Wondering if Hello Fresh or another dinner subscription box is right for your family? Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of having a meal delivery service provide your family with healthy dinners each week. I also think it’s a great gift for new parents and college students.
Long before all the blogger reviews, I started hearing about dinner delivery ‘meal in a box’ services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. We place a pretty high priority on fresh, healthy meals. As a family with two parents with full-time, corporate jobs, we were definitely prime targets for these services. For over a year, I rejected the possibility of these subscription services, convinced they were not for me.
A couple weeks ago, my little sister decided to try out Hello Fresh and offered me a free box. I could get three meals of food for two people entirely free. I finally caved and figured I’d give it a shot. I didn’t have much to loose, and a box of free groceries to gain.
I had a host of reservations about trying subscription food boxes like Hello Fresh. But much to my surprise, many of my anticipated concerns ended up being dispelled.
Because I liked it much more than I expected, I thought I’d give away two free boxes so you might have a chance to see for yourselves whether or not it’s right for your family. I’m giving away one box on the blog and one on Instagram, so be sure to enter in both places to increase your chances of winning. Details on the giveaway and how to enter are at the bottom of the post. Head to Instagram for details on how to enter there (hint: it’s super easy).
If you’re wondering if your family might like to try it, here are some things I loved, a few things that weren’t perfect about my first week, and why we decided to hang on to our Hello Fresh subscription. (If you do want to try Hello Fresh and don’t win the giveaway, use this link to get $40 off your first box.)
Things I Loved
More Vegetables ~ We are very guilty of not eating enough vegetables (for a host of reasons). I’m a little bit picky, and M and I have different preferences about vegetables, so it’s not always easy to find one that works for everyone. The boys are hit or miss with vegetables. J is a pretty good sport about eating them, but T usually wants nothing to do with them. I hate making them and then seeing them go to waste.
With the Hello Fresh box, the meals all came with plenty of veggies which were cooked in new ways I hadn’t thought to try before. None of the recipes or preparation skills were hard, but the planned menus just offered different ideas that took us out of our routine. Even though it’s a small nudge in the right direction, having them already incorporated in a meal made a big difference in eating more vegetables.
Ability to Pause ~ I typically avoid subscription services because I feel like they result in a lot of waste. I don’t receive what I want, when I want it. I get too much when I don’t need it, or I don’t have enough and need to make an interim trip to the store.
Hello Fresh allows me to pause my subscription, week by week, so I don’t have to receive food each week. We received our meal box for two weeks, are scheduled for a three week break, and will receive another box the first week in October. Using Hello Fresh as a meal planning supplement and not a full meal planning substitute makes me appreciate the service so much more. I don’t rely on it entirely, but it adds some variety and convenience to our dinner menus periodically.
Meal Variety and Taste ~ I can be a bit picky and we also have a food allergy in our family to work around. I wasn’t sure if the planned menus would work for us. I tried one other meal planning service in the past, and the meals were not to our liking and health preferences.
With Hello Fresh, however, I chose three options from a group of six. One of the options included the allergy category, so we ruled that out right away. With the other five available, I found three great options that worked well for us. I’ve got no complaints about flavor, taste or quality matching our needs.
Menu Cards ~ With each box, we received recipe cards for all six meals available for the week (even though we only got ingredients for three). I love that I can reference back to these cards and make the meals again with our own ingredients. The cards are printed on nice quality paper and are just the right size to start creating our own recipe book of Hello Fresh favorites.
My Concerns Dispelled
As I mentioned above, I’ve avoided subscription food delivery (fairly vehemently) for quite a long. I was pretty sure I’d hate the excessive packaging and not appreciate the complicated or gourmet menus. I don’t mind meal planning, and (crazy as it sounds), I also don’t hate going to the grocery store.
I should offer up my caveat though that I have historically visited the grocery store on weekday mornings when I’m basically the only customer in the store. Because I work from home, I can grab a few things on the way home from dropping the boys at school in the morning without missing a beat. I despise grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon when everyone and their brother is also there.
