Week Three of Hello Fresh: delicious meals and quasi-final thoughts

Earlier this week we got our third Hello Fresh meal delivery. The teenager (I have reason to believe teenager #2 will be moving this week; as she has only been home a few hours in the last week, I hereby formally declare that teenager #1 is now, once again, the teenager) asked to try one of the discount offers provided in another of our subscription services.

They are certainly clever marketers. Box one comes at something like 50% off, then they scale back the discount until delivery four is eight percent off.

And box five, for four people, once you include the shipping, is about $40 per meal.

On my previous Hello Fresh posts (see Hello Fresh, Continuing Thoughts on Hello Fresh, and Hello Fresh Delivery Two)

Now, as I have mentioned, I am a good home chef and a very thrifty shopper. For the cost of one of these meals I bet I could replicate at least three of their recipes.

But that’s not the real point of one of these services, at least in my opinion.

These services:

  • Renew people’s interest in being in the kitchen.
  • Teach people to cook without the risk of randomly googling a meal on the internet, buying the wrong ingredients or admitting you don’t have any skill in the kitchen.
  • Offer the convenience of avoiding the shopping experience or running out of or forgetting a key ingredient.
  • Provide better choice and healthier options than restaurants.
  • Help people meal plan and stick to that plan which can reduce the chance of poor food-related decisions.
  • And my favorite, expose people to new recipes and new uses to standard ingredients, expanding a person’s cooking repertoire. That, in my opinion, is worth the investment and why, after next week, I will be converting to a two-meal, once-a-month plan.

Now for the “cons” of specifically Hello Fresh:

  • I am freaked out by the idea that my raw meat spends 24-36 hours in transit, and by the amount of ice packs in that box. The waste generated upsets me. I noticed that our cat foster godmother reuses the boxes as cat huts.
  • The ingredients sometimes disappoint. I bought their “chicken protein pack” and their chicken strips were tiny chunks— like popcorn chicken. I ordered an extra bag of Brussel sprouts and they were either $3.50 or $3.99, which is the going rate for fresh Brussels. Now they are my favorite and I thought Hello Fresh might have access to special sprouts. Maybe organic or a unique source. Nope. Green Giant.
  • Our schedules in this house are chaotic and finding the time and energy to commit to preparing several meals a week like this is more stressful than I anticipated.
  • The recipes assume you have a certain efficiency in the kitchen. I think we, on average, require one hour at least for a meal that should take 10 minutes prep time and 30 to cook.
  • There’s a lot of rice.
  • I’m not sure these meals fill me up for more than two hours.
  • There are cheaper meal delivery services available. One friend recommended trying Every Plate.

So what have we tried so far?

  1. Pork with Apple Dijon Pan Sauce over farro and wilted kale. (Photos above) I liked it. Teen found the pork scrumptious and well-seasoned but does not care for neither farro nor kale.
  2. Thai Ginger Curry with creamy coconut veggies, peanuts and lime rice. I loved their creative use of red peppers and green beans for the vegetables. They provided a fantastic, full-fat coconut milk. Teen did not care for it. She likes my curries, but this curry was not her thing.
  3. Tuscan Garlic Butter Chicken with creamy kale and paprika carrots. Amazing. All around. The Tuscan heat spice blend excites me. Teen still hates kale.
  4. Paprika Chicken in a Lemony Sauce with pistachio rice and roasted carrots. Not the rich Hungarian dish I was hoping for but very yummy. We both agreed. The pistachios in the rice seemed so decadent.
  5. Thai Shrimp with candied peanuts over sesame cabbage and arugula. I bombed this one. I loved the salad portion and the peanuts, but I’m not a fan of shrimp. The teen loves shrimp but is not fond of purple cabbage and discovered that she detests arugula. So I ate salad for three days until I got sick of it and she ate a lot of shrimp.
  6. Meatloaves with creamy mushroom sauce plus garlic mashed potatoes and roasted Brussel sprouts. The teen and I might agree this was our favorite. But I didn’t eat my mushrooms.
  7. Creamy Cilantro Steak Bowls with garlic lime rice and charred poblano. I enjoyed this one but they were so generous with the steak portions that I got three meals out of what was listed as two servings. This was spicy. And that was good, but the vegetable was onions and neither the teen nor I wanted to chomp on a serving of cooked onions.

We have one meal left this week— apricot ginger chicken— and one more box coming this week. Hello Fresh offered a refresh of our taste buds, but hits hard on the wallet.

Review: End of Hello Fresh week two and random junk we tried

My daughter often stops at Grocery Outlet in part because of their “rainbow Coke program” where you can rummage through lose cans of soda and mix and match flavors for 25 cents each. They have weird food, good deals, and allow us to try things on which we wouldn’t usually splurge.

Tonight we made the Cheetos Jalapeño Macaroni and Cheese. Now, hands down, without question, my absolute favorite ultra-processed boxed macaroni and cheese product is Wegmans house brand Spirals and Cheese dinner, which I often used to get on sale for 33 cents a box.

This hard larger than average noodles that once prepared very quickly absorbed all the sauce. It tasted exactly like jalapeño cheetos. Except you didn’t have to chew so much. I ate a bowl, and the spice developed on the roof of my mouth versus my tongue. I added a can of tuna and had another bowl. A two-serving box was 79 cents.

