Like the popular American self-help book advocates, “don’t sweat the small stuff”, removing the small stuff from the cooking experience can set you up for an easy and much more fun experience.
When there’s a compacted working week at hand, basic activities like food shopping either become a hurried afterthought or a major pre-planned expedition. I split my working week between London and home, so you’d think there would be space somewhere along the line to fit in a food shop. Not necessarily so.
My heart sinks at the thought of spending two hours at the supermarket, trawling the aisles, working on the weekly provision shop. (It takes that long because after living in the area for 20 years you tend to get to know quite a few people who also decide to shop at roughly the same time as you, so add up all the “hellos” and “how are you, I haven’t seen you in a while” and there you have it – 90 minutes socialising and 30 minutes running around 10 aisles loading up the trolley with goodness knows what.) By the time I’ve hit aisle four I’ve lost interest, and by the time I reach the check out I’m losing the will to live. (Thank God for mobile phones, it gives me something to do while I whittle away the hours standing in the queue). I really am a genuine food lover and grocery shopping is part of the deal, it’s just that every-week food shopping and everyday cooking makes me frequently grind to a halt. I switch to auto-pilot and fall back on my repertoire of fail-safe recipes and old shopping lists found in my bag. How boring is that.
I occasionally use an online supermarket shopping service, but found after a while I’d just tick off the items on a previous list to hurry the process along. So when I discovered a different type of online food delivery service, I made a small attempt at letting go of 'doing the big food shop' and signed up for Hello Fresh. To have the week’s groceries delivered to your door is a plus, but to have your weekly MENU delivered to the door made me want to turn cartwheels. As the Hello Fresh website states they “deliver great recipes and fresh ingredients to your home – for FREE”. Well, we all know nothing is free in life, but at a price of around a fiver per head for a decent meal, I’d consider delivery is free. I promptly placed a trial order.
On the day of my scheduled delivery, first thing in the morning, two boxes of healthy goodness appeared on my doorstep.
There’s something quite special about receiving parcels – it’s all about the anticipation (even if you are well aware of the contents). Stripping off the packaging tape released the box flaps and revealed a welcome note from 'Sarah' informing me that she had added 'an extra surprise' for the end of the meal. See what I mean? A mood lifter before I’d even started decanting the contents. I was feeling very optimistic. The men of the house we’re just as excited. Heck. Even the dog looked expectant!
Lifting up the insulating swaddling exposed a bar of Prestat Jubilee chocolate – one in each box. The mood was set. Three recipe cards came next: Roasted pepper and lamb ragu pasta, summer salad with pancetta, and chicken fajitas. (There’s a menu choice online, including vegetarian options). All the ingredients I’d need for every recipe were enclosed within and were neatly packaged up and preserved on ice. I noticed that there was a good shelf life on the main ingredients, and most of us know that perishables, like salad stuff, need to be eaten before they turn, so it behooved me to start with those recipe ingredients first. A brown bag contained the proportioned 'little bits': individual garlic cloves, a pinch of paprika, sprigs of rosemary, a sachet of balsamic vinegar. This would please my mother no end, especially as her self-imposed job when she visits is to clear out my larder and fridge from all those half-used ingredients that are well past their sell-by date.
That evening I knocked off work early and got started. (See how compelled I was?) The big decision was whether or not to add in a glass of wine to help the process along, but sagely thought I’d hold off until recipe three. I didn’t want to weaken my resolve of deciding not to muddy the waters by titivating the recipes.
I divvied up the ingredients according to recipe and started off with the summer salad. (After all the sun was shining that day.) So, one bag of salad, two eggs, a bunch of fresh chives, seven new potatoes, a garlic clove, a pack of pancetta, a bread role (I’m making croutons!!), eight cherry tomatoes, green beans and a sachet of balsamic vinegar later I turned out a delicious Summer Salad offering four BIG servings – all within half an hour. Result! The only other things I had to add were olive oil and salt and pepper, which most of have in our cupboards anyway. The recipe cards are highly visual and idiot-proof, and if you want proof of the pudding then do visit my Twitter page where you’ll find photos. From thereon it was plain sailing for the next couple of days.
More experienced cooks will know how to cook some of the recipes, but for the novice/hesitant cook this Hello Fresh service is an excellent way to start flexing your culinary fingers. I don’t know about you, but I’d far rather eat home-cooked fresh food than a pre-prepared convenience meal, or spend a fortune regularly eating eat out because eating out always costs more than just paying for a meal.
I’m not sure if I will use this service every month, because how else will I catch up on the local gossip if not at the supermarket? But when I have a particularly busy schedule coming up, I will definitely factor in a delivery.
So take my lead, and relieve some of the weekday stress by saying hello to Hello Fresh and stop sweating the small stuff…because it comes in a little brown bag perfectly proportioned right out of the box!