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the dinner solution that has changed my life (for real)

    We came home from our summer-long road trip and do you know what was the greatest joy of all?

    Having dinner delivered to us again.

    I mean, I did fine with cooking on the road – mainly because it was only a few nights per week and we made the same three meals over and over again.

    Hamburgers. Burrito Bowls. Grilled Chicken + Salad. Repeat.

    But at home, I’m terrible at dinner. Terrible.

    Especially once fall is in full swing and there are football practices and ballet lessons and homework and extra work projects added into our daily life. All of the sudden it is 4 o’clock and I have no idea what I’m making for dinner.

    I wrote the following post last summer after having used a meal delivery service for six months.

    Here we are over a year later and I can still wholeheartedly say that it is the best decision ever. I tell my real life friends about it all the time and can’t help but share with you as well.

    So here you go … to my friends who maybe don’t mind the cooking part but can not stand the thinking, planning and shopping for all the right ingredients part … the dinner solution that changed my life.

    (Originally published July 2016)

    I’ve tried it all.

    Planning dinner for the week.

    Planning dinner for the whole month.

    Eating the same meal on the same day each week. 

    A regular rotation of eating out at one of the three restaurants in our town. 

    Resorting to quesadillas because that’s the best I could do.

    Dinner is just not my thing.

    It’s not the cooking that’s the issue (I actually enjoy being in the kitchen – usually for baking, but cooking is fine, too) and I certainly don’t mind the eating part, but it’s the planning that gets me every time.  I just can’t seem to find a rhythm.

    In January of this year, Ryan decided it was time to come up with a better solution and offered to take on dinners around here.

    After one week of a few botched recipes and realizing just how frustrating it can be to get to 4:00 and have no idea what’s for dinner, he did something crazy: he signed us up for a meal delivery service.

    You’ve probably seen posts about companies like Hello Fresh and maybe you’ve rolled your eyes and thought, ‘nah, not for me.’

    But hang on. Because I was in the same boat and now I’m fully, completely, 100% a believer.

    So here’s how it works: Once per week a box is delivered to your door. Inside are all the ingredients for three meals (we buy the 4 person box and it feeds our family of 6 perfectly, usually with leftovers). Included is a recipe card with the meals and instructions for preparing.

    There is a bag of produce/canned items separated for each meal that goes right into the fridge and the proteins packaged separately.

    Each night, I just decide which meal to make and pull out the bags + protein needed.

    All of the recipes are easy to make and take about 45 minutes to cook.

    We were leery at the beginning, I’ll be honest.  What if we didn’t like what they sent? What if the produce and meat was not good quality? What if we got bored of the same meals?

    After a year of using Hello Fresh, here’s what we’ve found:

    1. Dinnertime is one hundred times less stressful.

    I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner. I just open the fridge, pull out a bag and start cooking. All of the ingredients are included except for olive oil, salt + pepper.

    2. Three meals per week is perfect.

    The other four nights we either eat out, are with friends or family or just make a favorite go-to meal (like burrito bowls).

    3. With the exception of about two recipes, we’ve enjoyed every dish.

    You can select three out of five options per week, but we usually miss the cutoff and just go with the chef’s choice.  They’ve nearly all been great.

    4. In six months, we’ve never had a duplicate recipe.

    The meals are similar (protein+carb/starch+vegetable), but the flavors and techniques vary and we’ve tried recipes beyond our regular go-to meals. Many are gluten free and they also have a vegetarian menu.

    5. Only once in 24 deliveries have we had a bag with produce that was not perfectly fresh.

    And it was only because the balsamic vinegar spilled and mushed the spinach.

    6. We are probably saving money. 

    The cost per meal is more than we would spend if shopping ourselves, but because I’m barely ever at the store (I just do a Costco trip once/twice per month and a few random add-ons while running through Target), I am buying less, we’re wasting less, and eating out much less. We haven’t calculated the exact savings but even if it’s costing us a little bit extra, the time and stress it saves totally makes up for it.

    I sound like a crazy lady, but seriously, this dinner service has changed my life.

    We subscribed because we needed a solution and have stuck with it for over a year.

    If dinnertime is a struggle for you, stop the madness and give yourself a break. Ryan was so smart to do this for our family and I wholeheartedly recommend giving Hello Fresh a try.

    Get $40 off your first box RIGHT HERE.

    When you sign up you’ll get $40 off and we get a credit towards our meals. You’ll get a code, too, so if you love the service and tell your friends about it, you can get a credit towards your boxes. Win win!



    65 thoughts on “the dinner solution that has changed my life (for real)”

    1. Oh a completely different note….where did you get the fancy iPad hanger that you have on your backsplash in the photo with your daughter?!? I love that!

