Hello, Fresh Enough: A Meal Kit Review

               Hello Fresh, a German company with branches in multiple countries, advertises on almost every platform I use. Its virtues, apparently, lie in its weekly menu options and the lack of shopping or planning on the buyer’s part. It is supposed to be a quick and hassle-free addition to your life, to make cooking and eating accessible and easy rather than reaching for the nearest take-out menu. I was recently given a free box to try out and, after sampling three different meals over the course of about a week and a half, I have some thoughts on the meal kit company.

               Prior to actually doing it myself, most of my experience with Hello Fresh was secondhand and mostly concerned their customer service. I would hear most often about how the box was delivered late, ingredients had to be thrown out, and the box would be reimbursed. This seems like a common enough risk and issue with food deliveries, but was something I was wary of. And, unlike the key demographic for its advertising, I actually like grocery shopping and planning isn’t a bother for me. Sometimes the challenge of throwing together ingredients can feel like an episode of Chopped, but it’s rarely a bother. I have my staples and my special meals and the ability to upgrade either based on given time.

               For my free box, I was given three meals for a week, two servings each. (I imagine a single-serving meal kit would be a handy company—Table for One, perhaps?—but nonetheless). I tried to choose meals with ingredients I was unfamiliar with, things I hadn’t prepared on my own before, or tastes I hadn’t tried. This ruled out all the pastas and most of the Asian flavors since I’m generally fond of those. What I ended up with was a Yucatan Citrus Chicken Bowl, White Cheddar Wonderburgers, and Citrus & Spice Marinated Chicken.

               The box was delivered within the timeframe and each bag was individually labeled with the meal, although the meats were packaged separately for optimal cooling. This made it easy to just chuck the ingredients in the fridge for later. I made the chicken bowl first and immediately realized that the estimated time on the recipe card, helpful though it may be, was significantly less realistic than my actual time. Now, I’m familiar with prep and chopping and timing myself in the kitchen (even with unfamiliar recipes) but the overall time wasn’t real. I feel it would be better to have a professional chef, a home chef, and then an amateur cook their recipes and give times based off of those levels. What I liked about this recipe was it helped me learn how to make a homemade marinade beyond mixing sauces and spices in bowl, such as adding some zest or juice from citrus. I learned that I do enjoy poblano peppers, but cooking rice on the stovetop is not my favorite. Overall, this was a recipe I’d repeat, although I’d probably tweak the flavors as I expected it to be spicier than it was.

               The second meal was the burgers. I’ve always been the sous chef when it came to making burgers and never made them on my own. It was fun making fries from scratch to go with. The descriptions of the knife techniques are generally helpful, although I feel beginning cooks would also enjoy pictures there as well. When it came to mixing and shaping the meat, I added additional flavor beyond the recipe because of previous experience, but was glad for the instruction in cooking on the stove. The white cheddar was grated and I do feel sliced would have been better for melting, but it generally worked. My onions weren’t quite up to par, but still tasted nice enough. The burger was a bit large and difficult to plate; I almost dropped it on the floor during this process. The sauce for the buns and for dipping, however, was simple, but delicious (mayo, mustard, ketchup, and Old Bay Seasoning). I’m glad this gave me the confidence to tackle burgers on my own, but it was probably my least favorite of the three.

               Lastly, the marinated chicken. Again, I was pleased to learn more about creating marinates from zest and juice from oranges or other citrus. This was also my first time making couscous and, while I was nervous I’d mess it up, it turned out well and is something I’ll definitely be adding to my pantry in the future. The carrots on the side were hard to screw up because I roast carrots often. I did enjoy how all the flavors in this one blended together but, at the same time, it felt like it needed just a bit more to push it to the next level as it was a bit one note at times. I also misread the recipe because it prepped the toppings at the beginning when I feel they would have been better done toward the end, but that’s a practice and timing thing. The addition of the dried apricots in the couscous was something I wouldn’t have tried on my own, but it wasn’t that bad either.

               Overall, I’d say I had a positive experience with Hello Fresh. The meals provided a variety of familiar and unfamiliar ingredients and, I imagine, this would be the same for other households. It’s a good chance to discover cuisines and possibly find new things to add into your rotation. While it would save time in grocery shopping and meal planning, I don’t think it actually saves time when it comes to cooking because the estimated time is off. In households of more than one, it does present a nice opportunity to cook together or make it easier for someone to take the lead (other than Mom). I will say that the produce was decent enough, but I thought the meat was rather bland in quality and texture and didn’t taste as good as what I’d pick up in stores myself. If you are a person who enjoys meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking then Hello Fresh won’t necessarily add anything to your skills other than a chance to try something new. However, if you’re a beginning cook, a busy household, or want to try new things, then this meal kit may be worth a try.

               Whether you say Hello or not is up to you.