The competitive industry of meal delivery services has grown a ton over the past decade, and in North American one company has grown to be the biggest player in the space – HelloFresh. What are the keys to its success thus far? Is their food tastier? Do they have a better, more steadfast commitment to food ethics? Are they more affordable? Are their plans just better structured, with more flexibility?
Our testers have given HelloFresh a thorough try and compared it to the competition, so that we can give you all the pros and cons and what to expect. Find out if they’re the right meal delivery service for you.
- Great flexibility in plans (better than most competitors).
- Ability to choose anywhere from 2 to 6 meals per week for either a 2-person or a 4-person plan.
- The company is dedicated to sustainably sourced ingredients.
- A relatively high number of meal options prevents boredom.
- Competitive pricing (better than many competitors).
- Easy-to-follow instructions and recipes.
- Quick, convenient meals - no trips to the store.
- Flavorful and fun “Calorie-smart” options (all around 650 calories per serving).
- Doesn’t cater to dietary needs as much as Green Chef.
- Isn’t as affordable as EveryPlate.
- Not available in Alaska and Hawaii.
Our testers enjoyed HelloFresh. Was it the best meal delivery service food they’ve ever had? No. Was it the most affordable meal delivery service? No, though it’s very reasonable. Was HelloFresh flexible and easy to craft a plan that is reasonable and accommodating? That’s an emphatic yes.
Our testers concluded that HelloFresh is a good value and a good choice for people who want home-cooked meal options but lack time to shop and plan. The popularity of HelloFresh might be the result of a Goldilocks effect… It has neither the most nor the least expensive service, and neither the absolute tastiest nor the least exciting meals. If you want a service that caters best to people with gluten intolerance and other dietary needs, you should steer toward Green Chef instead. And if you want the cheapest possible plan, EveryPlate is your best bet. But for the majority of us, HelloFresh hits a sweet spot of overall menu variety and tastiness with a price that’s good and enough meal plan flexibility to accommodate a lot of people. HelloFresh could be an all-around winner – not the best in any category, but arguably one of the best overall. Millions of Americans agree.
Innerbody Research recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary online. Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions involving staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.
We extensively test, experience and order from each meal service we review. Our review of HelloFresh is no different. We try our best to give you an unbiased exploration of at-home services, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. We evaluate the service based on our adherence to quality, the latest nutritional standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?
Founded in 2017 (a relative newcomer compared to some other competitors), HelloFresh is a German company that has become the largest meal delivery service in the United States. The company actually now owns two other services that we have tested – EveryPlate (a discount meal service) and Green Chef (offering all-organic foods and catering to a variety of dietary needs).
Once you subscribe to their service, HelloFresh delivers everything you need in order to make home-cooked meals each week. Ingredients are pre-measured and labeled, so you can cut the prep time from cooking. HelloFresh lets you tailor your plan to suit your needs on a weekly basis, and you can skip weeks whenever it’s necessary. Their online subscriber interface makes it easy to manage your plan and pick meals.
We appreciated that all of the packaging is recyclable, except for the gel inside of the gel packs (which is water-soluble and can be yard wasted) and the winter insulation liner (which is garbage).
HelloFresh wants you to specify which menu appeals to you most, at the outset, because they’ll use this information to prepare for you a default group of meal selections to send in your next shipment, should you decline to login and select your own meals prior to the weekly deadline.
- Meat & Veggie – for omnivores. You’ll get to enjoy the biggest variety of options for balanced, nutritious meals (meat, fish, healthy grains and seasonal veggies).
- Veggie – A smaller selection of vegetarian options, balanced with healthful grains. During our testing, there were always four enticing vegetarian meal options.
- Low Calorie – HelloFresh offers meal choices that hover around 650 calories per meal. Our testers were impressed by how satisfying and tasty these meals were! There were always four of these meal options each week.
- Family Friendly – These meal options are crafted for families with sometimes-picky young eaters. Kids tend to love the recipes found in this menu.
HelloFresh’s menu includes 20 different meal options each week, which will help most of us fend off boredom. However, if you’re a vegetarian who wants more than four meals delivered per week, you may be less pleased by the number of available options.
HelloFresh labels their meals with clear, user-friendly information to help you make your choices. For instance, if you don’t like spicy foods, it’s easy to avoid menu options that are labeled “spicy”. Looking for low-calorie choices? Easy – they’ll be labeled! You can even choose meals that are quicker and easier than others – a nice feature for novice cooks using the meal service in order to start getting into the experience of cooking at home.
HelloFresh doesn’t cater to the same high degree to people with various dietary needs, compared to Green Chef, but their recipes clearly label the eight most common allergies whenever they appear in a meal (wheat, milk, soy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, and shellfish), so that you can choose or exclude meals accordingly. However, you can’t substitute ingredients or request that they be left out of your order, which would be preferable to wasting those ingredients after they’re delivered.
HelloFresh doesn’t really accommodate people who are vegan or have to avoid gluten. In those cases, we think you should learn more about Green Chef.
And if you are looking for more than four different low-calorie meals delivered per week, you might want to consider meal services whose specific goal is providing those options and nothing else. (For starters, check out our BistroMD reviews. BistroMD is a bit pricier, but very tasty as well and a more robust dieting service).
Meal plan flexibility with HelloFresh
One of the excellent features of HelloFresh is the relative flexibility in plans. First, the annoying part: it’s true that you still need to make a “2-person vs. 4-person” choice, which is typical. Despite the fact that many single people use these services, companies don’t seem to pick up on it.
There are possible workarounds… Singles can use extra meals for lunch or could invite a friend to dinner. Families larger than four people could open a second account. But let’s face it – this service does work better with two people or four people.
