Tag Archives: Recipe Services

Cooking with Hello Fresh

TRAVEL TALK: THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING

So, by the time I had unpacked my box from Hello Fresh, they were already way behind the Blue Apron Experience.  However, we’d changed services for the benefit of my hubby.  Did things get any better?

Time to Cook

In spite of all my little disappointments, the proof is in the pudding – not the packaging.  If I could have a happy husband, I could live without the Blue Apron knick knacks bag.  Only cooking wasn’t quite as much fun either.

At first glance, the recipe cards for Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are very similar.  One is formatted in Portrait and the other in Landscape, but that is irrelevant to the outcome of the meal.  For the most part, both cards contain the same information, but Hello Fresh completely missed the opportunity to tell me how delicious the recipe was going to be and what delightful ingredients I had received.  Aesthetically Blue Apron is more attractive to me.  Every item in every picture is upscale and pristine, just as you would expect in a gourmet kitchen.  Hello Fresh has more mundane accouterments in their photographs, including a stained cooking sheet.  Bad form Hello Fresh.  Points to Blue Apron.

Then I started cooking and the points went to Blue Apron – AGAIN.  The instructions are so much easier to follow on Blue Apron.  For one thing, Blue Apron has you prep all the items before you start cooking, so everything is ready before you actually start the tricky stuff.  Hello Fresh intersperses the prep work in with the cooking, so you have to stop all the way along to prep something else.  On my third meal, I went through the recipe and underlined all the prep work and did it before I started the rest of it, but that was a hassle.

Also, Blue Apron is virtually foolproof.  It gave simple instructions and then told you how long to do whatever it was you were supposed to do to the food – roast for 10 minutes, turning over halfway; cook over medium high heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly – that sort of thing.  With Hello Fresh there was a whole lot more do-this-until-that-happens, which leaves a whole lot up to chance. Yep, points to Blue Apron.

With Blue Apron, all you add from your own kitchen is olive oil, salt and pepper.  Hello Fresh also asks for butter and sugar in addition.  Points to Blue Apron.

Hello Fresh also sent more stuff than you needed – which defeated part of the reason I wanted a meal kit in the first place.  Like sending a can of tomato paste, when I only needed a tablespoon.  They pretend it’s a bonus, but the last thing I want at the end of a meal is a partial can of something.  Points to Blue Apron again.

Hello Fresh and Blue Apron also handle calorie counts differently and as you might guess, I liked Blue Apron’s methodology better.  Blue Apron packs a small pamphlet in their knick knack sack with the calories and all the nutritional information.  I never saw any meal with more than 800 calories and it was usually much lower, averaging in the mid-600’s to the mid-700’s.  Hello Fresh puts all the nutritional information for the whole week on one card – which includes all those meals I didn’t order.  It’s my job to keep up with the card all week and I saw a meal with 950 calories.  Points to Blue Apron.

There was one thing Hello Fresh did that I really liked.  Every week Blue Apron sends you a head of garlic.  Almost every recipe has the peeling and chopping of garlic in it.  We never used an entire head, so I was giving out garlic to whoever would take it.  In addition, peeling garlic is not one of my favorite things to do.  So surprise, points to Hello Fresh.

Dinner on the Table

Visually, I thought Blue Apron meals looked more inviting than Hello Fresh and my husband would probably agree, but as soon as he started eating, he’d turn up his nose at something.  Hello Fresh’s Parmesan Crusted Fish came with potatoes so everything was pretty much the same color, except for a sprinkling of carrots.  Same with the Pork Chop and Sweet Potatoes – monochromatic, except for a few green beans.  Hello Fresh’s finished product just didn’t have the sizzle of a Blue Apron plate, so you know who got the points.

But was Hello Fresh delicious?  With the small exception of tasteless sweet potatoes, hubby gave the week an unqualified thumbs up.  He was ready to go for the second week.  Anything except Blue Apron for him, I guess.

I wasn’t as happy and it had to do with the quality of the food.  The Parmesan Crusted Fish?  Tilapia!  Something I never saw with Blue Apron.  The potatoes sent with the fish were common white potatoes, not the fingerlings and Yukon Golds Blue Apron had gotten me to fall in love with.  To me, the Hello Fresh meals were OK, but pretty much what I could accomplish on my own, so kind of a yawn.  The good news, I guess is that even though my cooking is sort of boring, my husband likes it.

Will we continue with Hello Fresh?  Well, I was bored.  So I used a coupon Bill had found for Sun Basket.  Come back next week and see how that went.

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Hello, Hello Fresh

TRAVEL HERE: AND NOW FOR CONTESTANT NUMBER TWO

When your husband is not happy at the dinner table, it’s time to try out something different.  We both loved Blue Apron in the beginning, but as time went on, the level of satisfaction sank – especially for Mr. Bill.  Bill was tired of Blue Apron’s flavor of gourmet.  He wanted less adventure and more plain food.  I could feel his pain, but I didn’t want to go back to the days before delivered meal-kit came along.  So, a survey of the available services suggested Hello Fresh would solve my problems and give Bill a steady diet of good, but un-gourmet choices.

