What’s for dinner? If you’re like us, trying to answer that question every night can be exhausting.
Meal kits are becoming more and more popular, and while they don’t necessarily save you time or money in the kitchen, at least you have an answer to the conundrum. But how do you choose? We tested a couple to see which are best. Last week we looked at Sun Basket, and this week we’re going to talk about HelloFresh.
HelloFresh was on our list of meal kits to try because, well, frankly, we’d seen a lot of advertising for it online, and it seemed like a good starting point (plus, they offered 50-percent off our first box — in!). Sign up was really easy: All we had to do was create an account, choose a plan (Veggie, Classic, or Family), then choose from 16 meal options for that week.
We chose the Classic plan for two people, which started at $10 per serving. We were pleased overall with the selections, which included vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free options in addition to regular meat-filled choices.
We added our address, chose our delivery day, and waited eagerly for our meal kit to arrive.
The box arrived on the day it was promised. It was packed well, with foil and ice packs to protect the perishables. Our first meals were the Juicy Lucy Burger with Tomato Onion Jam and Arugula Salad, Creamy Dill Chicken With Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans, and Crab Cakes Under a Meyer Lemon-Dressed Salad. Yum.
Also included in the box were thick heavy note cards with step-by-step instructions on how to cook each meal.
Each dinner was in a separate, labeled paper bag, with individually-wrapped packages containing the correct proportions of sauces, seasonings, and herbs. While the fresh veggies looked fine for the most part, a few times we were disappointed in the quality of the produce. For example, the tomatoes were not ripe enough in one package, and the green beans in another were starting to go bad (we had to throw several away).
The quality of the meat: decent. Nothing spoiled or otherwise foul-looking. Most of the ingredients were labeled as organic.
The note card instructions are listed in an easy-to-read fashion, outlining six steps you need to take to prepare the dish. The card also gives helpful tips, such as what a “sprig of thyme” means and suggesting a wine to pair with the meal.
We found the instructions simple to follow, but sometimes HelloFresh seemed to cram too much information in the six-step format.
For example, for our crab cakes, step one said: “Wash and dry all produce. Adjust racks to middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Finely chop tomatoes. Trim, then thinly slice scallions. Mince or grate one clove garlic. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Zest lemon until you have 1 tsp of zest, then halve. Squeeze two tbsp juice into small bowl.” That’s really more than one step.
Another thing we didn’t care for is HelloFresh’s general “season meat with salt and pepper” instructions. Experienced cooks know to season generously; otherwise, you’re eating a very bland piece of chicken or steak. A novice cook might not know to do that, and in fact, even though we’d rate our kitchen skills as intermediate, we found ourselves eating bland meat based on the instructions.
Most of the meals took between 30 and 45 minutes to prepare, with many of the dishes requiring use of both the oven and the stove top. So while you’re saving yourself a grocery trip, keep in mind that you’re not necessarily saving time with dinner prep.
For the most part, our food turned out delicious. Our favorite dishes were the Juicy Lucy Burger and the Crab Cakes (although we could have used more of the aioli on that one). The flavors of the New York Strip Steak With Truffle Butter were incredible, but the steak was a bit chewy. We wish that HelloFresh allowed you to substitute for better cuts of meat like Sun Basket does.
The portions were very generous (the carnitas pork tacos yielded six large ones) and the two-person meal plan would work well for three if you have just one small child at home, like we do.
Meals start at $8.74 for the family plan, which can serve up to four people, but are $10 per serving for the classic and veggie plans. You can choose to have two, three, or four meals delivered per week, and skip meals whenever you want. We found it easy to choose meals and easy to cancel our membership after just a few weeks.
Shipping is free, which is a huge bonus. When we wanted to cancel we simply went to the website and hit the cancel button. The process was a lot smoother than Sun Basket’s, which required us to email our cancellation request.
We really liked HelloFresh. The meals were tasty and in the three weeks we tested the service, we liked most of the dishes. We do wish there was a bit more variety in the type of food served (it seemed like a lot of American-style food), and we also wish we didn’t have to turn on the oven so often. Still, we’d say that with generous meal portions and offerings that are family-friendly, HelloFresh is a great choice for families who prefer meat and potatoes types of meals.