja Quesadillas (vegetarian) – spicy, or so they claim?
Second week: Bsteccha con Fichi (Steak with Fig Sauce) Pork and Poblano Tacos Mushroom and Herb “Shepherd’s” Pie (aka Gardener’s Pie, as far as I’m concerned) (vegetarian) Extra: BLT Avocado Toast.
This one never arrived, and I’ve been credited for it. I really wanted that BLT Avocado thing, too. The major snowstorm earlier that week got blamed for the UPS failure here. Dunno. I do get a $4 garlic bread. (To which I will add cheese.)
Then, a planned week off… Most the meals didn’t “sing” to me for that one. Besides, I still like to cook to my own desires…
(Actual) Second week:
Maple Mustard Chicken Legs
Shawarma-Spiced Chickpea Fritters (vegetarian)
Yes, that (free) garlic bread.
Salsa Verde Enchiladas (vegetarian)
Mexicali Black Bean Soup (vegetarian)
Bruschetta Zucchini Boats (vegetarian)
Balsamic and Fig Beef Tenderloin
Zucchini and Mushroom Bibimbap Bowls (vegetarian)
Portobello and Poblano Fajitas (vegetarian)
Fifth week: ?
Salmon in a Creamy Dijon Chive Sauce
Butternut Squash Agnolotti (vegetarian)
Mushroom and Herb “Shepherd’s” Pie. Which I rename a Gardener’s Pie! (vegetarian).
0 vegan meals, 9 vegetarian meals, 1 shellfish meal, 2 finned-fish meals, 1 chicken meal, 1 pork meal, 1 beef meal.
5 Tex-Mex meals. 1 Asian meal. 3 Italian-style meals.
(Note that the said types of meal are probably “Americanized”)
Few if any of the selections I saw were vegan, and none were Paleo. In fact, I would dearly like to have had more lower-carb (not necessarily Keto) dinners. You can (in the add-on area) add in salads = they seem to be focusing in on kale salads right now, or just meats that you cook as you will, but I didn’t avail myself of either item. (I want more than kale in a salad, and I have plenty of better selections elsewhere for just plain meats.)
I am making these dishes mostly in the order in which I think food will preserve best in the fridge. They’ll be made for lunch or dinner, with leftovers somewhere the next day – maybe even for breakfast. Living alone, especially in these times, I have a lot of options as far as my dining habits progress, or disintegrate.
Week 1: Lobster Filled Ravioli and Shrimp, in a Tomato Cream Sauce. 860 calories per serving. In the “Gourmet” recipe file. This comes with lobster filled raviolis already made, and what they called “sustainably farmed shrimp”, whatever that means. The only out and out veggie in this meal was the scallions (2) that made it into this meal. Everything arrived fresh and properly chilled. The shrimp bore a note stating it should be eaten within two days of delivery (I made this dish within one).
I liked this dish A LOT. Other than using avocado oil, I didn’t change anything. They say you don’t have to use all the zest, but I like that lemon flavor, so I did. Since I ate only one portion (or a little more) for the first serving, I didn’t add the leftover toppings to the rest of the dish until I re-heated the second serving. (Wanted that panko crunch, and the greens of the scallions to be fresh.) Good recipe!
The leftovers a day later: I nuked the ravioli/shrimp sauce mix, and scattered the dry remains of topping plus squeezes of lemon post nuke. It works okay re-heated (stovetop) though best the first day.
Week 1: Rajas Quesadillas, with Salsa Fresca, Southwest Crema, and Guacamole.
700 calories per serving. In the One-Pan recipe file, and also vegetarian. I decided the only efficient way to do this was to make a half-recipe for one meal, and another half for the second. Re-heating quesadillas does not seem desirable to me. Breakfast on two separate days.
All the veggies were fresh, although I admit the Roma tomatoes looked quite like store-bought Roma tomatoes, but were serviceable. The cilantro was fresher than I’ve seen it in some supermarkets (and this is Day 3 after arrival). Again, easy to follow. The guacamole by itself was bland… just avocado… but combined in this dish with seasonings, it works. I was afraid the cheese would not be enough for my cheesy desires, but it was fine.