Choices and Ordering

When it came to the nuts and bolts of ordering meals, Hello Fresh seemed a lot like Blue Apron.  One new opportunity was the chance to upgrade one of your meals to a premium choice.  I just missed the lobster!  It had been available on the previous week.  I decided on my first order to stick with the regularly priced choices.

The selections were more like my mother used to make without the gourmet frills.  While that lowered the fun factor for me, a happy hubby was the goal, so I went with it.  We got an Italian Ciabatta Burger, Parmesan Crusted Fish and some Glazed Pork Chops.

Here Comes the Box

The box arrived as scheduled and from the outside it looked pretty much like the Blue Apron box, but with green as the primary color instead of blue.  When I opened the box, the story changed.

Inside the box were three huge grocery bags of food, each with a sticker announcing the meal they contained.  I’m not sure exactly what they thought I was supposed to do with that, because the sacks were too big for my frig.  It’s probably very convenient for them from a picking and packing standpoint, but I had to unpack the bags to get the items into the frig.  Blue Apron’s box came loaded with individually packaged items, not mystery grab bags.

As I unloaded the bags I sorted the ingredients into Ziplocks.  I discovered some of the items didn’t need refrigeration and some like the maple syrup would be better without it.  So each grocery bag of food was offloaded into one large Ziplock of refrigerated items and one small Ziplock of pantry items.  Points to Blue Apron!

Hello Fresh packaging wasn’t much fun either.  While unloading my Blue Apron box, there were elaborate packaging solutions, like individual cartons for eggs and plums, and I’m a sucker for great packaging.  There were other interesting items in Blue Apron, like unusual vegetables or breads or intriguing descriptions on labels, while there was nothing at all exciting in the Hello Fresh box.  The biggest thrill was some artwork on the bag of shredded mozzarella, but I do graphics and could have whipped it out myself in moments with a better vocabulary.  Points to Blue Apron.

The best part of unpacking Blue Apron was small brown bags of what they called “knick knacks.” It was like a present for every meal – spices, bottles of vinegar, sauces, crazy mushrooms, beautifully packaged rounds of butter and on and on and on.  I would load the small bags in the refrigerator and not open them until I cooked the meal.  Home-run for Blue Apron.  Nothing for Hello Fresh.

So, we hadn’t even started cooking yet and Blue Apron was way ahead.  Did Hello Fresh come from behind at mealtime?  Come back next week and find out!

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Blue Apron Is My Friend

TRAVEL HERE: WHY I LOVE BLUE APRON

Even though I knew immediately that I wanted to try out one of these meal services, it took me a while to convince my husband that he was interested in it, too.  When I finally convinced him a meal service would be the answer to all my prayers, I then had to prove the financial viability of it.  I found a consumer site comparing the available services and they said Blue Apron was the most cost effective.  Then we found a deal at Costco and that sealed it.  I really think he was just tired of hearing about it and he assumed that after a week or two I’d get tired of it.  Au contrare!

Heaven in a Box

I confess, I loved everything about Blue Apron.  It was easy to order.  I loved unpacking the box it came in.  It solved every problem I ever had with cooking.  It gave me easy-to-follow, step-by-step, illustrated instructions.  I did what they said and with only a very few exceptions, the results were amazing – at least to me.

I loved “shopping” on the website to pick my meals.  I loved getting ingredients I didn’t normally have access to.  I loved the way the items in the box were packaged.  I loved following the instructions.  I liked the quality of the meats.  I loved rating the food and making comments on the website.  I loved sharing my experience on Facebook.  I loved giving my friends a free week of food.  I loved how responsive their customer service team was.  I was having a grand time.

So, It Wasn’t Perfect

Really, my one and only complaint about Blue Apron was the limited selection.  I could have easily found what I wanted out of the six choices they offered, but as soon as I started making selections, things became unavailable.  By the time I got to my third choice, there was no choice.  I just had to take whatever was left.  I’m sure that had to do with food cost, but it was irritating.  Otherwise I was a happy camper.

Then They Improved the Selection Process

Then they improved things and that’s always dangerous.  We’d been on Blue Apron for about six weeks when they announced, not only were they expanding the number of choices available, they were also doing away with limiting selections as you made choices.  Sounded like all my dreams were coming true.

The switch coincided with our vacation.  I left all excited, because when I came home, the new process would be in place.  The selection process was great when I got home, but suddenly, the food was not as good.  It was small things.  Like there seemed to be more in the way of steaks, but the steaks were tough and gristly.  We were getting good vegetables, but the combinations seemed weird to my husband.  I was ready to trade my new options in on the way it used to be.

