Monday, July 6, 2015

Product Review: Hello Fresh Meal Subscription

I recently tried out the Hello Fresh dinner ingredient delivery subscription, in my effort to eat more healthy, home-cooked meals, with minimum amount of work, and here is my review. I tried the service for four weeks, and I would still be using them except for one big problem.
My first box arrived from Hello Fresh. (I covered my address, of course).
I first found out about Hello Fresh because of an ad in my Facebook feed. It offered the first week half off, so I decided to check it out. The website is very easy to navigate, and they are good at keeping you posted with communication via email. I thought the $69 a week rate for 3 meals for 2 people each, was pretty reasonable, and sure enough, during the weeks I used them, I did reduce my grocery bill because I wasn't going to the store as often, and indulging in all the impulse buys that I usually do. Also, I mostly get my produce from Whole Foods, because they have the largest selection of organic produce, and the best looking produce of all the grocery stores in my area. And everyone knows how expensive they are, so yes, I did actually save money using Hello Fresh.

Here's what it looks like when you open the box. Everything well packed and labeled. The only downside is there is a lot of non-recyclable packaging.
In addition, I liked that most of their dinners were dairy free, which is really hard to find in this I-Love-Cheese country that we live in. (I avoid dairy products because I am lactose intolerant, they make me feel phlegmy and I also hate them). There was a very good variety of dinners during that four weeks that I used the service. There are three meals per week that are the default meals, and two alternative meals that you can choose if you don't like some of the default ones.

All the food items seemed to be good quality and very fresh.
Hello Fresh took away a lot of the parts of making dinner that I don't like: planning, shopping, and the waste that comes from cooking for just one or two people. (I live alone and my adult son sometimes comes over for dinner). If my son wasn't joining me for dinner, I saved the leftovers from one night's dinner and had them for lunch the next day. So I was really getting 6 meals.

My first recipe: A delicious chicken salad with beans.
All of the recipes, I found, were easy to make. I have been cooking dinner for 20+ years, but am not an expert chef, by any means. So I like simplicity. All of the meals ranged from good to excellent. There were a couple that were a little bland for my taste, but most of them were super yummy. And you get to keep the recipe cards, so I can make some of them again on my own in the future. The service provides all the ingredients, in the right quantities. You just cut them up and mix them together, following the recipe, which gives complete nutritional information.

Another recipe: Shrimp skewers with avocado/pineapple relish and herbed rice.
So with all that wonderfulness, why did I stop my subscription? Well, there was a big problem: delivery. Delivery cost is included in the $69 a week, which like I said, seemed really reasonable to me. The deliveries were made by UPS, BUT it was not reliable. During the first week, I received my box on Wednesday around noon. Great! I quickly unpacked everything, which looked very fresh, and stuck it all in the fridge, until I was ready to use them. During the second week, the delivery was supposed to come on Wednesday (the company promises Wednesday delivery between 8:30am and 8:30pm), but it didn't come and it didn't come. I called the company (very good phone customer service) and they said UPS claimed it was delivered! It was not! In fact, I didn't get the box until FRIDAY afternoon! By that time, all the meat products were spoiled and smelled so gross! They had been in the box for at least three days! Yuck! I called the company again, and they gave me a credit for the next week's box. I was so disappointed. And I had nothing for dinner that week.

Another delicious salad.
For the third week of my subscription, the box arrived on time, Wednesday afternoon. Phew! I was happy again! But for the fourth week - again no box on Wednesday! I called the company the next morning and they told me there was a delay and my box would arrive that day (Thursday). But the delay had ruined my Wednesday night plans when I had no dinner, so I told them then and there to cancel the subscription. It's not useful to me if I can't rely on it! When it didn't come, my whole schedule had to be altered to account for meal planning, shopping, etc.

A beef and rice entree.
I'm sad because I otherwise really liked Hello Fresh. Maybe they are a newer company and are experiencing growing pains? Maybe they will get their delivery issues worked out? I don't know, but in the mean time, I am going to try a competitor of theirs, Blue Apron, and see if they are any better about reliability. Stay tuned!