Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hello Fresh update...

Some folks in the local Facebook group have asked me about Hello Fresh.  I was in Vienna when I got the request for the update and didn't have my laptop with me.  Now that I'm home again, I'm ready to dish.  I don't work for Hello Fresh and don't care one way or another if anyone else decides to subscribe to this service.  These are just my honest and unbiased opinions based on our experiences so far.

Bill and I subscribed to Hello Fresh in late January.  I did it on a whim because it looked like an interesting concept.  Hello Fresh is a worldwide company offered in a number of countries, including the US and the UK.  Hello Fresh in Germany is based in Berlin.  They offer meal boxes every week.  You can get boxes with as few as three meals for two people or as many as five meals for four people.  Hello Fresh sends most everything you'd need for their recipes as well as the recipes themselves.  We've been using this service for about three months.  Here are my observations so far.

* The recipes are written in German.  If you don't know German, you will have to translate them.  We have successfully used the Google Translate app.  My husband has also taken the recipes to work with him and printed them out after using an online translator.  More recently, he's finding that he doesn't need to translate.  He's picking up some language skills.  The Web site is also, of course, in German.  I recommend accessing it via Google Chrome if you aren't a German speaker; that browser will automatically translate for you.

* The recipes are German.  By that, I mean they will likely suit German tastes.  You get a lot of lean beef and chicken recipes (if you use the classic box) with pepper cream sauces.  Last week, we had what was supposed to be a Mexican inspired chicken salad.  It was pretty good, though perhaps maybe a little bland for some Americans.  Also, it was topped with Feta cheese, which is not Mexican!  I have found the recipes to be hit and miss.  Some we've loved and some we haven't liked as much, though all have been edible.  Bill is learning some new cooking techniques, though, so that's a good thing.

* You may find yourself trying stuff you've never had before.  To be honest, that's one reason why I still subscribe.  There are many fruits and vegetables I've never tried and honestly should embrace.  Hello Fresh lets us try them in small quantities.  Plus, every week you get one vegetarian meal, which I like because left to my own devices, I eat too much meat.

* Their Web site is glitchy.  When I first subscribed, I got a message from their system that my payment failed.  So I tried again.  I got the same message.  I think after four times, I finally got a message that the subscription worked.  Unfortunately, the previous times I tried to subscribe had actually gone through.  I ended up with four subscriptions!  To Hello Fresh's credit, they did refund the other orders and we ended up with some free food.  But since there are only two of us in our household, it was a bit of a pain.  I didn't enjoy dealing with their customer service at first, either, because I think we had a bit of a cultural clash as to what Americans consider good service and what Germans do.  But we did get the billing issue straightened out.

* If you want to pause a week and you get a classic box and a fruit box (like we do), you should ask customer service to do it for you.  Don't try to do it on their Web site.  For some reason, when I tried to pause a week myself, I only paused the fruit box.  Frankly, I would have liked to have gotten the fruit box.  It was the classic box we didn't want.  For some reason, their site isn't set up to make this happen.  Fortunately, their customer service folks are good about pausing if you ask them early enough.  They usually post the following week's menu on Sundays.  I check it and decide if I want it. If I don't, I immediately send an email.  If you wait too long, they won't be able to stop the order.  * ETA: They have since improved their Web site and now I can easily pause the shipments myself.  That makes using Hello Fresh a lot easier.

* There is no flexibility.  If you like two of the three meals in the classic box, you can't ask them to replace the one you don't like with something else.  Personally, I think it would be great if they let the people who get three meals a week to choose the three they want from the five available.  I don't like mushrooms and prefer not to have to handle (or pay for) them.  But I can't ask them to leave mushrooms out of the box, so I pause the weeks the recipes have mushrooms in them.

* The food is very high quality.  We have only had one or two times when fruit was damaged.  They pack them very well, though.  The bananas are usually wrapped.  Last week, we got a starfruit that was wrapped securely in plastic.  Meats and dairy products are packed with cool packs and wrapped in wool.  Other items are what I'd call "Whole Foods" quality.

* Meat servings tend to be small, but there's always been enough food for Bill and me.  Others might not agree.  Again, I need to eat less meat, so this is a plus for me.  We often end up with leftovers and sometimes even have leftover ingredients.

*  Hello Fresh delivers via UPS.  I usually get my orders before noon on Wednesdays.  If you live on an installation, I don't know if Hello Fresh would work for you.

* You can return some of the packaging to Hello Fresh.  Save one of your boxes and put as many wool and cold packs in it as you can.  After five deliveries, you can send your box back to Hello Fresh and they will recycle for you.  You print a label from their site and take the box to drop off.  It doesn't cost extra.

* You get "gifts".  After a certain number of boxes, you get "free gifts".  So far, I've gotten a Hello Fresh canvas tote, which comes in handy at the Aldi.  They also send coupons, which may or may not be useful to you.  And you can get free boxes for your friends, too.

I don't know how long we'll keep using this service.  Bill enjoys the boxes and I particularly enjoy the fruit boxes, which sometimes include a surprise like coconut or mango.  One reason Bill likes these boxes is because he does a lot of the cooking and it's very convenient to have the food shopped for us and delivered directly to our home.  It saves him time.  I do think this company's customer service could be improved in many ways, but overall it's been a fairly positive experience.  I suspect I'll be updating again if and when I decide to cancel.  ;-)




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