Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About HelloFresh Meal Kits

An in-depth look at the wildly popular meal kit service, how it works, what it costs, and whether it's worth trying out.

Courtesy of Hello Fresh
Courtesy of Hello Fresh
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Over the years, I’ve developed any number of theories to explain my utter ineptitude in the kitchen (a tendency to *embellish* prescriptive instructions; a proclivity for ruining my appetite anytime h’or d'oeuvres are introduced; mommy issues). In any case, the simple fact remains: I do not like cooking. And while I have, in large part, survived thus far on a steady diet of PB&Js and sushi takeout, as I slouch my way towards age 27, it feels only appropriate that I occasionally fix myself a meal that is not reminiscent of school lunch. Hence: my foray into meal delivery kits.

Now, when it comes to DIY food boxes, the market is certainly plenty saturated. You’ve got your vegan-meets-paleo options, your sustainability-first options, your low-lift smoothie diet options, et al. But for the sake of ease—and in the interest of minimizing decision-making—I opted to start with the obvious: HelloFresh. The quick and easy delivery kit system is just about as low commitment as a subscription service can get—and according to unnamed sources on their website, they’ve been crowned “America’s #1 meal delivery service.” So, I vowed to give it a shot.

Lo and behold, throughout the duration of my experiment, which lasted two long weeks, I am pleased to report that I did, indeed, succeed in preparing each and every one of my delivered meals—and I did not set my hair on fire even once. So, for those of you interested in wandering down the HelloFresh rabbit hole, I’ve painstakingly detailed just about every aspect of the HelloFresh experience below in the hopes of prepping you accordingly. Do with that what you will.

Courtesy of HelloFresh

What, exactly, is HelloFresh?

If you’re not familiar with the whole “meal prep kit” phenomenon seizing the nation, allow me to break it down for you. HelloFresh, much like many other services of a similar ilk, provides recipes and pre-measured ingredients for home cooked meals (think: spice packets, individual servings of sour cream, handfuls of fresh herbs, the works) directly to your doorstep—so you need not invest in a whole bottle of smoked paprika knowing that you’ll likely use it...just this once.

Naturally, it’s remarkable how much faster meal prep goes when neither measuring nor sourcing (nor decision-making) is involved. So the idea is, you get tasty, filling home-cooked meals, without the planning or general orchestrating required of most dining endeavors—and, you avoid a hell of a lot of food waste.

How much does HelloFresh cost (per person)?

When it comes to price point, HelloFresh has a number of different options available. The lowest lift allows you two weekly meals, each of which serve two people—and that’ll set you back $49.96 ($12.49 a meal). From there, you can level up to a serving size of four, and to a cadence of six weekly meals. In total, that would cost you $188.75 weekly—but for each four-serving kit, your individual meals only clock in at $7.50.

Long story short, your weekly subscription prices start at about $50—and whether you customize your options for omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians, et al, that price doesn’t change. Plus, you can change your subscription terms at any time, so commitment-phobes are welcome.

What do HelloFresh reviewers say?

Like any informed buyer, surely you’re curious about what The People have to say. Well, you’ll be delighted to learn that folks seem to be rather pleased with both the flavor and the nutritional value of their meals—and most of all, with the absolute versatility of the offerings. Even for users months into their HelloFresh journeys, apparently, there’s no limit to the quantity of creative, low-lift recipes available. Moreover, HelloFresh’s designated prep times, which are generally around 30 minutes, seem to be accurate—which really does account for quite a bit of time saved on dinner.

On the cons list, however, is the fact that so much individual packaging is hardly sustainable. Each delivery arrives with various wrappers, zip locks, ice packs, and so on, all of which can feel fairly wasteful. And in large part, the food products included are not organic. That said, while there is more packaging, you’re certainly cutting down on food waste by virtue of utilizing pre-measure ingredients.

Additionally, while the service does offer a number of different plans, they don’t have quite as many dietary restriction-forward menus as some folks might like.

