A series of unsponsored meal kit reviews and comparisons
A few months ago, my daughter made a case for us to try meal kits. I wasn’t so sure at first. Whenever I had checked into them previously, they seemed expensive and didn’t have a lot of recipes we would actually like. I have two particular eaters in my household, and we’re pretty plain eating folks. But, I decided to check into it again and found there were many more options, so I decided we’d give meal kits a try. I started with one company, but I was anxious to do a meal kit comparison and see what we’d like most.
So after about five meal kit boxes from one provider, I paused my account and changed to another. I just wanted to see the difference. At the same time, there was a third one I was curious about as well. I figured all this trying would end up being a great meal kit comparison to share!
Before ordering, I tried looking at meal kit comparisons, but most of them seemed to include affiliate links or sponsorships with the companies. I am not affiliated with or sponsored by any of these meal kit companies. When I started writing this meal kit comparison, in fact, I had no idea which service I’d end up liking the most — if any of them. I didn’t even intend to make it a blog post!
Then, once I decided to make it a blog post, I thought it’d be just one post. Pretty quickly, I realized that I needed more than one post to include all the information to make a helpful comparison. Over a few weeks, I’m posting our experiences with Dinnerly, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Every Plate and EMeals.
Of all the meal kit services, I had heard most about Hello Fresh. It seemed to pop up everywhere. When the new year started and it offered a variety of deals, I decided to give it a try. It was our second meal kit service. My daughter was excited for it the most, because she also had heard the most about it.
Hello Fresh had a good amount of menu choices that worked for our family. Our second box, for example, included a barbeque flatbread pizza recipe that I could easily customize portions of for my particular eaters. Hello Fresh had a decent selection for both meat eaters and non-meat eaters. And some recipes I could customize to use less meat. For example, one box was a ground beef flauta recipe. I used half the amount of ground beef the recipe called for to fit my family’s tastes. The meat came in two separate packages, so it was easy to pop the unused package in the freezer to use later.
One of my complaints for the Hello Fresh menu is that the gourmet meals are mixed in with all the other menu choices. Since the gourmet meals cost extra per serving (usually around $8.99 per serving per meal), I’d like them to be separated so I know they’re gourmet without having to be sure and check.
That said Hello Fresh has way more non-gourmet meals than gourmet. It isn’t a big issue and when you click or tap to confirm your selections, it is clear that you are paying more. You can go back and make changes if you don’t want to.
Hello Fresh isn’t inexpensive. I opted for two meals a week for four people. Other meal kit services have three meals as the lowest option, so I liked that I could do two with Hello Fresh. Two meals a week for four people is $75.92 plus $9.99 shipping. New sign-ups usually get discounts and such. I had some discounts for Hello Fresh that offset the cost.
Discounts are applied over multiple weeks, so you get a smaller amount off of a few orders rather than a larger amount of one order. Hello Fresh also has a rewards program you are automatically entered in to. Every four boxes you get a reward. In only doing four boxes for each service for this post, I got one reward of a free random dessert in my fourth box.
My only gripe about the free random dessert is that it was two individual cheesecakes. Since I was ordering with a four-person plan that didn’t make much sense to me. Unbeknownst to Hello Fresh, though, only two of my family members really love cheesecake. So it worked out anyway.
Hello Fresh shipped to me through UPS, which was awesome. UPS delivers regularly to my house and neighborhood. Usually our deliveries come around lunchtime, so I received the meals early enough in the day that I could plan them for dinner that night if I wanted. I like that!
While the ingredients arrived pre-portioned, they also arrived brown-bagged based on which recipe they went with. So all the ingredients for one recipe were in one bag I could pull out of my fridge when I was ready to cook. Meat was separated but everything else was in the bag.
Everything was pre-portioned and even included things like packets of flour. The ingredients were all branded “Hello Fresh.” All of the ingredients were fresh. Veggies needed to be washed. I had to supplement my own ingredients much less. Usually olive oil, salt and pepper were all I needed from my own pantry. Once I needed butter.
We did encounter a couple of missing ingredients and once a missing add-on. The flauta recipe was supposed to come with Mexican seasoning, but it didn’t. I always have taco seasoning on hand, so it worked out OK. The third box, I had a reward of $10 for add-ons with referring a friend. I chose a combo of creamy tomato soup and garlic bread. My out-of-pocket cost ended up being around $3. The garlic bread arrived, but the soup didn’t. I used the automated chat for customer service and my account was credited for the missing item. However, I was only credited my $3, so I lost the $10 reward and chose not to try ordering the soup again.
Cooking the meals
Each box came with recipe cards for what the box held. They were printed on thick, glossy 8.5×11 pages. The recipe cards listed the ingredients, description of the recipe and detailed instructions. I did download the app for Hello Fresh, but since it sends recipe cards, I didn’t need to have the app.
The first meal I made, which was a corn chowder, took longer than the estimated 40 minutes on the recipe card. It took more like 60-70 minutes. Other meals were usually around the time listed on the card, but never quite as quick as the estimated times. I think again that the times are estimated by professional chefs. I found that overall, the meals did take longer to make than was estimated on the card, so I learned to plan for that.
The directions were pretty straightforward and easy. It included the directions for a 2-person plan and 4-person plan in one. I didn’t need any special kitchen gadgets for any of the recipes. I did use a grater on a couple.
The portion sizes were large and good. There was easily enough for my family of four. We almost always had leftovers as well (due in part to my particular eaters). But, even meals that everyone ate, we still had at least enough leftovers for one person to have for lunch.
Overall, I’d go with 4 out of 5 stars. I’m only dinging Hello Fresh for price, being off on estimated cook times and missing ingredients.
Other posts from this series: