I Ate Hello Fresh for a Month
As a second generation Syrian-American, I never thought I would try a meal kit delivery service. In fact, I think the Official Handbook for Children of Arab Immigrants strictly prohibits eating food that comes out of a box.
Ok, not a real book, but only because I haven’t published it yet.
I also haven’t eaten most foods that typical American kids took to school in their lunch boxes — Kraft macaroni, Campbell’s chicken soup, string cheese, or any brand of a fruit cup. I just tried Ramen for the first time last week. It’s not that my mom didn’t feed us; she just cooked us real food. Before you think I was deprived of your “food”, she also packed cookie dough in my school lunch, and let us eat cake for breakfast; I turned out just fine.
What I’m trying to say is that my choice to order from Hello Fresh resulted from two carefully weighed benefits — I could be as picky as I wanted, and the trial week was free — inspired by my American and Arabic heritage respectively.
Here’s how it went down:
I got a free trial week from Hello Fresh, and forgot to cancel the subsequent order. One week of the Classic Plan was $60. To my surprise, paying for one full week results in a series of promo codes to share with “friends and family.” I sent a free box to my mom, and the remainder to Haley and Hannah Flynn, who all happen to live at my same address. It’s a tight fit in my basement apartment, but we make it work.
Did you think I wasn’t going to get my money’s worth after I accidentally renewed the first time?
Here’s what I ate:
- Week 1: Lemony Pan-Seared Chicken, Cumin-Spiced Steak and Little Ears Pasta
- Week 2: Pistachio-Crusted Chicken, Sesame Beef Tacos and Shrimp Saganaki
- Week 3: Presto Pesto Panko Chicken, Lean Green Steak Machine and Chicken Sausage Pizz
- Week 4: Chicken Pineapple Quesadillas, Melty Monterey Jack Burger and Sesame Shrimp
The recipes were great — for a while, at least.
I’d call myself a skilled cook; I know the basics and I like to get creative. Cooking for one, however, throws me into a bit of a routine because I’m forced to buy food that freezes well or still tastes good as leftovers.
I can’t overstate how easy the recipes were, and it’s not just because I already knew how to make rice. Each recipe comes on an 8.5 x 11” card, complete with detailed, ordered instructions, pictures, and wine pairings. I learned new skills with each meal, added spices to my cabinet, and feel way less intimidated by pan-frying a steak.
If you want to learn how to cook, I highly recommend.
The recipes did, however seem a bit repetitive to me. Maybe the choices are based on seasonal foods, but each week the options included a pesto-pasta combo, steak and salad, chicken and rice, seafood and veggies, and one random breakfast item.
And then, because of course, the first week of Ramadan included pork shawarma. Can we not?
The ingredients? Not so much.
As the former personal shopper at the Harris Teeter at Battleground in Greensboro from 2011 to 2015, I’m pretty damn good at choosing groceries. I picked produce for every soccer mom in the whole town, so you better believe I have high expectations for a service that charges quintuple the rate I earned per order.
I was disappointed by the quality of the produce in each package, but it was all still edible. Mostly, I just had to prioritize the meals that might spoil sooner, and immediately put food in the freezer when it arrived. A few times, the veggies were already damaged or smelly on the first or second day.
The best part of the ingredients was that there was always more than the recipe required. If I used all the ingredients, I got at least 3 full servings out of each recipe, even though the box is only designed as meals for two people.
Haley, Hannah and I are moving apartments at the end of the month, so we’ll be recycling our Hello Fresh boxes to pack everything up. Climate change, ya know?