Hello Fresh or alright at best?


Hello Fresh: Does it taste good? Is it worth it? These are crucial questions about a meal prep company that delivers pre-portioned ingredients to your house that you turn into delicious dishes.

I was directed from a Youtube video to the Hello Fresh website to order my first box of food. I scrolled through their impressive selection of American classics, East Asian delicacies, Middle-eastern delights and Mexican savory goodness. The pictures alone evoked a mouthwatering response, but I knew I couldn’t take this food company at face value.

Hello Fresh claims to have their own specialized distribution chain from locally-sourced supplies. Additionally, they claim to be dedicated to sustainability through “reduc[ing] food waste, reduc[ing] carbon emissions, optimizing packaging and favors local ingredient sourcing.”

I ordered the three meals that were recommended to me: crispy parmesan chicken, Thai coconut pork meatballs, beef flautas supreme.

As a disclaimer, coming from an East Asian family, these dishes were not at all similar to what I have experience making. All three meals required the use of an oven and other tools that I use as often as I go to the dentist for my cleanings. Nevertheless, after attempting to make these dishes to the extent of my ability, I can officially answer some of the questions I originally had about the company.

Is it Fresh?

Yes, the majority of ingredients were fresh. As a company with ‘fresh’ in its name, Hello Fresh has committed to making the central ingredients of your meal as fresh as possible. For example, the carrots in the parmesan chicken and the greens in the coconut meatballs seemed plucked straight from the earth.

I can’t, however, say much about the meat and dairy ingredients. All the meat came in grocery-store-style plastic baggies that were frozen and vacuum-sealed. For the beef flautas, the beef was ground and for me, ground meat has the stigma of being the less optimal cuts of meat. The whipped cream and cheese came in little Taco Bell-like portion packets, which rubbed me the wrong way at first.

This brought us to another problem – the packaging. It first arrived as a 1 1⁄2 ft x 1 1⁄2 ft box on my doorstep, then left as a 1 1⁄2 ft x 1 1⁄2 ft box in my trash can. Nearly every ingredient was sealed in pre-portioned plastic. Each meal had its own brown bag; each ingredient had its own small plastic bag. The box it came in had an outer cardboard box and then an insulated inner portion wrapped in waxed paper. Hello Fresh’s commitment to “avoiding, reducing and innovating packaging” was less than spectacular.

Does it taste good?

Be cautioned, I might be biased and taste is inherently subjective, but for all three meals, the taste was overwhelmingly mediocre. Perhaps these dishes were not “it” for me, something their enormous selection might overcome. But no dish was as good to me or my family as the ads claim. The best of the meals was the parmesan chicken, but not without its own hurdle of undercooked carrots (the time specified on the recipe was not enough)  and my lack of zester (I ended up eating actual slices of lime skin). 

I struggled a lot with the Thai coconut meatballs, namely because I had to cook rice in a pot (it ended up inedible, so I transferred it to the rice cooker). To address this problem, Hello Fresh should include instructional alternatives for appliances in different houses. Not everyone has an oven, zester, or experience cooking rice in a pot, so to better be more inclusive, the company should add multiple options about preparations. 

Is it worth it?

 At $7.50 per serving, I can get a Hello Fresh equivalent from a mid  to low-scale restaurant, without having to go through the dilemma of making it. Heck, a Chipotle bowl costs about the same as a single serving of beef flautas and, if I’m polite, I can get triple the amount of food at Chipotle. 

That first box from Hello Fresh, including three meals with four servings for each recipe, cost me around $60. Without the starting discount, I’d be paying around $90 per box. As a budget-conscious student for the next decade of my life, I’ll be sticking to the grocery store. However, I understand that many others use Hello Fresh for its convenience and are not flustered by its price.

I think this service has its time and place for certain lifestyles. It has meal options for vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians and just about any diet that you can think of. I just happened to choose meals that I wasn’t familiar with. Their meal options are extensive and I think I would have certainly loved some of their dishes until the price tag turned me away. I’d recommend Hello Fresh for those who don’t want to think a lot about their meals and for those who prefer the convenience of fresh, home-cooked meals without going to the grocery store.