For the second breakfast quesadilla, I did slice up a bit more pepper jack cheese into the dish. (I think I didn’t quite divvy the previous day’s cheese in half.)
To me, the dish is mildly spicy. You can always omit or lessen the amount of spice packet. If you love hotter quesadillas, your kitchen is probably already stocked with the appropriate add-on. Yes, the recipe uses a fresh poblano chili pepper, too. Your call.
Week 1: Fully Loaded Pork Taquitos with Pico de Gallo, Creamy Guacamole and Hot Sauce. 1050 calories per serving. In the Hall of Fame recipe file, and is also labeled “spicy”. I made all the cooked part at once, and only topped the second serving when it was time to re-heat the second serving. I am actually NOT an aficionado of ground pork unless I know from whence the ground pork came from – how many animals have parts in that??? I’d had hoped it had at the very least been shredded pork. But it was a done-ordered deed.
The tortillas are wheat – I would have preferred corn, but sometimes wheat works well anyway.
I re-heated the extras in the microwave – I think in the future I’d re-heat in a covered container in the oven, as microwaving really did nothing for the taquito shells . These were very good, and I have saved the recipe sheet to adapt on my own.
Week 2: Louisiana-Style Tilapia, with Potato Wedges, Red Cabbage Slaw, and Spicy Remoulade. 790 calories per serving. You’ll notice I’ll always eat the seafood choices first. Seems safest to me. I generally don’t eat tilapia, due to how most of it is raised, but it was hard to find a good third recipe this week, and I really wanted to encourage these folks to send out more chicken dark meat!
Week 2: Maple Mustard Chicken Legs, plus Spiced Sweet Potato Mash & Nutty Green Beans. 740 calories per serving. I absolutely loathe finding pecans in my veggies. Chopped fine they are good in pesto, or broken into small bits they are okay in some cookies. Hence, I did NOT use these. (While I have a sensitivity to pistachios and pine nuts – both my favorites from the nut world – I have since determined I can indeed eat almonds, pecans and walnuts without a gut reaction – as it were. But my attitude towards pecans is, :meh, And I especially don’t like seeing them or almonds in my green beans.) So, I did my first recipe modification change here, and omitted them.
Everything was fresh, and the recipe easy to assemble. I prepped both servings, and ate one for breakfast, and re-headed the leftovers in the oven for lunch the next day. The maple mustard sauce I spooned over the chicken lightly after cooking or re-heading each meal’s serving. I wish it had been more a mustard maple sauce as I’m not a true sweet-tooth, but most people wouldn’t mind the maple taking the lead. It was real Vermont maple syrup, and the mustard was a Dijon. In the photo, the chicken looks burnt, but it definitely was not. I was glad that the sweet potatoes were allowed to stand on their own without extra sugars – and the nutmeg added to it was a high point. Definitely a good recipe.
Week 2: Shawarma-Spiced Chickpea Fritters, with Dill Yogurt Sauce plus and Arugula, Almond and Apricot Salad. 740 calories per serving. Vegetarian. I used to love pistachios and especially pine nuts in salads. Almonds not so much, not in salads for certain. Ditched the almonds for another purpose.
I didn’t get to this recipe right away. But when I did, the arugula was still fresh – well packaged, and I’d say 95% was right up there perfect. At any rate, the fritters were tasty, and I am saving this recipe card for down the road. As for the dried apricots – I used about a quarter of them, as I’m not fond of most dried fruits – the bit I used worked well, and I am glad that’s all I used. At any rate, the fritters were quite tasty!
Week 2 Add-On: Garlic Bread. Normally $4 extra, I opted to take this gratis for the death of my original week two order somewhere in the ruinations of UPS hell. I cooked it in my toaster oven – you don’t have to do anything extra with it. But, hey, I added Gouda cheese, to improve its clout. No photos.
Week 3: Mexicali Black Bean Soup, with the Works. 610 calories per serving. Yes, this is an all-vegetarian week! (Vegans take note – I don’t see much if any vegan offerings at this service.) I adore black beans (lentils almost as much), but the best hard-legume out there to my mind is a good black bean!
This was also really really good… But I never have a problem with black beans, personally. Made the whole soup and saved the leftover portion to reheat later. (The additions after cooking – yes, I added that other half later – the cheese, the green parts of the scallions, the sour cream, the blue corn chips….)
