Two months with HelloFresh: A quick look at the cost and quality of HelloFresh recipes
When I published my first HelloFresh review last June, I liked the popular meal-delivery service. Kim's employer had given us a one-week free trial. The three recipes we received were fun and tasty. In the end, we chose not to sign up with HelloFresh but resolved to remember it for the future.
At the end of 2018, as I was evaluating my spending patterns, I was shocked by how much I was spending on food. It's embarrassing to show the following numbers, but facts are facts and truth is truth. I was spending over $1100 per month on food.
“Something needs to change,” I told Kim. “Maybe we should try HelloFresh again to see if it can help us cut costs.”
“Do you think so?” Kim siad. “Isn't HelloFresh kind of expensive?”
“It's not that bad,” I said. “Besides, if having meals delivered can keep us from dining out so often, and if it can keep me from splurging at the grocery store, it might actually save us money.”
I signed us up.
For two months — January and February — we received three HelloFresh recipes each week. Based on our experience, here's a new, revised review of HelloFresh.
Because I'm a nerd, I kept stats on our HelloFresh experience. I tracked the recipes we received, how much time it took to prepare them, and whether or not we thought the food was good.
Over these two months (about seven weeks), we tried 21 different HelloFresh recipes. Of these, only two were lousy (both tacos). A few were great. Most were good, and we'd happily eat them again. In fact, we're saving the recipe cards so that we can try to duplicate the recipes on our own (and compare costs buying ingredients from the grocery store).
Here's a complete list of the HelloFresh recipes we tried (with links to the recipes themselves).
- 09 Jan 2019 — Seared Sirloin Steak and Shallot Demi-Glace with caramelized onion mashed potatoes and green salad (A) — This is one of the expensive meals. It was good.
- 10 Jan 2019 — Chicken Cutlets with Scallion Sriracha Pesto over cilantro rice with ginger soy carrots (B-) — 20-minute meal. A good idea but didn't come out well.
- 14 Jan 2019 — Figgy Balsamic Pork with roasted green beans and rosemary potatoes (B+) — Hall of fame. Pretty good, even the green beans (which I don't usually like).
- 16 Jan 2019 —Lauren Conrad's Chicken Tacos with radish tomato pico de gallo and avocado (D) — The only truly bad recipe of the entire bunch. Neither of us liked this.
- 17 Jan 2019 — Pasta Parmesan with zucchini, tuscan herbs, and marinara sauce (B) — A good idea but needs meat.
- 20 Jan 2019 — Sweet ‘n' Smoky Pork Chops with apple carrot slaw, mashed potatoes, and cherry sauce (A-) — Hall of fame. Tasty.
- 23 Jan 2019 — Pork and Poblano Tacos with kiwi salsa and lime crema (B) — Hall of fame. Not bad but beginning to think Hello Fresh tacos are never going to knock it out of the park.
- 24 Jan 2019 — Salsa Verde Enchiladas with poblano pepper, black beans, and monterey jack cheese (B+) — 20-minute meal. Not nearly enough cheese. Also added chicken, which helped. Tomato was bad.
- 25 Jan 2019 — Shrimp Spaghetti with a Kick with garlic herb butter and zucchini (A-) — Great flavor but could have used more veggies.
- 30 Jan 2019 — Creamy Tuscan Beef and Penne with kale and permesan (A) — Delicious and plentiful. One of the best so far.
- 31 Jan 2019 — Chicken Pineapple Quesadillas with pico de gallo and southwest spice (A- with caveats) — Did not ship with required tomato. Way too much filling — could have used two more tortillas.
- 01 Feb 2019 — Pork Bulgogi Meatballs with carrots and zucchini over rice (A-) — Tasty and different.
- 06 Feb 2019 — Pineapple Poblano Beef Tacos with lime crema and cilantro (A) — 20-minute meal. This is very good and we'd eat it all the time.
- 07 Feb 2019 — Korean-style Chicken Thighs with sesame cucumber salad and jasmine rice (A) — Another delicious meal we'd never have tried otherwise.
- 09 Feb 2019 — Sirloin Steak Provençal with truffle cream, roasted carrots, and potatoes (A-) — Deluxe gourmet meal. A little salty but otherwise very good.
