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Meal kit review: We tried Hello Fresh and here's our honest opinion

HelloFresh box of ingredients
HelloFresh box of ingredients HelloFresh

If you've ever caught yourself glaring at the stove like it's your sworn enemy and not an inanimate object, it might be time to switch things up with a meal delivery service. These handy options can make life easier by cutting out time that would otherwise go toward grocery shopping, prep work, and arguably the most dreaded part: a sink full of dishes (cue thunderclap and shrieking sounds). 

That's how I felt when I decided to give HelloFresh, touted as America's most popular meal kit (language front and center on the company's homepage, no less), a trial run. I sampled some of the delivery service's healthy meal options and poked around the company's (pretty expansive) menu of weekly recipes.

After four weeks of HelloFresh, I sat down to write my honest review on the meal delivery service. Below, you can read for yourself what I thought of the whole experience -- and whether or not I'd recommend HelloFresh for you, too.

In this review

  • How does HelloFresh work?
  • Is HelloFresh expensive?
  • Is HelloFresh healthy?
  • Is HelloFresh good for people with dietary limitations?
  • Does HelloFresh get good reviews?
  • Is HelloFresh worth it?
  • Biggest pros and cons

There's a lot to cover here, from individual costs to what kinds of recipes there are to choose from week after week. Starting with the process itself, here's my full breakdown. 

How does HelloFresh work?

If you're new to meal kits, here's how they typically work: You choose the number of meals you want per week, pick your preferred recipes for each delivery, and await a big box full of everything you need to cook. Ingredients come pre-portioned and should be temperature-controlled, leaving you with minimal prep work of your own to do.

So let's break down how HelloFresh handled these steps in the process. First: signing up. I found the walkthrough pretty straightforward. You start by personalizing your plan and can pick one or more of the following dietary options:

  • Meat and veggies
  • Veggie
  • Family friendly
  • Fit and wholesome
  • Quick and easy
  • Pescatarian
Screencap: HelloFresh meal plans
A selection of HelloFresh meal plans including meat and veggies, veggie, family friendly, fit and wholesome, quick and easy, and pescatarian.  Tom Horton/CBS/HelloFresh

Right off the bat, you have a decent variety to choose from. I've sampled other meal plans in the past and categories like "pescatarian" (for those who don't eat meat but do eat fish) and "meat and veggies" as its own category are new to me, while the others are par for the course. 

Your next step is to select how many people you're ordering for -- two or four -- and how many meals you want per week (anywhere from two to six). Prices per serving go down as you add more people or meals; for example a two-person plan with three weekly meals is $10 per serving, while the same plan with two weekly meals is around $13 per serving. 

Screencap of the plan sizes offered by HelloFresh, including number of people (two to four) and meals per week (two to six). Box price, price per serving, and total price is also listed (note the signup savings!)
Screencap of the plan sizes offered by HelloFresh, including number of people (two to four) and meals per week (two to six). Box price, price per serving, and total price is also listed (note the signup savings!) Tom Horton/CBS/HelloFresh

I found the rest of the registration process to be easy and straightforward. No big surprises.

The last step is to pick your meals. This is the fun part: HelloFresh definitely takes the crown when it comes to recipe variety. I counted more than 50 meals to choose from. You can browse by different world cuisines (American, Mediterranean, Japanese, and many more) or even filter by different dishes like taco or stir-fry recipes. While there was a lot to sift through, I never felt too overwhelmed thanks to the easy site navigation.

For my first week, I chose: Tahini and Honey-Glazed Chicken, Mexican Chicken and Garlic Rice, and American-Spiced Chicken Tenders (can you guess my favorite protein?). Those arrived on my doorstep in a sturdy cardboard box with gel ice packs keeping everything cold inside. HelloFresh claims you can recycle or keep the packaging (I recycled them, as the bags were a bit big for my freezer). 

All in all, I was satisfied with the quality of everything shipped to me: the protein and vegetables were fresh and ingredients were clearly labeled. I also like the easy-to-follow recipe cards that come with each pick. I've had some not-so-great experiences with meal delivery plans in the past -- let's just say the now-defunct Freshly didn't live up to its name when it came to what I received back in 2021.

Is HelloFresh expensive?

Did you skip directly to this section for spoilers on whether HelloFresh is worth the price? I get it. Buying from the grocery store can feel like gambling with your wallet these days, especially if you limit yourself according to a certain diet (vegetarian, vegan, etc.).

Cash is king, so you want to know if HelloFresh is worth your money. After my time with the meal delivery service, I can confidently say: yes! 

Mostly.

Compared with other meal delivery services, HelloFresh is definitely on the cheaper end of the spectrum. You can find meal plans starting at $8 per serving, which is the same starting price point for competitors like Blue Apron and Home Chef. The variety of meals you have to choose from with HelloFresh gives it an edge here, in my opinion.

It's worth noting that $8 can go up, though: premium meals ("premium picks" with things like extra protein) can cost upwards of $12 per serving, and I couldn't help but notice a lot of the tastiest looking meals were in that category. Premium meals like the Sirloin and Sherry Shallot Sauce (yum) are labelled "gourmet," so you really have to pay attention when you're making weekly selections.

And, as I described above, that serving cost goes up if you order fewer meals for fewer people. I paid, for example, around $10 per serving for a two-person plan with four weekly meals. 

