Inspired by Janis’s link-up recommending Hello Fresh, I decided to give them a try. I had always been curious about this type of meal service…and a tad skeptical. I had imagined too much package waste, too expensive, too much meat, too many calories and too similar to processed food.
When our first box arrived, I was pleasantly surprised and proven wrong on my hasty assumptions. To test Hello Fresh out further, I decided to take one of their dishes (Beyond Beef Cantonese Noodles) and try it out four different ways.
For Take One, I made the Hello Fresh version without alteration.
For Take Two, my niece agreed to follow the Hello Fresh recipe during our weekly Zoom cooking call. She picked up the required ingredients from her local food shop in Winnipeg.
For Take Three, I remade the recipe using ingredients from my corner grocery store on Central Vancouver Island.
For Take Four, I picked up Cantonese Noodles for takeout from a local Chinese Restaurant.
Below are the results. All costs listed are in Canadian Dollars.
Take One: Hello Fresh
Like most Hello Fresh meals, this one was straightforward and easy to make within the 30-minute timeframe suggested (but no time for dawdling)! Even though I did omit the recommended 1/4 tsp of salt, I found this dish to be high in sodium. Otherwise, it was quite tasty. My husband asked for seconds and suggested we make this one again. This says a great deal since we both lived in China for fourteen years and can be (annoyingly) particular about our Asian food.
Regular Price Per Serving: $11.49 (We received a 40% Off New Client Discount bringing our cost down to $5.53 per person plus shipping).
Shipping: $9.99 (for three separate meals, two portions per meal).
Our Total Price Per Serving (including discount and 1/6 proportion of shipping cost): $7.19
We had enough leftovers for a medium-sized lunch for two.
Take Two: Home Cooked and Locally Sourced – Winnipeg
“Plot Twist,” my niece called as we entered our weekly Zoom Cooking call. She had bought all ingredients in advance and checked all expiry dates. Even though her chow mein noodles still had a week to go before hitting the dreaded ‘Best Before’ timeframe, her noodles were mouldy when she took them out of the package. “I can substitute them with linguine or with rice noodles,” she offered. “Definitely go with the rice noodles,” was my reply. Bad choice, really bad!
Although my niece is a great cook and does not waste food, she didn’t even finish this dish before composting it. If making this recipe on your own, I highly recommend avoiding the use of rice noodles. They simply don’t stand up to the rest of the ingredients. Lesson learned.
Still, my niece was able to come through with a cost comparison as promised.
Brieann’s Home Cooked Cost:
Total Grocery Cost: $28.60 (Much Oyster and Hoisin Sauce leftover to use later)
Two Portions: $12.75
Price Per Serving: $6.67
Take Three: Home Cooked and Locally Sourced – Vancouver Island
Being forever diligent, I set out to recreate this recipe with ingredients purchased at my local grocery store. I did make some minor changes. First off, I included snowpeas. Who doesn’t LOVE snowpeas?! I also did not add any salt and reduced both sauces to 1/4 of the amount recommended. I had hoisin and oyster sauces in my fridge (a jar of each lasts me forever) but still included them (proportionately) in the total costing. Finally, I replaced the Beyond Beef Patties with Lightlife Smart Ground. The Smart Ground was significantly cheaper (4.49 for 340 grams as opposed to 7.99 for 226 grams). Smart Ground also contains fewer calories and less fat (140 calories, 3 grams of fat for 114 grams as opposed to 270 calories and 20 grams of fat for the same amount). Both meat substitutes are equally good tasting. Win-win!
Chow Mein Noodles
2 (sold in 5’s)
3.99 (I added these)
.25(2.99 for 350ml)
.25(2.99 for 350ml)
My Home Cooked/Locally Sourced Costs:
$19.03 Total Grocery Cost including the added snow peas and portioned sauces.
$9.51 per person with the snow peas.
$7.52 per person without the additional snow peas (with enough left for lunch x 2 the next day).
Pros/Cons: We had eaten the Hello Fresh Cantonese Noodles two weeks prior, so it was difficult to make a direct taste comparison. As my chow mein noodle package came in 6 oz instead of 8, this locally sourced dish was lower in noodles and higher in vegetables (think snowpeas). It was also less salty with a milder sauce – which I preferred. Although Richard liked both dishes, given a choice, he would go with red pepper (I used green because it was what I had in the fridge). He would also add a tad more hoisin sauce – but not the full four tablespoons!
Take Four: Take Out
This dish was as close to the Hello Fresh Cantonese Noodle dish that I could find for takeout. It did have the chow mein noodles and a bunch of veggies and sauce. It wasn’t completely vegetarian. But the meat was more of a seasoning than a main ingredient.
Take Out Cost:
$17 for 1.5 portions. No leftovers, but included one fortune cookie.
$11.33 per regular-sized portion.
Richard thought this meal was okay but a bit oily. I found it a bit bland, so I added some of the oyster sauce that I didn’t use yesterday.
Richard liked the Hello Fresh version and the copycat version that I made with locally sourced ingredients. He tasted them too far apart to compare them in more detail. I liked both of these versions as well but preferred Take Three. By then, I had already had a dress rehearsal with the recipe, so I knew to cut down the salt and reduce the salty sauces. I also used a lighter beef substitute and upped the veggies. Hindsight is always a great teacher.
In terms of costs, I felt that they were all fair. I am new to Hello Fresh and have been pleasantly surprised with the value (and their exceptional customer service). Having the ingredients delivered to my door, knowing the exact nutrition value and ensuring no food (or condiment) waste are big pluses. And the big bonus for me is that Richard has agreed to do the Hello Fresh cooking! 😀
Not to divulge any trade secrets, here is a similar recipe to the HF Cantonese Noodles. Just substitute chow mein noodles for the spaghetti and vegetarian crumbles for the ground beef, and you’re golden!
Thank you for dropping by this month’s version of What’s On Your Plate. Deb and I would love for you to share a favourite meal or recipe. If you have a go-to noodle dish, please let me know that too — I’d like to expand my repertoire.
What’s On Your Plate July Contributions (We’d love for you to add yours)!
The Widow Badass: Watermelon Salad and Pink Gin & Tonic
Touring My Backyard: Singapore Hawker Noodles
Women Living Well After 50 Date & Walnut Bread
Brookford Kitchen Diaries Vegetarian Carbonara
Deb’s World Banana Chocolate Cake
Stories Served Around the Table Summer Basil Pesto
The Sandy Chronicles Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Thistles and Kiwis Spiced Apple Cake
CurlsnSkirls Hurricane Supper
Garden of Eden Tumeric & Cayenne Golden Milk (in comments)