We’re back at it again this week, with another deep dive into the meal-kit world. This is a big one, as I’m reviewing industry giant HelloFresh.
As you may know, the Berlin-based company has been competing for the number one spot in the American meal-kit delivery market. Long the runner up, HelloFresh has now pulled ahead as the industry leader after acquiring organic and gourmet meal-kit provider Green Chef this year.
The company delivers high quality, local ingredients sourced from independent producers to their customers’ doorsteps. Like most other meal-kit services I’ve been testing, the ingredients are pre-portioned, packed with convenience in mind, and the perishables cooled until they arrive at your home. With the included recipes, you can quickly whip up delicious meals without the hassle of going to the grocery, and develop your cooking skills all in one.
Here’s what HelloFresh says in their own words: HelloFresh aims to provide each and every household in its 10 markets with the opportunity to enjoy wholesome home-cooked meals with no planning, no shopping and no hassle required. Everything required for weeknight meals is carefully planned, locally sourced, and delivered to your door at the most convenient time.
I ordered two boxes across two weeks, and really enjoyed the experience as a whole. I think the company strikes the right balance between amazing home-cooked recipes, and showing customers new ways to combine high quality ingredients into delicious and gourmet dinners.
Like my other reviews, I’ll start with price. HelloFresh offers three types: a Classic Plan, a Veggie Plan, and a Family Plan. I signed up for the Classic Plan, which offers the widest variety of produce and meats in each box. The Veggie Plan offers plant-based proteins (tastier than it sounds), hearty grains, and seasonal produce as an alternative for vegetarians or vegans, and the Family Plan offers a greater number of servings to meet the needs of your home. I call companies like HelloFresh, Blue Apron, and others like Green Chef all around meal-kit services as they provide a range of dinner types.
Here’s a price breakdown of all of the options you can choose above, along with weekly totals that I’ve calculated.
Classic Plan of 2 meals per week: $9.99/serving + $7.99 shipping (weekly total is $47.95)
Classic Plan of 3 meals per week: $7.99/serving + $5.99 shipping (weekly total is $53.93)
Classic Plan of 4 meals per week: $7.99/serving + $5.99 shipping (weekly total is $69.91)
Veggie Plan of 3 meals per week: $7.99/serving + $5.99 shipping (weekly total is $53.93)
Classic Plan of 3 meals per week: $7.99/serving + $5.99 shipping (weekly total $101.87)
Veggie Plan of 3 meals per week: $7.99/serving + $5.99 shipping (weekly total $101.87)
Family Plan of 2 meals per week: $6.99/serving + $5.99 shipping (weekly total $61.91)
Family Plan of 3 meals per week: $6.99/serving + $5.99 shipping (weekly total $89.87)
The most expensive option for 2-Person Plans is going to the be the Classic Plan with the option of 2 meals per week. This is the plan that I chose, and ended up paying about $10 per serving, and $8 for shipping. The rest of the prices for the 2-Person Classic and Veggie plans are all the same per serving price, so no difference there; it just depends on how many HelloFresh meals you plan to order and cook each week.
Other items of note, you can skip weeks up to 8 weeks in advance, and as long as you give 5 days advance notice of your delivery date, can cancel your subscription. Lastly, the wizards at HelloFresh curate 15 recipes per week, which you can select from.
I personally have not tried this subscription yet, but HelloFresh does also offer a Wine Club. I noticed this as an option because the company includes suggested wine pairings included with each box. You also have the option between 3 plans: a Summer Wine Plan, a Red Wine Plan, and a White Wine Plan at a flat rate of $89.00 per month for regularly shipped boxes.
Here’s a quick screenshot of their page, and the price breakdowns.
HelloFresh Wine Club.
Red Wine Plan: 6 bottles (750ml) for $89.00/month + free shipping ($14.83/bottle)
White Wine Plan: 6 bottles (750ml) for $89.00/month + free shipping ($14.83/bottle)
Some ground rules with delivery here: In order to receive the shipment, an adult 21 years or older has to be available to show valid ID and sign for the delivery (alternatively, you can send the boxes to a business address). If you want to cancel your subscription or pause for a month, both at no charge, you can do so up to 9 days before your delivery date. HelloFresh also says you can contact customer service to return a box if you aren’t satisfied, a nice perk for a premium service.
Again, I didn’t sign up for the Wine Club, but the prices seem reasonably priced given the bottles of wine they send you. For reference, here’s a monthly list they publish so you can check out the 18 bottles their sommelier has hand-picked, and price check against competitors.
Delivery and Unboxing
Delivery was easy, and HelloFresh delivers every weekday from 8am to 8pm. They don’t currently offer an option to narrow the time-window, so plan accordingly when you order. They do have an instructional GIF that shows you how and where to check your delivery times, along with FAQ section with delivery specific answers.
