Earlier this month I had to spend some time in the hospital. After getting out, I couldn’t drive for a couple weeks, which meant my twice-weekly trips to the grocery store were out of the question. So to make things easier, my wife decided to sign us up for one of the many meal kit delivery services. I’ve gotta say, it was actually better than I expected
The meal kit industry is booming. The idea is simple: deliver to customers’ doors a package of fresh, pre-measured ingredients and a simple recipe card that allows them to make a tasty, generally healthy meal in a reasonable amount of time. This is a multi-billion-dollar industry popular around the world. Young professionals who work too much, overstretched parents who can’t find the time to get to the grocery store, people fresh out of the hospital trying not to order pizza—they can all have several ready-to-cook meals delivered to their door every week.
With a near-endless string of companies providing this service, including Blue Apron, Plated, Purple Carrot, Chef’d, and more, it’s not hard to find one you might like. Some focus on special diets like gluten-free or paleo, some focus on providing vegan-specific menus, and then the big guns offer a broader array of options. My wife opted to use Hello Fresh and signed us up for a vegetarian menu.
Hello Fresh is one of the bigger players on the market. They partner with British super-chef Jamie Oliver for some menu planning. My wife was disappointed that he doesn’t come to your house to prepare the food. I guess my bad fake British accent and slight beer belly aren’t quite as attractive as Jamie Oliver. I don’t know why.
How It Worked For Us
Here’s how it’s worked for us so far. Once a week, a box filled with cold-packed brown bags arrives at our front door. When I’m ready to cook, I just pull out the appropriately labeled bag from the fridge, match it with the included recipe card, and follow the step-by-step instructions, pictures included, until I’m done.
Most meals are supposed to take less than an hour to prepare, but I’ve found that it takes a good 15-20 minutes longer than they estimate. Still, it’s pretty reasonable. Each bag comes filled with whatever produce, spices, and other ingredients you may need. You just need some pots, pans, and the basics, like oil, salt and pepper.
The thing that surprised me is that the food is pretty good. It’s not Michelin star cuisine, but it’s surprisingly tasty. Last night I made a baby Portobello and orecchiette primavera. It took about an hour and used one pot, one pan, a measuring cup, and a cutting board. That’s not a lot of mess, which is nice. My pasta didn’t look as pretty as the meal does on the recipe card, but it was still quite good. It’s not orecchiette you’re going to have from an Italian grandmother, but considering the convenience and ease of preparation, I was impressed.
Many of these services partner with suppliers they say are “local” or “small businesses.” Hello Fresh lists some on their website, including Del Rey Avocados from San Diego, To-Jo Mushrooms from Pennsylvania, and chickens “raised without the use of antibiotics, growth drugs or hormones,” from Murray’s Chickens, where they “have plenty of room to stretch their wings and access to fresh air and sunlight.” Hello Fresh is essentially selling the idea that these are the same ingredients that you want to buy, that you in fact might buy if you had the time, but hey, they’re doing it for you.
It’s Not Gourmet, But It’s Yummy
Admittedly, the produce isn’t as perfectly fresh as if you bought it at the store yourself. Some of that is a result of the process. After all, they do have to pre-pack and ship thousands of these meals ahead of time. All in all, though, it’s still pretty fresh and every fruit, veggie, piece of pasta, and bit of dairy I’ve had so far has been tasty.
Each of the Hello Fresh dinners we’ve had in the last couple of weeks is supposed to feed two people, but we’ve found that most of them feed me, my wife, and two little kiddos. So far each meal has generally fallen in the 500-600 calories range, which is pretty good, particularly when you’re divvying it up among extra people.
The best so far has been the one-pan mushroom ravioli gratin, which, as the name suggests, only took one pan that went both on the stove-top and then into the oven. It was really good ravioli that I combined with mushrooms, onions, vegetable stock, sour cream, parmesan cheese, and some breadcrumbs. It made for a creamy, tasty sauce, and a crispy, cheesy crumb topping that I liked so much, I kept the recipe. This was a dish I would order at a restaurant. It was really good!
Now, having your meals delivered to your door like this isn’t the cheapest option, but it’s not insanely expensive either. It ends up being about $10 per meal, plus tax. You could definitely do it cheaper if you smartly shopped for all of these ingredients at your local grocer, but it’s less expensive than going out to eat or having takeout from a restaurant. For someone who loves having Tex-Mex delivered to my door at a moment’s notice, this is a much healthier alternative.
Now that I can drive again, we’re going to end our adventure with Hello Fresh, but it’s definitely something I’ll consider again. If you’re ever in the same position I was in, or just too busy to go shopping for a while, give something like this a try. It’s surprisingly tasty, and definitely easy.