Thinking about trying a meal subscription? All your HelloFresh questions answered

For the last few months I’ve been trying to come up with ways to reduce our grocery bill and streamline our meals. Because I’m following a mostly-vegetarian diet, with the exception of fish occasionally, and Evan is still very much a carnivore, it can be tricky coming up with dinner ideas we both enjoy.

I love cooking and trying new recipes but find it hard to get the portion sizes right and usually end up with a lot of leftovers. I don’t mind eating the same thing all week if it stores well in the fridge, but Evan isn’t a fan, so this can lead to a lot of food waste.

Since I’ve started meal prepping for myself, this has eliminated some of the problem. I cook once and eat all week, I know what I’m having so there’s no guesswork and vegetarian meals, for the most part, are on the cheaper side.

I still don’t know what to do about Evan, to give him something different and healthy every day. Ultimately I have relied on freezer meals that he can pick and choose.

A popular way to deal with the dinner conundrum and avoid ordering in, is subscribing to a meal delivery box. In the past, these types of subscriptions came pre-made, either frozen or fresh, and were mostly used by people following diet programs or seniors living alone.

Today top-quality ingredients and step-by-step instructions arrive at your door. This eliminates a trip to the grocery store and (hopefully) sets you up for success in the kitchen.

I was surprised how many meal subscription options are available where we live: the big three being HelloFresh, GoodFood and Chef’s Plate, along with the lesser known Cook It, Yumm and Missfresh.

HelloFresh, GoodFood and Chef’s Plate have promotions running almost constantly for first time users. Hello Fresh was advertising $70 off, so I decided to give it a try for a week.

Cost overview

The regular cost per week is around $80 with the vegetarian plan slightly less at $74 and $130 for a family plan. (For a more detailed breakdown see below). This works out to approximately $13.33 per person, per meal.

With the discount, we paid $40 for the “Pronto” plan, which is the standard two-person package and includes three different recipes.

For a more detailed overview of cost-benefit compared to other meal subscriptions and shopping for your own ingredients, see below.

Ordering and Delivery

Before your order ships, you have the option to customize your menu and select from up to 12 different meat-based or vegetarian options. You can also add a side of garlic bread or an extra meal. However, if you’re strictly vegetarian, there are only four weekly recipes to choose from.

You have until Wednesday the week before your box arrives to select your menu, make changes to your order, or skip a week. All of this is done on the Hello Fresh website or mobile app.

Boxes are delivered every Monday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Because I’m on maternity leave and it’s cold out, I had no qualms about this. It arrived in the early afternoon and delivery staff left it inside my porch. If you aren’t going to be home, the website suggests providing instructions on where to leave your package, such as with a neighbour, apartment concierge, or nearby business. You can also have it delivered to your workplace.

Although the cardboard box is double-lined and contains two large ice packs, I am skeptical it would fare well in direct sunlight on a 30+ July day.

The ingredients for each meal are contained three paper bags, with proteins packaged separately. There is a lot of plastic, as you can see from the photos. Some of it is labelled recyclable, some is not. To save space in your fridge and keep vegetables crisp, I would recommend removing everything from the bags. By the time we cooked the last meal, some of the produce was starting to wilt. As a rule of thumb, the meals are guaranteed fresh for at least five days.

Overall impressions

This is a fun and straightforward way to make dinner. There was no guesswork or trips to the grocery store, which eats up a lot of my time. I can definitely see something like this coming in handy when I go back to work.

Each meal only took a maximum of 30 minutes to prepare and the instructions were easy to follow with step-by-step photos. It’s really nice having only the exact amount of ingredients needed so you don’t waste anything. 

The food quality was amazing. I’ve never found such nice steelhead in the grocery store. I didn’t have to press the tofu for hours and there was no crumble when I diced it. Evan commented the steak could have been larger and one piece had a chunk of chewy fat that was inedible. Overall though, he said it was on par with those he’s had in most restaurants.

Depending on your appetite, the portions might not be large enough for two people. I go into each meal in detail below, but I definitely felt like I needed to make something to go with it or add a little extra. We did not have any leftovers.

Living in a rural area, the variety of food we have access to can sometimes be limited, especially when it comes to international cuisine. A lot of the time I end up asking Evan’s mom to pick me up ingredients I can’t find. So this menu was a real treat for us.

If you aren’t very comfortable in the kitchen, these meals are the perfect way to learn how to cook simple food that feels fancy. The technique and ingredients used are straightforward and you don’t need any out-of-the-ordinary kitchenware. As someone who has cooked for a living, it would have been fun to try something a bit more complex, but I still feel like I learned something: like how to elevate bland vegetables so Evan will eat them.

When the boxes are on sale, the quality and convenience are definitely worth it. However, I would hesitate to pay $80 a week for three meals that might not feed both of us and I’m not sure it’s the best option for larger families with a low to middle income. Ultimately it comes down to your lifestyle, appetite and budget. If you are only cooking for one or two people and don’t want to deal with leftovers or buy large sizes of ingredients you won’t use, this is perfect.

Below I worked out the cost for each meal if I were to shop for the ingredients in Goderich at Zehrs. I found the price breakdown for the meals containing meat was pretty comparable, with the vegetarian option significantly less. Considering the vegetarian box is only $4 less than the standard, I don’t think this is worth the money. Even adding a vegetarian option to your rotation seems to be a waste. 

The environmental impact may also be a concern for some. HelloFresh claims its meals produce 33% less C02 emissions than shopping at the grocery store because it sources food directly from suppliers, and its pre-portioned ingredients generate 36% less waste. They have also taken steps to slash their packaging by 45% in the last four years. Recent studies have validated these claims.