Week 3: Bruschetta Zucchini Boats, with Couscous and Mozz. 640 calories per serving. Vegetarian. Taking a break between my two black bean meals of this week… Again, everything is fresh, and and tasty. Plenty of food for two servings/meals.
Week 3: Salsa Verde Enchiladas, with Poblano Pepper, Refried Black Beans and Monterey Jack. 810 calories per serving. Vegetarian again! AND more black beans (which I still love)! All veggies were fresh, although the tomato had that wintertime lack of flavor. Even though it was a Roma, which sometimes carries through anyway.
This was good, maybe three stars out of five… but I will note the directions were confusing; I ended up not following them correctly (their photo was correct, however). I punted and the recipe turned out fine – except I’d double the amount of cheese, please!
I added more cheese atop the leftovers (I had cooked all the enchiladas the first meal, but added extra cheese for the second batch of three.) I saved THIS recipe sheet in hopes of playing around with improvements.
Week 4: Zucchini and Mushroom Bibimbap Bowls, with Sweet Sesame Sauce and Fried Egg. Vegetarian. I DO wonder why so many recipes encourage “SWEET” for a main dish? Everything was fresh, except that tiny hunk of ginger, that was too small to grate the peel off (with either a grater or a spoon) without grating some of my fingers. It was also dried out a bit too far. I discarded that and used my own ginger knob. Otherwise, I carried on. I note the eggs are securely packed against crushing.
This is the only Asian recipe I chose during my experimentational period. I made the whole dish at once, and reserved the other half for eating later (although I did cook the second egg for that second portion, at that time.)
Week 4: Balsamic and Fig Beef Tenderloin, with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Rosemary Breadcrumb Brussels Sprouts. 760 calories per serving. I modified things a little bit. I added the rosemary to the roasting Brussels sprouts prior to roasting (which is how I do it with roasted veggies anyway). After I chopped up the shallot, I had an excess according to the directions. Hey, I added it ALL, anyway. You do NOT need to add extra salt to the final sauce at all – the beef stock packet they included took care of that! (Taste before seasoning, where you can.) But I do really like this dish! The fig-based sauce was quite good, and I also put a bit of it on the potatoes. Since the included garlic clove was tiny (to make up for the shallot?) I’d be ready to add a second clove of one’s own.
I cooked everything except the second bit of beef all at the same time. For my leftover meal, I simply re-heated all the above leftovers together (not mixed together), and pan fried the final piece of beef to add to this. So as not to overcook it.
Week 4: Portobello and Poblano Fajitas, with Pico de Gallo, and Smoky Red Pepper Crema. Vegetarian. MORE Tex-Mex!!! (I’d actually like to take a trip down to the Southeast to eat these things in a genuine fashion, but for now…)
This was very good, and I didn’t mind having redux “southwest seasoning” yet again, as there were real live portabellas in this dish. Easy to make, one pan (and a couple side bowls). The onion was HUGE,. Of course the Roma tomato suffered from the usual “hothouse and bland” syndrome, but I am not going to expect otherwise.
Week 5: Salmon in a Creamy Dijon Chive Sauce, with Roasted Potato Wedges and Lemony Zucchini.
This is the first recipe I ate both two servings at once. Granted, it was going to be a brunch and later on a dinner (so not a three-meal day anyhow). I used the leftover Southwest seasoning from the Week Four veggie fajita dish on the roasting potatoes. I also used ALL the Dijon mustard in the sauce, instead of just half as the recipe requested for two servings. I am glad I did. Hello Fresh underestimates the amount of mustard a mustard fan likes! Very easy to make, and very tasty.
Week 5: Mushroom and Herb Shepherd’s Pie, topped with White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes. _Vegetarian. GARDENER’S PIE! I will never ever ever purchase something named a shepherd’s pie dish that is made with beef. NEVER. That would be a Cottage Pie, or perhaps to carry the theme on, a Cowboy’s Pie.
So, this here is really a Gardener’s Pie, and it sounded intriguing enough to order. I’m apparently giving the vegetarians a break on nomenclature. But you know what? This dish was so laden down with SALT that I felt terribly asSAuLTED, and this one was by far and away the WORST dish I ate during my self-diagnosed Trial Period. HORRID. I tossed the other half in the garbage (I’d cooked both parts at the same time). I refuse to feed my chickens with this salty junk. Concept, great – sodium chloride, not so much.
