Chop, Slice, Dice!Oct 02, 2018 ● By Christine Perrenot
One of the latest crazes in the culinary world is home meal delivery services. Not only can this be a fun way to make the task of meal preparation more enjoyable, but it can be a healthy alternative to what you may find yourself scrambling to cook during the weekly rush.
Whether you try HelloFresh™, Green Chef or Blue Apron™, a meal delivery service may be something worth looking into to help save you time and money. Boxes provide quick recipes, less food prep work and a variety of delicious meal choices.
The Frisco STYLE team decided to order meal kits of our own to learn more about our likes and dislikes when it comes to having fresh food delivered right to the front door. With step-by-step cooking instructions included with the meals, how hard could it be?
Throughout the process, and with each company’s meals, we paid special attention to the ordering process, delivery method, food packaging (extremely important, especially when dealing with raw meats), the difficulty level of the cooking instructions and the overall cost of participating in the plan. Another detail we discussed throughout the process was how beneficial some plans would be for people who are single, part of a couple or who are cooking for an entire family. Each company has varying plans to meet everyone’s unique needs. All of the meals were delivered on time and ingredients were fresh and packaged to hold at the correct temperature.
The first delivery service we tried was HelloFresh. One valuable thing to note about this service is that users can pause or skip a week by using the app or going online to ensure you only get meal deliveries when you really want or need them. There is no long-term commitment necessary and customers can cancel at any time.
HelloFresh offers Veggie Plans (vegetarian recipes with plant-based proteins, grains and seasonal produce), Classic Plans (a variety of meats, fish and seasonal produce) and Family Plans (quick and easy meals for the whole family). When selecting meals, customers have the option to choose from several preferences, including variety, fit, quick, seafood-free, pork-free or beef-free. Users simply select the number of people and recipes they need for each week and prices are adjusted accordingly.
Some, but not all, of the ingredients included in HelloFresh boxes are organic. The company’s website claims produce is chosen based on what looks and tastes best.
Meal boxes are delivered to your doorstep. I was extremely impressed to find recycling tutorials for packaging components on HelloFresh’s website, which is user-friendly and easy to understand pretty quickly.
After choosing three meals online that were to be delivered the following week, we selected the Southwestern Beef Tacos as the first entrée to taste test.
After opening the box, we found three separate large brown bags that included the ingredients for each meal provided in the delivery. Inside each brown bag, you find the ingredients for the meal you are making (which are labeled very obviously) and can cross check them with the ingredient list on the recipe card that is included before you start cooking. Once we gathered the other supplies we needed (a pan, cutting board, knife, etc.) and washed all the produce, we were off to the races.
We felt the instructions for HelloFresh were more straight-forward, step-by-step and easy to follow than those of any other meal service we tried. Specific cutting and chopping directions were provided for each piece of produce. After we made the crema and marinated the jalapenos, the pepper and onion went in a pan on the stove with some oil, salt and pepper, and the air was immediately filled with a scrumptious aroma. Once the veggies were cooked, it was time to cook the beef. Finally, the best part of cooking came to life! We plated the ingredients and topped the tacos with cilantro leaves and the marinated jalapenos. In all, the meal made six colorful and yummy tacos with a generous amount of ingredients in each tortilla. If you like spicy foods, this is a great (and easy) option for you.
Another cool thing about HelloFresh, is that on recipe cards, the best type of wine to serve with a meal is included, since HelloFresh has its very own Wine Club!
Oftentimes, there are even exclusive new user offers that are great money-savers to take advantage of. You can sign up, order food or learn more about this meal delivery service at hellofresh.com.
Next on our list of meal delivery companies to check out was Blue Apron. Like other services, you can skip or delay delivery on meals, as long as you confirm it before the delivery cut-off time. Blue Apron has two plans to choose from, including the Two-Person Plan (with vegetarian options available) and the Family Plan. After choosing how many people and meals you want to receive per week, the plan’s price is adjusted and you can choose your dishes. At this time, it appears Blue Apron does not offer specific dietary plans (gluten-free, paelo, etc.), with the exception of the two-person vegetarian plan. The website mentioned that the culinary team designs recipes so they can be adjusted with simple at-home substitutions for those people who may have specific dietary requirements.
Recipe photos are featured online, helping customers visualize their meal before ordering. There is also a Market section of the website, if you want to fill your kitchen with the latest and greatest cooking supplies, devoted to kitchen utensils and essentials.
We did receive a discount on this order as first-time customers. Our meals and supplies were delivered in an aluminum bag and all ingredients for all recipes were packaged together, not split up by recipe (like the other two companies do). We were not crazy about this, especially after having been spoiled by the organization of HelloFresh’s ingredients. However, we felt good about it once we realized ice packs and packaging for Blue Apron contents are recyclable and it only took a few minutes to separate ingredients according to recipe.
The Blue Apron meal we decided to cook was the Spiced Chicken and Couscous. This Mediterranean-inspired dish featured ras el hanout, a North African blend of turmeric, cumin and more.
We found the instructions for Blue Apron to be somewhat wordy, which impacted the flow of meal preparation. Directions were provided to cook the couscous while preparing the other ingredients. We washed the tomatoes, peeled the garlic and halved the green beans. The chicken was packaged, but it was pre-cut, which was extremely convenient and helpful. Once the meat was prepared, we added the vegetables and seasoned the dish. It was easy to put it all together once we figured everything out. The Spiced Chicken and Couscous ended up being my favorite dish out of everything we cooked, across all three companies. Let me tell you, the kitchen has never smelled so good!
Upon further research on additional menu items listed online, it seems like Blue Apron has the largest variety of meals that include uncommon spices and ingredients. It can be an adventure to cook with substances you might be unfamiliar with. We especially appreciated the highlighted explanation on the recipe card of how ras el hanout and tzatziki can both be used, regardless of the dish. It even detailed the ingredients’ origins.
Blue Apron also offers a wine program that suggests the best wines for specific dishes you may be cooking. On the Blue Apron app, chefs can even watch how-to videos! There are many resources to help customers make the most out of their meal kits.
Go to blueapron.com to order food or to check out everything this meal delivery service has to offer.
Green Chef prides itself on being a USDA-certified organic company. Meals are genetically modified organism (GMO)-free and the materials used in the food delivery process are recyclable.
Green Chef offers featured meal plans for omnivores and those who are eating a paleo, keto, gluten-free or vegan diet. Customers can try the Two-Person Plan or the Family Plan. Out of all three meal delivery services, Green Chef seems to offer the most diet-specific meal options, making sure everyone who may be interested in ordering meals, regardless of their dietary restrictions, has a variety of delicious options to choose from.
All of the delivered ingredients are pre-portioned, pre-measured and prepped, saving you even more time in the kitchen. As with other meal delivery services, there is no minimum commitment and you can skip orders or cancel easily. Packaging is eco-friendly and made from recyclable, reusable or compostable materials.
The Green Chef meal we prepared was the Pineapple Teriyaki Salmon. This was off the brand’s paleo/gluten-free menu. The recipe card had great photos and directions (also somewhat wordy). First, we prepped the veggies, pineapple and nuts. These ingredients were then stir-fried with oil. Next, the salmon fillets were cooked. The pineapple sauce was easy to make and was poured generously over the meal once everything was plated. I think this dish was a huge success!
Check out greenchef.com to start a meal delivery service or learn more about everything offered by Green Chef.
So, will you give a meal delivery service a try? It seems to me that this is a valuable tool to help cook (in a healthy manner) your way through a busy week. Make it a fun date night, family event or activity to help kids get involved in the kitchen. Regardless of what you order, it is always good to try something new. Bon appetit!