- 13 Feb 2019 — Crispy Southwest Chicken Cutlets with monterey jack, mashed potatoes, and roasted poblano and onion (A+) — Holy cats! This was amazing. We will absolutely be attempting this on our own.
- 15 Feb 2019 — Balsamic-and-Fig Beef Tenderloin with garlic mashed potatoes and rosemary breadcrumb brussels sprouts (A-) — Deluxe gourmet recipe. Very good.
- 16 Feb 2019 — Cherry Balsamic Pork Chops with garlic herb couscous and roasted broccoli (B) — Hall of fame. Not bad but the sauce never thickened up.
- 21 Feb 2019 — Chipotle-Spiced Tilapia Tacos with kiwi pico de gallo and chipotle crema (C-) — Another crappy taco recipe. Not sure why they can't get tacos right.
- 25 Feb 2019 — Cheesy Chicken Shepherd's Pie with peas and carrot (B) — Not bad but could use more chicken. Also, the single supplied small carrot was rubbery.
- 26 Feb 2019 — Shake It Up! Pork Cutlets with garlic bread and an apple and sunflower seed salad (B+) — Tasty but not super.
After preparing 21 meals from HelloFresh, Kim and I have some definite opinions about the service.
First — and perhaps most importantly — the food is generally good, if not always great. We've saved the recipe cards and plan to make many of them again on our own.
Only one of the recipes was truly awful (Lauren Conrad's chicken tacos) and another was meh. We'd eat everything else again. Also: Aside from the pineapple poblano beef tacos, the Hello Fresh taco recipes just aren't very good, which was disappointing. Kim and I like tacos, but not most of these.
Second, the HelloFresh recipes provide clear instructions, even if the prop times are a bit optimistic. In 21 recipes, there were only two or three occasions where the instructions were unclear. That's a good success rate.
Each recipe lists a prep time and a total time. Realistically speaking, you can simply ignore the prep time. Almost all of it is prep time. (Talking with other HelloFresh users, they back me up on this.) So, if it says 10 minutes prep time and 20 minutes total time, just count on working in the kitchen for that entire 20 minutes.
Third, the gourmet meals aren't always worth the extra price. Each week, you can choose to upgrade to certain deluxe meals. Doing so costs an extra $12 to $16. These deluxe meals are good, but from our experience they're no better than the less-expensive normal meals.
The Bottom Line
The real question is: Did signing up for HelloFresh help me meet my goal? Was I able to reduce my monthly food spending? I'm pleased to report that the answer is a resounding YES!
As you can see from the following report, I spent just over $700 per month on food during January and February.
I find it interesting that if you combine my HelloFresh and grocery expenses for the past couple of months, the total is roughly the same as what I was spending for groceries alone before. Where HelloFresh really helped was with our restaurant spending.
The objective numbers reflect our subjective experience, too.
Because the HelloFresh recipes produce higher-quality food than we usually make on our own, we were far less tempted to dine out. When we did eat out, it's because we were doing something special, not because we were being lazy or unexcited about the food we had at home.
During the past seven weeks, I paid a total of $323.52 to Hello Fresh. This includes three discounted weeks during the trial period, plus three weeks during which I paid extra ($11.98 or $15.98, depending) for special meals.
This averages out to $46.22 per week for six meals (three meals each for two people), or about $7.70 per meal per person. Kim and I feel like this cost was worth it. We like the convenience, the clear instructions, and the general quality of the meals.
Having said that, things weren't perfect. Some recipes were better than others. There were problems with the produce. It sucks to get halfway through a recipe and realize that HelloFresh didn't send you the required tomato. Or that the carrot is made of rubber. Or that there's way too much filling for two quesadillas.
In the end, Kim and I both agree that we'd like to resume our HelloFresh experiment in the future. Right now, though, Kim is going on a special diet in preparation for knee surgery. I'm going to reduce my calorie intake so that I can get un-fat. We'll have to bring this round of the experiment to a close.
I'm curious to see how my grocery spending will change during the next month or two. For the next month, my food bill should reflect only my consumption. During normal months, there's a lot of cross-over, I think. I buy stuff for both of us, and so does she. But my food numbers for March should reflect me and me alone.