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  • The columnist's finished product, top, compared to the instructional image.

    Casey Freeman / Colorado Daily

    The columnist's finished product, top, compared to the instructional image.

  • Box meals' whole point is to save you time by...

    Casey Freeman / Colorado Daily

    Box meals' whole point is to save you time by supplying all the food, planning and recipes for you.



I hate to admit it, but I’m sort of a sucker.

The other week, I was rushing to a job interview when a guy holding an iPad said, “Would you like to fill out a survey about cooking?” I zoomed by and told him my predicament about not wanting to be late. He said, “Good luck!” In NYC, he’d probably have less-than-nice things to say.

My job interview went well, and since the iPad guy was nice, I thought I’d return the favor. He was still there and asked about my interview. I started filling out the survey about cooking — at least I thought it was a survey. Then I found out it was for HelloFresh, one of those cook-your-own-meals-from-a-box things, but I was led to believe there was a free trial. Then I learned it was a discount. I’d get three meals for $40 (down from $60!) which I thought was pricey but maybe worth a try. Then it turned out to be a membership thing. At the start, I wasn’t pleased.

I said I’d try it but quit right away. The guy guilt tripped me, “C’mon man. I don’t get paid unless you do two of these things.” I felt ripped off, but I’d already filled out this stupid thing, so I figured I could use some good karma and didn’t smash his iPad. Then I cancelled it the second I walked away.

A few days later, my three-meal kit arrived. The main box was lined with some kind of spaceship insulation. The meals were in shoebox-sized boxes. A giant block of ice kept it cool and then melted into some kind of slime that was definitely not water. All this took up most of the space in my fridge.

The servings didn’t look that big. I’m a pretty large dude, so what’s two to three servings for normal people is usually just one big serving with a few leftovers for me. My meals were hamburger, fish and chicken. The boxes give you “all you need,” except butter, oil, salt and pepper. They come with portions of herbs, spices, cheeses and breadcrumbs. If you run out, well, tough shit.

Box meals’ whole point is to save you time by supplying all the food, planning and recipes for you, which is cool. However, you’re doing all the cutting, heating and drizzling. My meals required a baking sheet, pot, pan, plate, utensils, big knife and camera (so I could take photos). That required a lot of dishwashing — except for the camera, duh. All of this cleaning kind of negated the time-saving aspect.

Next, the food was pretty blah. The herbs and spices seemed good, but there just isn’t enough. I added a lot of my own stuff just to fill it out. Some of the veggies were soggy by the time I got to them.

I didn’t think to document the process until my last meal, the “Winner Winner, Chicken Orzo Dinner.” This was pan-grilled chicken breasts with roasted vegetables covered in cheese and orzo (that’s a pasta, I think).

The cooking part was pretty easy, but you can Google “easy recipes” and have enough meals for the rest of your life.

I butterflied the chicken breasts and covered it with the provided Italian seasoning. I didn’t actually know what a butterfly cut meant until today. I readied my oven for the zucchini and tomatoes. After a few minutes of roasting, I dropped cubes of mozzarella onto the veggies. Then, I popped the orzo into some boiling water.

The best thing about it was that everything pretty much came out ready at the same time. Usually when I cook, I end up with the eggs first, pancakes 10 minutes later and bacon 15 minutes after that.

I’m kind of a weenie when it comes to chicken, so I may have overdone it to prevent foodborne illnesses. I mean, it was delivered in a box almost a week earlier. I’d rather have overcooked chicken than salmonella. I’ll give the chicken a solid B. This was the first time I’d eaten or heard about orzo, and it will probably be the last because it was nothing special. This got a boring C. The veggies were a winner. I mean, it’s hard to screw up anything covered with cheese. I’ll give the veggies an A. I’ll roast veggies again and skip the rest.

However, as for the experience, I’ll never order again. I see the appeal, but this isn’t for me. I get it if you’re busy with work and kids and whatever, but to me, HelloFresh seems slightly better than a Lean Cuisine.

Maybe I’m weird, but I actually really enjoy going to the supermarket. I find it very zen, and I keep hearing how lonely nerds (like me) meet their supermodel girlfriends in the produce aisle. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that, but I can dream.

I don’t need much variety. I’ll eat oatmeal, milk and protein powder for breakfast every day. Then I’ll make some kind of bachelor meal for lunch and dinner. I’m not a great cook, but I survive. I’m also a cheap eater, so $40 for three meals and a couple days of leftovers is ridiculous. I usually make my own refried beans. Twenty servings cost maybe $4 if you buy the good beans.

I also like stocking my own parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I don’t know what any of it does or why you use it, but I like having it and experimenting. Maybe that’s why nobody likes my cooking.

If you’re the kind of person who likes food just as you like the randomness of listening to the radio, this might be your thing. Me? I kind of like having more control over my meals and music.

Now that all of this box-lunch food is gone, I’m going to warm up this can of baked beans, put it on white bread and drown it with pasta sauce.

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