A working mom’s review of Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and Plated

Several months ago, I received a coupon for Hello Fresh. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Hello Fresh is a service that delivers fresh ingredients, perfectly portioned to fit specific, health-conscious recipes right to your door step. There are several companies that do this – Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Plated, Home Chef, etc. As a busy, working mom to 2-year old twins, finding the time to cook healthful, balanced meals with fresh ingredients and without breaking the bank, hasn’t been easy. Needless to say, my interest was peaked…especially since the coupon I received made my first box $29 (3 meals/2 servings).

I became obsessed. For the first time in a very long time, I was cooking at home, and my husband and children were actually eating the food. Like a true addict, I needed more. I signed up for Blue Apron and Plated, and alternated my weeks on which service I would receive. I tried to sign up for Home Chef because I’d heard good things, but they don’t deliver to my area, unfortunately. I’ve now tried multiple meals from each, and here’s how they compare.

Price

We live on a budget, so price was a real concern. However, truth be told – we saved money…at first. We’d fallen in a bad habit of buying groceries, feeling too exhausted to cook, and eating fast food instead. Grocery bill + fast food x 5 nights/week = not cheap! I digress. Here’s how the meals stacked up:

Hello Fresh – I signed up for the Classic plan which was $69 for 3 meals @ 2 servings (approx. $11.50/serving). There’s also a family plan that comes out to about $9.99/serving.

Blue Apron – I signed up for the standard meal plan which was $59.94 for 3 meals @ 2 servings (approx. $9.99/serving). They also offer a family plan which is comparable in price.

Plated – The plan I signed up for was $48 + $6 shipping for 2 meals @ 2 servings (approx. $13.50/serving).

All three services were actually enough to feed me, my husband, and my two-year old twins. The serving sizes were pretty large so I gave my husband one, full serving, I took 1/2 serving, and my girls each took 1/4. We all had plenty. That said, the prices don’t seem as daunting when you consider that one serving easily feeds more than one (unless you have a very hungry teenager in your house – that might not work). Price winner – Blue Apron.

Meal Selection

I have a very developed palate, and I love trying new foods. There are very few foods that I don’t like. My husband, however, is a steak & potatoes kind of guy. He will [hesitantly] try new foods, but he likes classic American food. My twins are very picky eaters. That in mind, I tried to pick meals that would satisfy all of our preferences.

Hello Fresh – I loved the meal selection with Hello Fresh. The variety was wide enough that I could satisfy my family’s cravings, and my own.  Here are a few of the meals I chose: Maple Balsamic Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli, Hearty Steak and Potatoes with Balsamic-Cranberry Pan Sauce, and Thai Pork Stir-Fry with Mint and Ginger. There were enough options to satisfy different taste-preferences, even with only 6 choices.

Blue Apron – I wasn’t very thrilled with Blue Apron’s meal selection. First of all, it took several weeks to find 3 recipes that I liked and thought my family might be willing to try. Then, I would select one meal, and others would be removed as an option. I guess this is how they keep cost down? It was very difficult to find 3 recipes that sounded good, and that Blue Apron would allow me to select together. Blue Apron also had 6 meals to choose from each week (if it would allow you to choose the 3 you wanted). Here are some of the meals I tried: Cheddar Cheeseburgers with Sauteed Onion & Romaine Salad, Spiced Chicken Chili with Chickpeas & Currants, Baked Ricotta Cannelloni with Romaine Salad & Meyer Lemon Dressing. Blue Apron does have the option of adding on wine to compliment your meal selections. I didn’t opt to try this.

Plated – By far, Plated has the best meal selection IMO. There are typically 10-11 different meals to choose from, including everything from steak and potatoes to Thai Fish Curry. I actually had a hard time narrowing it down to only 2. I wanted at least half of them. Here are some that I tried: Creamy Spinach & Artichoke Pasta, Crunchy Chicken Milanese with Honey Mustard & Arugula, and Cuban Chicken Empanadas with Lime Crema and Avocado. Plated also gives you the option of adding on desserts for a little extra money. I tried one of the dessert recipes and it’s one I’ll make repeatedly.

