it's the whole thing.

Heads up: this is not a sponsored post. I tried this service on my own dime, and the following is my 100% honest review.

AD98B875-061F-410B-923F-B1D96984AFD9.JPG

Has this ever happened to you: after mentioning something in passing exactly one time, you suddenly become known for that thing?

A few months ago I casually mentioned on an episode of The Coffee + Crumbs podcast that I am a terrible meal planner and love eating cereal for dinner. Since that episode aired, I have been tagged in approximately 40 cereal-themed memes on Instagram. I didn’t intend to become the spokesperson for eating cereal for dinner, but here we are!

And really, it’s fine. Cereal is delicious and I am not ashamed.

However. Being pregnant and regularly hangry, I have to admit I feel a lot better when I eat a “real” meal at the end of the day. You know, one with protein and possibly a vegetable.

For the past 11 years, Brett and I have mildly struggled with dinnertime in our home. By that I mean: neither one of us really enjoys cooking. Therefore, dinner rotation in the Gadd house can be summed up by 1) a few regular recipes (spaghetti, chicken tacos, stir fry), 2) takeout, and 3) cereal. That’s it. You will rarely find us eating outside those parameters. I have an entire Pinterest board full of recipes I will probably never make.

And the truth is—I don’t like this about us. I’m not proud of the fact that we suck at making dinner. I think somewhere along the line, we both thought the other person would take an interest in cooking, and then neither one of us did. So here we are, 11 years later. Still eating cereal at 6:30pm because what else is even in the fridge?

I was thinking about this recently, trying to answer the question: what exactly is it about preparing dinner that feels so hard to me?

Is it the meal planning?
Is it the grocery shopping?
Is it the meal prep?
Is it the actual cooking?
Is it the dishes?

16685C40-AADF-4990-BBEC-A049A68AD021.JPG

After giving it some thoughtful consideration, I had an epiphany.

It isn’t any one thing; it’s the whole thing.

I don’t mind sitting down to meal plan. I am more than capable of writing dinner ideas on a cute weekly calendar. I actually love grocery shopping, especially when I go by myself. Meal prep and cooking? Give me a good podcast or a playlist and I don’t mind that either. Dishes … okay you lost me there.

But this was an important realization! I realized I don’t hate any of the individual steps that make up the art of cooking dinner for my family, but for some reason when I combine them all, I get super overwhelmed.

6850374A-E01D-4DDD-88F6-FF6572B4C2C2.JPG

I equate it to trying to clean your entire house in thirty minutes. Putting dishes in the dishwasher? Not a problem on its own. Cleaning the bathroom? Easy enough on a Wednesday. Folding that mountain of laundry on the bed? Sure thing. Picking legos out of the rug? I can practically do that with my feet. But when you combine ALL of those things, suddenly you’re running around the house like a chicken with its head cut off, sweating and cursing at the legos.

That’s how I feel about cooking dinner on a regular basis: it’s a constant perfect storm.

Too many things need to be done (the planning! the shopping! the defrosting! the measuring! the chopping! the cooking! the cleanup!). I know I’m an adult and I should be able to handle all of those steps, but I am also a mom to two young children, and pregnant with a third, and I run my own business, and, well, most days I’m just really really really tired by 5pm when everyone is hungry.

I mean, can you blame me for reaching for a box of cereal most nights? One bowl, one spoon, bam, done.

B4C23662-0BA1-40F0-BF77-FE66C650CEFF.JPG

So a few weeks ago, my sister-in-law tells me about Hello Fresh, a company who will send you everything you need to cook a meal straight to your doorstep.

[Worth noting: I have tried Blue Apron in the past and while the food was delicious (seriously, it was!), I also found the recipes to be cumbersome and time-consuming. Remember: spaghetti is the meal to beat here. Simple is the name of my kitchen game.]

My SIL assured me even I could handle a Hello Fresh recipe, so I decided to give it a whirl. And friends, I am here to report: Hello Fresh is kind of awesome. That perfect storm I mentioned? There is none.

I don’t have to think about what is for dinner (they do).
I don’t have to think about what to buy at the store (they send me the ingredients).
I don’t have to remember where the recipe is (they send me the recipe cards).
I don’t have to calculate how much I need of anything (everything is pre-measured/pre-portioned).
I don’t have to waste any food (we eat it all!).

Basically: I don’t have to use any brain space on dinner, which is perhaps the greatest gift of all. At 5pm, I pull a brown paper bag out of the fridge, dump the contents on the counter, read the recipe card, and follow the directions. It is MINDLESS. Most of the meals have taken me about 30 minutes to make, which is enough time to listen to a podcast.

But, wait! There’s more!

Brett and I have a strict rule: whoever cooks dinner doesn’t have to do the dishes. So, to recap: I don’t have to make a meal plan, I don’t have to wander around the grocery store looking for obscure ingredients, I don’t have to print any recipes, and at the end of the meal—I don’t have to do any dishes.

DING DING DING. I think I have finally found a system that works for us.

Seriously though: our first week using Hello Fresh we ate five homecooked meals at home, and NONE WERE CEREAL. Three were from our Hello Fresh box, and two were staple meals I typically make. We ate way more vegetables than usual, I cooked with ingredients I had NEVER used before (I’m looking at you, chorizo), I roasted chickpeas in my broken oven (which set off the fire alarm, #worthit), and—generally speaking—I felt like a badass chef.

My confidence in the kitchen has never been this high.

3B0EF5EA-3EED-4CD5-84A2-763C5FA819E8.JPG

DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN MAKE BURGERS ON THE STOVE BECAUSE I DID NOT.

The moral of the story: I’ve eaten better home-cooked meals in the past two weeks than I have in all of 2018. Hello Fresh is saving my life right now. Or at the very least—dinnertime. I don’t know how long we’ll keep up our subscription, but for the time being, I feel a lot better about growing this baby with pork tacos and mediterranean couscous than multiple bowls of Kashi Cinnamon Harvest.

If you also find yourself regularly overwhelmed by the whole thing of meal planning / grocery shopping / cooking, you can use this link for $40 off your first order.*

This is my new favorite life hack / wife hack / mom hack. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes!

*Full disclosure: if you sign up with my link, I get a small store credit. Thank you for putting literal food on my family’s table!

5 Comments

Ashlee Gadd

Ashlee Gadd is a wife, mother, writer and photographer from Sacramento, California. When she’s not dancing in the kitchen with her two boys, Ashlee loves curling up with a good book, lounging in the sunshine, and making friends on the Internet. She loves writing about everything from motherhood and marriage to friendship and faith.