However, unlike some competitors, you have greater flexibility in terms of the number of meals per week. You can choose anywhere from two to six meals per week, whether it’s for two people or four people. You can select the same meal choice for multiple nights, if you just can’t get enough of it. In fact, you could order six meals of the same exact recipe.
It’s easy to add meals to a particular weekly shipment, as long as you do so prior to the weekly deadline.
Each HelloFresh shipment, regardless of size, will cost a flat rate of $7.99 for shipping.
For two-person plans, each meal serving costs $8.99, while the price per serving is $7.49 for four-person plans.
The only exceptions to this meal-pricing rule are meals labeled with the following:
- Gourmet Plus
- Taste Tours
- Craft Burger
These meals are slightly fancier (and very yummy) but cost a little more per serving. If you optionally choose one of these selections in any given week, you will be billed extra that week. For instance, a Gourmet meal will cost you an additional $5.99 per serving, while a Taste Tour meal will cost an extra $4.99 per serving.
- 2-person, 3 meals per week: $61.93
- 2-person, 4 meals per week: $79.91
- 4-person, 2 meals per week: $67.91
- 4-person, 3 meals per week: $97.87
- 4-person, 4 meals per week: $127.83
Is this a good deal?
Depending on your own home-cooking patterns and shopping habits, this is either a bargain or somewhat more expensive than usual shopping. That depends primarily on whether you tend to create good leftovers or food waste with your shopping excursions. If you’re an experienced home cook, then you’ve likely found ways to make your dollar stretch further on your own than with any meal delivery service. Why? Because you can buy groceries and cook meals that produce leftovers, making for a bigger bang for your buck. Don’t expect any leftovers from HelloFresh meals; you get only what you need for your dinner, which is nice on the one hand because it reduces food waste. But it does also remove one possible savings opportunity that normally exists for home cooks who plan carefully.
But do you have the time to plan, shop, measure and chop ingredients? Time is money, too. This is why meal delivery services appeal not just to novices but also to experienced home cooks. For you, this kind of convenience may be well worth the extra few bucks per week. Certainly many Americans have come to that conclusion!
Getting started is easy once you head over to HelloFresh. Here are the steps!
Choose which menu you prefer. Your options are Meat & Veggie, Veggie, Family Friendly, or Low Calorie.
Choose the size of your plan. This means the number of meals per week and number of people in the plan. 2 or 4 people are your choices for the number of people. From there, you can choose from the out-of-the-box number of meals per week (keeping in mind that you can customize your meal count per week by adding meals or by contacting HelloFresh to help accommodate you).
Create your account. Once you enter your email and choose a 5-character password, you’ll enter your shipping address information.
Select the best day of the week for your package to arrive. You can choose from a selection of possible dates, based on your geographic location. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will likely be an option for everybody, but depending on where you live, you might also be able to choose delivery on Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. Your choice will become your default weekly package day for every shipment. You can always modify your choice later in Account Settings
Enter your payment info – credit card or PayPal.
Select your meals for the first shipment.
And then that’s it – you’re all set to receive your first shipment.
Your weekly deadline
With a meal delivery service, it’s very important to be able to select the meals you’d like to receive in your upcoming shipment. HelloFresh has a friendly interface that makes it easy to review and select or change your meals for the next shipment – or to pause your service for a week, when necessary. Knowing your weekly deadline is the key. The important deadline here is 11:59 PM PST, 5 days prior to your next scheduled delivery.
Keep that deadline in mind. Your shipment by default will happen on a weekly basis (with a selection of default meals each week as determined by your initial meal plan choice (Veggie, Low Calorie, etc). Choosing your meals for the next week must happen prior to the deadline, or else you will receive the default choices preselected for your menu. If you want to pause your service for a week – or if you want to select different meals, or add meals to the upcoming shipment – HelloFresh’s interface makes all of this super-easy and straightforward, but you have to do it before the deadline. Otherwise, your meals will ship next week based on the default meals selected for you and your menu.
Regardless of the size of your plan, each box will ship at a rate of $7.99. Your shipments will arrive each week between 8am and 8pm on the same delivery day that you chose when you created your account.
HelloFresh partners with UPS, FedEx and other local couriers in order to facilitate the deliveries.
You’ll receive an email notification when your package ships. You can also track your shipment using the My Menu page.
In our testing, the packages arrived within their delivery windows and there were no unpleasant surprises.
Canceling and renewing
Your subscription autorenews, so there is nothing necessary for you to do in order to keep receiving shipments on a weekly basis. You only need to take action in order to select your meals, make changes, pause service or cancel.
In order to cancel service without being billed anymore, you need to cancel before the weekly deadline (11:59 PM PST, 5 days prior to your next scheduled delivery). Otherwise, you will receive your next shipment and be billed for it as well. Canceling can be done in a matter of minutes by going to “Account Settings”, which you’ll find by clicking your name in the upper right corner of the HelloFresh interface. There, find Account Settings and click it. After that, you just scroll to the Status section of the settings page, click Cancel Plan, and then follow the prompts.
At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the service. For HelloFresh and other meal services, we have five areas that we use for our evaluations:
Variety of meal options: How well does the meal service accommodate people with different dietary goals and tastes? It’s important that we can eat what we like to eat.
Nutritional value: Does the meal service operate with a firm grasp of nutritional needs of its customers?
Flavor: Do the meals taste good? Simple question, but if the answer is no, then nothing else matters!
Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the company offer discounts?
Customer support: How well does the company help you make the service ideal for you, with your unique dietary needs and lifestyle/routine considerations? How easy is it to plan and receive the meals delivered to your home?