Hello (Fresh) is it me you’re looking for?

Part of the reason I wanted to do this blog is I am absolutely packed full of TED talk levels of detail on the things I love, and I am (for the most part) too self aware to inflict them, unsolicited, on the people I love. My evangelical zeal for Hello Fresh is one such TED talk that will never see the light of day. There are a lot of opinions floating round about this type of service but I wanted to give you the proper, user tested low down as someone who has been using the service for most of the year.

In terms of setting the scene, both me and my husband have fairly arduous jobs so prior to Hello Fresh we were in a cycle of take aways, drinks after work that turned into pub snacks, or a trip to a restaurant on the way home. This would no doubt be followed by the occasional orgy of well intentioned spending on store cupboard and fridge essentials to do more cooking at home, and the absolute shame of shuttling said fresh items wordlessly in the bin when life got in the way.  For way too long we have been grimly aware that we are wasting criminal amounts of food and money throwing away food, or putting it in the halfway house Neverland of the freezer, despite never having the organisational skills to defrost things, only to be thrown away later or stored forever in icy stasis.

So, brace yourselves, here is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (I watched a lot of Law and Order on a flight took last week) about Hello Fresh

The Skill level

It’s as simple as you want it to be – You choose from 10 recipe options each week so you control how much time you want to spend, and the level of effort you put in. Some of them are super quick and under half hour, some of them take a little bit longer. It caters for all palates, and in the safety of the subscription you can cancel at any time, you can test things you’d probably never commit to in the supermarket, or gamble on if you saw it on a menu. Also, it’s reduced the meat we eat, as some of the veggie options have really caught our eye and taken us out of our carnivorous comfort zone.

The recipes are simple to follow but don’t take them step by step, make sure you read ahead – I’ve been caught out a few times fannying around with veg prep without realising the next picture instructed me I should also have been pre-heating the oven/roasting some seeds/some other such task. They’re not always easy as a solo mission as some of the steps are best done simultaneously and it’ll depend on the size of your kitchen and your ability to multitask every now again. They don’t require a lot of equipment typically just the essentials and – where anything fancy is necessary – they offer work arounds based on what you have (no garlic crusher? No problem)

The taste test

For people like us who (maybe pretentiously) consider ourselves quite foodie, and routinely go quite hard on herbs and spices when cooking for ourselves, the flavours can, on occasion seem diluted, obviously this is to cater to everyone’s taste – but it would be nice if they kicked it up a few notches for the culinarily adventurous. This is not a dealbreaker because they still taste great, and you can always raid your store cupboard to pump up the flavours. Also, a splash of wine in an Italian dish doesn’t go amiss…

 

 

Food racking up airmiles

The ingredients really are top quality, for the most part. Sourced from local farms and butchers, the vegetables are typically from what’s in season – nice if you care about your food’s carbon footprint and if you want to get into the habit of using what is readily available and reasonably priced. The meat has consistently impressed us. Where there have been problems – the occasional limp carrot or sad vegetable, they have been dealt with very swiftly by the customer service team.

On the flipside, everything is individually packaged which is super convenient but arguably has environmental implications. It is all recyclable but whether you are okay with this depends on how comfortable/willing you are to recycle. Each meal is packaged with ice to ensure they stay fresh even if you can’t put them away straight away – sometimes life gets in the way – we have found an incredible range of uses for said ice packs, from cold compresses on champagne inflicted injuries to using them as ‘cold water bottles’ in the armageddonesque heatwave. They also make a good basis for a bbq beer bucket, or a picnic basket.

Cat not included (sorry)

The Captain is not included – sorry!

Flexibility

You choose your delivery window which is not as narrow as I would like but, as mentioned, the food will keep if left in a safe place (I have tested this many times when I have gone out gallivanting and forgotten it was due) and there is a tracker on the app that shows you exactly where you are on your delivery driver’s route.

Some of the ‘use by’ dates can seem a little bit short, particularly if your life doesn’t always allow for pre-planning meals or, realistically, you simply can’t be arsed/fancy something else on the evening you were supposed to have it. You can exercise common sense with this, universal truths like the fact onions basically live forever and the old smell test, means they can actually last a lot longer than forecasted (please don’t die taking this advice, emphasis is on common sense) and if you do not get round to it, freeze your meat, keep the non perishables together, and you can recreate it another time without spending too much extra – a random courgette here, a red pepper there doesn’t typically break the bank. Although we are accumulating tins of coconut milk at a ridiculous pace; the bad news -apparently we can only eat curry when we’re really in the mood for curry, the good news; when the apocalypse comes we’ll have something to drink that current fashion suggests is pretty good for us.

