I’ve always questioned the purpose of the meal kit companies such as HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Plated, and the like. The cost would total around $60-ish per week for a few meals for two people, which is a lot when considering the amount of food provided for each meal. Regardless, the magic is having bagged ingredients delivered to your doorstep.
Seeing the box at your door is exciting, but let’s be honest — that lazy Santa Claus is paying FedEx and UPS drivers to do his dirty work. That damn Sasquatch also has prime opportunity to upgrade from children’s lunches to adult food boxes.
One thing is for certain: It does save a bunch of grief having to deal with the frustration of going to a grocery store, especially Wegmans — yes, I dare say that — and dealing with the inept and aimless customers.
Note: I’m also a person who enjoys the therapeutic aspects of cooking. The same can be said for my partner, who is far more skilled at cooking and baking than I. She opted to try the service due to getting her hands on a coupon.
With the padding and bags of food, the box seems a little big. Some of the meal bags are a little large for the contained ingredients. Sure ordering in bulk saves a lot, but there is a lot of extra space that can be utilized.
I have the same issue with Dollar Shave Club. Four razors come in a tiny plastic case with a glossy paper sleeve. This matchbook-sized case arrives in an unnecessary large envelope. Kudos these are recyclable materials but this seems contradictory.
The cost of your product probably includes paying for these shipping materials.
Sure, HelloFresh, those bags may be greener than a salad bar, but they’re sometimes a little unnecessary.
The ingredients received with the purchased meal plan is less than what you can buy at the store. Yes, it’s enough for the meal it’s a part of, but the bang for your buck can still be bought at the store.
Let’s look at the cherry balsamic pork chops, which we had for the second meal.
The big red flag for me was the tiny, hotel-room-sized bottle of balsamic vinegar and 1-ounce jar of cherry preserves. They’re adorable, but it seems like a waste. The packets of seasoning were on the small-yet-just-enough side of things, which saves time measuring out those tea and tablespoons.
Or dashes. What’s up with those?
The package of broccoli florets was questionable. A crown of broccoli can be purchased for 99 cents.
The spuds to go with that dish were numerous, but they weren’t packaged up like everything else. It’s like someone on the conveyer belt took two skoopski potatoes and bang — threw them in there.
For our first meal, the chicken fajitas, the ingredients (seen in the second photo below) were odd. There is a huge yellow pepper with wrinkly and leathery (a.k.a the last hurrah), a tiny onion with a couple bruises, one jalepeño, an awkwardly social lime (just came for the party), a condom wrapper-sized package of seasoning (to protect a consumer from contracting bland flavor), and flour tortillas.
Aside from the quality of the produce, there are a few things wrong. First, the taco-sized tortillas (not fajita-sized — yes, there are specific sizes scaling up to tortillas for burritos), were bent, damaged, and adhered to each other like conjoined siblings.
There are also two different peppers. Why not diversify? To even out the flavor playing field a little bit, why not give a couple jalepeños (so there is truly enough for two people) or one or two Aleppo or Fresno peppers? Stores do provide those smaller sweet peppers. It’ll diversify the flavor, brighten the color of the meal, and spread out the heat a little bit.
- Where is the tomato? Of all things to leave out…
- How about that hot sauce? If they make baby bottles of balsamic vinegar, there have to be hot sauce equivalents out there.
- Guac or salsa? Wait! Who am I kidding? Those two are always extra.
- There is that random sour cream condiment packet, which probably should have been kept under cooler temperatures. It’s the cereal box toy no one wants.
- The seasoning in the condom package wasn’t flavorful to our liking, so we doctored it up.
- And again with those tortillas…
The third meal was actually really good — the “Gorgeous Greens Farro Bowl” — and I love the way the name of it rolls off the tongue.
The ingredients were quality and plentiful. Yet seeing two lone cloves of garlic in a plastic wrapper it was a little offputting in the sad, Sarah McLachlan arms-of-an-angel sense. It’s like they were quarantined, screaming to be included. Garlic makes (almost) every meal better.
We added leftover chicken to the mix for extra oomph.
What’s the takeaway?
PRO: I get HelloFresh and the like are convenient. Having food shipped to your door saves time from having to go to the local super or mini market, plus it cuts out dealing with the holiday rush and the aisle hogging cart drivers.
FACE IT: You’re going to have to go to the store at some point. On that rainy day at work, when going out for lunch is a bland idea, plan out the grocery list or meals during the week and get it all in a one-stop shop. Also, supermarkets and other stores are now offering delivery services.
PRO: These food carrying cases and materials are made out of recycled materials. Those plastic grocery bags are killing the planet.
A BIT IMPARTIAL: The aforementioned recyclable materials are great. However, too much of something is still a waste of [recycled] paper. The meal kits come in bulky bags and in a large box. Some people still don’t recycle.
PRO: Little food waste and appropriate food portion size.
TRUTH: If you’re cooking this stuff up right, no food should go to waste. It’s in their scheme (a good scheme). Plus it’s not a bad deal if you have leftovers.
HMM: With that said, are the costs of kits worth it?
MY THOUGHTS: No, but I can’t speak for everyone. Since a consumer is getting “just enough” for each recipe, you’re spending the money on ingredients you can’t revisit, except for the shipping materials. Don’t expect the condom-sized packet of seasoning to automatically refill, but you can get more out of buying the larger-sized spice/seasoning containers at the store — including a dollar store.
PRO: More recipes.
HOWEVER: In order to get these step-by-step meal builders, HelloFresh app has to be downloaded, which means dirty fingers have to swipe the screen o get to the next step and they will have to keep signing in to your device when the screen locks.
Recipe books existed before these meal kit services existed, and they can be bought on the cheap at your local used bookstores and Barnes & Noble, which constantly offers radically discounted recipe books. And then there is Pinterest and countless other electronic avenues to find recipes.