Thursday, August 20, 2020

My Experience with a Food Delivery Service

Last week, we went on an extended weekend getaway.  I thought I would make it easy for us to prepare healthier meals to balance our treats so I decided to finally bite the bullet on a home delivery food service.  This wasn't something I wanted long term.  I wanted to use our getaway as an opportunity to try it and only if we were SUPER impressed would we occasionally get it in the future.  I carefully researched and we went with Hello Fresh.  

(Please note:  This is a non-sponsored review of Hello Fresh.  I paid for this on my own because I saw a promo that made it appealing to my cheap self on the first box.)

Two weeks prior to our leaving, I carefully picked out our dishes from their low cal plan.

I was super excited once I finally decided on something because honestly, just over half of their selections didn't sound good to me.  I wanted to make sure we had a typically "American" dish and then ones with international flair.  The day finally arrived which was two days before we left and FedEx dropped off the box.  I couldn't wait to dig in and see how this all worked!

Squee!  My recipe cards for all of the dishes I chose!
Each one has detailed instructions on the ingredients you'll need, most of which are included but some like butter, oil and salt and pepper are not, as well as how to prepare them.  I thought this would be fun for the Mr and I since we don't cook together.
They come in paper bags on huge ice packs with the meat being directly on the packs and some ingredients underneath of the ice packs.  Lots of padding on all sides to keep things safe.  Side note:  This is a big problem for a lot of people because between the bags, huge ice packs, unwieldy padding and the packing the actual food and sauces there is a lot of waste.  This comes with every single box so if you have a problem contributing to landfills (we do), then a food service might not be the way to go for you.  

The bags are labeled on the outside and if there's one that needs to be made first, it will say so on the label.

Now, let's dig into the bags!

Ahh, Sweet Heat Shrimp Temp...huh?

I didn't order that.

Mushroom ravioli!?!?!?!??
Can I tell you how much I hate mushrooms with a flaming passion?

That's right.  



I mean really.  What does it take it check the recipe cards you're putting in against the bags in the box!?!?!  The paper people obviously didn't look to see what box they had and do you think any of these things are from the low cal menu?  No.  There's enough sodium in some of these to float me down a street in a parade for days. I purposely had these delivered with a full day in between because something told me not to trust it and there you go.  I immediately get on chat to see if they can overnight the right items to us since it's their mistake.  Sorry, but we'll give you a full refund and you can keep the food.  

Oh, you mean the food for which I have no instructions to make the dishes?  The fungus ravioli with kale and walnuts that if that were the only thing left to eat after I'd been crawling through the desert for three days, I still wouldn't eat or at minimum slam it with a huge water chaser without chewing just so I didn't die?  Thanks.  

I had a rather mentally draining evening the night before and the thought of now having to plan an entire new menu, go out to the grocery to find everything and portion it out was just not in my mental wheelhouse.  A quick search revealed a thread on Reddit talking about how they have quite a few issues getting boxes right and many people said they don't report issues with moldy veggies or missing items because they're afraid to.  Uh, you're paying for a service and if there are inconsistencies on a regular(ish) basis, with any of these food delivery services, that's more than I care to put up with personally.  I went in and cancelled the plan because again, I only decided to try it for that getaway because without the promo, it would only get more expensive.  I know this may not be the norm but it's more than I want to deal with on a regular day much less counting on it when I'm trying not to go to the grocery store for the week.

So now what to do with the food.  She said to do what I wanted with it or I could donate it.  I had way too much to do to try to come up with another plan.  I wondered if this was a sign since some of the reason for the getaway was to work on my mental struggles.  I began a search for the recipes of the food they sent us and I'll just say, they're out there should this happen to you as well.  I printed them out so we'd have them to go off of and I begrudgingly agreed to take them with us.  I brought an extra dinner from home because I knew if that fungus was going to be on the menu, I needed a "tappin' out" dish.

We decided to get the ravioli out of the way first.  I just wanted to not have it looming so we got out our ingredients.

(Not pictured: Ravioli.  It was in the fridge.  Whoops.)

It came together relatively quick and before we knew it, our meal was ready.

We both agreed, this was our least favorite dish and funnily enough, not for the reasons you may think.  Mr Mushroom over there looked like he was going to retch a few times as he took a chaser after every bite.  He said the ravioli were "way too mushroomy."  (We later saw there were three kinds in it!)   I didn't mind it.  I was not happy with the kale even though it was well seasoned.  You add these two together and it was "earthy" on the polite scale and like eating dirt on the less appealing one.  Definitely NOT a dish we'll ever make again.

The next day, lunch was the Southwest Sausage Rice stuff.  Out come the ingredients:

It came together pretty quick as well once all of the prepping was done and we got cookin'.

Our final product:

It was a good dish and one we'll likely make again if I can find loose chicken sausage.  

For dinner that night, it was time for the Butter Basted Chicken:

They gave us the wrong potatoes.  😫

There were supposed to be sweet potatoes not yukons or whatever they slipped us.  Luckily for us, I brought two extras in case they gave us skimpy sweet potatoes and it's a good thing I did!  The Mr got to mashing which was apparently the first time he'd done such a thing.

We got the meal together and plated up.

The demi-glace was good but I didn't think it was necessary.  I ended up using more of it to flavor the sweet potatoes than anything.  The Brussels were definitely under cooked and I side eyed their roast time on those but followed the directions anyway.  Next time I will go with my instinct because they were still pretty crunchy and I would've microwaved them for 1 minute prior to roasting.  Also, their bacon was gross even with brown sugar on it.  I wouldn't be psyched for any dish using their bacon and would use my own.