Here’s the box that arrived on my doorstep in San Francisco 3 days after ordering.
The HelloFresh box.
I noticed it had a pretty small footprint compared to some of the other companies I’ve reviewed here. Opening the box up, there are two menus, and a nutritional fact sheet resting on top of two brown paper bags. The nutritional page was unique, and I haven’t seen it included with any other box.
HelloFresh menus and nutritional information.
Here are some closeups of the menus. The first week’s meals were Tex Mex Tilapia (with Cilantro Lime Couscous and Green Beans), and Chicken Cheddar Fajitas (with Bell Pepper, Lime Crema, and Pickled Jalapeno). The Nutritional Info page on the pack gave me a breakdown of facts for these two dishes, along with the other options for that week.
More closeups of what’s actually in the box.
I liked how the ingredients were pre-sorted into paper bags, themselves recyclable, as it saves time when accounting for all of the ingredients. It also made for easier storage in the refrigerator after removing from the box, keeping the produce in one place. The meats, fish and chicken breast, were directly on ice below the two bags and still frozen when I took them out of the box.
Other comments from me are that I liked how readable the recipe was: the text wasn’t too small as with other recipes I’ve seen, and important ingredients are bolded. There’s also a short list on the side that tells you which kitchen utensils you’ll need to cook the dish, meaning there’s neither confusion nor guesswork. Just the cooking.
There’s already a lot on the recipe to pay attention to, but it would be nice to see a “challenge rating” on how challenging the preparation of each dish is. I felt that these two were very manageable, but as customers get deeper into their subscription and have the option of picking their weekly meals, or have busy upcoming weeks, it would be nice to see difficulty in addition to time.
Bag of produce for Tex Mex Tilapia, alongside fish.
Bag of ingredients for Chicken Cheddar Fajitas, alongside chicken breast.
These two recipes were very quick to put together; I noted about 22 minutes (2 minutes over the estimated 20 minute cook-time) for the Tilapia, and 38 minutes for the Fajitas.
Part of this was the order in which the recipes had me preparing, and cooking, and partly because there were parts of the process that didn’t require active cooking. After dipping the fish in Panko flakes, chopping lime and parsley, the fish went straight onto the stove with some included spices. The couscous finished in under 3 minutes after boiling water, and bean sprouts cooked by steaming in the microwave. I didn’t really acquire any cooking skills from this recipe since most of the food could be cooked as is, but I did save time. This was a delicious option that was super quick, good for those rushed days after a long day of work.
The Chicken Fajitas, my favorite of the two meals I write about in this review, were also a quick put-together. I noted 33 minutes total, with the longest amount of time being spent waiting for the oven to warm up. Overall, both meals were very time efficient.
Taste and Healthiness
I touched on this a little bit in the earlier section, but both meals were simple, healthy, and clean (and by that I mean low oil and grease). HelloFresh includes sour cream with the fish, but it’s up to you how much you decide to gluttonize.
The three main items were very healthy (Tilapia, green beans, and couscous) in an of themselves, and served as a good base for the spices. The brown flavoring is southwest spice blend, red is chipotle powder, which was mixed together with the panko. The lime, veggie stock concentrate, and sour cream mixed together for a (lovely) crema.
More closeups of the ingredients.
And final plated dish.
Fresh vegetables chopped and sliced.
Final Chicken Cheddar Fajitas plated with cilantro.
Overall taste and healthiness was above average, and I found each meal well balanced between the fish and chicken, and healthy vegetables.
There’s an infrequently mentioned time-suck to the whole process of cooking, whether with meal-kit or regular cooking, and that is clean up time. These two were very easy, since both used the oven to bake ingredients, and I was done washing everything in about 10 minutes. Compare this to other services where a long cleanup ended up being an unwanted surprise.
Packaging and Recycling
HelloFresh is towards the front of the pack with the total amount of packaging they use, and in general the type of packaging they use is either recyclable or compostable. The company also includes a recycling page on their website with videos showing how to breakdown box contents.
Like the Nordic Ice packs that Blue Apron and Purple Carrot use, HelloFresh includes large, reusable ice packs in their boxes. The number 4 type plastic sleeves can be recycled but the gel, though water soluble, has to be thrown away.
All in all, HelloFresh, though less ‘gourmet’ than other meal-kit providers, is one of my favorites so far. The meals were the fastest to cook, and in my experience tasted the closest to comfortable home cooking with an added flare from the included spices. Prices are competitive against other all-around meal-kit providers, though in general on the higher side for raw ingredients. What you get is the convenience of curated ingredients and weekly recipes, along with some practice around the stovetop and cutting board.
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by Insider Envy Staff