My Honest Review on the HelloFresh Vegetarian Box

Okay, everyone. I wanted to go a different route with today's (well, yesterday's) post, and what better than to review something unexpected, something that was decidedly not beauty-related. Last month, Sean got a discount in his email where you get $40 off of your first order. Sean and I were intrigued, we'd heard a bit about the service, but had no idea what other people thought of it. I thought we could try it out, and then I could do a review on it. This first order came with coupon codes for three free boxes to give away. I took one and created an account in order to get another box. I gave the other to mum, and the last one to my brother's family.

HelloFresh is a weekly subscription box, where they deliver a box of fresh produce, along with a set of healthy and nutritious recipes. This is meant to take the trouble out of figuring out what to cook for dinner and buying the ingredients yourself. The meal boxes are prepared according to the recipes, in order to prevent wastage. The only things that the cook would need to provide are basic pantry items such as olive oil, eggs and salt and pepper. The box comes with an ice pack, some insulating material and recipe sheets.

They have three different sets of meal boxes, the Classic Box for the omnivores, the Veggie Box for the vegetarians and the Family Box, where the recipes are designed to suit children. The pricing for each of these varies by the type of box and the number of meals vs serves. For example, the Classic box gives you the option of getting three or five meals, to serve two or four people, and to get a three meal box for two people, it is $69.95, whilst the three meal box for four people is $124.95. They break down the cost for each serve to take the guesswork out of calculating what is cheaper.

The Veggie Box only gives you three meals a week, for two or four people, while the Family Box is quite limited in that it only has one option, and that is four meals for four people for $129.95.

When we were waiting for the first box to arrive, they gave us a delivery window of 2 pm to 8 pm. We waited, and when we called as soon as 8 pm came around, we were told that there was a delay and they were on their way and would be there within the hour. They arrived at 9:30 pm, rang the doorbell and handed us the box. We opened it to start putting the ingredients away and immediately we found our second issue. The spinach was showing signs of being old, as some of the leaves were wilted. A few days later, we found that the pita bread supplied was mouldy, days before its best before date.

HelloFresh's freshness claims are questionable, so we advised them of those issues, and they gave us a $5 credit on Sean's account. We had to go out and replace the pita bread for our meal, and separate the spinach before we could use it. The second box, paid for by the coupon supplied in the first box, arrived around 3 pm, and we were pleased to find that everything was still fresh and didn't show signs of degradation. Things were looking up.

The recipes provided looked delicious, and the layout was easy to understand with keys for things like "ingredient shared with another recipe", "a pantry item" or "preparation required".  They also came with a nutrition panel, an estimated amount of time it took to cook the meals, and a few pictures of the processes, which would help beginner cooks. Some of the dishes were interesting and flavourful enough, without being underwhelming or bland, while a few weren't that great. An example of this is the Eggplant Flatbread dish.

The Eggplant Flatbread was not very satisfying, two pita bread per serve topped with caramelised onions, grilled eggplant, a spice mix and a mixture of tahini and greek yoghurt. Sean and I were hungry enough to venture out to Hungry Jacks, so I could have some chips. Another dish we didn't particularly like either was the Persian Baked Eggs. I found it too watery and bland for my liking and didn't finish my bowl. In fact, I stopped eating less than halfway through.

I really liked the Pan-Fried Halloumi with the Green Pearl Barley and Parsley Oil. However, if I were to make it again, I would skip the spinach because I prefer spinach raw, not cooked. The halloumi is tasty, and I find myself wanting more recipes that include it. It's high in protein and adds a lot of flavour and interest to dishes. Another favourite dish was the Ginger Eggplant Stir Fry. I love Thai food, and this was great, packed with flavour. The Moreish Pumpkin Risotto is also another delicious dish, though I think it would have been extra delicious if it had some blue cheese in it.

I think that, overall, the boxes aren't great value for the money. I could plan and buy at least a week of meals for me and Sean for the same price, and have plenty left over to eat the next day. I question the freshness claim the service has because some of the things ended up going off sooner than expected. Also, the recipes are inconsistent when it came to being flavourful or delicious enough to eat it all. If they provided recipes that were consistently great throughout the week, I would have been more open to the idea of trying this service out more than once.

I noticed that they tended to reuse recipes on the website, though they would give it a different name each time so that they sounded a bit different.

I noticed that while they weren't stingy with the ingredients, they were sometimes wasteful. Example, a whole butternut squash was provided with a box, when only half was needed for a recipe. A recipe would call for four pita bread, while they provided us with 6. The last two went to waste quickly because they got mouldy before we could get around to eating them. There was lots of the tahini and Greek yoghurt mixture left over after the Eggplant Flatbread we eventually had to throw it out.

Another inconsistency that I feel I need to mention is that they don't necessarily provide the exact ingredients that the recipe calls for, as we got a green zucchini instead of a yellow one and goats cheese (not that I'm complaining, I LOVE goats cheese) instead of feta cheese.

What I did like, however, was the variety of recipes; they didn't stick to the same old boring dishes or a certain theme. Each day was different to the previous day, and exposed me to some new things, such as the halloumi and using peaches in a salad. I also like the fact that they were acutely aware of the ingredients in processed foods that they supplied, like the rennet in the parmesan and halloumi cheeses for the vegetarian boxes. I found a brand of vegetarian parmesan cheese that I really liked and I hope to be able to get them locally. 

While I won't be ordering from them again, I do plan on using their website to browse through their archive of recipes for ideas on what to add to my weekly meal plan, especially because some recipes can contain few ingredients yet still pack a punch, which saves a lot of money, and you can get an idea of exactly how much produce to buy for each recipe.

I suppose, if one were to have a higher disposable income and so little time left in their week to collect recipes that were nutritious and used only fresh ingredients, organise a meal plan, do the shopping and then cook a meal from scratch, this meal service can be useful. Especially for really busy families where there just isn't any time to deal with trivial things like meal planning when family time is much more precious.

I have another post planned for tomorrow and it's going to be a good one. It's a collaboration with the lovely Simone from The Beautiful Imperfections Journal.

Would you ever subscribe to a meal delivery service like HelloFresh? Why or why not?



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