Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a healthy living enthusiast or a meal planner. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be put-together enough to hit the grocery store on a (semi)consistent basis and fill my cart with enough fresh produce and organic foods to plan meals for the week, then go home and spend my evenings cooking up a masterpiece. But between attending university, working full-time hours and freelancing it’s hard to find the time. Especially since my fiancé, Chad, works until midnight some nights and (financially) fresh produce is usually out of the question. Most nights it’s soup and a sandwich, a can of Chef Boyardee or eggs and toast in front of the TV. When I come home from work all I can think about is whipping off my bra and crashing on the couch. The thought of exerting any extra effort on making dinner sounds almost as appealing as going to the gym, which (as you have probably guessed) is also not my thing.
Then a friend (okay, I lied, it was a YouTuber. Same thing, right?) gave me a HelloFresh discount code for $40 off my first order. That last sentence sounded like an advertisement, but bear with me here. HelloFresh is a meal-kit company based in Toronto that delivers ready-to-cook meals to your door. Honestly, they had me at “delivery.”
According to their website, all their produce, sauces and meat comes from Canadian farms and suppliers. I decided to go with the “Pronto” plan, which offers three meals a week for up to 4 people. The meals are all supposed to take under 30 minutes to make. SOLD! I was also pleasantly surprised with the prices, which (even at regular price) are quite affordable. Trust me, I’m poor, I wouldn’t lie.
When Chad and I opened up the app to choose which meals we wanted to try for the first week, we were both a little intimidated. The list included a variety of different dishes from around the world, and exactly none of the options were anything close to our usual repertoire. I try not to eat meat whenever possible, but we decided to compromise and pick two veggie dishes and one with meat. We ended up going with a hearty lamb ragu, za’atar and feta tart and a spinach and paneer curry. I figured if we hated it, we would just cancel after the first week.
When the box arrived on Monday, it was hard to tell which one of us was more excited. Chad ripped the box open like a kid on Christmas and it was like neither of us had ever seen a vegetable before. I do want to point out that the box is cooled using recyclable ice packs that you keep and send back the following week. We stan the environment, so that was a nice little plus. Inside the box were three paper bags (pictured) stuffed with fresh ingredients that came with recipe cards. The ingredients were all super fresh, right down to the herbs and spices (which smelled divine) and everything was divided into perfect portions. Even the sauces came in their own little bottles. Their branding is pretty on point.
On the first night, Chad decided to make the lamb ragu because I was sick in bed. I know, he’s pretty perfect. I was in no mood to eat, but within 15 minutes the smell had me drooling. He told me it took him longer than the promised 30 minutes to prep and cook the meal, but that the recipe card and pre-portioned ingredients were helpful in speeding things up. At one point he came charging into the bedroom wielding a wooden spoon, sleeves rolled up.
“This made me remember how much I love cooking,” he said, grinning.
Obviously, the meal was delicious. The lamb was tender and the sauce was flavourful, made from fresh tomatoes. It also came with a spring salad (it was supposed to be a spinach salad, but I was happy with it either way) topped with toasted almonds and a tasty vinaigrette. Chad had to pack his up and take it to work with him, but he reported that the portions were more than large enough for his bottomless stomach. Considering it was past 10:30 p.m. and I was still too full to raid the fridge for my usual midnight snack, I had to agree.
Our plan was to space these meals out over the week, but we got a little overexcited and decided to make the za’atar and feta tart the following night. Of all three meals Chad and I agreed that this was our least favourite, but only because zucchini was the main ingredient and, let’s be honest, gross. With that being said, we both finished our entire plates. The thing I did like about this one was how fun it was to make. It took the shortest time, and we got to play with pastry dough. Apparently neither of us were meant to be pastry chefs, because our end product looked nothing like the one on the card. Oops. However, the pastry was flaky and tasty, and if the filling had been anything but zucchini the dish would have been a hit.
Last night we gave the third and final recipe a shot: the paneer and rice curry. Apparently we had unintentionally saved the best dish for last, because this totally blew my expectations out of the water. This one took the most prep time, about 45 minutes (a bit over the advertised 30, but nothing too extreme) but we had a blast jamming out to old pop punk songs and cooking together. We don’t get to have “date nights” all that often, but this felt like a date without even leaving the house.
Chad and I both love Indian food, so it was no surprise that we turned to each other and said “this smells so GOOD!” about 50 times during the cooking process. I had no idea what paneer was when I chose this recipe, so when I found out it was literally just pan-seared cheese I lost my mind. Any recipe that centers around cheese is a good one in my books. Since they didn’t have spinach, they sent us fresh sweet peas instead. The packet of basmati rice they gave us seemed a little small for two people, but it was so light and fluffy that it turned out to be plenty. The sauce, made once again with fresh tomatoes, was creamy and had just the right amount of spice. The cheese was a little bland on its own, but the sauce gave it that extra punch of flavour it was missing.
All in all, I’d call this HelloFresh experiment a raging success! Not only is it cheap, high quality and delicious, but it brought some excitement back into the kitchen. Not to mention, you can’t beat the convenience of having your groceries dropped off on your doorstep.
If you’re like me and you wish you had your life together enough to be a meal planner, I’d definitely recommend giving HelloFresh a try.