Gourmet Meals in a Box: And the Winner is…

Y’all know I’ve done two weeks each of Plated, Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh because I’ve prattled on about it in several posts. These are nice folks who will ship to your door a box of fresh produce, meats, spices and sauces to take the burden of recipe finding and grocery shopping off your shoulders. I like this!

I thought I liked cooking, but it turns out I don’t like cooking that much. Even with the entrée selections and shopping done for me, cooking three nights per week for myself is a lot of work, and I already have a full-time job. Enough! But these services are turn-on/turn-off as you please, so you can order up a box any time you want without being locked into any kind of weekly thing. I like this too!

Beyond the convenience, I prepared and enjoyed some phenomenal meals!

Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps with Basil Rice
Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps with Basil Rice

I mean, look at the fresh ingredients. I can barely stand it!

Bowl of long life noodles
One of the ingredients from this week’s Plated box

Which is my favorite? It’s a close call, but I have to say Plated wins! Here’s how it scored out on a scale of 1-5:

Plated LogoDelivery & Packaging – 3 (on-time delivery, but too much non-recyclable packaging)
Ease & Prep Time – 5 (I was able to prepare the meals in a reasonable amount of time!)
Taste – 5 (nearly all of the Plated dishes were delicious)
Value – 5 (about $8 per plate–I got more than 2 servings per recipe)
Grand Total – 18

Blue Apron LogoDelivery & Packaging – 4 (on-time delivery, and packing material was the most reusable of the three)
Ease & Prep Time – 3 (the prep time was longer than I would like–too much time in the kitchen)
Taste – 4 (first box was very good and second box was ho-hum)
Value – 4 (about $9 per plate–I got just a smidge over 2 servings per recipe)
Grand Total – 15

Hello Fresh LogoDelivery & Packaging – 3 (on-time delivery, but too much non-recyclable packaging)
Ease & Prep Time – 5 (meals were easy to prepare and not a bunch of time spent in the kitchen)
Taste – 4 (I liked most of the dishes; a couple were so-so)
Value – 5 (about $7 per plate–I got way more than 2 servings per recipe)
Grand Total – 17

Keep in mind that this is all very much a matter of personal taste (you know, when it comes to taste). What is delicious to me might be so-so to you, and what I find ho-hum might be delectable to you. Honestly, all three are providing great quality food and an affordable convenience that I hope is around for a long time. At least until I have a personal shopper/chef (which, it’s safe to say, will be never!).

If you would like to give Hello Fresh a try, feel free to use my KellyGropp discount code for $40 off your first box. Use code 3FEPQM. You get $40 off, I get $20 off the next box I purchase. Win-win!

If Plated and/or Blue Apron provide any discounts, I’ll be sure to share those on the Chubs Lived Here facebook page.  Like CLH on facebook so you don’t miss any give-aways or discounts!

Congratulations to Plated–I’ll be ordering a box soon!

Cheers!
Kelly

Gourmet Meals in a Box: Hello Fresh Week 2

Week two of Hello Fresh is in the books! One of this week’s dinners was fantastic, while the other two were good. Here’s a peek at what they sent me and what it looked like after my culinary impressionism.

 Pan-Seared Salmon with Honeydew-Cucumber Salsa & Watercress Salad

This one is tough to judge because it is, after all, a matter of personal taste. Remember in week one of Hello Fresh when I loved the salmon-sweet potato cakes because they didn’t taste too salmony? Well the pan-seared salmon is full-on salmon. No sweet potatoes to take the edge off that fish taste. So, while I think it was a good dish, it wasn’t my favorite because the salmon tasted like salmon. I can’t put this on Hello Fresh. I could have chosen an alternate dish, but I think those salmon-sweet potato cakes tricked me into thinking I really liked salmon!

Hello Fresh Pan-Seared Salmon
Pan-Seared Salmon tasted like salmon

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Saltimbocca with Sautéed Spinach & Garlic-Sage Sauce

This dish was delicious! The prosciutto got just slightly crispy. The chicken was juicy tender, and the sage, prosciutto and sauce gave it all the flavor it needed. The side of sautéed spinach loaded with garlic and grape tomatoes is nearly a stand-alone for me. This is one of my favorite summer sides.

Hello Fresh Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken
Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken

Curried Jamaican Beef & Collard Greens with Spicy Red Chili & Creamy Polenta

This dish sounds wonderful, it has the ingredients to be wonderful, but it lacked something. Perhaps if the onion had been diced rather than thinly sliced it would have married with the beef a little better. The ground beef tasted as though all the flavor was on the outside, but when I started chewing, it was just plain beef on the inside. Does that make any sense? No? The creamy polenta was redeeming–who doesn’t love polenta?

Hello Fresh Curried Jamaican Beef
Curried Jamaican Beef & Collard Greens

The box was delivered on the day specified, and everything was kept cool and seemed fresh. However, the box was partially open. One flap had popped away from the strip of packing tape across the top. The other flap was taped down, and because of the styrofoam box within the box, there didn’t seem to be any chance of tampering.

Hello Fresh box partially opened
Box arrived like this. All flappy.

The recipes were easy to prepare, and I was quite close to hitting the HF time estimates. Hello Fresh uses more packaging than I would prefer. If I were to use any of these services on a regular basis, I doubt I would get much sleep for all the worry over the non-recyclables.

Hello Fresh packaging
Less individual packaging, but the styrofoam liner is too much

Room for Improvement

  • Nutrition labeling – for example, on the “Stock Concentrate.” This is important to me.
  • Reduce the amount of packaging and use more recyclables.

