If you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably noticed a variety of meal delivery services that promise convenient, healthy dinners with fresh ingredients all delivered to your door. Many of these companies advertise a half off price for their first time customers. One of these companies is Hello Fresh. I took notice of their Facebook advertisements after hearing about them on my favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder. While their introductory price is a pretty decent deal ($30 for 3, 2 person meals so $5 a portion,) I wondered if it was worth continuing at the full $60 ($10 per portion) price. I took the plunge and decided to give it a try.
So what was this like? After entering in my personal information and getting my payment set up, I was left to pick 3 meals from 8 possible choices. One of these meals was considered premium with the option to pay $5 more per portion for a fancier meal. I clicked my 3 basic meals, saved my selections, and waited for the food to be delivered the next week.
Tuesday came and the box was sitting outside my door. I unpacked the contents to find what is pictured below, 3 paper bags of ingredients, 3 packages of protein, a freezer pack, some insulation, recipe cards, and additional advertisement.
I admit, I was instantly turned off by the freezer pack’s recycling instructions. If you can’t quite read them, it states,
1) Cut a corner
2) Empty non-toxic contents into trash
3) Recycle plastic package.
Being someone who tries to play an active role in understanding the environmental impact of my consumption habits, these instructions didn’t feel like the best option for disposal. After digging around online, I found that Hello Fresh isn’t the only company facing criticism for this. To be honest, there doesn’t seem to be a great solution out there right now. Is this the trade off for convenience? Is the impact of the freezer packs really negated by what these companies claim to save the world from in terms of food waste? The jury still seems to be out on this one but I encourage you to do your own research and come to your own conclusion if this concerns you. (This article did a better job than I at discussing the issue.)
Recycling instructions for the rest of the packaging can be found on Hello Fresh’s website. The boxes, the bags, and various other papers inside are always recyclable. The liners are not. Hello Fresh uses a variety of insulated liners based on what they refer to as “extreme weather ” and the recyclability of these differs. In this box, the winter flex foil liners (see picture below,) must be thrown in the trash. While this isn’t the solution I was hoping to hear, I imagine it’s pretty tough to find ecofriendly insulation that will keep delicate vegetables from freezing and turning black after being left on a Wisconsin doorstep in mid-February. I have received other Hello Fresh boxes with different types of insulation that are fully recyclable so they get a pass from me on this one.
(Curious kitties checking out the packaging.)
Great, so the box made it to your door, but what about the food itself? Well that depends. Before judging a service, I encourage you to think about your values. What are you looking for in a dinner? What matters to you? Is it the price of the meal? The sustainability of the ingredients? The nutritional content? The total time it took you from planning to consumption? Maybe it’s a little bit of everything.
Let me tell you what matters to me. My weekly meal planning routine typically consists of spending an hour or so on Pinterest to find 3-5 healthy and balanced dinners along with a weeks worth of make-ahead lunches. To keep food waste and cost to a minimum, I try to find meals that use a lot of the same ingredients or use things we already have at home. I admit, this can be tough. Sometimes I fail terribly and we end up eating Subway for a few meals that week.
Hello fresh takes a little of this burden off. Having to plan less meals, I have a little more precious weekend time to myself. The portions are exact, so I don’t have to worry about food waste for those 3 meals.
Nutrition and price are also points of concern to me. I admit, this is where Hello Fresh falls a little short of what I could do on my own. While I have never disliked a meal, I have found some of them to be overpriced for what they are or that they contain too many premade ingredients. Of course I expect these meals to cost more than if I drove myself to the store and purchased all the ingredients myself, but occasionally the meal has felt too full of premade, often sugary ingredients. (See the sweet Thai sauce pictured below.) Realizing this, I try to be more conscious of what the meal might contain when I’m picking it out online.
- Price: At $10 per portion, Hello Fresh isn’t the best option for everyone. Could you make the majority of these meals for under $10? Absolutely. Is the price worth the convenience? That’s a personal decision. For me, it’s worth it when I don’t have the energy to put a lot of thought into meal planning.
- Ingredients: If you’re trying to add fresh vegetables into your diet and your current idea of cooking is boxed macaroni and cheese, Hello Fresh is a great option to consider. If you are already incorporating a lot of healthy foods into your diet, you might find this a step back. If locally sourcing your ingredients is important to you, then Hello Fresh will likely let you down. If you are against premade foods, just remember that when you pick your meals for the week.
- Packaging: If you are concerned about excess packing and shipping, you might need to do more research for yourself. Sure, Hello Fresh packages foods individually and ships them to your door, but they claim to make up for it in wasted food savings. And what about the bane of my existence, those plastic bags in the produce department that everyone seems to fond of. Is this any worse or any better? I honestly don’t know.
All in all, I like the service. While I don’t use Hello Fresh every week, I do receive meals typically one week per month. (It’s nice that you can skip as many weeks as you want.) I find it especially helpful when I know I have a weekend of traveling coming up and I won’t have the time or mental energy to put into meal planning and shopping. I find the convenience worth the price in cases like these.