Monday, February 4, 2013

The Nervous Cook says, "Hello," to Hello Fresh

"Hello there," says I when a box full of food arrives at me office one day last week. "What we got in 'ere then, mate?"

What she was is a trial shipment from a plucky little start-up company called Hello Fresh, which is a mail-order service that delivers all the ingredients and instructions you'll need to cook up nourishing, well-balanced meals at home. If you live anywhere from Maine to Miami and east of Chicago, you can order yourself a special delivery that will if not eliminiate your need to grocery shop, at least it will relieve it a little.

Available in three-meal increments serving 2, 4 or 6 people (and as either a vegetarian or meat-inclusive package), the boxes are shipped on a weekly basis, with everything preportioned and laid out with clear, easy-to-follow instructions—complete with photos for absolute beginners (and nervous cooks).

I'm so deeply in love with anything that inspires people to learn to cook or to learn to love to cook at home (if I can do it, anybody can do it) that I couldn't wait to give this thing a whirl, and to see what all delicious healthiness could come in the mail and help simplify everybody's weeknight-dinner living.

The box I received had three vegetarian recipes and all the trimmings (minus salt, pepper, and olive oil), and set out to make a batch of black bean and corn stew. You know, like you do on a cold winter's evening.

This particular dish happens to be one I've made with my own spin about a zillion times, so it was interesting to try follow someone else's interpretation to the letter. The instructions couldn't have been clearer or more concise, and the whole time I was following them I thought, "Wow, this would be so great for [name of best friend who really wants to learn how to cook for himself but is having trouble finding the time and motivation redacted]." 

In fact, I think I just decided what I'm getting him for his birthday in two weeks. GOOD THING HE DOESN'T READ MY BLOG.  Pass-agg

For me, however, as a seasoned home cook, the process and the package was good, but not great. Don't get me wrong: The food itself was fine, and the recipe was fine: Again, I have whipped up more or less this exact thing on my own accord time and time again.

There were a couple things I would have changed or would suggest for future boxes:
  • Pantry meal. I was slightly disappointed to receive a box and recipe that comprised mostly canned items (corn, beans, tomatoes) and staples (onion, garlic, cumin, rice, bouillon) that I already have on-hand. Again, I'm a really well-stocked and seasoned (see what I did there?) home cook and these are designed for folks who have less inclination or experience in the kitchen, but… I mean… it is called Hello Fresh, not Hello Cans.

  • So much plastic. The fact that the ingredients are all preportioned is fantastic for newbie cooks, but all the plastic wrap and bags made my little green-conscious heart break. Surely there's a less landfilly way to package these components?

  • Whoops—I don't eat that. There are a couple of ingredients here that I personally choose not to cook or consume, which again isn't Hello Fresh's fault, because they're not mind readers: Bouillon cubes, white rice, high-sodium canned beans, and basically all non-organic everything always are no-nos on the Nervous table. Hopefully the company will be able to allow folks to make certain notations or substitutions on their accounts to allow for those kinds of restrictions. (Again, I realize I'm not the norm at all. Though of course for totally hippie-dippie conscious-consumer reasons I totally wish I were.)

Anyway, I would classify my Hello Fresh experiment as an overall success with those smallest of caveats: I added shrimp for Mr. Nervous (his bowl is pictured below), ate mine over greens instead of the rice, and we were both happy. Also, I'm not sure who decided this recipe makes two servings, but we definitely ate half of it for dinner happily with a side salad each, and have two full servings leftover, which is actually pretty awesome. HELLO, TACO NIGHT!)

What do you think about the idea of having meal plans, recipes, and ingredients delivered right to your door on the weekly? If you're interested in trying out Hello Fresh, check out the company's website for more information, pricing, and sample recipes.

NB: I was approached by Hello Fresh about featuring their product on my blog, and agreed. They sent me a 3-recipe box (2 servings per) at no cost, in return for my honest opinion. The review is my own and is authentic; I received no further compensation for my time or writing.


  1. I personally find that $70 for 3 meals for two people is actually not that cheap, especially if you are buying food that is not organic and most of the ingredients are either canned or pantry staples. The idea is original, I agree, and may get people who fear cooking into the kitchen, but imagine how much they are spending to assemble each package (thus making off of you)?

    1. I agree: I usually spend about $120/week for two people on groceries, and I prepare fully 85% or more of my own meals. But for someone who doesn't cook at all and eats out all the time, it might be something of a steal!

  2. I tried a trial box from HelloFresh; I definitely appreciated the convenience! As a single person though, it didn't make sense for me at the moment though (at least not for now!)

    1. I wonder if having "how to save leftovers" instructions would be helpful. It does seem like a great idea occasionally, if not every single week.

  3. DO NOT USE HELLOFRESH.COM ……tried for 3 weeks …. week one missing one minor ingredient …week 2 missing major meat ingredient …week 3 no box came at all ….told it was a glich in their system ..hellofresh now canceled!

  4. I love Hello Fresh! Fresh tasty foods delivered awesome! The recipes are new and delicious. Here use code Y8WPXK for $20 off your first order.

  5. I use them in The Netherlands and they are awesome. Inexpensive too. Here they provide everything fresh no cans. I ordered for one person because I'm a vegetarian and my hubby is not and it works. They use organic too probably because of your suggestions.

  6. We tried Hello Fresh. I could not yelp this or I would. The site is very mis-leading.

    What you actually get are items you could easily pick up at the store in the organic section.

    The one item that is mis-leading, they DO NOT provide the main meat item. They provide the items to cook with. Basically the accessories for the recipe.

    The instructions are easy to follow. However, the bang for buck is not worth it. You are paying for 'supposed' fresh vegetable and condiments along with the recipe and nothing more.

    One other bad item is that there is excessive plastic bag packaging for everything. If you are using a site like this, you are probably aware of the environment and this packaging IS NOT environmentally friendly.

    Lastly, they make it extremely tricky to cancel your subscription. You have to watch a video to see how you can de-activate your account.

    You would be better off going to your local market, go to the organic section and buy in bulk. Better bang for buck and less waste, especially on plastic that does not get recycled,


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