Would I Recommend Hello Fresh?

Yes. These recipes were all easy to prepare, they did not keep me in the kitchen too long, and about half of them were quite tasty (which, again, is a matter of personal opinion). The portions were large which meant I had leftovers for lunches and dinners beyond the box. Bonus!

Let me know if you’ve used Hello Fresh and what you think. Next up is my comparison of the three (Plated, Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh). Stay tuned!

Cheers!
Kelly

Gourmet Meals in a Box: Hello Fresh Week 1

Hello Fresh is the third and final gourmet, cook it yourself, meals delivered to your home service I am trying. This one was the most difficult to register and choose my menu, but sometimes things are just difficult for me. I got caught in a loop where it asked me to choose my menu, and when I clicked to choose my menu, it asked me to choose my menu. I went round and round like that for about 10 clicks before I quit. I logged in the next day and all went well.

I did the same with Hello Fresh as I did with the others and chose a box with three meals to be delivered once per week. The package was delivered on time and everything looked good and fresh. The only snafu was that something leaked and some things were wet and sticky, so I had to wipe down the containers and bags and then sanitize my refrigerator once everything had been used.

Of the three, Hello Fresh delivered the largest box and it was lined with a styrofoam cooler. There was less packaging of the individual ingredients, but overall, the styrofoam was a lot of non-recyclable stuff. I looked it up, and I cannot recycle the styrofoam at my receptacle.

Styrofoam packaging
The styrofoam box within the box

The first three recipes were:

Old Bay-Spiced Salmon & Sweet Potato Cakes with Tomato-Arugala Salad

I was a little skeptical about these because I often find salmon more fishy-tasting than I prefer. What a pleasant surprise these were! The mashed sweet potato folded into the salmon took the edge off and gave it great texture and flavor. They came out great and I even froze a few for later (bonus!). The recipe card said it should take about 50 minutes to prepare, and of course I went over, but not by much.

Old Bay-Spiced Salmon & Sweet Potato Cakes from Hello Fresh
Old Bay-Spiced Salmon & Sweet Potato Cakes with Tomato-Arugala Salad

Cuban-Style Beef Picadillo with Red Beans and Rice

This dish was delicious! The first bite I took, I thought it was okay, but by the third bite I couldn’t  shovel it into my mouth fast enough. A friend joined me for dinner that evening and she, too, said it was a tasty dish. The green olives and golden raisins were the perfect mix of sweet and salty. The beef and tomatoes over the Basmati rice and beans made for a comfort food dream. This was some good eats. The time stamp said 35 minutes, but I think it took me more like 45 or 50. Well worth it.

Cuban-Style Beef Picadillo from Hello Fresh
Cuban-Style Beef Picadillo with Red Beans and Rice

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Apple Compote, Spinach Salad & Crispy Shallots

Of the three recipes, this was my least favorite, but it was still good. The problem was, I got an email from Hello Fresh the day before delivery telling me the pork was not up to their quality standards. There was no evidence that the pork was harmful to eat, but they suggested that I not cook it. I appreciate that they caught the problem and notified me. And really, this happens at grocery stores too, so no points deducted for having an issue with one of the products. They were on top of it and said they would reimburse me the cost of the pork plus give me a $10 account credit for the inconvenience.

However, I don’t know that I purchased the right cut of pork at the local Harris Teeter to replace it. And, I have a history of preparing tough pork. I’m having total deja vu here because I am certain I made that same statement about beef recently. Hmm, apparently I can’t prepare meat properly!

Anywho, the dish had good flavor, but the pork was tough. I had another friend over for dinner that evening, but given her vegetarian status, she was not affected by my poor pork-cooking skills anyway. She said the apple compote and spinach salad were great. Hello Fresh said 35 minutes; I delivered in 45.

Pan-Seared Pork Chops from Hello Fresh
Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Apple Compote, Spinach Salad & Crispy Shallots

On a scale of 1 to 5, here’s how the first week of Hello Fresh went:

Delivery and Packaging – 3.5

I cannot move beyond the fact that the entire box was lined with a styrofoam cooler. Additionally, this was the largest box of the three. And there was the issue of the leaky something and having to wipe things off and sanitize my refrigerator.

Quality of Ingredients – 4

With the exception of the pork, and remember I said I would not deduct points for that because it can happen to anyone, everything was fresh and of good quality. Again, nutrition labeling on the ingredients which are not fresh fruits or vegetables would be helpful. I guess I’ll just say that ’til I’m blue in the face.

Ease of Preparation – 4.5

Either I’m getting better at this cooking thing, or these were some easy-peasy recipes. The time involved was not much more than suggested, and each recipe called for slicing and dicing only 5 ingredients. Only 5!

Taste – 5

These recipes were delicious, and again, at least one of them was a dish I would not have thought I could prepare (the salmon cakes). I’m pretty pleased with myself!

Value/Price – 5

The cost is $69 per box, which includes three recipes, each providing dinner for two. That comes to $11.50 per plate. I got more than two servings from each recipe, so it was more like $7.50 per plate. For me, this is a super deal, because I typically spend between $9 and $12 per day on lunch when I don’t prepare something ahead of time (which is typically my predicament).

So there you have the first week of Hello Fresh. I have one week to go beginning tomorrow. Let me know if you have any questions–I am always happy to chit-chat with you all!

Cheers!
Kelly