    2. We gave a gift of 4 weeks/3 meals to our son in law for his birthday. I think my daughter might have been more excited. They said the first two weeks were delicious and easy and now they have the cards to make again. Thanks for the update.

      1. I don’t get a commission, but we do receive a discount on our boxes for each person who signs up. Anyone can join their referral program and when a friend signs up, you get a discount!

    3. I loved Hello Fresh at first, as the meals were imaginative and the recipes were things I’d make on my own if I had to actually do the grocery shopping, and the tastes and ingredients were really delicious Everything seems really fresh. Recently, though, rather than what I think of as “real meals,” there has been at least one choice that’s basically a sandwich I get the hamburger idea, but at $69 for a box for two people, for 3 meals, the idea of a gourmet hamburger, pulled meat of some sort or other fast-food sort of feeling meal with a bun has made me cancel the deliveries for the next couple of months. The cost seemed too high.
      I loved the idea of not having to plan meals as I have my own business and am often home late, but the recent recipes just haven’t seemed worth the money. As we are just two people and have grandchildren, rather than kids living at home, we’re probably a different demographic than most of those who read your blog, I am on a let’s-wait-and-see schedule now.
      I also can’t seem to find the way to return the ice packs, as I could before. Am I missing the instructions?

    4. We have used Hello Fresh for about a year and LOVE it! It has saved us a lot of money. We get six meals, most of the time, with our box.

    5. Love Hello Fresh! I am not a cook at all, and I am even worse at meal planning and shopping. A Hello Fresh man came to our door, and I would have sent him away, except I was holding our baby, and trying to keep our dog from jumping on him, and I literally fell out the door. The Hello Fresh guy kept my baby from falling, and complimented my kids and my home, and, well, next thing I knew we were signed up. Over a year later, I am still loving the convenience and variety of the Hello Fresh meals. We get the vegetarian box with 3 meals for 4 people, and it feeds my family of 7 almost all the time. (Sometimes I add bread or a starter.) I am pretty sure we also save money by avoiding waste (all those jars of spices that I only used once!), and last-minute take-away meals. It’s super easy to put our subscription on hold when we are out of town, too.

    6. So great to read this because we think Hello Fresh is amazing! Yes you can shop and make meals for less than what you are paying for their service; however, if you consider the amount of time that you spend on meal planning and shopping, not to mention all the “extras” that end up in your basket when shopping, you are probably saving money using Hello Fresh. A huge bonus for us has been trying new foods and learning a few new and better ways to prepare food that I can use the rest of the week! I have had several friends say they thought it was too expensive so weren’t interested. It has been such a lifesaver for our family. We always look forward to our box each week! We are a family of four with two elementary aged daughters and find the two person box of three meals works great for us. We normally add a side as do you like fruit, etc. our girls don’t love everything, but they are happy more often than not and taking a “no thank you bite” ensures they at least give it a try. After reading I had to say thanks for highlighting this service, I couldn’t agree more with your post!

    7. A co-worker who gets Hello Fresh was out of town for two weeks and had a delivery. She asked me if I’d be interested in going over and picking it up from her front porch (she worried the heat would kill it this summer). She said I could open it and try it with my family. So that’s what I did. And we loved everything about Hello Fresh. I wish financially we could afford the service too because, like you, I love to cook, but we cannot. I still can beat their price on meals and my meal planning is pretty phenomenal. But the experience was very positive for us! We weren’t excited about the Thai burgers but the other two meals were so good that I replicate them myself using the recipe cards!

    8. I have to ask…how much time is required for each recipe? We signed up for a trial of Blue Apron and the recipes are super involved and then my kids didn’t like them. Ugh! The convenience to not have to go to the store and think of a dinner ideas is a great concept. I would love to have more family friendly quick and easy recipes for busy families though. So I’d love to know how involved the recipes are and maybe what kinds of foods you are getting. Thanks!!

      1. It takes about 45 minutes from start to finish. I feel like the majority of the time is spent chopping veggies – which feels okay to me since it means we are eating veggies!

        I pop in my headphones, listen to a podcast and cook away.

    9. I have thought about doing this and almost did but we calculated what we spend now at the store compared to what we would spend per week and it’s a lot more expensive.

      1. it’s not for everyone, certainly. But we were finding that we were spending so much more on last minute eating out, or going to the grocery store every other day and so this works out in our favor :)

    10. Emily – thanks for the info, just signed up so hopefully i’ll get a little break – even months later (as I’m struggling to meal plan for my fam), your discount code still works!

