I’m not a big fan of cooking. Or meal planning. Back when I was married, I had a husband who liked doing both those things. Now that I’m in charge of all my meal planning, it doesn’t always go so well. Sometimes, I get to dinner time and realize that I have no idea what I’m going to feed myself — or that other human I’m responsible for, namely my son.
This is where a meal-planning service like HelloFresh comes in. I love meal planning kits because they take most of the work out figuring out what you’ll eat for dinner. You get almost everything you need for the meal, along with step-by-step instructions on how to cook and assemble it.
If you’re looking for an easy way to eat healthy and cook meals at home, check out this HelloFresh review.
HelloFresh is a company that offers meal planning kits. When you sign up, you choose a plan, and HelloFresh organizes your meals. Each week, a box containing the ingredients and recipes for your meals is delivered. All you have to do is follow the instructions on the card, and you end up with a healthy meal.
How to sign up for HelloFresh
Signing up for HelloFresh is fairly straightforward. Just fill in your information and create an account.
Later, you’ll be asked to provide your address (for meal kit delivery) and payment information. HelloFresh accepts credit card and PayPal.
Once you’re signed up, you choose a plan, select your meals, and start receiving your ingredients and recipes. HelloFresh offers a vegetarian plan, as well as a family plan and a classic plan.
I started receiving my meals the week after I signed up. HelloFresh will tell you which day you can expect your delivery, as well as the last day you can make changes to each week.
Some consumers worry about the packaging of HelloFresh kits. This is a valid concern. Most of the packaging is recyclable, and some of it is made from post-consumer materials. I re-use some of the ice packs in my coolers for camping and hiking. Additionally, the local senior center makes use of donated ice packs in their meal deliveries.
How much does HelloFresh cost?
HelloFresh offers three plans.
You figure out your plan price by multiplying the number of people on the plan by the recipes per week, then multiply that by the cost per serving. In my case, I have a two-person plan and we get three recipes per week. I’m not getting the special pricing as shown in the image above (which is only good for your first week), so I multiply the six servings per week by $9.99 to get $59.94.
It seems like a lot for three meals. After all, $9.99 (or $9.74 on the family plan) per serving is comparable to eating out at your local Applebee’s or Olive Garden. But on the plus side, the food tastes better and is healthier than what you’d likely get at a casual dining restaurant. Many of the ingredients are high quality, and some of the meals taste as good as what you might get at a slightly nicer restaurant that charges $20 to $30 a plate. However, not all the meals are quite as good — for example, I thought the Sizzling Southwestern Chicken was kind of meh — so don’t expect fine dining every night.
Interestingly, though, using a meal planning service like HelloFresh does save me money in the long run.
I combine the meal planning with my weekly delivery from the dairy, and my weekly trip to the grocery for produce. And about twice a year I stock up on staples such as flour and olive oil. Additionally, the savings are there when I compare my current spending to what often passed for a weekly shopping trip headed up by my ex.
Those days, it was common to spend between $250 and $300 a week on groceries. I followed him as we visited multiple stores, and impulse purchases were part of the picture. Additionally, sometimes he’d think about meal possibilities on the fly, costing us money and, in many cases, leading to unused food.
My current weekly grocery costs are as follows:
- HelloFresh: $59.94
- Delivery from the local dairy: $22.16
- Grocery trip (one stop, with a list): Between $45 and $60
On the most expensive weeks, I spend $142.10. I’m ahead by about $100 to $150 per week — just because using this service forces me to plan around the meals I know I’m getting.
Plus, I save time. I used to spend 60 to 80 minutes in the grocery store. Now I’m in and out in less than half an hour. I can use that extra time to get a little more work done.
The reality, though, is that HelloFresh isn’t the only way to avoid spending big at the supermarket. Conscientious families can create their own meal plans and grocery lists, and keep their costs to $5 per serving or less.
With many meal planning services, the value is in the convenience and the time-saving, not any sort of frugality.
So, does HelloFresh really help you make healthy meals?
For the most part, HelloFresh does allow you to create well-balanced meals at home with fresh ingredients. I like that it’s possible to choose from a menu of meals.
As you can see, some meals cater to different needs. You can find meals without meat — even if you don’t choose the Veggie Plan. It’s also possible to find 20-minute meals, and meals designed for you to enjoy lunchtime leftovers. The family plan takes it to the next level, providing enough for more people, and the option to have more meals delivered each week.
I started with the Veggie Plan, but quickly gave that up. When you’re on that plan, you don’t get the same menu choices — it’s much more limited. My son and I couldn’t find enough that we liked each week, even though we ate what we received.
It’s also possible to skip weeks when you know you won’t need the meals. It’s easy to do so: Just sign into your account and identify which weeks to skip. I like using the calendar view to look ahead. If I know I’ll be traveling, I can cancel whichever meals I need to.
The meals are usually healthy and involve a vegetable, along with a grain or starch, and sometimes protein. Some dishes also include fruit. There have been times when I’ve supplemented a meal with additional fruits or vegetables.
Finally, I don’t always use all the ingredients. For the most part, the ingredients are fresh and the produce is in good shape. However, my son is allergic to garlic, so we usually just toss that out if a clove comes with the recipe. I also don’t mind modifying a recipe if there’s an ingredient I don’t like.
Following a HelloFresh recipe
It’s fairly easy to follow the recipes. My 15-year-old son occasionally makes dinner using a HelloFresh kit if I’m running late or working on something.
For this HelloFresh review, I’ve included some pictures from the process of making the Carolina Barbecue Chicken meal.
The recipe card shows all the steps and lets you know what tools you might need to complete the dish. While HelloFresh includes most ingredients in the package, you will need to provide some items yourself, such as olive oil and butter. Unfortunately, you have to wait until the box arrives to see what you’ll need. Shopping suggestions for items, such as tongs, are also made on the card. I like to read all the recipes for the week at least one day before I make the first meal, just in case I need to run to the store for something.
As you can see, the cream cheese for the macaroni and cheese is included, along with containers of barbecue sauce and white wine vinegar. The kit also included green beans, cheddar cheese, pasta, and chicken breasts. Chives and a chili were in there as well, but I chose not to use them in this recipe. Instead, I used them for tacos I made on a different night.
I had never pounded chicken before, so the instructions on the recipe card were very helpful. In the end, there wasn’t much to it, but having it laid out for me made it seem much more doable.
The recipe card takes you step-by-step through the process, showing you how you can prepare different parts of the meal while other parts are cooking. It’s a great way to learn how to prepare a meal efficiently.
I was pleased with the finished product. In fact, there haven’t been many HelloFresh meals I’m not satisfied with — after switching from the Veggie Plan.
If you are interested in creating healthy meals at home, and you don’t mind paying a small premium for the convenience of someone else doing some of the meal planning and shopping for you, HelloFresh can be a good choice.
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