I really, really love getting things in the mail. I'd much rather shop online than in a store, and I've long since been intrigued by the meal-delivery subscription services that promise pre-cut and pre-measured ingredients delivered right to your door. When I saw a LivingSocial deal for HelloFresh, I jumped.
And, well, here we are.
The Process // Admittedly, the whole enterprise got off to a rocky start. I created an account, selected the Omnivore box, and attempted to check out. First it said my LivingSocial was invalid, then it said my credit card (to be used for a deposit) was invalid. I had several calls with the help desk and with Capital One, who confirmed my credit card was just fine. I knew this already, since in between fielding calls I was running errands and had used my credit card at Target and Bed Bath and Beyond without problem.
We never could get the issue resolved - in the end, I had to use B's email address and credit card to create an entirely new account, which HelloFresh accepted. Then the fun began. You can look at the available recipes for the week(s) you're receiving a box and choose which three (or four or five, depending on your subscription) meals you would like. We settled on Spanish steak salad, shrimp saganaki, and sausage and broccolini orecchiette. Then we just had to sit back and wait for delivery.
The Arrival // We were impressed with the delivery. Everything was sorted into boxes for each meal, and the meats were all stored with three giant freezer ice packs. It was well-organized and presumably followed food safety guidelines.
_Meal 1 // Sausage and broccolini orecchiette. When we unboxed this, we were both distinctly underwhelmed with the meager bouquet of broccolini. That was nothing, however, compared to our joint horror when B read the nutrition facts - supposedly, this recipe makes two servings, each at a whopping, terrifying 868 calories. Are they for real?! If I'm going to ingest 868 calories in one meal, it's going to include wine and/or dessert of some kind, preferably both.
So I was already terrified from the get-go. Then B had to "un-case" the sausage (or, as he called it, "de-condoming" the sausage). Yuck. There's a reason I don't eat much sausage. After that, the recipe went fairly smoothly: boil pasta, saute broccolini, saute sausage, put it all together and mix with the pre-packaged Parmesan cheese, pesto sauce, and red pepper flakes. The execution was simple.
And the end result was tasty, I have to say. We dumped the entire packet of red pepper flakes into ours, so it had a great kick to it. We only each ate about a fourth of it, so it was 434 calories per serving - still a little high for me but for a complete meal - starch, meat, and vegetable - it wasn't quite as bad. We would have liked more broccolini and less pasta, but overall it was delicious. I could see us trying to make this (or some version of it) again, but with some modifications for health purposes.
Meal 2 // Shrimp Saganaki. This sounds Asian, but it's not. It's apparently Greek. And it's very good. It reminded us both of the shrimp fra diavolo recipe that B's mom gave us, only with a few different tweaks. This one didn't have wine in it (a sad oversight), but it was still really good. We again used the entire package of red pepper flakes in our recipe, which gave it a kick that we both adored. We slightly overcooked the Israeli couscous, which made it a little too mushy, but the taste was delicious.
This supposedly makes two servings, each at 555 calories apiece, but we each ate more like 1/3 of the total mixture, so...you can do the math. It's still really high in calories, but if we were to make it again we would probably serve it with just a tiny bit of Barilla Plus angel hair pasta, which I prefer to the couscous. Of course, maybe it's because we just had couscous mush this time. Anyway. The flavor was on point here.
Meal 3 // Spanish steak salad. This meal was the biggest flop by far. It had all the ingredients and flavors for a good meal - roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, feta cheese, rosemary - but somehow when combined they turned out...blah. We're not sure how.
There was only a little bit of spring mix compared to the rest of the ingredients. The steak was really fatty and flavorless, and I didn't eat much of it at all. The vinaigrette didn't have much flavor (how does it not have much flavor when you have two crushed giant cloves of roasted garlic in it?!). The only winner was the roasted red peppers. That was the main takeaway from this: roast more red peppers.
This was also extremely high in calories - 701 per serving, thus proving that entree salads are not nearly as healthy as most people think and why I typically avoid them. But we didn't really eat a full serving. I barely touched the steak, we used less than half the vinaigrette, and we used less than half the feta. I would never make this again, except for the roasted red peppers. Not sure if it's the recipe or the ingredients, but it was blah. I know I keep using that word, but it's really the only one that fits.
The Verdict // The convenience of this cannot be denied. If you've got a houseful of kids and don't feel like dragging them to the grocery store, or if you work some kind of job with long or bizarre hours (doctor, lawyer), having your meals delivered to your doorstep with all the ingredients in the exact quantities you need would probably be a huge help.
The first two recipes were delicious, and the ingredients seemed to be of fairly good quality, although perhaps not exactly what we'd buy. They were well-balanced, with a good mixture of flavors and textures.
But the calorie counts are super high and the sodium and fat grams were also off the charts. In order to get a reasonable calorie count, you need to eat half a portion. Health-wise, this was a major flop, and probably the biggest deterrent for us.
Also, theoretically, this doesn't make any leftovers. The box we got was supposed to make three meals, each with two portions. However, due to the calorie count the only recipe we ate in one meal was the Spanish steak salad, and that was only because salads don't usually make good leftovers, especially since this one wasn't great to start with. If you take a ham sandwich for lunch every day this may not be a concern of yours, but we depend on our weeknight meals to provide leftovers for lunch.
Cost-wise, it seemed extremely expensive to us. Had we not had the LivingSocial deal, our box of three meals would have cost $69. That leads to $23 per meal, or about $12 per person per meal. Typically, we have a huge bag of frozen chicken breasts, some kind of seafood, and maybe a couple of steaks and/or ground turkey from Costco in the freezer. We also have all the spices and things like garlic and herbs on hand. If we were to re-create these meals, the only things we'd have to go out of our way to buy would be the produce, of which these recipes didn't feature much (we like a lot of vegetables, particularly green ones). Our per-person costs would be a lot lower if we made these recipes, or something similar, ourselves.
The bottom line? If convenience and taste is what you're after, this is a really great service. If health and cost are your main concerns, you're better off shopping and cooking for yourself.
**Side note: can I get ALL THE PRAISE HANDS for my incredible husband, who not only acquiesced to eating dinner at 6:00 in the afternoon so that the light would be good for photographs, but also who plated all of our food and made it look pretty. He is freakishly good at this. Not a talent I would expect of an automotive engineer, but there you have it. He's multi-talented, and I love him.
Disclaimer: I did not receive any free products or compensation for this blog post. I am simply reviewing for your information.