I Made My Family Dinner From a Kit We Had Delivered to Our Door

I hate cooking. Don’t judge; I have plenty of other interests, but I’ve never taken particular pleasure in poaching an egg, or cutting into an aromatic pot roast to reveal a perfectly pink interior. I struggle to come up with menus, and when I do, I often forget to buy at least one key ingredient, leaving my meal almost finished. And almost good.

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So when meal delivery services like Blue Apron, Plated, and HelloFresh began popping up, I considered them a timely solution to my dinnertime strife. Billed as an easier option, a box of pre-measured ingredients are sent straight to your door and include step-by-step instructions and photos with each recipe to leave little room for error. (Not that I couldn’t find room.)

Each service has a slick website showcasing glossy, fresh food, but I thought the HelloFresh Jamie Oliver-created recipes were a compelling bonus. I handed over $80 for two meals large enough to feed a family of four. (There are discount codes available for first-time users -- I used one to save $15 when I signed up for their newsletter.) Ranging from about $9 to $12 per person per meal, these services aren’t cheap, but they cost a little less than we spend on takeout, and there’s little to no food wasted. (How many times have you only used half the bag of kale in a recipe, only to forget about it in the back of the fridge and end up tossing it? Really? Never? Me neither.)

There are plenty of reasons to love HelloFresh and its ilk. They result in fewer trips to the grocery store and can save you from grappling with the perpetual question: "What the frick am I making for dinner tonight?" They also let you try new recipes you might not otherwise think to make. You can inch out of your comfort zone with Thai lettuce wraps featuring a peanut ginger marinade. Instead of buying a whole bottle of oyster sauce -- one that would inevitably sit unused in the fridge years past its expiration date at my house -- you’re equipped with a tiny vial, just enough to perfectly season a beef stir-fry.

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So with all this in mind, I chose a Monday delivery date. I was a little daunted by the 8 a.m.–8 p.m. delivery window since we live in a city apartment sans doorman, but the thought of pre-measured, straightforward dinners delivered to my door comforted me. One thing to note with HelloFresh -- unlike how some of its competitors do it, aside from specifying if you're an omnivore or herbivore, you don't get to pick your meals. You get what you get and you don’t get upset. Here’s hoping Jamie Oliver chose some good food for us.

On the Monday my box was meant to arrive, we were still digging out from snowstorm Juno, so I got an email informing me, vaguely, that it might be late. It finally arrived Wednesday. Though this is no fault of the company's, it still meant I scrambled to come up with dinner Monday and Tuesday, unsure of when the box would get here. 

I made the first meal Wednesday night: pork and apple burgers on brioche buns, a simple mixed green salad with apples and balsamic vinegar, and roasted potato wedges. I don’t like rosemary, which featured prominently in this dinner (in the burgers and on the potatoes), but I get what I get ...

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It was a super-straightforward prep -- easily thrown together while I was simultaneously changing my older daughter’s doll clothes and replacing the 5-month-old’s pacifier -- but it was also not very far out of my comfort zone. (And remember, I hate cooking, and my comfort zone is laughably small.) My 4-year-old took one bite of the burger and declared it delicious, so we’ll call this a win.

I prepared the second meal on Saturday afternoon: Swiss chard and wild mushroom penne pasta. Again there were a few pre-portioned ingredients with simply laid-out instructions, but I hated making this one. (Please refer again to my opening statement.) I haphazardly chopped onions through painful tears, fumbled over mounds of wet Swiss chard, and had a full-fledged Bridget Jones moment when the chard, with its red stems, turned the pot of water pink, and wait, is this okay? I looked to the recipe’s directions to guide me and noted that her chard had white stems so WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY CHARD?! Also, I’m not a fan of sour cream (it’s too close to my nemesis, mayonnaise) and I had to squeeze myriad little tubes of it into a hot pan while the smell wafted in my face. But again I put it on the table and my daughter was delighted. (Bonus: Exposing her to foods I wouldn't normally cook lets her try more new things.)

All this adds up to the fact that, yes, it was a nice treat to have a definitive answer to the elusive “what’s for dinner?” question, along with a box of ready-to-go ingredients to help take me there. Both meals were relatively easy to make and were deemed tasty by the whole family. But for this kitchen-phobe, I’d rather spend $80 a week on pizzas and shredded chicken pho from the Vietnamese place across the street. Or on a cooking class.

 

Images via Regan Stephens

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