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My secret crush?
Dinner boxes. Subscription meal plans. Dinner kits. Or as we have started calling them, “The Box.”
I’ve tried Hello Fresh, Green Chef, and Blue Apron so far and wanted to do a quick write up for you. I included the iPhone snapshots so you can have a visual but I do apologize that they aren’t too great. Big cameras and cooking don’t seem to go together.
First up, what they share.
- Lots of packaging. I hate this part but we recycle and find other spaces to save the earth. The guilt meter is still going off though.
- Commitment. You can always skip a week but you do have to monkey around and log in to make sure you don’t get boxes on weeks you don’t want them.
- Flexibility. Most meal boxes allow you to choose which recipes appear in your box but you’ll need to be ok with experimenting with new foods. Since I’ve dropped dairy and gluten from my diet in the last month, I’ve had to be even more flexible. It works but if you are a super picky eater, this sort of service probably isn’t for you.
- Healthy recipes. All of the meals we have tried and are vegetable heavy. I never feel that gross heavy feeling.
- Cooking. They send raw food. It’s usually easy enough to prepare but there will be pans and the addition of heat. Many enjoy learning to cook this way. I am already a fan of cooking and nothing makes me happier than seeing a box in the fridge at 4:30. Dinner is at 5:00. Faster and better for us than take out.
- All priced at around $10 per person. A box of 6 recipes hovers around $60 including delivery. We usually get a third meal for lunch out of each recipe so the price seems ok from that perspective. Easy is never free….
What makes Hello Fresh different from Green Chef and Blue Apron is that the recipes are a bit more simple. On any given day, it’s conceivable that I could have all of the ingredients in a Hello Fresh box in my kitchen. None are that exotic. That said, they take simple food and make it absolutely amazing. I’m a decent cook but the food we get from Hello Fresh always wows us in a good way. Below are some photos comparing the example to my actual prepared dish. Not too bad?
Here is a sampling of what we have tried so far. Everything has been incredible, even the recipes I thought would be boring like the Quinoa Stuffed Peppers.
- Mozzarella-Crusted Chicken
- Honey-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Sweet Potatoes and Crispy Green Beans
- Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
- Pan-Seared Pork Chops
- Steak Fajitas with Kiwi Salsa and Crispy Beans
- Greek Gyro Skewers
- Jamie’s Spiced Crispy Beef Salad
I love that each recipe comes in it’s own small box. I use that box to collect scraps and trash while I cook and it seems to make the whole process more pleasant. Almost all recipes have some fresh herbs, scallions, or greens. More often than not, I find myself putting things together that I never would have thought to cook together.
The best part? I keep the recipes cards and actually have a shot at recreating them another day.
Below are the meals we ate this past week. I’ve been trying to see how I can use this sort of box service to make a gluten-free dairy-free diet work. It’s all new to me and the doctor recommended that I try this to see if it helped my headaches. The only tricky substitution was the hamburger recipe. I let the boys have my bun with melted cheese on top and added arugula as a “bun” and mayo as a “cheese”.
These recipes consistently serve two to three meals plus bits and pieces for the kids. My kids aren’t big dinner eaters so we’ve found the box for 2 is plenty. They tend to fill up on breakfast and lunch but if they start to eat more, the box for 4 option could be ideal.
Want to try Hello Fresh? Use this code at checkout for $40 off your first box: S4WVT2. That’s cheaper than groceries!
Up next is Green Chef. A foodie friend told me that this was her favorite and much better than Blue Apron.
As a bonus, some find the organic ingredients a deciding factor. We love pesticides (kidding) but organic ingredients aren’t where we invest all of our grocery budget.
The most notable difference with Green Chef was that most recipes came with sauces of some kind. It’s great to save time but as someone who has to watch for food additives, it felt difficult. I also figured I could never recreate a recipe without knowing what the heck was in each specific jar.
The recipes were a little fancier. I learned what a tartine was? The dinners were ok but not my favorites. One seemed to vinegary and another was relatively bland considering how much time I had spent.
These dinners were packaged together in large box. I found the process of unpacking and matching color stickers to be annoying. It’s a totally first world problem, yes. But it did seem a little tedious.
Overall, Green Chef missed the mark for us. Bummer.
Unfortunately, I don’t have real photos of us cooking these recipes. But work with me here.
The recipes we got are shown below. They seemed to all sound good but in the end, I felt that they were too bold for everyday meals. The rice cakes were super spicy and the miso shredded salad was bold and took forever to eat because it was literally a bowl of veggies with a little rice.
The quesadillas were good but I felt like the number of steps required to make them was overkill for something as simple as a quesadilla.
Many friends love Blue Apron because they introduce unusual ingredients that you’d rarely ever buy. And if you did, you’d have no idea how to use it. I don’t think these recipes demonstrate that as clearly as others might. I also find it harder to select recipes to accommodate my dietary restrictions right now (gluten-free, dairy-free).
The packaging for Blue Apron is similar to the packaging for Green Chef. The ingredients all come in a box and you sort through them to find what you need for each recipe. The instructions were easy enough to follow but I did find that I took a bit longer to prep the dish than they indicated. I’ve heard from others that it’s true for them too. But sophisticated food does take longer to cook!
P.S. My Blue Apron recipes looked pretty much like the ones above. And because I don’t have photographic evidence, you’ll have to trust me.
We are Hello Fresh fans through and through. We’ve gotten into a groove of ordering one every 2-3 weeks to enjoy the benefits but keep costs lower. It does cut down on the grocery shopping too.
I want to love Blue Apron and may try one of those again soon. It’s definitely second on our list. For now, I suspended my account so I don’t have to keep track of two services. Believe it or not, that’s really tricky.
In last place, is our friend Green Chef. They have their loyal fan base but I’m just not one of them. If organic is something you look for in a service like this, give them a shot for sure!
P.S. The coupon code above gives me a little credit with Hello Fresh. I only chose to provide the code for my favorite service because that seemed right. I’m supposed to disclose the benefit to me and because I’m a rule follower, here you go. The bonus? Any food we are able to buy with a credit will be directly responsible for providing me with the energy to create the updated camera review articles coming out this fall. So you’ve got that going for you.