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There is no argument that meal preparation services are convenient. The question is whether the meal is easy, frugal or most delicious.
Hello Fresh Diet Plan
Nothing beats a fresh, home-cooked meal made with quality ingredients straight from the farmer’s market or local grocer and seasoned to your liking. It’s equal care and delicious personalized taste.
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But more often than you’d like, that’s not possible. The kids’ schedules are too busy, work meetings are running late, or we just can’t muster the energy, creativity, or foresight needed for such meals.
All of these reasons for choosing other meal solutions are entirely relative, which is why meal prep services like Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Home Chef have achieved such success. If you’re not sure if one of these services is a good fit, look no further—we’ve tested it for you so you can decide if it fits your lifestyle.
HelloFresh is a meal kit provider based in Germany that has been very successful in the United States. Meals that customers choose from a menu of over 20 options are delivered straight to your door each week. The company allows customers to purchase up to six different recipes per week in two or four serving sizes. I chose to order three meals with two portions each.
The easy-to-navigate menu includes various meals labeled as “Calorie Smart,” “Carb Smart,” “Easy Cleanup,” “Easy Prep,” “Veggie,” etc. to help customers make the best choice based on their needs. Appetite and schedule for the week. My meal of choice? Chicken ramen in shoyu-style broth, pan-fried garlic herb gnocchi and Louisiana-style tilapia.
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HelloFresh has been one of the original meal prep services and a beloved dinner companion for more than a decade, but in the summer of 2021, the company launched HelloFresh Market, expanding it into a more comprehensive food service.
Through the market, customers can order breakfast, side dishes, snacks, drinks and even fresh produce. The supplements are included in the same box as the other recipes and come from a range of brands and vendors, including Pillsbury, Annie’s Homegrown, Sargento, Larabar and more. (These are our favorite store-bought snacks!)
I decided to splurge on some extra goodies for experimental purposes. These items include Intelligentsia Masala Oat Lattes, Spinach and Feta Egg Bites, Blount Clam Shack New England Clam Chowder and Mini Vanilla Cheesecakes.
When I cook for myself from scratch, I go to the grocery store twice a month. On average, I spend $80 each time, which is for two weeks of breakfasts, lunches, and two high-yield dinners that I prepare and eat during those two weeks. (Note: I don’t usually cook meat for myself, so it can save money.) The HelloFresh plan I chose, which is the company’s most popular option and lasted a week longer than my usual two, cost $66 plus shipping. HelloFresh Market extras netted me an extra $40.
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In the end, I was making about $100 worth of food a week—much more than I would normally spend—and that’s not including the bread, milk, snacks, and produce I ate to supplement my meals.
But like many others, I’m willing to splurge for convenience. It almost is
I left my home office Wednesday morning to pick up a well-insulated box of food that had been left in the lobby. The hard part? Bringing the box up three flights of stairs.
According to the website, HelloFresh meals take between 20 and 50 minutes to prepare, depending on the recipe. Well, you should if you’re fast in the kitchen. I’m embarrassingly slow at food prep (yes, I could probably work on my knife skills…), but each meal took between 10 and 15 minutes to prepare than estimated.
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So when I prepare other meals, I usually spend an hour in the kitchen. All of my HelloFresh meals are on the table in 55 minutes or less, thanks to portioned ingredients, chopped meat, etc. Plus, I spent less time making my grocery list and browsing the supermarket. All things considered, I was saving about 30 minutes a night. It’s not bad!
Unfortunately, however, I can say that time is not saved in the clearing. Apart from a few measuring spoons, the number of utensils used has not been significantly reduced. Expect the standard amount of pots, pans and measuring cups piled up in your sink by the end of the meal—or, if you’re concerned about the mess, try one of the company’s “easy cleanup” recipes!
I’m no pro, but these recipes are super simple. Tips, ingredient lists and easy-to-use instruction cards with photos and step-by-step instructions make preparation simple. Some of the methods used in cooking are frying, baking, frying, boiling and even microwaving. Simple enough, right? If some of these sound unfamiliar, don’t worry. The instructions are written in an accessible manner, making them doable for even the most novice cook.
The most challenging part is the timing. Since you are cooking the entrees and sides at the same time, time management is critical. You don’t want the baked potatoes to cool while you fry the tilapia fillets. It just takes practice – and sometimes a little deviation from the instructions.
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On the other hand, the best part about prepping is the lack of food waste. I can’t help but feel like I’m throwing away a little piece of my heart every time I throw away a carton of spoiled milk, a can of expired soup, or a can of wilted lettuce. Because of the mini bottles of vinegar, individual cloves of garlic, and individual packets of ingredients like stock and sour cream, none are used.
All the ingredients are similar to what I get in the supermarket. The product is fresh; The fish and chicken are top notch; Herb butter and ramen are extremely delicious. Some ingredients are branded, such as Old Bay seasoning, Clovis mustard and Colavita white wine vinegar.
However, you may find that your ingredients don’t look exactly like the ones in the picture. The Yukon Gold potatoes I received were much smaller than the ones in the photos, making tiny potato wedges.
Likewise, I got a very large and a very small tilapia fillet. Although I have no doubt that together they met 11 oz. benchmark, which made it difficult to divide into two equal portions. Fortunately, these differences do not affect the taste, which makes us …
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All of these meals are absolutely amazing. I’ve had serious failures in the kitchen: burnt to crispy pizza crust, overcooked meat, tasteless soups thanks to user error, but also bad recipes. I can say that I have tried and true all of HelloFresh’s recipes and would definitely go back for any of them. They are delicious, filling and approved by my determined boyfriend.
They also have a lot of calories. Gnocchi, tilapia, and ramen have 770, 790, and 910 calories per serving, respectively. When I cook for myself, I try to keep dinners between 500 and 600 calories. That being said, the portions are huge. I was actually able to split the ramen into three meals. (Hello, delicious leftover lunch!) And since HelloFresh offers so many low-calorie options that range from about 600 calories or less, I’m partly to blame for this nutritional fact. (If you’re a low-calorie foodie like me, these quick, nutritious recipes should be on the menu next week.)
And the HelloFresh market products are home run only. I found the oat lattes very tasty compared to my usual cup of joe and the egg bites brought back memories of these delicious mini spinach quiches I loved as a kid. And lunch and dessert are prepared immediately with an equally satisfying and delicious clam chowder and cheesecake. Delicious!
All in all, I’ve had a positive experience with HelloFresh, but it’s out of my budget, so I don’t make a habit of ordering weekly. But since the service is so easy to activate and deactivate, I’ll definitely consider ordering again if I’m ever in the mood to treat myself.
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All in all, this service is best for busy couples or small families who don’t have time to make long grocery lists or go to the supermarket every week. All it takes is the click of a few buttons and — bada bing! — a box of everything you need is on your doorstep.
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