If you live in London, chances are, you’ve been handed a voucher for HelloFresh outside some tube station or another within the last few months. (I understand HelloFresh operates in the U.S. too.) HelloFresh is a meal-delivery service that packs up everything you need to make at least three nice meals during the week and delivers it to your door on a Monday or Tuesday morning. One of my friends has been raving about the experience so as I’ve tried to get more seriously about cooking for myself instead of eating out, I thought I would give it a try.
I am lucky that I live in a building with a porter because he was able to take delivery of my HelloFresh box and keep it in a safe place for me while I was at work. I’m not sure how people who work during the day and live in buildings without porters would take delivery. In my old building, for example, my neighbors and I had more than a few parcels stolen.
That being said, the box is light enough so perhaps you could have it delivered to work and the schlep it home on the tube or bus.
My first box came with three recipe cards and all the ingredients for three meals. My recipes during the first week were chicken with dijon mushroom sauce, smoky burritos and then pan-fried salmon with new potatoes. During my second week, my recipes were chicken paella, fish and chips, and lamb koftas with tzatziki and rice.
Here’s a high-level overview of what I liked about HelloFresh as well as some of the challenges I experienced:
- Generally healthy recipes.
- Fairly easy to prepare. For someone who doesn’t cook much like me, this was reassuring.
- Fresh herbs with each delivery. I really liked this. They sent nice packages of rosemary, dill, parsley, etc. Fresh herbs really do make a difference.
- Very large portions. You could call this a pro or a con. I got three or four meals out of what was meant to be a meal for two.
- Decently priced. With the discount I received because I purchased on a friend’s recommendation, I spent £19 on my box the first week. That’s £3.16 a meal if you assume two meals per recipe. (But remember I got three if not four servings out of each recipe.) During the second week, my box was £39, or £6.50 a meal, which may seem pricey but remember I normally go out to eat. Just to be clear…I paid for these boxes myself.
- They use Zendesk for customer support, which is an excellent platform that prevents customer emails from getting lost and gives companies all sorts of good stats on their support levels. I am a dork about things like this. I was glad to see they have a system in place.
- Clean-up. The paella, in particular, was a bitch to clean up. Lots of pots and pans. After a long day at the office, the last thing I wanted to do was dishes.
- Vague instructions at times. For example, for my first recipe — the chicken with dijon mushroom sauce — I ended up with a ton of watery sauce, even though I feel like I followed the recipe pretty closely. I ended up siphoning off a lot of the water, which unfortunately took the dijon with it because there was only one tiny take-away packet of dijon. Another recipe told me to boil a large pot of water, but didn’t say how large.
- Related to the above, poorly edited recipes. One recipe told me to turn on the oven, but yet nothing ever went into the oven. (Imagine my existential crisis!) The paella recipe told me to throw in one-half of the rice, but never told me to put in the other half of the rice and I knew I had to. I pointed out the oven thing to them and they were aware of it…which begs the question…why not email your customers who received that recipe and let them know of the error before they attempt the recipe?
- They forgot to send me the chorizo for the paella but by the time I realized it, it was too late. (I was mid-recipe.) The paella turned out okay, but I know it would have been better with the chorizo.
- OK, call me Judgey McJudgerson but they used basmati rice for the paella and cheddar for the burrito. (When I complained — with love — about the cheddar for the burrito, they suggested I try feta instead. BLASPHEMY.)
- Customer support: I think this changed during my subscription but while I was making my first recipe, I wanted to call and speak to someone about the dijon mushroom sauce but their phone lines were already closed. So I had to write them an email instead and didn’t hear back from them for 23.5 hours. Personally, for something time-sensitive like cooking, 24 hour response times are kinda high.
- Too much food for one person. This is one of the main reasons why I am not continuing my subscription. I just couldn’t keep up. To be fair to HelloFresh, this is not really a meal service for one. It’s meant to be for two. I just thought that I could stretch out the six meals over the course of a week.
The Verdict: My two weeks with HelloFresh made me a better person, I swear! It helped me conquer my fear of the oven, although I still wouldn’t say I am entirely comfortable. It also made me think a lot about why I don’t like to cook and I think what I’ve come up with is a different explanation than the explanations I’ve used before (laziness, not knowing how).
See…I have always been a hard worker. I tend to work long hours and I am always thinking about work. This is a bad thing about me, but probably not something that will change overnight although I am always trying and I do think I’ve gotten better over the years. For example, in the old days, I would always go into the office for a few hours on a Sunday and prep myself for the week ahead. I don’t do that anymore and I really try to maximize my weekend and relaxation time because I know I need it for my brain to function well.
What I am trying to say is that after a long day at work, the last thing I want to do is come home and chop up vegetables and meat. I am tired of working at that point. I want it to be easy. And I think what didn’t work for me with HelloFresh is the amount of chopping pre-meal and the amount of cleaning post-meal. I want to maximize my relaxation time and while cooking is relaxing for many people, it’s not relaxing for me. It’s work. I am not sure that feeling will change anytime soon for me. So I think what I need to do is find super-quick and super-easy recipes that I can make in like 10 to 15 minutes that require minimum clean-up. (I think this explains why I like making quesadillas so much. So easy! And just one pan!) If you have any recipe suggestions along these lines, please let me know because much like I know I really shouldn’t go into the office on a weekend, I also know I should probably stop dining out so much.