No doubt, the Meal Selection winner is Plated. Hello Fresh was a close second, but it just doesn’t compare to the multiple options Plated offered, and the variety.

Ease of Use

One of my main motivations to try these services was to save time on grocery shopping, and cooking. All services saved me a lot of time. However, some stood out more than others.

Hello Fresh – For me, the ease starts in the packaging. With Hello Fresh, each recipe is in its own individual box with every ingredient necessary (meat was separated, of course). Each night, I’d decide what I wanted to cook, I’d grab the box out the fridge, and I’d get started. There was no searching for this, that or that other. It may not sound like much, but it saved me a ton of time! It also didn’t take up too much room in the fridge – it was compact. The instructions were very easy to follow, and included pictures for some of the more difficult or not-so-common tasks. Each recipe had an estimated difficulty level and time expectation which I felt was very accurate. Most of the recipes took approximately 30 minutes to cook. It was SO easy!

Blue Apron – Again, Blue Apron didn’t impress me here. The ingredients were all individually packaged so I had to separate them out by meal. I guess you could say it still saved time from not having to grocery shop, but that’s about it. As far as instructions go, they were very similar to Hello Fresh. Blue Apron was a little more descriptive in how to do things, but as an experienced home cook, this felt more like a nuisance than a time-saver. If I were a new cook, I would have greatly appreciated the instructions from Blue Apron. The recipes I tried from Blue Apron took approximately 40 minutes or less. I didn’t feel like I got the ease factor with Blue Apron. It was equivalent to finding a recipe online and cooking it (without the grocery shopping, of course).

Plated – Much like Hello Fresh, all of the ingredients are separated by meal. They’re just in a bag instead of a box. It was also very easy to find the right bag and get to cooking right away.The instructions for Plated are much like the other two, except they have a side-bar that says what’s in the box, any additional ingredients you might need, and all the tools needed. This was incredibly helpful, and gave Plated a slight edge over the other two. Hello Fresh has more recently started doing this as well. Major kudos!

The Ease of use winner is a tie – Hello Fresh & Plated.

Packaging

I’m not big into recycling. I probably should be, but I’m just not. So, I’m not talking about packaging in reference to the effect on the environment – merely how it was delivered and if there were any issues from the way in which it was packaged.

Hello Fresh – The packaging was superb. Inside the box that came to my doorstep was a large insulated bag. All inserts (recipes, etc.) were outside of the bag and on top to keep them dry. Inside the bag were 3 boxes, clearly labeled – one for each meal. Underneath those boxes was a cardboard divider, an ice pack, and then all of the meat, and more ice packs. I never had anything leak, I never had any produce bruised, and my food was always cold – no matter how long it sat on my doorstep.

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Hello Fresh “out of the box.”

Blue Apron – I was not impressed with the packaging here. Inside the box that came to my doorstep were…all of the ingredients and some ice packs. Most ingredients were individually packaged in plastic so if you are environmentally conscious about these things, you wouldn’t be very happy. Also, I had an ice pack bust, and it was all over everything. It was a nightmare to clean up.

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Blue Apron “out of the box.”

Plated – Packaging was…ok…here. Inside the box that came to my doorstep was an insulated bag. All inserts were outside of the bag, and inside were the bags, clearly labeled for each meal. The meat was also separated. My issue with the packaging was that the ingredients are not well protected inside the bag. I often had ingredients which had busted open, or were leaking. This happened on more than one occasion. I liked that everything was grouped, but I didn’t like that the bag wasn’t very protective.

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Plated “out of the box.”

The Packaging winner is easy – Hello Fresh.

Taste

This is hard to judge because taste is very subjective; however, I’m basing my rating on the opinions of my whole family, and we all have very different taste.

Hello Fresh – We were incredibly satisfied with nearly every meal we tried. There were 1-2 that didn’t pack a big punch in flavor, and we just said, “ok – wouldn’t get that one again.” There were a few that blew us away and that have become regulars in our meal planning. There were none that we outright didn’t like and couldn’t finish. Overall, my family was incredibly happy with Hello Fresh.

