The Domestic Realist’s attempt to simplify meal planning using Hello Fresh
My dear friend generously gifted me a free week of Hello Fresh. She started using the service when she was gifted a week. Impressed by having a fancier meal for her and her hubby after her kids went to sleep with little thought involved, she quickly fell in love with the service.
Since baby boy was born 7 months ago, official dinners are hard to come by in our house. His feedings are around 5:30-6, right smack in the middle of dinner time. So when I would normally be cooking, I’m now feeding him and trying to keep the toddler from getting too hungry before hubby comes home from work.
When I was offered a week of free meals for dinner I jumped on the opportunity. Free helps the already tight food budget and boxed meals didn’t require any thought about meal planning or buying ingredients. (It always amazes me how long it can take to meal plan some weeks. And then I still end up forgetting an ingredient somehow.)
Arrival of the Box
The box was delivered by UPS at 5:10 on Monday afternoon. I quickly went through it to see what was included and which items needed to go in the refrigerator. The meat was packed neatly under large ice packs and the rest of the items were in individual boxes with the recipe name clearly labeled. I was impressed with how neatly everything was packaged and how cold the meat was. The only item I felt was not cold enough was a yogurt in one of the boxes. I quickly hopped on my Walmart grocery account to add another to my grocery order. You can read more about that service here.
Once the items were put away, I started reading through to see which recipe I felt would be quickest to complete since it was very close to dinner time. Also taking into consideration which ingredients might not be as fresh in a few days.
Night 1 – Orange-Glazed Meatballs With Crispy Broccolini and Rice
After deciding on the orange glazed meatballs, I quickly fed baby boy so I could start the prep ASAP. Unfortunately, he was not really in the mood to eat so I attempted to start making the meal knowing I would have to stop and feed him again. But this is how most meal prep goes in my house. There is always the chance I will have to whip out my boob to feed baby boy in the middle of trying to get something done!
To make sure I knew exactly how long this meal took to cook I even broke out the stopwatch on my phone. With the excitement of this time of day, I knew I would easily forget the start time.
I quickly went to work on the items that took longer as per the recipe. Once the rice and broccolini were cooking I started on the meatball and glaze prep. This was much harder than I anticipated and I started stressing out.
How the hell do I supreme an orange???
Hello Fresh offered a how to video but only through their app and not the website. Trying not to waste any more time I turned to youtube and watched a video there. I did as good as I could but didn’t really supreme the orange. And honestly, I would be fine if I never supreme an orange again.
As I was attempting to finish this step of the recipe R, the toddler, continuously requested orange slices. I was more than happy to oblige just to get some fruit in her system;)
The next step was making the meatballs themselves. At this point, my brain hurt from the orange step and baby J decided he was ready for me again. Hubby graciously tagged in, to form and cook the meatballs. I appreciated his help in this step the most since touching meat isn’t my thing.
Once those were cooking and I was done feeding baby J, I started reading through the glaze instructions and was immediately confused. Despite the recipe coming with adorable miniature bottles of items like vinegar, soy sauce, and marmalade (which I was tempted to wash and keep just because of their cuteness), it wasn’t clear about how much you should add to the glaze. The measurements listed may have been for the recipe but it didn’t list it clearly enough. Hubby said it had to be the whole container of each so we went with that! (I could tell he was starting to get hungry by his suggestion!)
When the glaze was done we were finally ready to plate and eat the meal! What was listed as a 30-minute meal quickly became a 1-hour 15-minute meal. This was much later than we normally eat but thankfully the meal was well worth the extra time. It was delicious and a change of pace from our usual meal of eating whatever you can find in the fridge.
I attempted to review each recipe before the dinner time crunch to see if there was anything unclear on the other meals. I felt that this would help speed up the prep time and cook times. Eating that late each night was not going to work for our family.
Night 2 – Pan Seared Pork Chops with Shallot Thyme Pan Sauce, Peach Arugula Salad, and Couscous
On night two I decided to start the prep a little earlier, thinking that would make an earlier dinner time. Boy, was I wrong. Ha! This meal also took 1 hour and 13 minutes, not including the 10-minute feeding break for J. The meal required more chopping than the night before and trying to rush I ended up throwing out the minced shallots and having to do it a second time. I mostly blame baby brain. But the fact that R was “cutting” J’s hair while he was in the bumbo seat with her hammer and wrench probably didn’t help my focus.
