I’ve been trying out meal prep services in a quest to save time whilst enjoying home-cooked meals. You can quickly sign-up to a website, pick some recipes you like the look of, and the pre-prepared ingredients and recipe cards are sent to you for cooking at home. There’s a bunch of companies to choose from and in this article we’re looking at HelloFresh who is one of the biggest players. The service is a bit pricier than shopping and cooking yourself, but you can save time and learn some quality recipes. So, is HelloFresh worth it?
HelloFresh is one of the big-boys of the meal-prep business and rivals some of the biggest similar US based companies such as Blue Apron. It was one of the first-to-market companies in this space and has continued to grow and remain successful in the space. Consequently, you’re in reasonable hands! HelloFresh CA belongs to the HelloFresh group, which was founded in Berlin, Germany in 2011. As of late 2019 it operates in 11 countries across Europe, North America, and Australasia, and claims to deliver 67 million meals to over 2.4 million customers. It seems that a lot of people do think HelloFresh is worth it!
I picked the Veggie plan for 2 persons with 3 meals per person (6 meals total per week), which comes to $74 CAD or $12.33 CAD per meal. Depending on the options you pick [Veggie/Family/Pronto] [2/4 persons] [2/3/4 meals], you can shrink the cost to $10.33 CAD per meal. Like most things the more you order the cheaper each meal is.
Looking at my grocery and food shopping bill, I estimate that on average the raw ingredients for my dinners cost around $5 CAD per meal. So I’m paying about 2.5 times as much for the HelloFresh service compared to general food shopping and about the same as a cheap main dish out at a restaurant. Before you jump to any conclusions about is HelloFresh worth it, remember that you are:
- reducing your own grocery or food shopping
- not having to think about what to cook
- saving time when preparing meals
- learning new recipes
Considering the same meal plan across HelloFresh’s international sites, we can see that the cost does vary. Food does tend to be cheaper in the UK than North America, and the GBP is relatively weak at the moment, so the UK is cheapest.
- US – $10 USD per meal (inc $1 shipping per meal), which is currently $13.20 CAD
- UK – £5 GBP per meal, which is currently $8.50 CAD
- Australia – $11.66 AUS per meal, which is currently $10.50 CAD
Sign-up and website navigation
The first step in the process is signing up to the HelloFresh website. This is quick and easy though will require you to provide address and payment details.
The fun bit is selecting your meals for the coming week. The website is simple and there aren’t that many options. You can find out more about each recipe as well as skip forthcoming weeks. These are the only options you should need, so you can pick recipes and manage deliveries. Being able to quickly skip weekly deliveries at the press of a single button is great and ensures flexibility. The image below shows the main screen in your personal dashboard.
Disappointingly there are limited specifically vegan options. There aren’t enough menu options to select all vegan meals every week. HelloFresh require that you simply don’t add non-vegan ingredients to your meals or use your own vegan-friendly ingredients. This approach isn’t unique to HelloFresh, and the other main service providers tend to have the same system. An improvement would be to tick ‘vegan’ so you aren’t sent ingredients you’re not going to use, and perhaps even a commensurate discount could be provided.
HelloFresh posts a food box to your address. The delivery options depend on where you are located, but in Vancouver, I could select from Mon/Tues/Weds and the time range 08:00 to 20:00. That’s an all-day time slot which is a bit awkward, but in my experience the package arrived during normal working hours. I had mine delivered to work which was easier than home.
It’s worth noting that if you’re a cyclist you can split the box contents between 2 panniers (I am confident that you could fit the 8-meal option between 2 panniers).
Delivery box & packaging
The delivery box is corrugated cardboard with multiple internal layers of extra-thick insulating cardboard to protect the food as well as keep it cool. The main box packaging and insulating layers are all cardboard which is good from a recycling perspective. The amount of packaging used by meal-prep companies continues to be a valid point of criticism, so it’s good to see the main packaging is recyclable. HelloFresh do make a point of address questions on this topic in their FAQ.
The box contained 2 ice packs as well as a spacer layer to ensure that the moist ice packs did not damage the paper bags or food. This keeps the food nice and cool, whilst I finished my day at work! My ingredients and paperwork arrived safely with no damage or leaks.