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Hello Fresh – cooked meal (my 1/2 serving)

Blue Apron – There was only one meal from Blue Apron that I really enjoyed. There was one my family wouldn’t eat, and several that were just ok. I wasn’t overly impressed. Truly, there isn’t much to write about here.

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Blue Apron – cooked meal – this fed all of us, and there was some left in the pan.

Plated – Taste was phenomenal. My family really enjoyed most of the meals from Plated. There were none that we didn’t like. My girls ate salad, and squash, and all kinds of foods they wouldn’t normally try.

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Plated – cooked meal (my 1/2 serving)

The Taste winner is Plated. Hello Fresh was really close though.

Ease of Skipping Meals/Cancelling/and Making Meal Selections

Hello Fresh – Skipping meals, making meal selections, and even deactivating my service was as easy as pushing a button. I never had any issues with choices I made, and it took little to no time at all.

Blue Apron – Way too many issues here. The website and app aren’t well-optimized so it took forever to make meal selections from my phone. I almost always had to go to my desktop computer to make selections or skip. Also, one week that I skipped, I was charged and received a box. I was out of town. I wasn’t happy to have a box of rotting food on my doorstep when I got home. Blue Apron did correct the issue, but only with credit for another box. I should have been given a refund. Also, I’m STILL trying to cancel my Blue Apron subscription. The process certainly isn’t as simple. Instead of being able to cancel myself, I have to put in a request to cancel.

Plated – Skipping meals, making selections, and deactivating my service was incredibly easy. I never had any issues, and it was always very quick.

The Ease of Skipping/Cancelling/Selecting winner is a tie between Plated and Hello Fresh. The process was very similar for both.

Overall

Overall, Blue Apron was easy to nix for me. The cost was cheaper, but it also wasn’t as easy, didn’t taste as good, and I had multiple issues with my service. Plated and Hello Fresh were very comparable for me. I don’t know that I can name a winner between the two. Plated is more expensive, but there’s more meal options and every meal was a hit. Hello Fresh was beautifully packaged, reliable, and tasted so, so good.

If you’re a busy mom looking for a little more ease in your life, I recommend giving these services a try. I definitely don’t regret it! Before you do, find a coupon code! Each of these services gives out tons of coupons and free boxes to people who have been using the service consistently. Don’t pay full price for your first box. Here are the coupons I have:

$40 off your first box with Hello Fresh.

Free Plated night ($48 value).

I don’t have one for Blue Apron – sorry!

When Parenting Choices Hurt

My dad used to tell us while doling out spankings, “trust me, this hurts me more than you.” It took becoming a parent to truly understand the truth in that statement. Now, let me preface all of this by saying, this isn’t an article on the morality of spanking. My dad is a loving, kind, and gentle father who never once made me question his abundant love for me, and yes, he sometimes spanked me when I misbehaved, and yes, I do believe that it was much harder on him. I believe this because I am now a parent, and as parents, we are constantly faced with decisions that hurt, and I mean really hurt. The kind of hurt that tugs at your soul and makes you question every single foundational truth by which you live.

Just this morning I found myself crying as I left the house for work, and it wasn’t a first. One of my daughters clung to me as if for dear life, and begged me to stay home with her. This has become a pattern for us…it’s almost part of our daily routine. She’s had attachment issues from about 8 months of age, and it hasn’t gotten any easier on either of us. So, I cried. I cried and I ran through the spiel that gets me through the drive and into my office chair every single morning.

Sometimes, the choices we make as parents hurt. We rationalize the reasons behind those decisions over and over again, but the guilt remains. So, to my children, you may never read this, but here’s what I want you to know:

My love for you is so fierce, and so strong that it has taken over every rational bone in my body. The day I met you, my heart could barely stand the weight of my love for you. This love is a heavy love, one that is so overwhelmingly powerful that it hurts.

The decisions I make are for you. I’ve weighed the options. I’ve thought of every scenario and how this might affect you today, tomorrow, and 20 years from now, and yet, the decision is never truly made. I will fret and reconsider over and over again.

