DISCLAIMER: I want to start with an acknowledgement that I’m vaguely aware of HelloFresh’s promise that produce goes from farm to your front door in 7 days. And they have a program to help needy families. However, I haven’t done any research into either. With this post, I’m trying to share my thoughts on the experience of heaving a HelloFresh subscription. Neither of the two aforementioned items factor into my experience of subscribing to HelloFresh.
If you watch YouTube at all, you’ve likely seen an ad or sponsored post on HelloFresh. After a million and one ads, I finally gave into curiosity and gave HelloFresh a try. Having done so, I want to share an unsponsored review. There are some heavily promoted points that just aren’t true. And there are some things worth knowing that don’t get discussed at all.
Since I like to end on a high note, let’s start with the negatives.
Could be Better
One of HelloFresh’s biggest selling points is their elimination of food waste. Unfortunately, that’s not true. If you order the 2-person portions, you regularly have leftover ingredients. Sometimes, even the amount listed for 4-person portions is less than what you’re sent.
On top of that, often times a lemon or lime is included just for zest. Also, because there isn’t a way to customize most ingredients, you’ll have the waste of anything you don’t like or are allergic to.
For example, a few days ago, I made the Street Cart-Style Turkey Bowls recipe. I don’t like to put nuts in my food, so the sliced almonds didn’t get used. A whole lemon was included, but the recipe only called for a squeeze of juice — I only used a quarter of the lemon. The recipe also called for 1/4 tsp of turmeric (1/2 tsp for 4 people) but a whole tsp was provided. And an entire large cucumber was included, but for 2 people, only half was necessary. At least the half cucumber was easily saved and I have a use for it. But that’s quite a bit of food waste for a service that touts its elimination of the same.
In addition to food waste, there’s a lot of packaging waste — specifically plastic. Nearly everything is individually packaged in plastic — spices in small sealed bags, sour cream and sauce mixes/bases in squeezable tube-like bags, and fruits and vegetables in large sealed bags. Only lemons and limes, potatoes, onions, and garlic are exempt from bagging.
For those who attempt to minimize or eliminate plastic waste, HelloFresh is not for you.
Not Neuro-Divergent or Beginner Friendly
Both Jim and I have found the recipes to be overwhelming at times. For some of them, you have three or four things running simultaneously, and it’s easy to miss parts of steps, like saving some of the pasta-cooking water.
I consider myself an experienced home cook. I wouldn’t pit myself against a trained chef, but I haven’t had any complaints about my cooking in years. I say this because HelloFresh’s time estimates are way off. I have to budget at least half again as much, or sometimes even twice as much, time as called for in the recipe.
Most sponsored videos mention how easy the recipes are to follow because the provided recipe cards have pictures. However, each picture is a header for 2-4 steps, so I don’t think it helps much.
The app also has the recipe cards, but it needs a lot of work. You have the option to set a timer based on the recipe step, but it only stays on when you’re on that step, so you can’t view the rest of the recipe while the timer is going. That’s a big problem considering how many steps are along the lines of “while xyz is cooking…” And, you can’t go back to previous steps, you have to close and reopen the recipe. Not ideal.
OK, I’m done complaining.
Things to Consider
These aren’t necessarily negatives, but they’re worth mentioning.
Pricing and Menu
One: I question HelloFresh’s assertion that they’re cheaper than grocery shopping. Our weekly box is $86.91 for 4 meals. Our grocery bill is only slightly higher when only including our dinner ingredients. However, we’re getting significantly more of certain things — spices, sour cream, meat, etc.
Two: conveniently omitted from every review or sponsored post I’ve seen are the upcharges. There may be 40+ recipes each week (I haven’t paid attention) but they are not all dinner recipes, and usually 5-7 are “premium” picks with an upcharge between $9 and $11 per serving. NOTE: quite a few sponsored videos mention 40+ meal choices, but HelloFresh’s website says 30+ meal choices. So make of that what you will.
Be aware, also, that the menu changes weekly. So if there’s something you’re interested in, but it doesn’t quite make it into your top 4 (or however many meals you get weekly), there’s no telling how long it will be before it’s available again.
When I first signed up for HelloFresh, I hoped I could learn a few new recipes, then cancel and buy the ingredients myself. Unfortunately, with most of the recipes, that won’t work. Many of the recipes include pre-mixed spices or sauce bases with mystery ingredients. While HelloFresh provides calorie counts and potential allergens (milk, wheat, etc.) they don’t provide a full list of ingredients. There are some, however, where it is possible, but they seem to be few and far between.
I just have to make mention of how often scallions appear in my recipe bags. I feel like I’ve eaten more scallions in the 6 months I’ve been subscribed to HelloFresh than I have in the rest of my life combined. Of the 76 meals we’ve received 37 (1 shy of half) have had scallions. No other ingredient is included with such frequency. It’s weird.
It is really nice to reach into the fridge, pull out a bag, and have virtually everything you need — butter, oil, salt, and pepper not included. I don’t have to rummage through all of the cabinets to pull together what I need. Nor do I have to plan ahead and make sure I’ve picked up everything I need from the grocery store.
I also enjoy not having to measure things out. Most of the time, if you have to “measure” spices, it’s something simple like “use half.” I just eyeball it. Usually, though, you can just squeeze in an entire tube, or upend the entire bag of spices.
Variation from “Normal”
In any given week, there isn’t necessarily a long list of recipes I’m interested in. However, the recipes we get from HelloFresh are very different than anything we’d otherwise make at home. So, it’s expanded our home-eating horizons.
I’ve learned I have a fondness for skin-on mashed potatoes and for couscous.
One of the greatest things about HelloFresh so far has been learning new ways to use ingredients. I had no idea you could water down sour cream. I’ve discovered how easy it is to roast veggies, and how good roasted veggies are. There are several other things I’ve picked up, but I don’t think you need the full list.
If you have a tight budget, are a picky eater, or are on a restrictive diet, I wouldn’t recommend HelloFresh for you. For anyone else, however, I think it’s worth a try. I suggest using either a discount code from someone advertising it, or a free box code from someone who currently has a subscription.
Speaking of, if you’re interested in trying HelloFresh and don’t have a code from someone else, they keep reminding me that I can share free boxes using this link. I have no idea what fine print is included, as the share page doesn’t really have any information. Full disclosure, if you sign up with my link, I get a $40 credit, which is just shy of half of one delivery. I have no expectations of anyone using my link, but I want to make it available.
This ended up being more negative than I intended when I decided to write a review. But I want to be honest with you all. I don’t dislike HelloFresh, but it’s far from the excellent meal solution it’s portrayed as in every sponsorship — no surprises there, really. Like most things in life, HelloFresh has its pros and cons. You have to decide which list has more weight for you.
Do you subscribe to HelloFresh, or have you in the past? What do/did you think of it? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.
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