Keto Basics

HelloFresh meal kit review: Lots of choices and easy to make – CNET

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HelloFresh

Meal kit services have been around long enough that the category has begun to take real shape. As they learn exactly what works for customers and what doesn’t, meal kit companies have worked out many of the initial kinks with regard to packaging, logistics and menu options. Blue Apron might have kicked things off some 10 years ago, but there’s plenty of healthy competition in the category, these days.

The various companies have kept prices competitive, which has led to a few niche services that cater to specific diets and lifestyles, from vegan and vegetarian plans to budget-friendly meal kits, gourmet services, fully prepared meal delivery, keto-friendly and more. Though that only increases the likelihood you’ll find a meal kit service you’ll love, finding the best meal kit outfit for you and your tastes takes a little digging. That’s where I come in.

Like

  • A huge selection of meals
  • Meals were easy to prepare
  • Budget-friendly if you’re cooking for four

Don’t Like

  • Recipes were not as unique or inspired as some other meal kit companies
  • $8 charge for shipping

HelloFresh is one of the most popular meal kit companies around, billing itself as a convenient service with a huge selection of weekly recipe choices designed to please families with picky eaters. It’s also one of the cheapest meal kit companies with plans that start at just $7.50 per serving. I wanted to know how HelloFresh stacked up against the rest of the category, so I cooked my way through a week’s worth of recipes to bring you a firsthand review of HelloFresh meal kit service.  

How HelloFresh works

Before we dive into this review of HelloFresh let’s do a quick download on how the service works. As HelloFresh is a meal kit service you’ll be doing the work here, but everything you need will arrive in one box, pre-portioned and ready to be made. You won’t have to do any shopping or measuring, but you will have to do some light prep, chopping, mixing and, of course, cooking. But it’s nothing that requires a culinary degree or years of experience. HelloFresh has a range of different meal kit plans that vary depending on the type of food you’re looking to cook, the number of people you’re cooking for and how often you want meal kits delivered. Once you make those decisions you’ll choose one of six HelloFresh plans: 

  • Meat & Veggies: the most basic plan featuring a variety of recipes and meals
  • Family Friendly: easy-to-prepare and kid-approved recipes
  • Quick and Easy: meals that take 30 minutes or less
  • Veggie: plant-based meals that are vegetarian but not always vegan
  • Calorie Smart: meal kits that are around 650 calories or less per serving
  • Pescatarian: meal kits and recipes featuring seafood only 

There is some crossover in meals each week from the various categories, but choosing one of these umbrella categories helps HelloFresh filter out the best meals and recipes for you. The more specific your meal plan, the fewer options you’ll have each week. The plans are also priced the same no matter which meals you select, save for a few gourmet options that incur an upcharge. 

HelloFresh pricing

Number of people Price per serving
2 $8.99
4 $7.49

After you select your meal plan, choose the number of servings (two or four) that you’d like for each meal, and how many weekly meal kits you want to receive (two, three, four or five). These options are also easily modified, so don’t feel too much pressure and know you can adjust as you go.

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HelloFresh

Like many meal kits companies, you can pick your own meals or can let the meal kit gods surprise you when you open your box. HelloFresh meals arrive once a week on a day of your choosing (besides Sunday). When mine showed up the food was packaged neatly in cooler boxes, with meats and fish separated from other ingredients so as not to cross-contaminate. The meat was thawed but still cold and there was no sign of spoilage amongst any of the ingredients.

What are HelloFresh meals like?

Of all the meal kits companies competing for your attention, HelloFresh bills itself as one of the easiest and most approachable. While there are some “gourmet” options in each week’s menu, the bulk of the HelloFresh recipes are simple to execute, with most taking 30 minutes or less from start to finish. 

Some of the meals throw in a fun twist on a classic like meatballs with a spicy, creamy “firecracker” sauce, but most were familiar dishes like spaghetti bolognese, creamy mushroom cavatappi, chicken tacos and meatloaf. HelloFresh may have the most meal choices of any service — anywhere from 17 to 20 meals to choose from each week — but there are always plant-based options like vegan bulgogi bowls as well as seafood selections like chimichurri barramundi and roasted trout.

There isn’t as much modification to recipes in the way that others like Home Chef permit. Having said that, most of the dishes are family-friendly and with as many as 20 to choose from per week, you’re bound to find at least a few that work. 

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David Watsky / CNET

How easy are HelloFresh meal kits to prepare?

HelloFresh meal kits are mostly simple to make and that’s by design. With lots of tossed pasta dishes, tacos and pan-seared meats with easy to prepare sides, the most technical skill you’ll need on a regular basis is some basic chopping, working a frying pan over the stovetop or boiling water. The most involved meal I made was meatloaf, which required a bit of chopping and mixing prep, but was effortless overall.