Is HelloFresh difficult to use?

Speaking personally, I can vouch for the fact that HelloFresh is remarkably streamlined and easy to navigate from a user standpoint. Not only does the site make it super clear how to switch up your service, pause your delivery schedule, or opt into a different meal category, but upon arrival, the IRL instructions per meal are equally easy to navigate.

Each recipe tells you just about how long it’ll take, and which kitchen tools you’ll need from the get-go. And even as someone with little-to-no culinary skills, few meals in my own kits took me more than a mere 30 minutes to prepare. Which is to say, there’s no baseline expertise required to pull these off.

In summation, no, you will not be asked to provide some strange and specific cooking twine or horse-powered stand mixer‚nor will you find yourself looking up words like “julienne.” This is truly cooking for dummies (in spite of the fact that, come final product, you will, indeed, appear as if you knew what you were doing all along).

Courtesy of HelloFresh

What are the stand-out HelloFresh features?

To start, the simplicity of the whole affair really can’t be overstated. If your intention is to use as little brain space as possible on the project of food preparation, HelloFresh will certainly allow you to operate on auto pilot (without forfeiting flavor...and nutrition). And the low commitment, any-time cancellation (or pause) policy makes it simple to lean in and out of your meal kit romance as you see fit.

Then, of course, of equal import is the food itself. Expect recipes from across the globe, no matter which culinary categorization you’ve opted into: al pastor tacos, Swedish meatballs, ramen dishes, the list goes on. So, for folks worried that meal delivery kit usage equates to bland, repetitive food, rest assured, you’ll find plenty of nuance.

Oh, and each meal kit comes in its own brown paper bag—each of which is neatly packaged enough so as not to swallow the entirety of your fridge real estate.

Who should sign up for HelloFresh?

If the whole cooking-and-shopping thing really does feel like a chore to you, I’d say you’re just about the ideal customer here. HelloFresh is all about rule-following. You’re meant to use the ingredients precisely as outlined (rather clearly) in your instructions—creative flair not necessary. Maybe discouraged, even.

And if you, like me, have lost years of your life to the project of deciding where you’d like to order dinner from—or whether you’d like to cook—it’s certainly helpful to have all your culinary boxes checked without any decision-making.

Who should avoid HelloFresh?

Folks who consider themselves artisans of any kind in the kitchen are probably well advised to steer clear of this one. Not only are the meals relatively cut and dry in terms of preparation, but they also leave minimal room to flex. It’s unlikely that you’ll need to put any of your cooking prowess to use, nor will you find yourself challenged to reach new heights, speaking from a culinary standpoint.

Moreover, if you’re looking to learn some new things, this is likely not the meal plan for you. The kits are not directed towards teaching you skills or modes of preparation to sharpen your kitchen acumen writ large—it’s merely about preparing the food at hand as quickly and efficiently as possible. There’s a time and a place for both approaches, but if you’re in the market to boost your intuitive cooking skills, this likely won’t do much for you.

Courtesy of HelloFresh

How does HelloFresh actually work?

Getting started on HelloFresh is a remarkably simple process. All you’ve gotta do is visit the website, select your cadence and serving size, note your dietary restrictions/preferences, and then wait (roughly three days) for your meal kit to arrive. And if you’re new to the whole shtick and you want to give yourself a bit of time to test the waters, you can even opt into a trial period, and test out 2 weeks of meal service for free.

Once your meal kit arrives, you’ll open your HelloFresh box to find a handful of recipe cards (with helpful visual reference points) along with pre-labeled brown paper bags containing the supplies for each separate meal of the week. Upon opening, you can just tuck these guys into your fridge until you’re ready to start cooking (just make sure to keep the recipe cards somewhere safe).

Once the time for you to start prepping your food has arrived, you’ll grab your instructions and open up your paper bag, which should have everything you need in carefully labeled vessels. Sure, you’ll have to provide salt, pepper, olive oil, and basic pots and pans, but otherwise, it’s all in the bag. Then, you do your darndest to follow instructions, and voila: dinner.

