I won't lie, I've been sitting on this piece for FOREVER and forgot about it. However, with Valentine's Day just around the corner and with winter being a good time to shake things up, I found this and thought – this could be a good post for Thursday since you don't have anything. When we first put this piece together, I was in a bit of a slump. I actually love to cook and the more I do it, the better I get at it and the more I want to do it.
I now cook maybe 2-3 nights of the week. But when I was first attempting to tackle this piece, I didn't at all. So, if you want try and get into better cooking habits, save on the restaurant bill this upcoming Valentine's Day, or try something new without having to leave the house, I fully encourage you to give one of these a try.
Blue Apron was one of the first “meal service” kits available on the market, so naturally, it's the first one I tried. Their emphasis is on providing sustainable and local products in their boxes, so there's the whole “better for the environment” angle to it.
Prices start at $9.99 per serving.
Ease of Use
I got three recipes – a salmon burger patty, a bolognese, and a beef noodle pho type dish. They were easy enough to prepare, but sometimes the “made from scratchness” of it all had me wishing for a shortcut. They're meant to take around 30 minutes to prepare, the salmon patty took me closer to 50 minutes start-to-finish.
Yeah, yeah, but how does it taste?
I enjoyed 2/3. The salmon patty called for more aggressive seasoning than I typically like to use, so it was very garlicky and mostly inedible. The other two were delicious, and I particularly enjoyed getting to cook with more exotic ingredients (like the Asian ones that came with the Pho) that I normally wouldn't buy.
Our take: I enjoyed cooking with new-to-me ingredients, and since it was the first, it was fun to experience a new process. Recipes were a bit hit-or-miss, but I believe this can be remedied if you feel confident enough to season to your own tastes and not what is on the menu card. I'm also pretty pumped about the new Whole 30 service they're offering (which wasn't available at the time we were writing this piece.) Genius.
Hello Fresh is an international company founded in 2011. In the US, they offer fresh ingredients from local farmers and growers (when available), and every week Hello Fresh will send you a box of fresh ingredients for you to cook and serve within 45 minutes or less.
Hello Fresh meals range from $8.74 (family plan) to $9.99 per serving.
Ease of Use
Each meal plan is designed to cook and serve in around 30-45 minutes. Hello Fresh provides recipe cards that are easy to follow, complete with pictures and links to videos.
But, How Does it Taste?
Both the omnivore and vegetarian dishes are very tasty. Picky palates will love how Hello Fresh recipes do not repeat, so you get to experiment with different spices and cooking techniques. Hello Fresh saves you time at the grocery store and in the kitchen.
Our take: You get all the ingredients you need to prepare these meals, nothing is going to waste. However, the portions are smaller than the “average” American dish but are still nutritious and satisfying enough. This makes it easy to keep your meal portions healthy without much fuss.
All-in-all, it was pretty easy. Way easier than some of the Blue Apron recipes (IMO). The best part was being provided healthy portions of food without you having to count calories and manage portion sizes.
Where Hello Fresh brings you fresh ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes for you to cook, Freshly provides fresh ready-made meals to save even more in the kitchen. (Uhm, yes, please.) All meals are pre-cooked and shipped fresh every week. Each week you choose from 25 recipes, up to the number of meals in your plan, and they will be shipped on the day you choose (Monday through Friday depending on your location). Shipping is free.
Depending on the plan, meals are around $8.99 to $12.50 per meal. So, the priciest of the ones we compared, but you also don't have to cook.
Ease of Use
Freshly is hands down the easiest of any of the meal plans. Food is prepared fresh and shipped to you every week (never frozen). All you have to do is microwave and enjoy (you can either microwave it in the package it comes in, cook it in a microwave-safe dish or on the stove). Kinda doesn't get much easier than that.
But, How Does it Taste?
At first, I was super stoked to try this “meal service.” I tried a combination of vegetarian and omnivore meals, but only three of the five meals I tried were tasty. The peppercorn steak was tasty (the steak I cooked to medium rare using suggested microwave times) and the chicken breast risotto was tender and delicious. However, the paleo chili was missing something, and the vegetarian chili was not tasty at all (I couldn’t finish it).
Our take: While I prefer fresh home cooked meals, in a pinch, Freshly is worth the price for the time if you want less time spent shopping and cooking.
If you're looking for ways to “save money”, meal kits are not the way to go, at nearly $10 per serving. BUT it is cheaper than most restaurants and a fun way to “experience” new food and actually cook dinner (if you find you have a hard time finding the motivation to do so.)
While I couldn't do a dollar-for-dollar comparison, I also know I (like many people) waste a lot of ingredients when I shop because I plan for dinners and then things don't work out. Having pre-portioned ingredients is nice to not feel like you're being wasteful, but I couldn't say if this still makes meal boxes cheaper than going to the grocery and selecting ingredients yourself.
Have you tried any of the above? Which ones did you like? I'd be interested to hear the different experiences.