The recipe ingredients are contained in individual bags that have a helpful coloured label matching the recipe card, as well as the nutritional information. The recipe cards are placed down one side and easy to access and read.
The meals and ingredients
As I ordered the veggie box with 3 recipes for 2 people, I received 3 individual ingredients bags that each feeds 2 people. All the ingredients were fresh, crisp, and in good condition. I note that some things which I didn’t use also were in the fridge for a week or so and didn’t go bad quickly. So I’m satisfied that the ingredients were sufficiently fresh.
Using meal prep services can reduce food waste by minimising rotten food at the back of the fridge, but increase packaging waste as there’s lots of small containers that are frequently plastic. HelloFresh does seem to use less small plastic containers or bags than other food prep services I’ve tried. But there’s still room for improvement – for example spring onions arrived in an unsealed plastic bag – not needed!
There’s a balance between packaging and prep-level too. I prefer to receive garlic cloves and crush/cut them, but others may want the garlic pre-crushed, which then needs a container that tends to be plastic. I’d push people towards minimising packaging and practising their chopping skills!
Cooking a HelloFresh meal
I found that the recipe was easy to follow and the cooking time was correct. But mainly because I was waiting on the rice to boil off; I didn’t spend the entirely of the 30 mins actively engaged in the meal prep. So you could let your attention wander to other things for a few minutes here and there, in between shuffling the Beyond Meat burger pieces!
Below you can see my cooked meal for the Beyond Meat veggie taco bowl. I was pleased with it! It doesn’t look identical to the picture on the recipe card but I think it was near enough. There’s Beyond Meat in a tasty spice mix, tomato seasoned rice, fresh salad greens with extra spring onions and tomatoes, and a garnish of lime and tortilla chip pieces. HelloFresh seems worth it to me at this point, I felt a sense of satisfaction in delivering what was a tasty and well seasoned dinner!
I like to try and stretch my meals so I did add some additional rice and salad. I took some spring onions and spare leaves from my balcony garden. As an athletic male I need those carbs, and more greens is always good! I think for those eating an average portion size, the HelloFresh portion sizes will be adequate. If you’re a hungry tiger, you’ll probably want to supplement you meals with the basic cheap things – a bit extra rice, pasta, beans, potatoes etc.
So far I’ve had limited need to interact with HelloFresh; my only contact has been checking on the delivery schedule for my order. In that case, the phone was answered promptly and the customer service representative was helpful. Otherwise, as all the ingredients were present in my bags, I haven’t had to chase for any missing items, so I’ve had no reason to chase them.
Conclusion – is HelloFresh worth it?
I think that HelloFresh is great for me because I enjoy the convenience, experience, and am trying to improve my cooking abilities. The extra cost relative to normal grocery or food shopping is acceptable because I think the time-saving benefits and learning experience are worthwhile. Is HelloFresh worth it? Yes!
- The price point is average for the service.
- Premium ingredients included, like Beyond Meat.
- All ingredients that I’d expect to be fresh, were fresh, and stayed fresh for a reasonable amount of time.
- Lower amounts of plastic packaging relative to other suppliers.
- Still could reduce packaging further. Do I need my herbs in a plastic box?
- Shorter duration delivery time slots (region dependent).
- Vegan meal options are limited. I accept the market is smaller but it’s a growing demographic. HelloFresh could include a vegan option which doesn’t bother to send you the non-vegan items, and even gives you a small commensurate discount.
- HelloFresh veggie meals lacks large portions of vegetables. I accept that there’s only so many bulky vegetables that can be efficiently included with meal-prep services. This is an issue across all services I’ve tried. I’m used to a washing-machine sized freezer with frozen bags full of veggies. I’ll continue to utilise the freezer to supplement my veggie intake.
Is HelloFresh worth it? Judge for yourself with this HelloFresh promo code!
The best way to answer is HelloFresh worth it is to try it yourself at a big discount! You can use the following link and get $40 off your first week. You can even pause subsequent weeks until you’re sure you’re want to proceed.
If you sign up I will get credit for a meal too. We both get fed!
If you’re interested in other ways to save time and improve my culinary experiences – check out the Ritual app.