Afterwards, be sure to recycle as much of the packaging from your delivery as possible, and do your best to finish what you’ve made (for the sake of minimizing food waste). Then, if you’d like to mix up your delivery options for next week, pause your usual cadence while on vacation, or up your installment number, you can simply log in to your account on the HelloFresh website, and you’ll see a button encouraging you to switch up your plan on the home page.

As for customer service, you’re best advised to do most of your corresponding online. Under the “help” tab on the HelloFresh site, you’ll find small, easy-to-use icons detailing nearly all of the run-of-the-mill customer service issues you might want to address: Change your address, update your meal plan, swap your forms of payment, move your dates, or track missing orders. That said, if your concern falls under a different headline, you can call the 24/7 help center toll-free.

Are there alternative HelloFresh meal kit services out there?

Naturally, HelloFresh isn’t the only meal delivery kit on the market. So if you’re looking to explore your options before you settle down with one service in particular, there are more than a few worth checking out.

Blue Apron was perhaps the first service of this ilk to join the market. While a bit more time consuming on the culinary front than HelloFresh (according to customer reviews), your offerings, for the most part, are pretty similar.

For a healthier, more sustainable option, Sunbasket is a good place to start. From the dietary restriction end, you can expect gluten-free, vegan, paleo, pescatarian, vegetarian, and diabetes-friendly options plus all fish is wild caught, all eggs are organic, and all meat products are antibiotic- and hormone-free.

If you’re looking for a lower lift option, Splendid Spoon will ship weekly assortments of smoothies, grain bowls, and soups, all of which you merely heat on the stove once you’re ready to eat ‘em.

Daily Harvest is also an easy competitor when it comes to nutritious meals that are largely premade. These will arrive at your doorstep primarily frozen, and they’ll require little to no preparation save for some reheating or the occasional blender bout.

And lastly, for more serious plant-based, vegetarian consumers, Purple Carrot is a solid contender. Not only are the meals tasty and creative (in spite of the ingredients they lack), you can select your meal plan based on your level of expertise—so go quick and easy, complex, or gourmet.

Courtesy of HelloFresh

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is HelloFresh good for?

Each box is designed to stay fresh for a week—and the company suggests using perishable ingredients like fish or meat first, if possible. That said, you need not stress about preparing your meals on the night your box first arrives.

Is there a minimum subscription length?

Nope, you’re completely free to start and stop at your leisure (it would seem that there are actually...no strings attached…). You’re even welcome to pause, skip a week, or alter your cadence whenever you so choose.

How does the food stay fresh in transit?

Your package will arrive in a specially designed box outfitted with insulated liners, gel packs, and cooling material designed to keep food fresh. And as seasons change, so does packaging, so rest assured that your box will not arrive in a state of rot.

What happens if I lose my recipe cards?

All of HelloFresh’s recipes are available online. Simply type whatever’s written on your brown paper ingredient bag into the website’s search bar, and you’ll find your missing recipe right away (which is also handy if you happen to particularly like any one recipe).

Is HelloFresh organic?

Not exactly. While some of HelloFresh’s ingredients are organic, and many are sourced from sustainable producers, the focus is certainly not on organic eating. So, if organic meat and produce rank high on your priority list, this is not the meal delivery kit for you.

Can I recycle my HelloFresh packaging?

Yes! Each and every portion of your HelloFresh box can, indeed, be recycled. Full instructions are available here.

Does HelloFresh offer gluten-free, dairy-free, or nut-free options?

While there are plenty of meals in the HelloFresh repertoire that will be marked as gluten-free, nut-free, or dairy-free, the service does not allow you to preselect a meal plan that caters to these particular dietary restrictions.

Eliza Dumais is a former staff writer at Thrillist. She now works as a lifestyle editor at Refinery29.
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