We were not in the market for a home delivery meal service, but when I received a coupon for three meals for less than $30 from HelloFresh we took the plunge.
HelloFresh is a subscription dinner service. For the normal price of $69/week we could have a UPS truck stop at our house every Tuesday (or any other day) with the ingredients and recipes for three meals. The box had three large ice blocks with the meat under them and the other ingredients on the top. The meals were enclosed in a large plastic bag in case the ice began to melt and leak.
The meals were for two people, (you can get boxes with meals for four) and the quality of the ingredients were good with one exception, an avocado that was overripe.
The issues with the service are as follows:
Extremely limited menu – HelloFresh has two menus to select from, a meat menu and a vegetarian menu. You cannot mix the meals from the two different menus. On the meat menu, they offer three meals of their choosing, or we could have selected from two alternatives; however, we found the alternatives to be less palatable than the three primary choices.
Odd menu choices – The lack of quality cuts of red meat on their menu is obvious. The red meat offerings during the two weeks were flank steak and a meal with hamburger mixed in with the stuffed pepper meal. The six meals were:
- Pan-seared chicken & pea pilaf
- Citrus skillet shrimp
- Wasabi-glazed (flank) steak
- Goat cheese-stuffed chicken roulades
- Indian stuffed peppers (with hamburger)
- Oven-roasted salmon
Alternatives for week one were:
- Fregola Sarda & Sweet Italian Sausage
- Pea & Asparagus Gnocchi
Alternatives for week two were:
- Mustard pork chops
- Burst tomato & squash fusilli
The menu targets the person with eclectic taste and/or someone who loves the challenge of cooking new foods. If you are a person who can only find four or five acceptable choices on a typical 50 item restaurant menu, HelloFresh is not for you.
Heavy on frying – olive oil and the skillet are prominent aspects of preparing a HelloFresh meal.
Increased prep and clean up time – the HelloFresh website proudly states, “Cooking Made Easy.” This was not our experience. If you are an experienced chef you might be able to meet the prep times listed, but we found that it typically took about an hour to prep a HelloFresh meal. Clean up took at least two to three times longer than clean up for our own home cooked meals.
Confusing recipes – HelloFresh breaks down the recipe in steps; however, each step is written in paragraph form with multiple sub-tasks in each paragraph. It requires re-reading the same paragraph multiple times to make sure you don’t miss a step.
Cost – At almost $70 for three meals, HelloFresh is an expensive meal service. I estimate that the ingredients for each meal cost around $10, so we paid about $40 for shipping, meal planning, and ingredient procurement while still being responsible for the cooking and clean up.
Excessive delay between order and delivery – All orders for the next week must be in by Wednesday midnight of the previous week regardless of what day it is delivered. That means the food for the meals is probably ordered/finalized on Thursday. That would make the process for HelloFresh much easier, but it sacrifices convenience for the customer and means the ingredients delivered late in the week are likely as old as the ingredients delivered at the beginning of the week.
Of all the issues I have with HelloFresh, it is the lack of choice. The limitations set by HelloFresh indicate a minimal budget and a lack of commitment to the concept of home delivered meals. That suggests an organization that lacks the financial and human resources to meet the expectations of the customer.
I have tried to understand what market HelloFresh is attempting to capture; however, with the menu limitations, cost, and eccentric meal choices, it is mystifying who would pay for a glorified shopping service that places customer choice and convenience as secondary to their own.