Several months ago I wrote about the dinner-in-a-box services I’ve subscribed to. I’d like to bring you an update about those.
When last I wrote about this, there were three services I had tried: Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated. I only tried Plated a couple of times. Their recipes just didn’t speak to me the way the ones from Blue Apron did. Hello Fresh also had good recipes that were, in my estimation, more appealing than those from Plated. Plated was also more expensive and I really didn’t like that. Plus you have to pay a membership fee to get the lower price ($12 per meal) from Plated, otherwise their meals are $15 each.
From around October through January I got virtually no shipments from any of the services. It seemed like the weeks I had time to cook the recipes were unappealing (ie, they had salmon or broccoli in them). The weeks they had great looking recipes? I was traveling or busy with holiday meals and parties. In February and March it seemed like all the food planets aligned for me and my son. The recipes started looking more and more appealing and my schedule opened up so that I could actually make time to prepare them.
The very best part about Hello Fresh is the packaging–they bag all the ingredients by recipe. So, all you have to do to unpack your shipment is throw a few bags in the fridge. All you have to do to prepare for dinner is grab the appropriate bag of ingredients and the corresponding package of protein (meat, fish, etc) and you’re ready to start cooking. This is where Blue Apron is lacking–they pack all the ingredients loosely in a box and you have to pull them out individually. It’s not that time-consuming of a process but it is more work.
I keep both services set to NOT send me a shipment, just in case I get busy and forget to check to see if I like the recipes that week. It is Murphy’s Law that if I forget to cancel a shipment that will surely be the one that’s filled with icky things I don’t eat.
The routine we’ve settled into is this: if I know I will be home and able to cook the following week, then I check both services to see which one has the better recipes. (I am yet to happen upon a week in which both were equally appealing. If that ever happens I guess I’ll have to buy both boxes!) I can usually decide which ones is better, but if I’m torn I show them to my son and let him choose. The box arrives on a Thursday or a Friday, just in time for weekend cooking fun.
Each two-portion recipe is very generous in terms of serving size. If we have a guest over we can usually make it stretch to three servings, although some require augmenting with some extra pasta or salad I have on hand.
Sometimes things go wrong, but that’s rare. In over a year I’ve one box from one of the services arrive with one ingredient missing. It was garlic, which I had on hand anyway. I’ve received at least one shipment from both Blue Apron and Hello Fresh in which one of the ingredients was rotten or spoiled. Never the important stuff like the meat, but, for example, once I got a lemon that was rotten on one end. Another time I got a package of fresh herbs that had gotten all slimy and mushy. When this kind of thing has happened and I e-mailed them, I always received a quick apology plus a $10 credit on my account to make up for the inconvenience. You can’t ask for much more than that. All-in-all, though, I have to say they both do an excellent job of packing fresh food accurately and making sure that everything is included.
Here are a few of my favorite Hello Fresh Recipes you might enjoy trying for yourself. Just pick up the ingredients at your local grocery store!
- Tuscan Pork Linguine (I would double the amount of pork in this just to make it heartier!)
- Peppercorn Steak (I do not like cooked spinach so I just made a salad out of the spinach. But, the steak itself was to die for!)
- Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Tangy Balsamic Potato Salad (the tater salad was amazing, and I almost didn’t let anyone else have any!)
- Spicy Poblano Bolognese (Sadly I was cooking for a crowd that did not like spicy food so I had to tone this one down a bit!)
And, here are a few of the really good Blue Apron recipes, too:
- Fennel-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin (the black rice is amazing!)
- Tilapia Veracruzana (I plan on replicating this one with some fresh, locally-caught shrimp when they are back in season.)
- Manhattan Fish Chowder (Another one I plan on replicating with some shrimp!)
- Shrimp Etoufee (more uses for shrimp!)
If you want to try either of these, please send me your e-mail address to email@example.com and I will send you an invite. For Hello Fresh you get $40 off your first box of food and I get $20 credited to my account. For Blue Apron I don’t get anything, but, I do have free boxes of food to give away to you and I’m happy to share!