The meal required pan cooking again which I prefer to do on the side burner on the grill outside but shockingly we were out of propane. I am not a fan of the whole house smelling like grease and smoke after a meal. SOOOO when I was finished cooking I went straight to fill my glass with some vino. This, of course, is what the meal was missing.
Overall this meal was easy to make but it took longer than I wanted. Hubby liked it since I never make pork and R loved the leftover peach from the salad. If nothing else, these meals were getting her to eat more fresh fruit with dinner!
Night 3 – Chicken Gyro Salad with Tzatziki Dressing, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Cucumber
I had high hopes for getting this meal on the table quicker than the first two nights. This recipe was similar to the chicken gyro I’ve made before so I figured it would move faster.
To cut some time I started crossing off some of the steps. I am not a fan of raw onion so I eliminated that ingredient. I also substituted garlic powder instead of pressing and mincing some. This probably saved 5 minutes in reality but I felt good about it at the time. Ha!
The chicken was cooked on broil in the oven, which helped cut down on the smell in the house. I appreciated a break from the pan cooking but knew the final recipe still called for that cooking technique.
This meal was a success with the family! Things were looking up! The toddler was licking the bowl of tzatziki and asked for more tomatoes and cucumbers! Nothing is cuter than a toddler with a tzatziki mustache!
Night 4 – Steak Fajitas with Kiwi Salsa and Crispy Beans
By the fourth night, I was burned out. It had been a loooong time since I cooked full meals from scratch, especially for 3 days in a row. Considering our meals lately have consisted of leftovers and easy to cook items like frozen pizza, frozen chicken, and frozen veggies, it was hard to get into a groove in the kitchen chopping, slicing, and cooking. When I do cook I make a point to cook a meal that will last 2-3 days. We heart leftovers in our house!
So when day 4 rolled around, I started doubting if I would make the last meal at all. Even though it was one of those crazy days, where your child is sick and you are exhausted, I powered through to make one last meal. Hubby and I weren’t sure about the kiwi salsa but still made it because any salsa is better than no salsa in our book.
Despite the exhaustion from the week and day, the meal turned out great! What an interesting combination the tomatoes and kiwi were for a salsa. This was a meal we would definitely cook again and maybe tweak just a little bit. I cannot have a mexican-ish dish without cheese, it’s just wrong!
Pros, Cons, & Tips for Using Hello Fresh
Use This Handy Dandy Chart to Decide if Hello Fresh is Right for You!
Conclusion – Is Hello Fresh for Me?
Based on where we are in our life (two children under 3), subscribing to the Classic Hello Fresh box that included 4 meals was more stressful than helpful. We usually don’t cook everyday and rely heavily on leftovers. LIKE so heavily we take leftovers from both of our parents’ house when we eat there.
It was great to save money for a week on dinners and try some new recipes, as a person can only eat so many frozen chicken nuggets before they lose their mind! But the reality for us is that we need easy to cook meals that give us leftovers to ensure we actually eat a real dinner as a family.
The Solution is for the second box I ordered the family box of two meals for 4 people. Less meals to cook and with our small family we could have leftovers the next night. Less cooking but the same ease of not planning or buying groceries for dinner! This was a much better solution for our family at this season of life!
I would definitely recommend this if you have time to cook 3-4 days a week and are looking for an easier way to plan and shop for your meals. There is no chance that you are missing an ingredient, which I know has happened to me one too many times in my life. It all comes boxed and organized for you. You get a great variety of choices each week and will never get bored! It’s so easy to get in a dinner rut when you plan meals on your own!
If we were in a different stage of life, without children or our children were older and more independent (i.e. I didn’t have to breastfeed one during the time I cook), we would definitely use Hello Fresh regularly for our meals. Right now, I will be using it here and there to help break up the dinner boredom. And on weeks I know Hubby is going to be home early from work to help!
Is Hello Fresh for you? Do you think this will help alleviate the stress of meal planning for you and your family?
This post was featured on The Disorganized Parent, check it out!