Week 5: Butternut Squash Agnolotti, with a Kale in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce. Vegetarian.
I enjoyed this a lot. Hello Fresh supplies you with the agnolotti, so you are not making the pasta yourself! I did make this all at once, and had leftovers to heat up for a smaller second meal later on.
The Final Assessment
For a single person, this is not truly practical (but I guessed this, going in – and it will be true for ANY of these meal services). I can see having it available for individual weeks, and Hello Fresh makes it easy to decline the service at least for a month in advance. So you won’t necessarily forget it’s coming, or not coming… Kudos on that.
This and other plans I’ve looked at will provide 3 meals for two servings per meal a week (that you opt in) and two or more meals for four a week (that you opt in). EDIT: I missed noticing that you can order TWO meals for TWO servings per meal now – this will help avoid some of the burnout I was feeling towards the end of my experimentation! You pay extra for meals you add in beyond your plan (makes sense) and they tell you the price to be added. It is not always so clear cut when I substitute meals for the meals they would normally send, but you do see a total tally for that week’s order up in the upper right hand corner. Unfortunately, I did not usually have an interest in the default meals, so I did spend a bit more. The bad part about switching to two instead of three meals a week is that you get dinged a lot more to participate. (Shipping reasons, I’m sure.)
After a few weeks, a recipe or two will be repeated, but they mix the recipes up for any given week so you can probably find something different. I will note that while I generally loved the Tex-Mex meals, there was a certain sameness to the seasonings that really became apparent to me (considering how many of those I ordered). Although even though I love avocado/guacamole, I am glad they subbed out with green tomatillo salsa on occasion.
They are very responsive when a package cannot be delivered – which in my case above was the fault of UPS – and not simply that snowstorm as I got packages delivered on the delivery date from other sources that week. But maybe things were worse at their shipping plant? (I followed the UPS tracking info, and it just lay around a bit. A lengthy bit…)
You don’t waste ingredients. Everything gets used (unless you don’t like most nuts much, see Week Two, but those don’t go bad fast.) I loved the high level of Tex Mex recipes, and the quality vegetarian recipes. If you are vegan, this isn’t for you (but then again, faux cheese isn’t for me). Portion sizes are really right on, at least for me. I have no problems supplementing with a salad in the rare case I was still hungry – which was generally tended to be because I ate my first meal late that day!
The bad thing is the packing waste. Some can certainly be recycled, but other things, not so easily.
I saved about half of the recipe cards. I discovered a greater use for citrus zests than I’d been doing in my own cooking – I’ll be using more zest in my own recipes, simply since the fruit is here anyway; may as well use as much of it as possible! Lemon zest with roasted zucchini was a remarkable discovery! I also enjoyed discovering new sauces (although some of their sauces come pre-made to some degree). The meals also incorporate timing of elements (protein, starch, veggie), which is a skill I’m not highly skilled at. Yet. So, good practice in that regard.
I’ll keep my account at least for now, but as a single person, I won’t be using it often. For multiple people, or those temporarily or permanently shut-in, who still cook – I see the point. (I may have future knee surgery again which will keep me from driving for awhile.) I did end up with three weeks of three meals in a row – for a single person, this gets to be too much. (I wanted to wrap this review up, so I did the multiples in a row anyway. Plus, the ordered dishes sounded more intriguing those weeks.)
UPDATE: It did take me a while to get through everything, well, because three meals for two people per week – when I thought it was really THREE per week. It is not really cost-effective to opt for two meals for two a week, but I went to that schedule – and have skipped most weeks. But just now – I wanted to try their duck, and their vegetarian Red Cabbage Okonomiyaki Fritters. So, an ersatz Sixth Week!
Since this is past planned assessment, I am not just omitting the almonds in the Duck Breast a L’Orange dish, I am adding MORE Dijon where a little is called for. (I know Hello Fresh doesn’t understand us Dijon Fanatics!!) I will say it was excellent! Duck was fresh and yummy.
Shared with: Fiesta Friday #382 – Fiesta Friday