I Tried A Meal-Kit Service & Here’s What Happened

Let’s face it: finding the time to prepare healthy, nutritious meals throughout the week is not always a top priority for busy college students. 

Between classes, hectic work schedules, and squeezing in a few hours sleep, spending time in the kitchen just doesn’t make the cut. Unfortunately, this often results in microwaved dishes or half-assembled servings of something questionable. In striving for success in other areas of our lives, we often end up neglecting our own well-being. 

As much as my fellow students and I would love to indulge in colorful dinners brimming with exotic vegetables and spices, the realities of a lack of budget, time, and quality kitchen space (especially if you’re in a dorm) makes it difficult to prepare the foods we’d most enjoy. With this in mind and when presented with the opportunity to try a new approach to cooking, I jumped at the chance to defy the challenges and opt for my first meal-delivery kit. 

 

The Order

After receiving a special promotional code from a friend, I created my HelloFresh account and began searching for the plan that would best meet my needs. 

HelloFresh allows first-time customers to trial one week of three meals—standard for most weekly deliveries—for free (technically I paid $1 in fees), making it one of the few meal-kit delivery services to do so without requiring a significant initial payment. Average plans run around $8.99 per serving plus $5.99 shipping. Servings can be selected for two or four people, and the number of recipes per week ranges from two to four, depending on personal preference. As a vegetarian, I opted for the “Veggie Plan,” and three curated meal plans were automatically selected. HelloFresh works by allowing customers to select or skip the weeks in which they would like to order meals, so a certain level of management over the service remains in shoppers’ hands. Though each week’s meals are preselected, the variety between them is enough for everyone to find something they enjoy.

After submitting my delivery information, I received a confirmation email saying that my meals would be delivered the following Tuesday. With anticipation, I waited for the week to pass and as promised, a large HelloFresh box was waiting for me when I made it home Tuesday after class.

 

The Kit

Anyone who claims that receiving a package in the mail is not exciting is lying to themselves, especially when that package contains food. 

Unboxing the delivery was exciting, and dispelled my initial worries about the quality and freshness of the ingredients. Packed with three large, recyclable ice packs, each meal was separately wrapped and clearly labeled. The three distinct recipes are printed on large paper cards, and additional deals and promotional materials are included. Though you might start cooking right away, it’s still important to refrigerate any items you don’t plan to use that day.

 

The Meals

My delivery comprised three vegetarian meals, including an Heirloom Tomato Flatbread, Mushroom Ravioli, and Chipotle Taco Casserole. 

The first meal I tested was the flatbread, and it was incredibly easy to prepare. The directions were straightforward and easy to follow, and each of the ingredients was fresh and clearly labeled. Once I had the flatbreads spread with basil pesto and tomatoes, I placed them in the oven and made the balsamic arugula topping. Additional garnishes included basil and walnuts, and those could be added by preference. The result of the flatbread was ultimately a success! It tasted delicious, and the simplicity of the recipe made it a favorite that I will come back to in the future.

As for the ravioli dish, I found that one more challenging. The preparation time was around 30 minutes, and involved light sautéing and boiling. The end result was definitely tasty, though I think for a more time-consuming dish I would stick to making something like this on the weekend rather than weeknight. The taco dish was my least favorite, and this is more than likely because it seemed less of a decadent meal than the other two. What the other two dishes got right is their originality and flavor; the taco dish failed to provide any excitement. It seemed below average overall, and did not quite meet expectations.

 

The Overall Experience

Experimenting with a meal kit for the first time ended up being a lot of fun! The opportunity to improve my cooking skills and test out flavorful dishes was a great way to try something new and expand my palate. The recipes were easy to follow and distinct enough to allow each meal to stand on its own, and I was able to figure out what I enjoyed most without being wasteful in the process.

Although the experience was a positive one, I don’t think that I will be continuing with meal-kit services throughout the semester. The average weekly cost is a bit on the high end of my student budget, and as someone lucky enough to benefit from my parents purchasing groceries, it wouldn’t make much sense to pay the extra cost. At a future point in my life, however, I can see this kind of service as being highly valuable.  The convenience of these services is unparalleled: customers are able to receive all that they need to prepare a great meal without an added trip to the grocery store. Young professionals in their 20s or 30s could certainly benefit from the ease of these delivery services amid their busy work weeks, and the decent portion sizes would be a great way to save on leftovers for lunch or weekends. Though I may not utilize meal kits throughout the rest of my college career, I’m glad to have tried this service, as I am now able to recognize the ways I can utilize it in my future.