With so many options now available, factors like price, delivery schedules, dietary needs, and taste all come into play when deciding on a meal delivery service. To help you choose which meal kit is right for you, we compared two of the most popular options: HelloFresh and Blue Apron. Which meal service should you choose? The side-by-side breakdown below provides an in-depth explanation of each service in terms of price, diet options, food quality, shipping, and taste. Let’s find out which meal service attains culinary dominance.
Note: Ongoing shelter-in-place orders may affect delivery times and menu options for both services.
Pricing: Ranges from $9 to $10 per serving. HelloFresh also tends to offer a lot of discounts and deals throughout the year. Depending on what you choose, it’s easy to find free shipping deals, major discounts on price per serving, and more. HelloFresh is also offering special discounts for healthcare workers in 2020.
Options for those with dietary limitations: Three vegetarian recipe options are included in the classic plan each week, so you can order a vegetarian meal plan. In late 2019, HelloFresh also started offering Beyond Meat substitutes in a portion of their meals. If you prefer to add more restrictions, HelloFresh does offer four different preferences that allow you to choose things like a vegetarian diet or low-calorie diet (more on this below).
Food variety and quality: When first signing up, you have a choice between a meat-and-veggies focus, a veggie focus, a family-friendly focus (meals that kids will like and that are generally faster to prepare), and a low-calorie focus (under 650 calories for a serving, although this does vary a bit in practice). You then customize the number of people and the recipes you want per week. Finally, you curate and build your menu every week from around 20 different rotating recipes. Examples include dishes like mushroom and Gouda pork burgers, Korean Beef Bibimbap, chickpea-powered couscous, and rajas quesadillas — each with its own tailored sides.
The recipes have improved in recent years as HelloFresh continues to expand, and picking your weekly recipes is especially easy. Special recipes will have custom labels — there’s a Calorie Smart label, Easy and Quick labels for meals with simple ingredients that take a short time to prepare, a Hall of Fame/Best Recipe label for especially well-reviewed meals, a Beyond Burger label for plant-based meat substitutes, and a Gourmet Plus label for especially tasty meals that are unique and may take a bit more skill in the kitchen.
Not all of their ingredients are organic, but there appears to be an emphasis on using quality ingredients. The service has partnered with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver for recipes and continues to make partnerships with suppliers around the country. The company famously says it tests every recipe 45 times to make sure it’s worth including.
Packaging and shipping: HelloFresh 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 portions and packs the ingredients for each meal in individual kits; refrigerated products are packed with food-safe materials (insulating liners, gel packs, and cooling material) that keep the ingredients fresh. Each meal also includes a recipe card with easy step-by-step instructions, nutritional information, and an ingredients list.
HelloFresh charges for shipping ($8), and on your delivery day, there’s a window between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. when your meals will arrive. The company also allows you to add special instructions to your account if you have any particular shipping needs.
Internationally, the company runs in 12 markets, including the U.K., Germany, France, and the Netherlands, so the service may be available for those abroad as well.
Taste and meal preparation: The recipes we tried — figgy balsamic pork and beef rice noodle bowls — were both tasty and 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 good and the preparation is pretty painless.
- 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.
- Plenty of recipes to help you cook on your own, too.
- Long delivery time window.
- Price is a bit steep, considering some of the meals.
- You may have to pay for shipping.
- Not all ingredients are organic.
- Few specific dietary options.
Pricing: Between $9 and $10 per serving. BlueApron is offering a variety of 2020 deals, including $60 off three orders and $80 off the first four weeks of a four-recipe plan.
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. The meal delivery service does not, however, have specific meals or plans for those with food allergies. Customers can choose the recipes that arrive in their boxes if they like, though.
Food variety and quality: 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. Menu examples include dishes like Togarashi popcorn chicken, mushroom and pepper lettuce cups, and seared cod and peppers over creamy rice.
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. BlueApron partners with celebrity chefs to design a number of meals, most recently with chef Tim Hollingsworth (you’ll know him from Netflix’s The Final Table), who designed meals specifically for people practicing social distancing.
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. Blue Apron does not provide a way to give special instructions for a shipment.
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. Blue Apron assumes 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-recipes-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, as well as 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 a bit of extra time.
Blue Apron has substantially more positive reviews than negative ones. However, while most customers enjoy Blue Apron, some customers complain about its packaging and how difficult it is to cancel. Others use their review to rave about how much they love the food and how helpful the customer service is. Taste is genuinely an area where Blue Apron does nothing but shine.
Blue Apron benefits
- Exceptional taste.
- Easy to prepare.
- Vegetarian, diabetes-friendly, and other helpful diet labels.
- Healthy options (it teamed up with Weight Watchers Reimagined to create healthy recipes for the Weight Watchers Freestyle plan).
- Freshness guaranteed.
- 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.
If judged by taste alone, we would pick Blue Apron based on how delicious their meals were. Blue Apron is also the best pick for more restricted diets based on recipe information and recipe variety. However, HelloFresh has seen improvement and is an excellent alternative for its ease of use. Although BlueApron offers a great variety of weekly recipes to choose from, HelloFresh may be more convenient for families or people that happen to be short on time.
A final note for those with allergies: Neither HelloFresh or BlueApron can guarantee that their meal kits are free from all traces of certain foods. These meal kits are typically put together in one processing facility, so it would be wise to find an alternative to meal delivery services if you have high-risk food allergies.
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