Our final meal was the one they suggested we make first because I'm a rebel like that.  The Sweet Heat Shrimp Tempura.  

We skipped making homemade pickles because neither of us like cucumber and we knew it would end up tasting more like that than a pickle so we tossed it.  I didn't bring oil because I didn't need it tipping over while we traveled but I did bring some cooking spray which worked fine for the shrimp.  Then we put our creation in a bowl.

The Mr seemed really impressed with this one!  I brought along a few cloves of garlic and broke off a stem of ginger because something told me we'd need them and I was right.  He said his favorite part of the rice was the garlic and the ginger I added to the sauce made it.  I have to say I agree.  

So despite them screwing the pooch on the first box, we ended up getting to try it anyway on their dime.  There was certainly a dud from our view with the Mushroom Ravioli and it didn't help matters one of the recipes had the wrong ingredient to make the dish.  That colossal fail is enough for both of us to pass on any regular subscription with them.   In addition, The Mr and I found the instructions for the recipes really scattered.  We felt like they didn't flow very well and ended up stressing us out with a lot of back and forth, ill-timed steps.  They still came together okay but with a lot more babysitting than I'm used to when I cook because some components weren't timed properly.

It wasn't all bad though.  If nothing else, this opened our eyes on portion sizes and what can fill us up so we will take that forward.  We also feel that cooking together was one of the most fun activities of our retreat.  Only time will tell if I give any meal box a try again for the next retreat or if we pick out a few recipes sharing some similar ingredients (lemons, seasonings, scallions, shallots, etc) and then make our own little bags to bring.  Heck, we could even surprise the other person with a mystery meal we put together for each other.  Hmm!

Bottom line:  

Yes, they messed stuff up for our first and probably last order but I do see the value in this for some people, especially right now.  There is so much going on and we're all under so much stress, it might be nice to treat yourself to someone else grabbing all of the ingredients.  But then you have to circle back to the fact, you might not get the food you ordered or you might go to prepare your meal and they've given you the wrong ingredient which could be the last straw before you do something the neighbors will want to record as you run down the street screaming.  If you're a roll with it kind of person, that won't be an issue for you.  There are plenty of plans out there and Hello Fresh were the most affordable which was nice after a promo code but the prices go up the deeper in you get.  I know if I just bit the bullet, I could put recipes together for a few bucks less per serving even with the cheapest box but I realize the whole point is likely convenience when looking at something like this.  I wouldn't steer anyone away from trying it.  I think you should do one at least once to see if it's something you'd want to continue or you're one and done.  The Mr was glad we did so that makes me happy but our order just had too many issues for me as well as a TON of packaging waste for me personally to risk the irritation.  

While I did get our refund quickly, customer service was not responsive in my chat.  I asked several times about what I needed to do to cancel the account and she refused to answer.  I don't know if they're instructed to deflect or what if asked that question.  Instead, she countered back by asking about what I was doing this weekend to which I should've responded, "apparently cooking food I didn't order, Marlene."  So even though the refund was prompt, the lack of answering a simple question asked multiple times also put the proverbial nail in the coffin on my end.

Have you tried food subscription services?  Did you do them before or try them because of the pandemic?  How was your experience?

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  1. I was really excited about doing this and then, of course, they sent the wrong stuff. But we rolled with it (and of course it was free then, and in my book free food always tastes better).

    I had a great time cooking these up with you and they were delicious meals that we could hang our hat on and I am glad we tried it out. Definitely wouldn't pay weekly for that though.

  2. I found a great bargain on a meal plan that were already cooked. You just pop them in the microwave. They were delicious, but the sodium levels were just too high for me so after the promotional offer I canceled.

  3. I've not tried any of them. I always figured too expensive. Glad you got away!

  4. I have tried Hello Fresh and Every Plate. I've had a great experience with Hello Fresh. One box got lost somehow and they emailed me that I was getting a refund before I even contacted them. Every other box has been the right ingredients and they've been great quality. I love that so much is pre measured and bagged together. I don't love the cost or the waste in the packaging. I have a few go to recipes now that actually came from the boxes - they were great for breaking out of a rut. I cancelled my account though b/c I forgot to skip a week once and ended up with their default choices which I did not like. Every Plate was much cheaper and I liked that they sent common items to be shared between dishes so there was a little less waste. The cold packs from any of them are not recyclable though and that's my biggest problem with any of the meal services. The Every Plate ingredients weren't as high quality as Hello Fresh and I didn't find the options as appealing. I cancelled that account too b/c I didn't want to forget to skip and get something random.

  5. Also - I get bulk chicken Italian sausage at Sprouts when I'm at my folks' house. I don't know if that's a store you have access to. I can sometimes find the links at Safeway or WalMart and then just cut the casings off.

  6. I've never tried the boxed meal services, but one of my co-workers loves Hello Fresh. He says it keeps his family from eating too many processed foods each week. Neither he, his partner, or their two daughters like to cook, they live very busy lives with a lot of work related travel and kids sports, and they hate to grocery shop. Hello Fresh has allowed them to expand what they eat each week with minimal effort. He says for them the cost premium is worth it. If left to their own devices there would be a lot of take-out, chicken nuggets, and frozen pizzas.

  7. I have not tried any, but a lot of my friends have recently tried Eat to Evolve and LOVE it. Most say it's better than Hello Fresh. There are a lot of 20-30% coupons floating around for Eat to Evolve, so I might give that a try.

  8. I have not tried any and only a couple of things appealed to us when we've looked around. There was a local place here for awhile that people used to say was pretty good, but I don't know if they are still there or not. I'm glad you found some meals that were on the pretty good side, considering they got the whole darn thing wrong!


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