Wednesday, November 01, 2023

hello? fresh?

three weeks ago, I signed up for hello fresh under strange circumstances: a guy knocked on our door, right when we were going through a food crisis. the crisis was brought on by a throat infection that was so bad I was struggling to even swallow liquids. as I got better, I was still extremely weak from a week of quite literally shutting down: I had been spending over 16 hours in bed, and my only activity was trips to the doctor.

this guy was in the right place at the right time. the offer of meals we could cook with minimum fuss and no grocery shopping (this was before I had purchased the motorbike, so I was relying on a friend to drive me to the shops, or picking stuff up on the way home from the doctor). the 40% (he claimed - I didn't check) discount made it seem on par with our regular grocery shop.

and so, I signed up. he stood at our door while I created my account, and applied his referral code and paid for my first delivery of 5 meals for 2 people each. he explained everything about how it worked, which was good (but nothing we couldn't have figured ourselves) and left.

in my excitement I posteda status about it on Facebook, and that when I had my first misgiving: the 40% discount was actually not 40%, and it certainly wasn't the best discount we could get: referrals could even get free meals, and a neighbour gave us a referral which would have given us cheaper meals than what we got for more weeks than this referral (and all for first time users). so, that's that. I hope this was actually a hello fresh employee and not a random guy, because if it was a random guy, he has my email address and some numeric account number thing 🤦‍♂️

anyway. later that night, I picked our meals (seems they auto select meals, and that's what you get if you don't remember to change the selection). similarly, you get signed up for every week with the same quantity, and you need to manually skip a week. I can see where their approach comes from, and it might be a good experience for some people, but doesn't work for casual users. anyway.

they only offer deliveries on Wednesdays and Thursdays in my postcode. I picked Wednesday.

that's when I had my second revelation... they may call themselves hello fresh, but if its going to be delivered once a week, you're eating food up to a week old 😂 but sure, it's paid for and on its way, and it's not like I'm well enough to go grocery shopping, so I really need it!

Wednesday morning, a large cardboard box was delivered at our doorstep. I completely forgot about hello fresh and was surprised to see the box there on my way to office. Shruti had to unpack it and sort it into stuff going into the fridge and the rest. She wasn't involved in the meal selection so she had absolutely no idea what was in store for her 😁

Wednesday evening, back home from work (my second day in office after my illness, new motorbike, and recovered from the infection... yay!) I came home to see Shruti already busy in the kitchen. she had picked an Asian style stir fry, a favourite for both of us, and something Shruti is already pretty competent at making 😉 This was definitely the first time we were making one with a recipe, or even a plan more specific than "chop stuff, toss in pan, add vaguely Asian sauces, eat". the recipe said 20 minutes cook time, but it took two people an hour - and I think I even forgot some of the steps and added some of the sauces late 🤦‍♂️

either way, we made it in the end... and it was good! tasted great, looked great, and even used a sauce we've never used before! the addition of carrot strips was also a good idea, healthier than just noodles in the stir fry and a good way to get one of your five a day 😁 (or as I'd say: #healthgasm 😂)
I realized I really struggle with using a recipe.

the next day, working from home, I had a look at all the refrigerated ingredients (basically, the chicken and meat) and realized they actually had very close "use by" dates - we had to finish everything by Monday! so much for freshness 🤦‍♂️ #fail

anyway, we now had to plan our meals by the use by date of the ingredients... which is pretty much the way we'd do things when we weren't using hello fresh, except that Shruti had a say in what she'd want to eat when (unless I took the decision when shopping without consulting her 😉)

by Sunday we had all 10 meals cooked (by the end of the weekend, we were beginning to mix and match meals - Sunday's dinner was us eating 2.5 people's portions, and 1.5 portion was left over for my Monday lunch!). But to even things out, Saturday's dinner (burgers, chips and slaw) was so large we saved up the leftovers, which were most of the chips and slaw, and Shruti polished them off for breakfast! 
Sunday evening, I logged in and ensured it was registered that we're skipping the next 2 weeks, and we set it to skip the 3rd week as well.

Shruti was very clear: she did not want to eat hello fresh meals again! She felt they were too "heavy". I didn't find them "heavy" myself. They certainly were close to restaurant grade, and that might lead one to conclude they had restaurant-y in ingredients, but given we've cooked them ourselves, it's clear they didn't! I on the other hand did find the recipes too constrained for my style - I really struggle to follow a recipe, and I do manage to get passable if not good results anyway! And then there was the cost. We could try signing up for a fresh account and getting a free week (offer valid till December) - who'd pass up on a shot at free food!

It's not all bad though. I learned to cook with new ingredients (I am definitely going to stock up on Sambal paste!), learned a few new techniques - carrot strips with noodles, cooking rice without fuss. Shruti has decided to save up the recipes, and it's clear to me why - her style of cooking is very different from mine, Hello Fresh recipes are of consistently good quality, the portion size means no leftovers (and Shruti hates leftovers, especially when I get the quantity completely wrong). We cooked together, which is something we never do when we're cooking without a recipe, and something I really enjoyed. Having 5 meals meant there was always a plan, and no snacking on junk because the portion size was spot on or very close.

Still. My conclusion is, hello fresh is good, but not good enough for us. I might give it another go after a few weeks (if it's free 😉), and I'd definitely go for it if I'm alone (and I have a feeling Shruti will too!) 

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