Packaging ~ I was surprised to find that the box did not include as much packaging as I expected. The box itself is quite sturdy and can be recycled or repurposed. The box included a few pieces of heavy packaging paper that can also be recycled. Aside from the three large ice packs, the package included no more waste than a typical run to the grocery store.
Complicated Cooking with Lots of Dishes ~ Some others I know who had tried various meal delivery services mentioned lots of dishes and long, somewhat complicated menus. I had no interest in anything like that. We generally keep dinner pretty easy (and I’ve mentioned before how much I hate doing dishes). In the chicken and vegetable dish above, we used one saute pan, one baking sheet, two bowls, a cutting board, and a large knife to cut the vegetables. For me, at least, that isn’t much different than making any other healthy family dinner.
While the recipe card stated 30 minutes to make, it took me about 45 minutes from start to finish. It probably could be done in 30 minutes by professional chefs who know the recipe well, but I found it took a bit longer, particularly because my chicken took longer to cook than the recipe said. Despite the time, the steps were not difficult.
Family Friendly ~ Along with my concern that the recipes might be fancy and complicated, I didn’t know how the food would fare with my boys. They don’t eat particularly childish palettes (i.e. chicken fingers, mac ‘n’ cheese, etc..), but they also aren’t eating anything too crazy. The meals we’ve received so far have all been interesting and tasty enough for adults yet simple enough not to cause a rise from the kids.
The boys still don’t sit down to dinner like angels every night, but that’s certainly not because they don’t like the food.
Without a doubt, Hello Fresh (and any meal subscription service) is more expensive than shopping at a standard grocery store. However, I did feel like the ingredients were high quality, and I didn’t think it was materially more expensive than Whole Foods (where we often shop). I know many people aren’t fans of Whole Foods prices, but if you do shop in that price range, Hello Fresh meal plan prices seem pretty comparable.
Also, I paid for more than just food. The subscription price includes a service fee, effectively, for planning the meals and delivering the food to my door. (They say there isn’t a delivery fee, and technically that’s true, but it’s built into the pricing of the subscription, of course.)
I attribute an opportunity cost to my time and am not opposed to paying for certain services that add value to my life or reduce routine nuisances. I don’t always mind meal planning and grocery shopping, but I definitely like being freed of these responsibilities once in a while. Having the meals for the week planned by someone else felt particularly worthwhile when in a rut with meal ideas.
I consider the “service fee” well worth my money on a periodic basis.
Who Might Appreciate Hello Fresh?
I liked it enough to conclude that I think you might like it too. We don’t get it every week. We plan to pause our subscription regularly and take the box about once a month, depending on what’s going on in life. I do think, if a family can afford it occasionally, it’s a great supplement to a family dinner routine to make busy weeks a whole lot easier and add some healthy variety to the table.
I also think this would be a really great gift for new parents, particularly because it can be hard to find time to leave the house between all those newborn naps. New parents can barely find time to shower, let alone take a baby out to buy food.
Further, it would make a great gift for a college students learning how to cook. The recipes are easy and detailed enough for a new cook to use it as an educational opportunity as they learn their way around the kitchen. I was one of many college students that had little clue how to cook when I showed up on campus. I ate cafeteria food sometimes, but I also had my own kitchen for a couple of years. I would have loved something like this when I was in school!
Because I really liked it, I want to give two readers a chance to try it out; one on the blog and one on Instagram. Even if you don’t think it’s right for you, maybe you want to send it as a gift to a friend, a new parent, or a college student you know?
Scroll down to the end of the post to enter. And don’t forget, you can get $40 off your first box with this referral link.
This giveaway is not affiliated or associated in any way with Hello Fresh or Instagram. As a subscriber to the service, Hello Fresh offered me a few free boxes to share with friends, and I’m choosing to give away two of them to readers. Ordering the free box, if you win it, requires setting up a new account. But you can cancel at any time, so if you just want the free box and nothing more, that’s totally feasible. Also, because a new account is required, existing Hello Fresh customers aren’t eligible.
Details, details… The giveaway is open to US residents over the age of 18.