February 19th 2019
The Hello Fresh Food Box: healthy hit or mealtime miss?
May 11th 2016 / 1 comment
With no supermarket shopping, meal planning or measuring, Hello Fresh seems like quite the weekday dinner revolution. We put it to the test…
If you’re oft found aimlessly roaming the aisles of your local supermarket late at night and end up leaving with a courgette, a chocolate bar and maybe a fish cake, I can identify. Plotting and putting into place a gastronomic feast post work is a nigh on impossible feast for most, and even scrabbling together a stir fry can seem a bit much when faced with a punishing deadline, long commute and a house that’s in desperate need of a visit from the cleaning fairy. So how about if someone did the hard graft for you, leaving you to cook up a new dish in roughly 30 minutes with all the faff of ingredient and idea sourcing taken care of? That’s what Hello Fresh is all about, with the added incentive of traceable, UK supplied produce, recyclable packaging and free delivery straight to your door.
It sounds a bit holier than thou if I’m honest, so I gave the Classic Box a run for its money. Just to get the bill bit out of the way, a Trial Box for two (three meals) comes in at £42, with a regular subscription taking this price down to £39. You can feed up to four mouths with the Classic ‘meat and fish’ Box (£59), or switch to the Family Box to fill five tummies (£39.95 for two meals), upping this to four meals a week (£64), up to five with the Classic Box (£49) and just three on offer for the Veggie Box (£36). On initial consideration, the Hello Fresh life seems a bit steep, but when you consider the convenience, high quality of generally UK sourced ingredients and time economics involved, plus the extra spend incurred on a family trek around Tesco, seasonal, nutritious and filling food delivered for free to a location of your choice starts to look like a shrewd option.
Getting to the meaty part, my box was indeed meat heavy, with two pork dishes and a beef mince recipe. The box arrived lovingly packed with woolpack insulation, ice packs and slick compartmentalisation of fridge ingredients, veggies and herbs, and given that each recipe was fairly streamlined, it didn’t take yonks to work out which ingredients matched the three different recipes. Speaking of the menu on offer, my boyfriend and I were to whip up pan fried pork medallions with tarragon and potatoes, pork satay burgers with paprika sweet potatoes and an exotic sounding but incredibly simple Korean beef bulgogi with ginger stir fried broccoli. Apart from a rogue carrot, there was luckily nothing lurking that I didn’t like, and allergens such as lactose, gluten, peanuts, eggs and soya are indicated on each recipe card in case allergens are an issue. Hello Fresh also now allow Classic Box subscribers to choose from up to five recipes, in the hope that at least three will appeal.
Each recipe card has a very appetising picture of the final dish to be created (good luck on the food styling front), along with step-by-step images to match up with the impressively clear instructions. It’s evident that the chefs and recipe development team have taken into consideration the fact that we’re not all at-home Hestons; your meal should be on the table in around half an hour, unless you’re a slow chopper and big talker as I am, in which case under an hour is a more accurate timescale. Accompanying booklets explain where some of your main ingredients have come from (check the website for further details), and fun food facts make you appreciate your grub all the more (tarragon is great for taking the edge off of scurvy apparently). With new recipes each week, taking in a huge variety of cuisines and with at least one devised by Jamie Oliver in each Classic or Veggie Box, Hello Fresh does a good job of breaking away from the usual done to death midweek staples and encouraging a bit of culinary experimentation. I have to say that Korean mince would never have occurred before, but it was so moreish and quick to make that I’ve stashed away the recipe card for future reference.
The tarragon pork dish was probably our favourite of the week; creamy, full of flavour and anything but dry (pork has been my ‘tough as old boots’ nemesis for quite some time), it was speedy to make from scratch but felt quite special to sit down to on a manic Thursday. The beef bulgogi was also a joy to make and well balanced, although I saved the white rice for my boyfriend and swapped mine in for brown from the cupboard for extra nutritional clout. Where we hit a Hello Fresh hump was Friday night’s pork satay burgers; the Hello Fresh team had generously supplied us with double the amount of soy sauce required, so porky palpitations followed. A little bit of tasting, dabbling and taking a step back when something doesn’t seem right is advisable if you feel like you’re going overboard on a particular ingredient. Obviously don’t go munching on raw meat, but have your wits about you.
From paprika sweet potato wedges to sparky, spicy veggies, the main meal sides were a lot more inventive than your average boiled greens, and working with ingredients in different ways gets the juices flowing for non-Hello Fresh days too. You do need to be quite organised to keep up with upcoming meals if you subscribe; the deadline for meal choices is midnight on the Wednesday before the following week’s delivery. That being said, I for one like to know what’s coming, and anything that kills indecisiveness and ensures that you dodge ready meals, pricy takeaways and impulse supermarket buys is to be celebrated, when you can afford it. Despite the initial investment, the temptation to eat out quite so much is definitely quashed on order, and the end result is of such a high standard that you can pretend that you’re dining à deux at your local eatery (wine is yet to appear in the box thus far however…). Portion sizes are spot on, food waste is extremely minimal if you like everything on offer and generally the meals we ate felt pretty wholesome, although I’d debate the ‘healthy’ label on the burger. I’m no calorie counter, but 860 per serving plus a brioche bun is going a bit overboard if you’re on a health kick. Save any recipes in that vein for a treat day I’d say, but for most part, tuck in with abandon in the knowledge that you’re grub is organic, free-range, in season and pretty damn delicious.
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This feature was written in partnership with Hello Fresh