    11. Thanks for this post!! Looks like you’re getting a lot of free meals!! I got a coupon in the mail for $20 off, but your $40 definitely beat that!! So excited to try this. I feel like meal planning should be so simple, but I just can’t seem to get it figured out. Hoping this will be good for our family! :)

    12. Thank you for the discount code on the food box, I just signed up!! I can’t wait to try it and see what it’s all about. I’m like you dinner just isn’t my thing I find it daunting to come up with new things just to be disappointed. And after a long day it’s one more thing to think about with my worn out brain. So thank you for the idea…. wish me luck!

    13. lindsey - the pleated poppy

      hey friend!

      i’m finally getting around to trying this and the code is invalid for me? do you have a new code?

    14. Whew, late in the bandwagon, but I finally entered your code to try. Family of four, two small toddlers I went with the 3 meal plan – and plan to mix in extra sites as needed. I am 100% this will be enough food!

      First box was supposed to get here yesterday, but because of a 30 min rain storm (really, it was that short) the UPS man decided not to deliver. So I didn’t get my box until 7pm the next day. The box was warm and I was just a little leery about the meat so I called Hello Fresh and they immediately credited my account the full price (which I didn’t have to pay because your promo code) so I haven’t gotten to try it yet so i can/t vouch for the food — but the customer service has been amazing and at least my next weeks box will be on the house!

    15. Hi there! I’m so glad I saw this post; I have had all of the same thoughts, issues/struggles, then solutions/happiness with trying Blue Apron. It has been a game-changer!!! Cheers to efficient meals/dinner time with the family.

    16. Emily – saw your review and I signed my family up for friday delivery. I figured it would be a nice change over the weekends instead of wasting so much money at the same 3-4 restaurants.

    17. Now that my husband and I are empty nesters..this sounds perfect. I trust your recommendation so I immediately signed up for our first week of meals using the $40. off code..thanks! I also like the fact that you can choose the date you want your meals to arrive. Fingers crossed that it works well for us.

    18. Do you enter that referral code as a promo code? It’s taking off $15 for me, not $40, but maybe I’m putting it in the wrong spot.

    19. Hi there– we’re so flattered by your kind words, and we’re delighted to cook with you! Thanks for being a part of our family! Here’s to many more meals together!

    20. This sounds great! My only concern is my kiddos….they can be pretty picky eaters. Have your children enjoyed most of the meals?

    21. Glad you are able to share this with the masses because we have been using the ‘HelloFresh’ service for several months now and I will back up everything you have said Emily! It has seriously saved our dinner time!
      First of all the money we save is a good amount…no wasted food, we have the 3 meals per week for 2 people @ $69/week…well I can go to target in one stop and spend more than this and not have enough food for 3 meals! Also it is easy preparation and quick cook times. And the most important I think the meals are delicious!! No complaints at all from the hubby and trust me I can’t cook on a good day! Please try it out people you will not be disappointed :)

    22. It’s reassuring to hear people’s positive experience. I just signed up. Not to focus on the negative, but what 2 meals did you not prefer? (Trying to convince husband and don’t want to get 9ne of those our first week)

    23. I have been using HelloFresh for several months now and it has been a wonderful experience. I find their meats to be fresher and better quality than what I get at my local grocery. I love the variety of flavors in every meal, and the ease of preparation. We are feeding 3 adults on the 2 person plan and usually have plenty..although I should add that all 3 of us are watching our diets so we don’t eat large quantities. I, too, thought the price was a little high until I realized we were really getting 9 meals for $69 instead of 6.
      Our most recent delivery was delayed by UPS by a day and everything was still cool when it was delivered. They also do a great job at packing!

    24. I signed up for this about 6 months ago but cancelled after 3 weeks because their veg portions were so scanty. I would normally include 2-3 portions of veg with our main meal but Hello Fresh only included one per recipe so I ended up going to the store anyway. I never tried the vegetarian boxes though; maybe those would be better. When I cancelled and told them why, they said they’d had similar feedback from others, so they could have changed their formulation by now.

    25. We love Hello Fresh, we are in Australia and its here too! My sister in law gifted us a box during a hard season and it was nice to have fresh yummy meals that all 5 of us ate! Enjoy!

    26. I ordered our first one last week and anxiously awaiting our first delivery. So excited to hear your satisfaction after using it for months. Can’t Wait!

    27. I just signed up to try this. Last night I went to Target and spent $225 on *mostly* food. If this could save me trips to the grocery store and waste less food it would certainly be worth it.