Meal review and cost comparison


Meal 1
Seared steak and homemade baked fries with nutty green beans and garlic-parsley butter

What you need at home: Salt and pepper, baking sheet, non-stick pan, paper towel, parchment paper, foil, small bowl, sharp knife

I selected this meal for Evan’s benefit because I don’t eat red meat and he loves steak. I’m not sure why I shy away from making my own french fries and always buy them frozen, because it’s actually dead easy. I cooked them in the air-fryer which made the whole process even simpler.
Evan also really enjoyed the green beans with toasted almonds (despite me burning them). He ate his entire portion, which almost never happens.
This meal definitely wasn’t enough food for two people, but this could be solved by cutting up another potato or serving a salad on the side.

HelloFresh price: $13.33

Cost to make it yourself*: $9.58

*Amount based on comparable ingredients purchased at Zehrs supermarket in Goderich at regular price (not sale items). Many of these ingredients I would also consider pantry staples. I created grocery shopping totals based on the assumption you don’t have any ingredients already at home. Each recipe is treated individually without consideration of overlapping ingredients.

IngredientGrocery Equivalent CostCost for meal
2 salmon filletsSalmon fillets (2)$4.99$4.99
3/4 c. jasmine riceJasmine rice (750g)$3.79$1.26
2 Shanghai bok choyBok choy (5-pack)$5.12$2.05
1/4 c soy-mirin sauceSoy sauce (500ml)$2.49$0.30
30g fresh gingerGinger (1)$1.15$1.15
4 tbsp honeyHoney (500g)$4.99$0.66
2 garlic clovesGarlic bulb (1)$1.76$0.32
2 green onionsGreen onions bunch$1.49$0.30
1 tsp wasabi pasteWasabi paste (43g)$2.19$0.19
2 tbsp mayonnaise Mayonnaise (445ml)$4.79$0.32
Total:$32.76$11.54

Meal 2
Satay tofu noodles with stir-fry greens

What you need at home: Garlic press, measuring spoons, strainer, paper towel, large bowl, medium pot, large non-stick pan, whisk, measuring cups

Evan really liked this meal. Though he refuses to give up meat, he loves tofu (more than me, in fact).

The fresh ramen was really a game changer and so much nicer than the $0.50 Mr. Noodles I usually get. I didn’t modify anything about this recipe, other than cooking the tofu in the air fryer instead of a skillet to save time. Because it was a pasta dish, the portions were very reasonable and there was plenty of sauce.

HelloFresh price: $13.33

Cost to make it yourself: $8.32

IngredientGrocery Equivalent CostCost for meal
2 salmon filletsSalmon fillets (2)$4.99$4.99
3/4 c. jasmine riceJasmine rice (750g)$3.79$1.26
2 Shanghai bok choyBok choy (5-pack)$5.12$2.05
1/4 c soy-mirin sauceSoy sauce (500ml)$2.49$0.30
30g fresh gingerGinger (1)$1.15$1.15
4 tbsp honeyHoney (500g)$4.99$0.66
2 garlic clovesGarlic bulb (1)$1.76$0.32
2 green onionsGreen onions bunch$1.49$0.30
1 tsp wasabi pasteWasabi paste (43g)$2.19$0.19
2 tbsp mayonnaise Mayonnaise (445ml)$4.79$0.32
Total:$32.76$11.54

Meal 3
Pan-fried salmon with soy-glazed bok choy, wasabi mayo and ginger-infused jasmine rice

This was my favourite meal. I tried to recreate it after with ingredients from the grocery store, but wasn’t able to find wasabi or mirin and the rainbow trout I bought wasn’t nearly as nice.

The only way I’ve ever had bok choy before was steamed or boiled and I found it bland and soggy. This meal has instilled in me a new love for the Chinese cabbage.

The only modification I made was to cook the rice in garlic chicken broth, which was amazing. I also increased the amount from ¾ cup to 1 ½ cups (leftover rice doesn’t last long in our house). The portion sizes here were pretty good, although again, Evan would have eaten a larger piece of fish. I made a shrimp tempera appetizer to compensate for this.

HelloFresh price: $13.33

Cost to make it yourself: $11.54

IngredientGrocery Equivalent CostCost for meal
2 salmon filletsSalmon fillets (2)$4.99$4.99
3/4 c. jasmine riceJasmine rice (750g)$3.79$1.26
2 Shanghai bok choyBok choy (5-pack)$5.12$2.05
1/4 c soy-mirin sauceSoy sauce (500ml)$2.49$0.30
30g fresh gingerGinger (1)$1.15$1.15
4 tbsp honeyHoney (500g)$4.99$0.66
2 garlic clovesGarlic bulb (1)$1.76$0.32
2 green onionsGreen onions bunch$1.49$0.30
1 tsp wasabi pasteWasabi paste (43g)$2.19$0.19
2 tbsp mayonnaise Mayonnaise (445ml)$4.79$0.32
Total:$32.76$11.54

How it stacks up

HelloFreshGoodFoodChef’s Plate
Cost per weekPronto: $79.99
Veggie: $74.99
Family: $129.99
Classic: $66.95
Veggie: $60.77
Family: $80.34
Classic: $79.92
Veggie: $79.92
Family: $107.88
Menu optionsUp to 12 recipes with 5 vegetarianUp to 12 recipes with 3 vegetarianUp to 12 options with 4 vegetarian
Other optionsNoClean 15
Easy Prep
Lunch
15 minute
Servingsup to 4up to 4up to 4

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