By Chris Newport, Head Coach & Nutritionist
It’s 5pm. What’s for dinner?
If you’re consistently asking this question, then a meal kit delivery service might be your answer. This segment of the market is growing at lightning fast speed. In fact, according to an article in Food Business News, there are over 150 services on a local, regional or national basis.
Meal Kit Delivery Services
Meal kit delivery services generally provide several days’ worth of dinners, including recipes and pre-portioned raw ingredients delivered to your doorstep. While it saves you from having to do the meal planning, grocery shopping, and some of the preparation, you still have to do the cooking and cleaning.
Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated, but it takes time and effort, just like training for a race or fostering a healthy relationship. Research suggests that eating at home tends to be healthier than dining out, which may be convenient, but often laden with extra fat, salt, and calories. While many people want to cook and eat at home, they find meal planning overwhelming and grocery shopping too time consuming. Meal delivery kits can save time, reduce overwhelm and provide the opportunity for healthy meals at home.
The “Unnatural” Cook
First, I find it important to share my experience with cooking. I’ve always loved it, but I’m not a “natural.” In fact, I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m spoiled by my ridiculously talented husband, who can create amazingly tasty and healthy meals practically with one eye closed. While I live by recipes, he calls them “guidelines.” So when he’s home, he generally cooks dinner. And when he’s not home, I keep things pretty simple for the kids and me.
So when I told him I was reviewing a meal kit delivery service and he wasn’t allowed to cook dinner those nights, he was a little skeptical (“you mean, someone’s going to take my job?!?”) and a little excited (“you mean, I can get off the hook for a few days?!?”). But he was also concerned since we have two gluten-free members in our household. Would they be able to accommodate dietary restrictions?
Hello, Hello Fresh!
One of my clients recently introduced me to one of the leading national meal kit delivery services, Hello Fresh. Not only is she cooking more, but she’s lost more weight because of it (hello, portion control!). The company claims to “deliver weekly recipes and fresh ingredients straight to your doorstep, so you can cook delicious, quick and healthy meals at home.” Naturally, it piqued my interest and I had to give it a shot.
When I contacted the company several months ago to ask about dietary restrictions, I was directed to the Registered Dietitian on staff (hey…I like them already!). While they don’t specifically have kits that accommodate for allergies, they are very clear on each meal about the most common allergens (nuts, wheat, dairy, etc). She sent me three meals for two people on their classic plan.
So how was my experience?
Well…let me walk you through the process, then share my pros and cons of Hello Fresh.
First, I choose our menu items. On the classic plan, there are 8 meal choices. For each meal, I can view a description, ingredients, instructions, utensils needed, meal preparation time, pictures, nutrition values, and cooking difficulty. It’s very easy to select the meals on their website or via their mobile app.
Here’s what the mobile app looks like:
The three box options are veggie, family and classic. The classic options are 3, 4, or 5 meals for 2 people or 3 meals for 4 people. So if you’re a large family, it may not be a great deal for you.
Next, I was able to choose the delivery date. When the box arrived, it had a bubble-wrapped cooler sleeve. Inside, I wanted to ensure proper food safety, so I took out my handy dandy infrared thermometer (if you are a food safety nerd too, you need one of these!) and temped the items. They passed! Each kit was contained in a box with the label on it.
Here’s a Hello Fresh box that’s freshly opened:
Once the box is opened, each meal is in a separate box for convenience:
The meats temped within food safety limits:
Then came the cooking. I timed each meal, which came within a few minutes of their suggested preparation time. The meals came out pretty close to what their pictures displayed, which is definitely a boost of confidence!
This was the Pan Seared Sole box opened with the recipe:
And here was the final (good looking) version:
And here’s the first piece of fish I cooked that fell apart. It still tasted great, but I learned that I need to set my pan heat a little lower.
Pros of Hello Fresh:
- Saves time and “opportunity cost” of planning, shopping and most of the meal prepping
- Easy to follow recipes with pretty pictures (I’m visual…gotta eat with my eyes first!)
- Family-friendly (even my kids went for them)
- Well-packaged for food safety (thanks to my infrared thermometer!)
- Healthy recipes, with RDs behind them
- Detailed ingredients and nutrition facts
- Easy to use app and website
- Can save your favorite recipes online
- Recipes are easy to save to use later
- Discloses allergen information
- Very responsive customer service
- Great confidence builder for cooking
- Great to introduce some variety into your diet
- Portions are controlled
- Can “skip” weeks if you’re traveling and only pay for what’s delivered
Cons of Hello Fresh:
- Expensive, as are most meal kit delivery services
- Not very earth friendly, although just about everything they provide is recyclable.
- Not organic, although they’re very clear that they’re priority is to provide a variety of fresh foods
- Options for only 2 or 4 people, although they say you can order multiple boxes
- Not great for specific dietary restrictions, although they’re upfront about allergens and nutrition information
- Not ideal for picky eaters
- Portions may not work for your specific needs
All in all, Hello Fresh has been a great experience and they are quickly evolving as a company and responding to customers’ needs. Since I’ve been using it, I’ve seen the recipe cards get larger and easier to understand. Plus, they’ve introduced a wine option to their boxes.
Want to give it a try? Get $40 off your first box here! Let us know what you think!