Meal Kit Reviews: Hello Fresh

Welcome to the second in a series of meal kit delivery reviews. In case you missed it, the first was for Blue Apron.

I love Blue Apron, but since I moved to New York, I figured it was time to check out some new meal kits. Having seen a few advertisements for Hello Fresh, I decided to give it a try.

Hello Fresh promises "Delicious ingredients you'll love to eat.
Simple recipes you'll live to cook." Recipes you'll live to cook? Hmmm, that seems a bit off, but it is, in fact, what their homepage says. Hey, I'm always available to write copy, Hello Fresh!

Cost: Currently, Hello Fresh offers three plans: the Classic Plan, the Veggie Plan, and the Family Plan.

The Classic Plan features meat and fish recipes. Each meal costs $9.99 per person. Customers can choose either two or three meals per week for either two or four adults.

The Veggie plan features (duh) vegetarian recipes. Like the classic plan, each meal costs $9.99 per person. Customers can choose either two or three meals per week for either two or four adults.

The Family Plan offers meat, veggie, and fish recipes that promise to feed two adults and two children. Each meal costs $8.74 per person, and customers can choose either two or three meals per week.

What You'll Get: Hello Fresh provides all the ingredients you'll need except oil, butter, white sugar, salt, and pepper. Jeez, Hello Fresh, I have to open my fridge, take out a stick of butter, and line my knife up with the tablespoon guide? Thanks a lot.

Packaging Hello Fresh Packaging

Hello Fresh comes to you in an insulation-lined box with ice packs to ensure (Hello) freshness. Each meal's ingredients (aside from meat and fish, which are packed separately) come in their own box that you can stick right in the fridge. OK, maybe rice and canned tomatoes aren't supposed to go in the fridge, but I stick everything in there, anyway.

Compared with Blue Apron, Hello Fresh uses more pre-packaged ingredients like little packets of mustard vs mustard that some worker lovingly slopped into a plastic container.

Quality: Ironically, Hello Fresh seems a little less "fresh" than some other meal kits. Ingredients like cabbage are more likely to come pre-chopped, and garlic comes pre-peeled. Maybe the chopped cabbage is every bit as fresh as the whole cabbage from another service, but something about it feels subpar to me.

That being said, the overall quality of the food was certainly adequate. However, my biggest gripe with Hello Fresh is that they do not make enough of an effort to send you the exact amount of ingredients required for recipes. As I mentioned, they rely more on pre-packaged items than precisely measured ingredients. Because of this, you'll often see notes in recipes that say not to use all of a certain ingredient because they "sent extra".

What the heck is this about, Hello Fresh?

I know this seems like a small gripe, but in my opinion it negates some of my reasoning for using a meal kit service: no wasted ingredients. What am I supposed to do with an extra teaspoon of sesame oil in a little squeezy bottle? I just use the whole amount whenever it makes sense to do so.

Ease of Preparation: Generally, I am able to get a Hello Fresh meal on the table faster than a Blue Apron meal. Hey, they've already chopped the cabbage for me! Those pre-prepared ingredients coupled with somewhat simpler techniques make Hello Fresh's ease of preparation about average amount the kits I've currently tried.

I do feel the directions are not as detailed as they could be. For example, Hello Fresh does not give you an zester-less alternative for obtaining zest from citrus. So, yeah, maybe get a zester because it's easier, anyway. Also, add some damn salt when you start cooking your rice no matter what the recipe says (or doesn't say).

Variety: Dan Savage doesn't advertise Hello Fresh during his podcasts, so I have no idea if they, like Blue Apron, pledge not to repeat any meals throughout the year. However, they do seem to offer a good variety of meals throughout the year, including some chef recipes from Rachel Ray, Mario Batali, and others.

You'll find that Hello Fresh offers meals with different cultural influences (Italian, Asian, etc), but the ingredients are not quite as exotic as what some competitors use. This may be a plus or a minus depending on your palate.

Flexibility: Hello Fresh has made their Classic Plan fairly flexible. As stated above, subscribers can choose two or three meals each week for either two or four adults. With no input, Hello Fresh will choose which meals are delivered for the week. However, customers are able to select which meals they'd like up to 11:59 pm PST five days before meal delivery is due.

Yes, with the Classic Plan you can choose from any of about eight meals each week, including breakfast meals. However, some meals are considered "premium" and will bump up the cost of your box.

Classic Plan subscribers can also choose which types of meats and seafood they'd prefer not to get. Within the Classic Plan, there are three options: "Fit", which features wholesome meals around 650 calories, "Quick", which features meals that are faster to prepare, and "Variety" for those who want to try new ingredients and tehcniques. Meal choice is not available for Veggie or Family plans.

As far as food allergies, Hello Fresh does identify allergens in its recipes. They state that they, "Leave it to [their] customers to review the ingredients and determine which recipes best meet their dietary needs."

Taste: Hello Fresh recipes provide a nice taste bang for the effort they require. A couple of my winners were Presto Pesto Panko Chicken (of course they sent "extra" pesto), and Dijon-Crusted Cod.

Presto Pesto Panko Chicken

Presto Pesto Panko Chicken, image courtesy of Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh meals were preferred by my other half. I think he liked the fact that we could get three meat recipes per week if we wanted them, and he appreciated the less veggie-heavy, less intimidating flavor profile.

Personally, I didn't feel Hello Fresh stood out from the pack taste-wise, but there were no duds in the weeks we used it. Of course, I make just about everything taste good because I'm awesome.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I feel that Hello Fresh is, although probably not my favorite meal kit, a worthwhile service. I recommend it for adult households who want more flexibility in their meal kit subscriptions.

Have you tried Hello Fresh? Comment below if you have. I'd particularly like to hear thoughts on the breakfast recipes as I haven't tried any yet.