I am in constant prayer that you will forgive me for any mistakes I’ve made, and for any pain you might feel due to the decisions I’ve made. If it were up to me, you would never feel one iota of pain. When you slam your finger in the door, or bump your head, I feel it. I hurt. That pain, however, is nothing in comparison to the pain I feel when I’ve caused you emotional pain. When I’ve had a long day, and I choose harsh words over patience – that’s the pain that lingers and haunts.

You will likely never remember the days that you clung to my neck and asked for nothing more than for more time with me. One of these days, you will beg for freedom and space, and our roles will likely be reversed, and that’s ok. My hope is simply that you will always remember that though I am human and though I do make mistakes, my love for you is unconditional, unwavering, and resolute.

Positive encouragement made my Post-Partum Depression worse

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. It hasn’t been a constant in my life, but has come and gone with various seasons. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that nothing I’ve struggled with has been quite as severe as my experience with post-partum depression and anxiety. It very nearly broke me. Scratch that – it did break me, over and over again.

Because of my history, I truly believed I was prepared. My husband and I had talked about the possibility of PPD, and we had a plan to watch for signs or symptoms. My husband is  an amazing and supportive man, and he loves me with every fiber of his being. He also (I think) has an inflated view of me sometimes. In my husband’s eyes, there is no obstacle that I shouldn’t be able to overcome and overcome with ease. That’s why when I was diagnosed with PPD & PPA at 6 weeks post-partum, I think my husband subconsciously chose not to put much weight into the diagnosis, and I very consciously chose to not take the medication prescribed to me. I willingly went to one therapy appointment, but felt so much anxiety about leaving the house that I chose not to go back. That should have been a bright, neon-clear sign to me that something was very wrong.

I continued to struggle silently. I welcomed visitors and put on a happy, smiley face in their presence. I thought that forcing myself to be around others and hearing their positive attitudes would somehow heal what was so broken inside. I would listen as friends and family would tell me what a supermom I was for making, birthing, and raising twins…colicky twins. I would feign humble gratitude and try to change the subject. I would test the waters with light-hearted comments about how hard it was, and how I was struggling, but my comments were only met with more encouragement about how I made it look easy, how I was doing a superb job, and how I just needed to hang in there because, aren’t babies such a blessing?

It seems so obvious that such encouragement would be the very thing I needed. Combat darkness with light, negativity with positivity – right? Wrong. So. Very. Wrong! The problem with PPD and PPA is that there is a voice screaming within that says you are not worthy, that you are not enough, that you cannot cope. The positive voices of friends and family were not enough to squelch the ever-growing internal monologue that plagued me. In fact, I believe they fed the voice. The more I was told what a great job I was doing, the more the voice grew. It’s like there was a demon inside me feeding on that which should have been feeding my soul. It went a little like this:

Friend: “You’re doing such a great job. I don’t know how you do it with twins!”
PPD: “If they only saw what I see.”
Friend: “Seriously – I’m so impressed.”
PPD: “If she’s doing such a great job, why does she cry alone in the bathroom or scream in frustration?”
Friend: “You’re like some kind of supermom.”
PPD: “SUPERMOM? SHE’S NOT EVEN A DECENT MOM. SHE ISN’T BONDING WITH HER CHILDREN. THEY WOULD BE BETTER OFF WITHOUT HER! SHE WASN’T EVEN CAPABLE ENOUGH TO BREASTFEED!”

With every positive statement of encouragement, the internal voice fought back. It wasn’t until a year later when my hormones were more in sync and the dust began to settle that I started to find clarity. What I now know, that I wish I knew then, was that I needed honesty. I needed someone to see me struggling and to have an open, honest conversation with me about my struggle. I needed to know that I needed help, and that it was ok that I needed help. I needed to know that motherhood is hard, and that admitting it’s hard wouldn’t make me any less of a mother.

