Hello Stre—-tch: How to make the most of this particular meal prep service.

First, I LOVE to cook.

I do.

I love to shop for food, picking out fresh produce and looking for deals. I love to use the veggies we grow in the garden and get in the Great Country Farms CSA bins. I love finding ways to make a meal from what we have on hand in refrigerator, freezer and pantry.

It’s fun to me – and yes, I’m aware that I may seem crazy to you. But I’ve learned we all have our things that we enjoy and are good at, so please don’t ask me to decorate or do your hair.

It’s because of this last fact that I know many friends and clients are looking for help when dinner time rolls around. You want to make a tasty, home cooked meal, that doesn’t require searching for recipes, organized shopping lists and hours in the kitchen.  There are a TON of these meal prep services to choose from so I tried a few out to see which, if any I would recommend to clients or friends.

I tried Blue Apron – clif notes: WAY TOO MUCH WORK. Even for me. 100 tiny packaged ingredients and 20 steps to every recipe. When I saw I had to “bloom the saffron” that was the deal breaker for me. Yes, I LOVE to cook, but I also don’t have 2 hours a night to get dinner from fridge-to-table. Conclusion: Blue Apron is meant for people that love to cook and appreciate gourmet dishes, aren’t feeding kids and can eat at 10pm, or start cooking at 3pm. Not that the food wasn’t enjoyed by my kids, but the processes didn’t work for our family schedule.

Hello Fresh sent me multiple different discount mailers before I finally decided to give it a whirl. The offer was $40 off my first 2 orders and free delivery. The $40 splits to $20 off each. There is a Classic, Family and Veggie menu option and you can choose how many you’re serving and how many / week. They offer different meals each week and have a pre-selected set.  The ingredients aren’t guaranteed Organic, but many are Organic or Non-GMO. You can log in before your scheduled delivery ships (***IMPORTANT ***) and change your meals or cancel for the week. It is a recurring subscription service and unless weeks are canceled individually, or you cancel your membership, they keep coming. BUT once you miss that delivery day you can’t change a thing. Even if you won’t be home and it’s going to be 100 degrees outside and the food will rot on your doorstep. Nope, they can’t cancel an order “shipped” an hour ago. This is the reason many decide to not continue past their first order or 2. I was able to negotiate my way into an extended $20 discount so we tried 3 deliveries. 9 meals total- see the meal cards.

What do you get?

The insulated box contains each meal ingredients packed in a paper bag with a thick ice pack and the meats are at the bottom. They’re cold and fresh on arrival. Use with in the week as the produce is fresh. Check out the site for specifics, but the meals were great. Most (we did the Classic option) contain a meat protein, starch (rice, potato or bread) and -A- veggie. Daughter (8 years old…about) helped me make most of them. Simple preparation ready in <30 min. Hubby really enjoyed the variety and was happy we had the detailed recipe cards so we could re-create the recipes.

Now- we ordered meals to feed 2 people. We’re a family of 4. And, if you know me, you know dinner usually has 2-3 veggie servings.

Current guidelines for adults are 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Do you eat that? 

The Stre—-tch!

To stretch the meals to feed 4, my preference is to add to the veggies in the meal.

  • More of the same like additional roasted carrot sticks, more cabbage to the pork tacos, kale to the salad or peppers to the stir-fry.
  • Or totally up the veggie servings by making a separate simple veggie side dish using what you have on hand. Like a side salad, steamed broccoli or roasted squash.
  • “Beef Up” the turkey or pork burgers with grated zucchini or yellow squash. Turkey and pork burgers can be dry and the grated squash prevents that.

Multiply the meat – this is where it pays to know what you have in the freezer and chose meals that make use of what you have.

  • More of the same for ground meat like tacos, chili or burgers or mix it up with a different variety. Throw in an additional chicken breast or pork chop.
  • Slice pork tenderloin, chicken breasts or steak into smaller pieces so it goes farther and cooks faster – so modify cooking time to avoid over-cooking.
  • Hello Fresh provides 10oz of ground meat for 2 burgers – which is a lot! So make smaller burgers and get more out of it. Especially when feeding kids. Smaller burger and more veg.

Supplement Starch – again, if you have extra potatoes, rice or tortillas, this is a good filler.

  • More of the same using ingredients from your pantry.
  • Switch it up to boost nutrition by supplementing with whole grain or brown rice, whole wheat tortilla or sweet instead of white potato.
  • Cut it down – the buns are huge…have you heard that before? hehee. So, cut them in half for kids, I always skip the bread anyway.

All of the meals we’ve had come with more than enough seasonings and sauces so it’s easy to stretch the spice too!

Final verdict, Hello Fresh get’s a thumbs up! Once you learn the process and can choose the meals to your taste and stretch-ability it’s economical and fun and a time-saver on busy weeknights!

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