    28. I feel exactly the same way, I love to cook & I love food. But lately I have had no desire to plan meals much less buy the food, put away the food, wash the food, prep the food, cook the food, & wash up afterwards. I found out about Hello Fresh from a magazine and just yesterday decided to give them a call. I haven’t had my first delivery yet but have mentioned to several moms that I’m trying it and will let them know if its the real deal. I can tell you that the price seems steep but if you typically cook a variety of foods and shop local &/or organic, you are paying close to the same price. My food bills are stupidly high- if food shopping is considered an addiction, I just might need a 12 step program :) Thanks for the heads up- this might be my new favorite way to food shop!

    29. I signed up for the Veg Box for two people. Delivery starts next Thursday! Plan on surprising my husband for a few meals. Can’t wait to see what I’ll be cooking. Thanks for this super informative post!

    30. Hey Emily! I have the same planning issues with dinner (and the 4pm scramble!). Wondering your thoughts….Adam and I have three girls (8, 6, and 4). If the meals for four are enough for your crew (with lots of boys), do you think the two a week could be enough for ours? I know you don’t know definitively, but curious as to your thoughts. Would that be easy to change if it’s not enough, or are you pretty locked in? Thanks!

      1. It’s definitely easy to change – so if you try the 2 person and find it’s not enough, you can upgrade for the next week. Sometimes I’ll add a side – like cut up fruit or a salad or bread if desired, so that adds to the meal. I think 2 would be skimping a bit for all 5 of you, but it really just depends on how much your girls eat. My kids are not huge eaters (especially our 5 year old) and we always have leftovers with the 4 person. If you sign up for the 2 person, let us know what you think as far as portions go so we can recommend to other families!

    31. The idea is great. We subscribed to a weekly “vegetable box”, which brought variety in our meal plan.
      When I look at your pictures however, it does not seem very environmental friendly. I see a lot of plastic in that box. Not that I am an activist, but after I have seen the movie “Plastic Planet”, I really, really think we should try to avoid plastic.
      That means I have to do my own shopping. And let´t be honest: collecting a bunch of good and easy recipes (bundle them in an folder), choose meals and make a shopping list once a week is not that difficult.

      1. Oh, gosh. It’s difficult for me! As for the plastic – yes – there is too much in the packaging. But I have noticed changes even over the course of our subscription and can tell the company is trying to reduce on waste.

    32. Geez! Thank you, Emily! I just chatted with someone there, who said that after I sign up there is a page to specify exactly how often and which packages to choose. I’m going to discuss this idea with my husband tonight. I also think that $69 for two people three times a week is reasonable. I’ve just been doing the shopping and cooking for so long, this would be a welcome change, and it doesn’t have to be forever, maybe just a temporary variation on providing the eats.

    33. We tried Hello Fresh and Blue Apron and we thought Hello Fresh was so much better! The recipes were delicious, the food was high quality, and the service was great! It’s just me and my husband now (empty nesters!) and we really don’t cook like we used to. This was a great solution and we always have a bit extra leftover—they do not skimp on the servings!

    34. I’ve been on their program for a while, and I have had the same experience as you. Only one time was the meal “just ok” — only because it wasn’t “my thing.” Always fresh, more than enough, no stress, etc. I’m in Florida, and thought it would be too hot for delivery like that, but it is always still on ice, well insulated, and just the best. I’m sold!

    35. Just signed up, thanks for sharing. Question about delivery, is the box filled with dry ice? Worried about spoilage. Thanks.

      1. The box has a thick insulating liner and then ice packs (gel maybe?) at the bottom to keep it all cold. If you are not home for delivery, it will be fine for an hour or two, but I wouldn’t leave the box out for much longer to make sure everything stays fresh.

    36. Thank you for sharing this! Quick question since I’ve not found the answer on their website and you would know from receiving the boxes each week…are these organic ingredients?

      I am very interested in trying this if it is organic! :) Thank you again! LOVE your blog!

    37. I could have written this post – dinner time is always a struggle, despite my best intentions. Checking this out for sure!

    38. Thank you so much for posting about this! I hate meal planning too! I think $69 a week for the 2-person box would be just perfect for my husband, me and our daughter. I typically spend about $150-$200 at the grocery store every 2-ish weeks and then we still have nothing to make for dinner. Oh and I hate grocery shopping!! If I could just run in to get milk, bread, drinks and eggs, I would be in heaven!!

    39. i’ve thought about doing this several times. i’ve signed up for meal planning websites and i’ve tried to do things myself. i appreciate your opinion and i love how you lined it out. i didn’t realize every meal came in individual bags. that makes it super easy. also, i would bet you save money because you aren’t at the store just buying stuff to stock your pantry. i really want to try this. maybe we can start next week. thanks so much!

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