After being bombarded with ads and hearing bits and pieces from various people about the number of meal prep boxes being delivered to homes, I decided I needed to look into the meal kit delivery system. I didn’t do a lot of research; I just picked HelloFresh because it happened to show up on my newsfeed more often than others.

Signing up was easy and there were several options to choose from. I chose the three meals per week for two people option. I received the meals for three consecutive weeks so I could get a good feel for the quality and ease of use.

I received my first meal kit on the Saturday after I signed up. I chose my meals the first week, but after that, I just let them send me the standard selections.

The meals arrive in a nice insulated box. Inside, there were three recipe cards, a nutritional info card and three brown paper bags sealed with colorful labels identifying the meal. Under the bags, separated by a thick piece of cardboard, were a large ice pack and three individual packages of meat. I have to admit, the packaging was impressive! Someone put a lot of thought and money into designing packaging for these meals.

Each bag contains all the ingredients (other than the meat) you need to prepare the meal: tiny bottles of balsamic vinegar, small containers of grape tomatoes, cheese, etc. The only things you really need to have on hand to prepare these meals are staples like butter, olive oil, salt, pepper and flour.

Here are my impressions:

Ease of use: The recipe cards have pictures and step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow. As long as you know how to chop vegetables and use a measuring cup/spoon, you can execute the recipes in 30-45 minutes. A minimal amount of skill level is needed to get the food on the table.

Flavor: Steve and I both were surprised at how good the meals were! Their recipe developers have figured out how to get maximum flavor out of minimal ingredients. There was only one meal we wouldn’t rate as excellent rating, and it was a matter of taste preference, not quality.

Quantity: Each meal was sufficient and filling by itself. I didn’t make anything extra and we both had plenty to eat. There were, however, no leftovers. Steve likes leftovers for lunch, so this was his biggest complaint about the meals.

Value: On the plan I chose, each meal was about $20. This is much less than you would pay for take-out and a little higher than your food cost to cook at home, but only if you don’t consider your time as an expense. The amount of time it takes to plan a meal, make a grocery list, go grocery shopping and put everything away would be costly if you had to pay yourself for all your time.

No food wasted: Additionally, there is also virtually no food waste. Each ingredient is packaged so that you have what you need and not much more. In the U.S., food waste is estimated to be $165 billion per year, so this within itself is a savings.

Cons: One issue we ran into while receiving the meals was schedule changes. Steve was unexpectedly called out of town for a few days, and we were in a crunch to use all the meals before the week was over. There is also the issue of disposing of the packaging. While 90 percent of the packaging is recyclable and they encourage recycling, you still have to figure out where to get rid of the big box and packaging material.

Overall, I think the meals are an excellent value. I really liked coming home and not having to figure out what to cook for dinner and we enjoyed every meal we had. I could see maybe getting tired of them after a while, but with Hello Fresh, you can control your deliveries, suspend or even cancel your subscription without any penalties. I’m sure the others are pretty much the same.

In our hectic world today, these meal services do have a place. Americans are hopefully beginning to tire of drive-thru windows and dinner out of a bag in front of the television. It’s time to put good food on the table again. Hopefully, these services are just the start of a good thing!

One of the meals we had in the rotation was Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin with sides of sweet potatoes and green beans. The recipe below is very close to the one they sent for the pork tenderloin. It was delicious!

Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie’s Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to www.sophiesmarketplace.com.

 

Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:

• 1/3 cup honey

• 2 tablespoons soy sauce

• 1 tablespoon brown sugar

• 2 tablespoons sesame oil

• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

• 1 ½ pound pork tenderloin

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 F. In a bowl, mix the honey, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and balsamic vinegar.

2. Place pork tenderloin in a roasting pan and roast 15 minutes in the oven.

3. Remove pork from oven, and baste with the honey sauce.

4. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F and continue roasting pork 45 minutes, basting occasionally with the honey sauce, to an internal temperature of 145 F.

 

Italian Orzo

This is very similar to one of the meals we had, also.

Ingredients:

• 8 cups water

• 3 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules

• 1 ½ cups orzo

• 4 Italian sausage links, casings removed

• ½ cup chopped sweet onion

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped

• 1 teaspoon salt

• ½ teaspoon pepper

• 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

• 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

• ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Directions:

1. In a large saucepan, bring water and bouillon to a boil. Stir in orzo; return to a boil. Cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes.

2. In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and crumble sausage with onion and garlic over medium heat until no longer pink, 6-8 minutes.

3. Stir in tomatoes, salt, pepper, pepper flakes and orzo. Heat through over medium-low heat. Stir in basil and cheese.