In the beginning, Bill had been as happy as a clam, but suddenly, his level of satisfaction was going down, down, down.  Now, I was not as dissatisfied as he was.  Those odd combinations were fine with me.  The steaks bothered me, but I could choose around the beef.  I’ll be honest with you.  I didn’t think the food was quite as good as it had been before the improvements, but it was good enough and it beat the heck out of going back to the pre-Blue Apron system.

Let’s Try Something Else

After some pretty tense conversations about it, because I loved the easiness of the program, we finally decided that we’d try out some other services.  Bill had offered to “help” if I’d go back to just doing it myself, but I didn’t need help with the cooking or cleaning up and he didn’t want to take over the planning.  So it was time to give Hello Fresh a try.  Come back next week and see how that went.

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Why I Love Meal Kits

TRAVEL HERE: FOOD DELIVERED TO MY DOOR

Have you tried out the latest culinary trend?  You see them everywhere.  Some companies call them meal kits.  Others call them recipe services.  I call them wonderful.  From the moment I first heard of them, I knew I was their target customer and I couldn’t wait to sign up.  See if you have the same kinds of complaints about preparing meals.  You might be a candidate for meal kits, too.

Meal Planning is a Mess!

I love a good meal.  I enjoy cooking a good meal.  I don’t even mind cleaning up after a good meal.  What I hate is planning and shopping and managing ingredients.  Don’t get me wrong, I love browsing through a gorgeous cookbook and imagining making the dishes, but the fun stops as soon as I pick out a recipe.

There’s only two of us in this house and every recipe has that one ingredient.  It could be almost anything – a spice I don’t have in my collection and may never use again, a vegetable I have to buy that will ruin before we can finish it or a can of something I will only use a portion of and have to figure out what to do with the rest.

These are not insurmountable problems, but I get tired of dealing with them – especially when I live in the boondocks and Kroger  is the only place I have to shop.  Here’s why:

  • I need three mushrooms and all there is available is that huge plastic-wrapped carton of them.
  • The tomatoes are awful and the cucumbers all have soft ends.
  • The recipe calls for X, but it’s not in season or they don’t carry it in Texas or whatever.  Of course, I find this out only after I have all the rest of the items for the recipe in the cart.
  • After scouring through the produce department I ask the clerk if they have any shallots and they direct me to the seafood department.
  • I want things to quit changing every time I go to the store.
    • Remember when the canned onion rings you needed for green bean casserole were made by Durkee’s.  Forget that.  Now you have to figure out who bought the company and how they are packaging them on any given week.  Will they still be in a can or will it be a bag this time and a box next time.
    • My favorite fish recipe ever was made with White Wine Worcestershire sauce.  Apparently I was the only person that liked it, because it is no longer available and the recipe just doesn’t work with regular Worcestershire sauce.
    • Once I could get brand-name green beans – DelMonte, Green Giant or S&W.  Not now.  Kroger is saving me money by only carrying their store brands – and I don’t like their store brands.

Cooking the Recipe

Let’s pretend that once, just once, I picked out a recipe and found everything I wanted at the grocery store with very little hassle.  Now, I have to keep it somewhat real, so nothing actually came in a package that fit the recipe, but just getting home with everything I wanted would give me a thrill.

The next thing one has to do is figure out what order to do stuff in so that everything will be ready at about the same time.  I have a few meals for which I have mastered this skill, but they are few and far between.  Most of the time I’m throwing things in the warming oven and then being mad because they dried out or getting to the table to face crunchy rice, too raw meat or any other number of fails.

Then there’s all the ambiguity of recipes: a pinch of this, a drizzle of that, add this until that happens, stir until it has this consistency, salt and pepper to taste.  Quit that stuff!!  Tell me exactly what to do and don’t leave it to interpretation.  If I had wanted to play a guessing game, I would not have used a recipe.

Oh yes, and every once in a while, something you have made five million four hundred thousand and thirty-seven times, turns out completely different from every other time you made it.  You didn’t change a thing – it just happened!

The Aftermath

When you’re all done the worst for me is not cleaning up the dishes.  I hate the rest of it.  Was my husband hungry when we were through, because it wasn’t enough food OR do I now have leftovers, because the recipe’s idea of a “serving” and reality are two different things?  There’s about half a can of chicken broth left and a half a head of cauliflower, both of which I have to store and figure out how to use – not to mention the thousands of mushrooms, because I couldn’t buy three.  If we liked the recipe, great.  If not, well then, should I keep that spice or throw it away?

When a meal is over, I want it to be over, but it seems it never is.  Six months from now I will still have that extra piece of meat in my freezer, but it will be frost bitten and I will have to throw it away.  I feel the same way about laundry.  You gather the clothes and sort them and wash them and dry them and fold them and put them away – but then you have a sock without a mate, a blouse that has a button missing and there’s always something that’s going to need to be pressed or taken to the dry cleaners or something.

So now you know why I was so excited about meal kits, recipe services or whatever you want to call them.  If you have any of the same feelings, then you might be interested in meal kits too.

 

 

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