The belief that motherhood is perfect bliss is a harmful fallacy that I refuse to perpetuate. Is being a mother a blessing? Absolutely. Does it bring unexplainable joy that can’t be replaced in any way? Without a doubt, yes! However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a struggle. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t heart-wrenchingly painful at times, too. I beg of my fellow mothers, join arms and be honest with one another. Share your joy, but share your struggles too. You never know who might need to hear it.

5 Things You Should Avoid Saying to Parents of Multiples

As a mom to two-year old, identical twin girls, and an active member in many “Moms of Multiples” groups, I feel qualified to say that there are some things that we all are simply tired of hearing – Ok, I hate generalizations so let me rephrase – there are some things that many of us would love to never hear again. Sound better? My girls are so accustomed to being fawned over by strangers that they walk into rooms like Oprah and leave waving like Miss America.

Having twins is an incredible thing. A marvel, really. In fact, I’ve been a messy ball of confusion since hearing my OBGYN say (in a rather blasé tone), “well, you’ve got two in there.” (His bedside manner wasn’t the best, but he was one hell of a surgeon). Honestly, my OBGYN is the only person who treated my twin pregnancy like an everyday occurrence. The truth is, the number of twins are increasing – some sources say by 70% over the past 30 years. Even so, it still seems to be a bit of an anomaly. I say this because of the things people say to me whenever I’m out with my twins. I’m not kidding – every time I go to a public place with my twins, I hear at least one of the following, and I’m over it. Please excuse the harshness – I get it, believe me, I do. The thing is, this is my everyday life, and my time is already constrained (see: twins), so it would be really great if I could just buy my milk and cheese like everyone else. Here are the things we twin mommas are tired of hearing (I include other mommas because we talk. We commiserate over the funny/awful/monotonous things we hear constantly).

  1. “Better you than me!”

You’re right – better I have these amazing blessings than someone with such a sour attitude! Is my day-to-day hard? Yup. But so is the day-to-day of all parents who love their kiddos and are trying to do right by them. Our struggles are just different. I understand the sentiment – you are trying to empathize with me, but the end result of your words is just plain hurtful. Especially to mommas who underwent painful, emotionally-wrenching fertility treatments to be blessed with the angels you so quickly labeled a curse.

  1. “My uncle’s cousin’s niece had twins.”

Cool story. You must really understand my life. Now, can you please stop blocking my basket so I can continue with my shopping? I understand the need to relate. It’s human nature. We want to feel connected. Here’s the thing – you kinda sorta knowing someone who had twins doesn’t connect you and I. It’s more likely that we’re connected by a favorite sports team, beauty product, or other random detail about me that doesn’t include my twins.

  1. “Are they natural?”

Now, I know what you’re asking, did I use fertility treatments (which is rather personal, I might add), but I want you to think about the phrasing of that for a second – are they natural. What’s the other option – alien life form? Aside from that being way to personal for me to discuss with a total stranger, it’s weirdly phrased. This one needs to stop. You know what, go ahead and include these two right here with it: “Did you deliver naturally?” and “Did you breastfeed?” No further explanation needed.

  1. “Two for the price of one!”

Actually, no. It’s two for the price of two. Twice the diapers, twice the wipes, twice the clothes… I didn’t get any kind of deal for having twins; however, if there is one, can you please tell me about it? Our budget could use some kind of discount!

  1. “Can I touch them?”

Absolutely no. My children are not a freak of nature, and I don’t want your germs on them. I don’t know you, and I certainly don’t know where your hands have been. Yes, they’re pretty. Yes, it’s cool that they’re twins, but NO – YOU CANNOT TOUCH MY CHILDREN!

I love having twins. I love that I get to experience this really cool, unique thing that so few parents get to experience. I know that it’s something that tends to intrigue, but this is my life. This is my everyday life. So, if you absolutely must strike up a conversation, here are a few suggestions. First of all, if my twins are crying/fussing/whining – just don’t. Avoid the urge. Otherwise, go ahead, but consider something more positive – “You’re twins are adorable,” “I bet it’s really cool having twins,” “[insert some other positive message of reassurance].” Just please, please avoid any of the aforementioned “no-no’s.”