A friend of mine, recently gave me the chance to try out the Hello Fresh Meals for free. I was aware of them from their promotional flyers in my Amazon deliveries and a friend I know organised them for her grandfather down south, to ensure he gets proper meals for dinner as she is too far away to keep a regular check on him. With my current quest to tackle weeknight meals, I was very much interested in trying these out.
My first introduction to buying meals with the fresh ingredients already measured out and just needing to be assembled and cooked, was back during my days in London. I first saw them at a stand in Charing Cross station (although sadly I have forgotten the name), and then shortly afterward another one appeared called Leaping Salmon. They had a selection of meals which differed each week and there was an optional wine element, which can be useful. The idea was great and I was surprised to see it didn’t survive, despite eventually appearing on the refrigerator shelves of Sainsbury’s amongst others, before disappearing altogether.
Hello Fresh on the other hand, has a longer lead time from ordering to delivery and is set up like a subscription service for regular deliveries (unlike the previous ones which you would just grab as you walked past headed to your train), which I suppose helps with the dreaded reality of working with fresh ingredients with a limited life and need for a quick turn around. I placed my first order, selecting the classic menu option, and then waited just over a week for it to arrive.
Thankfully, I was in to receive the package, although they are set up with a safe place delivery option to ensure you don’t miss out and risk spoiling any food.
I was very impressed with the packaging and how everything was presented. The box was designed to divide everything into sections, keeping the heavy items at the bottom of the box on one side, the cold section encased in a recyclable plastic bag with a padded liner (which looked like some kind of coarse straw-like natural material and which smelled a little like charcoal) and some ice blocks and the top section of lighter more delicate items along with the herbs, spices and information sheets. Everything came through intact and it was all good quality.
We got three recipes/meal for two people (the kids could make do with some more of that brown food I keep in the freezer); Jamie’s (as in Jamie Oliver) Chicken Noodle Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Cashews, Pan-Fried Cod with Lemon Risotto, Pork Belly and Chickpea Stew with Spring Greens and Smoked Paprika.
The first meal I made was the Pan-Fried Cod with Lemon Risotto. It was easy to pull together and to start making the meal. It was late in the evening already so nice to know it was only going to take 30 minutes to make. The finished risotto was a little wetter than I was used to so I cooked this for a little longer, but then it also took considerably less time. The cod itself was a nice piece with good flavour. Overall, the recipe wasn’t one I would make again at home (as I happen to be very happy with my current risoot and how I can adapt it). But if it came in my box again I would certainly be okay with it. It always surprising to see what you are willing to put up with under different conditions.
The second meal, Pork Belly and Chickpea Stew with Spring Greens and Smoked Paprika, was made by my husband. Yes! I was thrilled when he expressed interest in cooking it. I didn’t get to take many pictures of this process as I was relegated to another room to avoid scrutiny and back-seat direction. The final product however, was lovely. We both were very surprised at how much we enjoyed the meal and how filling it was. It came with a side of focaccia for toasting in the oven with olive oil and garlic. The stew itself had the most amazing smell with all that smoked paprika and whilst I initially thought the piece of pork belly was quite small, when tasting the dish, I never thought it was lacking anything. My husband is also not a fan of courgette, and he was pleasantly surprised to find he enjoyed the meal and ate all the courgette without any regret. As they give you a recipe card to make your meal, we have already made this meal again.
The third and final dish, was the Jamie Oliver Chicken Noodle Stir-Fry with Broccoli and Cashews. Again, I was treated to having this made by my husband. (If this isn’t motivation to subscribe to this service longer term, then I don’t know what is!) It was spicy and full of flavour (Just ignore the burnt cashews in the picture above). Again, we really enjoyed this dish and added it to our ‘make-again’ pile. We are both fans of cashews which made this an easy sell. I also really liked the amount of vegetables, for someone who doesn’t eat much meat any more. On the plus side, my husband found there was more than enough meat and it made for a substantial meal.
Overall, I was really impressed with Hello Fresh. I had previously felt it was an expensive meal which I wouldn’t entertain within our budget.
After trying it out, I was happy to have no left over ingredients which might get wasted, or which I would need to plan into another meal. The food was the type of stuff I would try out myself (there are a few different types of boxes you can choose from, depending on your needs and tastes) and we enjoyed the lack of hassle that came with each meal. I also really, really liked having someone make the decision for me, even if just for a few nights. I love my food but sometimes it would be nice if someone asked me to make something specific so I don’t have to make all the choices. This seems to be the resounding feedback I get from people who used to do all the cooking for years and then suddenly give up on it altogether. They get burnt out having to do all aspects of the cooking indefinitely. These meal boxes are a great way to prevent that. I also loved my husband cooking something for us which was different, and was not toast or pasta.
Having to order it a week before it is received takes bit more planning than just doing your weekly shop. I can completely see the need for them to do this and to keep it successful, also subscribing to this long term would allow you to accommodate for this. Price wise, it is more expensive than buying your own groceries yourself, which may dissuade you from using it all that often. If you are doing a weekly take away then you might not notice this if you swap it out for a few of these meals a week. We don’t do regular meals out or take-aways, so for us this is an increase in our budget overall.
That said, the convenience of having the boxes delivered to you, shopping done, all the decisions made for you (assuming you don’t mind letting that side go), can make this a great addition to your weeknight meals. I can see this working really well mid-week when both partners are working and come home from work and need a meal quickly. It avoids the bad choices you might make when you come home hungry and have nothing planned. I also thought it was a great option for the weekends when you are busy running around trying to squeeze in that precious time with your family, and having your meals already planned, giving you healthy, fresh meals which can be prepared in minutes.
I can see a lot of benefits of using this system and it has certainly opened up my eyes to building this into our future meal planning when our lives get more hectic with work, kids and evening commitments. I just need to wrestle with letting go of my own meal planning, which just might happen a little sooner than I am ready for.
If you are interested in trying out Hello Fresh for yourself, here is a promotional code for £25 off your first box.
Conditions of use – Cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotions or discounts, and can be used by new customers only. Please do not post the coupon code on a coupon code website or third party platform or it will be withdrawn.