Other Random Products

  • Fried Oreos: finally tried them at Sheetz. Gooey in the middle. Enjoyed them but was disappointed by the end product because I never realized how much of the allure of Oreos was in the crunch factor.
  • Strawberry Ice Cream Cone Hershey Kisses: very smooth strawberry flavor and I didn’t expect the crunchy bits. Honestly, between 20 flavors of Oreos and constantly rotating flavors of Hershey Kisses, my taste buds are getting burnt out. How many different flavors of potato chips and Mountain Dew do Americans really need?
  • Tropical Swedish Fish: like the iconic red flavor of Swedish Fish that vaguely resembles cherry, these tropical Swedish fish vaguely resemble something familiar but the flavors listed on the box aren’t even all flavors (passion fruit, pina colada, beachy punch and tropical island). They are weird and the colors are muted and off-putting.
  • Dunkin’s Peach Lemonade Refresher: possible one of the most over sweetened items I have ever tasted. Even teenager #1 who likes sweet things couldn’t drink it. So I suggested she blend it with some diet ginger ale we had in the house. That she loved.

And as promised— a brief update on Hello Fresh.

Meals, for four servings, cost about $35 each, when including shipping. The meals are amazingly curated and the recipes amazing. This week I tried to pick things my daughter would like but that I wouldn’t normally buy or don’t often take the time to make.

The Turkey meat loaves with mashed potatoes, Brussel sprouts and mushroom sauce were a hit. But the shrimp Thai salad bombed. I don’t care for shrimp, poor teenager #1 struggled to eat it all. And didn’t. And it turned out I didn’t notice when I ordered it that the based of the salad was arugula. And the teen hates arugula. So I ate massive vegetarian salads for dinner for three days. They were scrumptious but I don’t want to eat arugula again for a while.

We downsized our box from three meals to two as it is Sunday, another box ships tomorrow and we still have steak from last week to make.

So while we are eating better, we are spending a whole lot of money, struggling to find time to be in the kitchen and then stressing over getting the meals prepared before they go bad or another box shows up.

Continuing thoughts on Hello Fresh two meals in

We were supposed to receive our Hello Fresh box on Tuesday, but it arrived Monday. Despite having an extra day to implement our meal plan, here it is Friday and we just got to preparing our second meal.

Teenager #1 wanted to do the majority of the cooking and utilize me in the helper role.

Today was garlic butter chicken with paprika roasted carrots and creamy kale.

Like I did, teenager #1 had a few foibles. I appreciated the roasted carrots as I am not a big carrot fan. Luckily the chicken cutlet was indeed a cutlet and did not disappoint me like the strips.

And it was delicious.

Our last meal for this week is the paprika chicken.

Hello Fresh advertises that they save you money on your grocery bill. But the full price of three dinners for four people is $89.99 plus $8.99 shipping. My entire monthly grocery bill is about $300 a month.

So we invest in Hello Fresh right now to find new recipes and renew our efforts in the kitchen and keep real food in the house while I am working all this overtime.

To read my first impressions, click here: Hello Fresh

My initial review of Hello Fresh

I enjoy cooking.

I adore eating.

I run a very thrifty household.

So, I decided to use my birthday money and one of those special introductory offers you see everywhere and try Hello Fresh.

It arrived Monday.

Here is the halfhearted unboxing as I was running out the door to go to work: First Hello Fresh Box (unboxing)

We made the honey-ricotta crisps for breakfast yesterday. Here are the videos for that:Part one and Part two.

My only criticism is that what they call a “baguette” is what I call a roll. Maybe Italian but not French. Folks, if your baguette is soft on the outside it is not a true French style bread. It should be crispy outside and soft inside.

Today I started cooking. For real.

Before continuing, please note: my spirit animal is a cat. As a consequence, I don’t like being told what to do and I tend to be flexible with directions. If you’re a strict, play-by-the-book sort, you might have a stroke reading this.

Because we just make pork with rice and stir fry vegetables on Monday, I didn’t want rice. Two of my meals include rice. (Teenager #1 cooked the pork, teenager #2 said it was delicious. I am eating mine at work tonight.)

I decided to make the vegetarian curry, but swap the rice for the creamy kale from the Tuscan chicken dinner.

I ordered extra chicken, just to try some of their other products. Let me say, even as I make some criticisms, everything was delicious. And having a food service, retail background and commercial kitchen experience, I know some of the challenges Hello Fresh faces when combining food with a subscription service.

But this chicken is not “strips.” The package says strips, but it is chunks. And wow is whatever that packaging juice is slimy. Some of these chunks were too small to even cook. I fed them to the dog.

Hello Fresh chicken “strips”

I made the chicken with everything else because I usually have breakfast at 1 and dinner at 7:30 so I wanted to make it a little heartier.

The curry included fresh lime, fresh cilantro, and an amazing full fat coconut milk. It included green beans and red pepper as the base of the meal which wouldn’t be my normal pick. Turns out it’s a great mix. And the recipe forced me to work with shallots. Have never done that.

I hate onions, but I know they cook down in a recipe like this.

The secret to the creamy kale was Tuscan heat spice and sour cream. Kale and sour cream go so well together… I wonder how it would be with herbs de Provence instead of Tuscan heat…

Finally, let me at that the meal is supposed to take 45 minutes, prep & cooking. Mine took more than an hour, in part because I didn’t stick to one meal but mixed and matched.

We still have two more meals and I did schedule a box for next week.

With mandatory overtime ongoing at work, it’s an easy way to make sure I eat real food.