Lastly, there's the cost of shipping: $10 per box. So chances are, that $8 per serving will go up a bit depending on your situation. Which brings us back to my answer above to the question about expense.

I added "mostly" because I ultimately don't think HelloFresh is expensive, but your experience may differ if you don't avoid gourmet meals (which I did) or you only want a few meals delivered per week. Or perhaps you're a thriftier person than I when it comes to grocery shopping: I recently tallied up the differences between meal kits and found money can be saved via meal kits, but at the end of the day that's subjective.

One final note: while it wasn't the case when I sampled HelloFresh, at the time of this writing there is a discount for first-time subscribers with a price of around $6 per serving -- so definitely check that out!

Is HelloFresh healthy?

I think of HelloFresh as a middle-of-the-road kind of service. While there are others out that home in on specific concepts like plant-based meals (Purple Carrot) or an all-organic menu (Daily Harvest), HelloFresh has a bit of everything. 

Not to say that's a bad thing -- quite the opposite, actually. If you're counting calories, you can find low calorie meal kits with appealing recipes like the popular Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos. There is also no shortage of vegetable-based dishes to try out, from the classic Cheese Tortellini Bowl to more interesting concoctions like the Truffled Mushroom Flatbreads.

The "fit and wholesome" category of low-calorie recipes have dishes that round out to around 650 calories per serving (max). HelloFresh also claims to source ingredients like meat, poultry, and seafood from federally regulated farmers and suppliers touting "climate-resilient practices that minimize food waste and environmental impact."

I would say you could do far worse than HelloFresh when it comes to healthy meals. With so many different options to choose from, you're bound to find healthy meals that fit your preferences each week. 

Is HelloFresh good for people with dietary limitations?

I found that, depending on your dietary needs, HelloFresh has a little something for everyone. I personally try to shy away from gluten when I can, so I was happy to see HelloFresh had a number of gluten-free meals to choose from. 

To be clear, HelloFresh as a whole is not certified gluten-free like some competitors (SunBasket, for example). But it does have recipes each week that fit the bill -- just look for the "gluten-free" tag when picking your favorites. 

There are also more than a few tasty vegan and vegetarian recipes to try out each week. Dietary limitations that have you sticking to your greens are the easiest to find matching HelloFresh recipes for, in my opinion. Gluten-free comes next since you have to do a bit of digging to find tagged meals -- there's no gluten-free plan.

Other diets and limitations may be more challenging when it comes to HelloFresh. If you stick to a paleo diet or need to avoid dairy in your meals, you might have to make adjustments to ingredients in order to make it work with HelloFresh, since there aren't a lot of options to choose from there. 

Does HelloFresh get good reviews?

When it comes to online reviews, HelloFresh is kind of all over the place. While there are plenty of customers who had a similar experience to my own and gave four or five-star reviews praising things like meal variety, there were just as many people sitting firmly at the other end of star-rating system.

The overall consensus seems to be a solid three out of five stars, from what I could gather. Lots of people had criticisms about less-than-fresh food showing up at their door or confusion surrounding post-cancellation charges, but I took those with a grain of (prepackaged) salt. 

Receiving food that is past its prime is a small risk we take by signing up for a meal delivery service. While that wasn't my experience over the course of four weeks, I would concede that depending on your location, your chosen meal plan, or even what time of year it is, that risk could be higher. I certainly know what it feels like to open a box and know the food is unusable before you even see the ingredients (cough cough, Freshly). 

Is HelloFresh worth it?

I believe that the question of whether or not HelloFresh is really worth it depends on your situation. Here are the instances where I think HelloFresh would be a great fit for you:

  • You're looking for an alternative to grocery shopping or something to make dinnertime quicker and easier
  • You're interested in budget-friendly meal delivery kits, but unsure of where to start
  • You don't have any serious dietary restrictions or limitations beyond, say, a preference for plant-based or gluten-free recipes
  • You're cooking for a busy family and want to add some variety to the dinner table

If you live alone and don't want to deal with leftovers in order to pay for a cheaper subscription (like I did -- I personally love the challenge of splitting meals throughout the week), HelloFresh might not be the wallet-friendly answer you're looking for. Similarly, if you have certain dietary limitations (paleo diet, diary-free, absolutely no gluten whatsoever), there is likely a better meal delivery service for you.

Biggest pros and cons

Pros

Cons

  • Plenty of weekly recipes to choose from
  • Fairly basic, sometimes uninspired meals
  • Good plan options like family-friendly, low calorie, plant-based, and vegan
  • Limited options for dietary restrictions beyond vegetarian
  • More affordable than most other meal delivery services
  • "Gourmet meals" that can hike up costs if you're not paying attention to recipe tags
  • Great for large families or home chefs with beginner to moderate cooking skills

And there you have it. My final verdict on HelloFresh is that it's worth it, even if you only try it once just to get a taste of the different cuisines available. There are other services out there that cater more towards seasoned cooks (Blue Apron) or special diets, so HelloFresh might just ignite your interest in trying out some competing companies as well. 

At the end of the day, $8 and up per serving is a pretty alluring price tag. It was worth it for me to eliminate a good chunk of the prep work, cook work, etc. that normally comes with a good home-cooked meal. If you're tired of the nightly song and dance of putting food on the table, give HelloFresh a try!

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