Commitment phobe? No worries

You can pause your deliveries at any time but you have to do it in a specific window – this can be frustrating if you get it wrong, and if you are the kind of person I am, you might need to set reminders on your phone to choose what you want/keep or pause your week’s delivery. If you don’t choose, they pick for you, which happened to us once and will never happen again – in one of the hottest summers on record, we had 3 fucking stews and there was no one to blame but us.

You can pause indefinitely or cancel at any time so if you fear commitment, fear not.

The price

Deals exist so you can give it a good, long, low-cost trial: We got our first 3 boxes (containing 3 meals) for half price (full price £35)  – which on a cost per portion was pretty punchy. We were fairly convinced we’d run the trial then give up on it, but the recipes were so delicious and it was so crazy convenient that we are still going today.

I cannot even calculate the saving in terms of food waste. Pre HF we were sheepishly throwing away the 4th chicken breast in the packet because we only needed 2 but 4 was the ‘best value’ now we get exactly what we need for the meal, and spices at a pinch (like saffron) that we’d never have bothered to buy in bulk. The portion sizes are varied, typically the pasta dishes leave enough leftovers for the next day (not for me, but I understand this is the case for normal people who have impulse control) some have been on the small side and more suited to a lunch than an evening meal. That said, you might be surprised how full you are, eyes can be bigger than belly and it’s actually taught me a lot about portion control – particularly when it comes to rice, that I can now miraculously cook the right amount of.

So, this is my love letter to Hello Fresh, one of the best decisions I have made from a culinary point of view. Admittedly it is not for everybody and arguably there are cheaper ways of getting similar results but if you value your time and have the means to afford it, it’s incredibly good value.

You can find out more here: Hello Fresh

Vix 4 Cineworld – True love 4ever

So I’ve already talked about marriage, but my second strongest and longest commitment has actually been to my Cineworld Unlimited Card.

I took it out in my first year of university, when it was £9.99, I pretended that it was because I was studying films on my media degree but it was actually an excuse to see films like Love Actually until my eyes bled. Whilst I’m loathe to reveal my age in the hope I look like a hot, young millennial, in the 16 years I’ve had it (*WEEP*) It’s surprisingly only crept up to £17.90 despite the fact that individual tickets have skyrocketed from the £3 NUS cheapy Tuesday deal to up to £15.20 to see the latest release in 3D.

In times of austerity over the last sixteen years, it’s the one direct debit my cursor has never hovered over, that and my commitment to giving a dog a ‘safe place’ for a small sum a month, and it has proven to be fantastic value. In the first year it’s unlimited standard films a-go-go, as well as 10% off food and drink, but after a year you get updated to Premium, which gives you 25% off food and drink – almost making it as cheap as sneaking in your own stuff –  plus Unlimited then applies to the 3Ds. Depending on how your town centre rolls, the card – which is valid in Cineworlds across the whole of the UK – also gets you 25% off some generic, nice chain restaurants, including Las Iguanas and La Tasca.

It’s the closest to a free night out you can get and the more you use it, the better value it becomes. With cinema prices the way they are, you only need to see one and a bit films a month to make it work for you and, magically, it also works as the paying ticket if you have access to Meerkat movies, so you can treat a friend, or a date, or a person in the queue behind you that needs something nice to happen to them that day.

In my time as a member I’ve done everything from three-film cinema days (with optional smuggled in contraband gin in a tin – for Man UpPitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road, if you’re asking) to seeing a Sunday Morning children’s films on weekends away when we checked out and had nowhere to go that didn’t cost money. Another cheeky little benefit in these ludicrously roasting heatwave times, go and have a 90 minute nap in the blissful aircon. I’ve also subscribed my Dad, who goes so often that I’m starting to wonder at what point they flag fair usage… I am very definitely my father’s daughter.

It also means you can see movies you wouldn’t fork out full ticket price for – uncovering hidden gems and unashamedly see the same film over and over. Cineworld, I love you.

You can find out more here: https://www.cineworld.co.uk/unlimited This is not in any way sponsored, I just fucking love it.