Read more: Catch the best seafood delivery services of 2020

HelloFresh support materials 

While the printed directions that accompanied each recipe were neat, organized and clear, there were moments where the directions could have gone an extra step to explain certain things in better detail. Specifying which sort of frying pan to use would be helpful, for instance, or how to tell if the pan is actually hot enough to drop the fish or pork loin in. Novice cooks would likely benefit from a bit more explanation, and I’d suggest reading through the instructions once before turning on the stove.

The HelloFresh app is useful, clear and intuitive. You can use it to place or change your weekly orders, look up nutritional information and locate any recipe. This is especially helpful if you tend to misplace important documents like I do.

What makes HelloFresh different from other meal kit services?

Of all the meal kits I’ve tested, HelloFresh meals probably have the widest selection of “crowd-pleasing” recipes, making them an excellent choice for families or picky eaters. You won’t find a lot of big heat, spice or unusual ingredients with HelloFresh meals, and with as many as 20 meals per week to choose from, it’s hard to imagine not finding three or four that appeal to you.

What I cooked and how it went

Meatloaf a la Mom: I liked this one, but in all honesty, I prefer my own recipe. It was a solid meatloaf that could have used a dash of Worcestershire sauce or dried spice to amp up the flavor. The roasted potatoes and carrots were also basic but proved to be worthy companions to the meatloaf. For someone with a good handle on cooking, I’m not sure you’ll get a ton out of this recipe in the way of inspiration or improved cooking technique.

Barramundi with poblano corn and potato: I absolutely loved this meal. For starters, I live in a bit of a black hole neighborhood for getting quality seafood, so I’ve had to rely on online seafood purveyors. The barramundi fish came very fresh and the meal was health, flavorful and easy to prepare. I think I caught myself spooning the homemade lime crema and salsa fresca straight into my mouth at one point.

Pork chops with honey butter, sweet potatoes and lemony green beans: As someone who doesn’t cook a ton of pork, I was excited to try this one, and it came out pretty great. It was also super simple to execute and the honey butter drizzled over the pork was addicting. As I’ve mentioned earlier, some small tips would have been useful. Though not specified, the step-by-step image shows a nonstick pan, but for something like pork chops, I think stainless steel or cast iron works better to get a good sear. 

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David Watsky / CNET

Who HelloFresh meal kits are good for

HelloFresh has positioned itself as one of the best meal kit options for families, featuring perhaps the largest selection of meal kit recipes to help please even the hardest-to-please eaters. HelloFresh is a solid option for someone looking to cut time and hassle from their weekly meal planning routine since most of HelloFresh’s meals take around 30 minutes or less.

While there are some meal kit companies that are focused on plant-based and vegetarian meal kits, HelloFresh has around five vegetarian options per week, so it’s not a terrible choice for those looking to learn to cook plant-based meals or add some more vegetarian and vegan cooking into their routine.

Read more: Best meat delivery for 2020: Snake River Farms, Omaha Steaks, Rastelli’s and more

Who HelloFresh meal kits are not so good for

Because there are limits on modifications, I would say HelloFresh is not ideal for anyone with strict dietary or allergy requirements. There are also meal kit companies with more gourmet and technical recipes, so if your goal is to really stretch yourself as a chef, this may not be the service to do it. 

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David Watsky / CNET

How much does Hello Fresh meal kit service cost?

With HelloFresh, you pay by the serving, which is customizable from week to week, but it generally breaks down to $9 per serving for two people or $7.50 if you’re ordering for four, plus $8 for shipping per box. For a family of four to receive three nights’ worth of meals would be just under $100 per week.

At $7.50 per serving, HelloFresh lands in the middle of the pack but skews just slightly toward the budget-friendly end of things. You won’t find a ton of meal kits that are less expensive, but you can certainly find pricier options with gourmet meal kit options like ribeye and ahi tuna.

Hello Fresh packaging and environmental friendliness

HelloFresh does a great job with the packaging compared with some other companies I tested. The meals arrive packed in paper bags and all the ingredients were also thoughtfully packaged without excessive waste. Though there’s always some single-serve plastic involved with meal kits, I found it to be one of the more environmentally friendly companies, complete with recyclable ice packs and cooler bags. Here’s a little more about recycling your HelloFresh packaging.

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HelloFresh

Changing or canceling an order

You can add, change or cancel meals easily through the app or through the website, although using the latter feels a bit more limited. Changes or cancellations to any order must be made before midnight PST at least five days before your scheduled delivery day. That date is made apparent when you open your dashboard.

The final verdict 

As someone who has a hard time making decisions but simultaneously loves having options, HelloFresh was that very double-edged sword. Even if the recipes were sometimes low on imagination, there were so many to choose from and everything I cooked was solid. If you’re looking to lighten your load and cook for a crew that doesn’t dig huge, bold flavors, this is a very good option. Meals won’t require a ton of technical skill, although it may not be ideal for total beginners either. For as little as $8 per serving, you can take the guesswork out of a few meals per week without going broke. What’s not to love about that?

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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