Cooking three meals a day at home is like an unpaid, full-time job. To save time in the kitchen, some busy people order takeout, some look to devices like slow cookers and pressure cookers, and others try home-delivery meal services.
If you want to use a meal kit service, you have to decide which one to go with. With so many options now available, factors like price, delivery schedules, dietary needs, and taste (of course) all come into play. To help you choose which meal kit is right for you, we compared two of the most-popular options, Hello Fresh and Blue Apron.
Which meal service should you choose? The side-by-side breakdown below provides an in-depth explanation of each service. We break them down by price, diet options, food quality, shipping, and. Let’s find out which meal service is attains culinary dominance.
Pricing: Ranges from $7.49 to $10 per serving.
Options for those with dietary limitations: There are vegetarian options, and three vegetarian recipe options are included in the classic plan each week, so you can order a vegetarian meal plan. You can find some meals that happen to be gluten-free or dairy-free (and are labeled accordingly), but Hello Fresh does not have plans that are specifically designed for customers with these dietary restrictions.
Food selection, variety, and quality: Hello Fresh has a team of chefs and dietitians who create new recipes each week. They also include “Hall of Fame” recipes that customers enjoyed from past weeks. The meals are generally healthy and nutritionally balanced, and you can easily access the nutrition information for any of the meals. But, Hello Fresh is not a diet plan like Nutrisystem, so the focus is more on good food than it is on weight loss or dieting. Customers do have the option to choose the calorie smart plan, which includes healthier meals that are typically around 650 calories.
Not all of their ingredients are organic, but there appears to be an emphasis on using quality ingredients.
Packaging and shipping: Hello Fresh assumes customers have salt, pepper, sugar, oil, and butter already on hand, so they don’t include those ingredients in the meal box. The company pre-portions and packs the ingredients for each meal in individual kits, and packs the refrigerated products with food-safe materials (insulating liners, gel packs, and cooling material) that keep the ingredients fresh. Each meal also includes a recipe card with very easy step-by-step instructions, nutritional information, and an ingredients list.
Hello Fresh charges $7 for shipping, and on your delivery day, there’s a window between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. when your meals will arrive.
Taste and meal preparation: The recipes we tried — figgy balsamic pork and beef rice noodle bowls — were both very tasty and very easy to prepare. It took 38 minutes to prepare the pork recipe and 32 minutes to prepare the noodle bowls (including reading the recipe and getting the kitchen prepared with all of the necessary pans and utensils).
Based on reviews from Consumer Affairs and social media sites, the overall consensus from customers is that the meals taste very good and the preparation is pretty painless. However, there are different levels of meals, ranging from Level 1 to Level 3. Level 1 meals are easy to prepare and use familiar ingredients, while Level 3 meals use more advanced cooking techniques and ingredients.
Hello Fresh benefits
- Tasty foods
- Excellent packaging
- Variety of recipes
- Healthy meals
- Vegetarian options
- Calorie-smart options
- Excellent customer service and a strong focus on customer feedback
- You can skip weeks
- Easy to cancel
Hello Fresh negatives
- Long delivery time window
- Price is a bit steep considering some of the meals
- You have to pay for shipping
- Not all ingredients are organic
- Not enough gluten-free meals, dairy-free meals, nut-free meals, and other meals for those with dietary restrictions
Pricing: Between $7.49 and $10 per serving.
Options for those with dietary limitations: Blue Apron offers an all-vegetarian plan. It is even starting to offer Beyond Meat products, such as plant-based patties. It can also provide options for those who don’t eat fish or red meat, for instance. The meal delivery service does not, however, have specific meals or plans for those with food allergies. Customers can choose the recipes that come in their boxes if they like, though.
Food quality and variety: Blue Apron says on its website that it works with more than 100 family-run farms that use sustainable farming practices. Many of the ingredients are organic, but not all of them.
Blue Apron offers about six different meals to choose from each week, depending on your plan. Customers have access to nutritional and allergy information for each meal.
Packaging and shipping: Blue Apron uses insulated thermal packaging liners and refrigerants to help promote freshness and maintain safe temperatures. The company also assesses its packaging regularly, making adjustments based on factors like weather conditions when appropriate.
In the box, you get pre-measured and labeled ingredients for each meal and comprehensive recipe guides that include pictures, nutritional information, and step-by-step instructions. They assume you have salt, pepper, and olive oil at home, so those ingredients are not provided.
The day your shipment arrives will depend on your area. You may have different options for delivery based on where you’re located. The shipping cost is free for the signature four-serving plan, and for the three-recipe-per-week plans. The shipping cost is $8 for the two-serving, two-recipe plans.
Taste and meal preparation: We tried the broccoli risotto and eggs and a salmon and vegetable dish. Both dishes were delicious. The risotto and egg dish took 41 minutes to prepare, and the salmon took 39 minutes. We did have to do a bit more prep for some of the ingredients, which added on a bit of extra time.
Blue Apron has overall positive reviews. While most customers enjoy Blue Apron, some customers complain about its packaging and how difficult it is to cancel. But, others rave about how much they love the food and how great the customer service is. Taste is the biggest area where Blue Apron thrives.
Blue Apron benefits
- Exceptional taste (better than Hello Fresh, in our opinion)
- Easy to prepare
- Vegetarian options
- Healthy options (it teamed up with Weight Watchers Reimagined to create healthy recipes for their Weight Watchers Freestyle plan)
- Freshness guarantee
- Free/included shipping with some plans
- You can skip weeks
Blue Apron negatives
- Difficult to cancel subscription (you have to email for cancellation instructions)
- Less variety
- Difficult to find meal options for those with food allergies
- Price is high for some of the meals
- Long delivery time windows
- Packaging could be better
And the winner is … Blue Apron
Our pick for the better meal box is Blue Apron. Although Hello Fresh shined for its quality, user-friendliness, packaging, and ease of cancellation, Blue Apron had superior taste and it offered free shipping on the larger meal plans. This made the overall cost lower, and a lower-cost, better-tasting meal is always better.
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