Cooking three meals a day can be a job in itself. Between preparing the ingredients, cooking, and cleaning, it takes most people at least 90 minutes to prepare a home-cooked meal. 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 decide on the home-delivery route, you have to then decide which meal service to go with. With so many options now available, factors like price, delivery schedules, dietary needs, and, of course, taste, all come into play. To help give you a better understanding of what these meal-delivery services are all about, we compared two of the more popular options — Hello Fresh and Blue Apron.
Which meal service should you choose? The side-by-side comparison below provides an in-depth explanation of each service, as well as price comparisons, food and diet options, food quality, shipping, and taste.
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Pricing: Ranges from $8.74 to $10 per serving
Options for those who are gluten-free, or those with other dietary limitations: There is a vegetarian-only plan, where all of the meals are vegetarian-friendly. Hello Fresh also has some gluten free meal options available, but they do not have a plan that is specifically gluten-free. Hello Fresh does, however, let customers know which meals are gluten-free, egg-free, nut-free, and which contain ingredients like shellfish. You can also choose your recipes, so this allows you to pick which meals you like the best, or tailor your meal selection to your dietary needs.
Food selection, variety, and quality: Hello Fresh has a team of chefs and dietitians who create 15 new recipes each week. 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 customize the classic plan and choose a “fit preference,” which includes healthier meals that are typically around 650 calories. Customers can also choose preferences like shellfish-free, quick meals, or variety (where the meals feature new ingredients and cooking techniques).
The company says on its website that they focus on finding ingredients that look and taste the best, and they use regional suppliers to source many of their ingredients. Not all of their ingredients are organic, though.
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 they pack the meat and dairy products in a cooling material. Each meal also includes a recipe card with very easy step-by-step instructions, nutritional information, and an ingredients list.
Hello Fresh does not charge for shipping and on your delivery day, your box will arrive within a 12-hour delivery window (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.).
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 sites like Consumer Affairs and social media sites, the overall consensus from customers is that the meals taste very good and the preparation is pretty painless. Consumer Reports gives Hello Fresh an “excellent” overall score.
Hello Fresh Benefits
Hello Fresh Negatives
Pricing: Between $8.74 and $10 per meal.
Options for those who are gluten-free, or those with other dietary limitations: Blue Apron offers an all-vegetarian two-person plan. The meal delivery service does not offer any other specific dietary plans at this time. 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 sources ingredients directly from farms, importers, and family-run purveyors. It takes pride in working with more than 100 family-run farms that use regenerative farming practices. Many of the ingredients they use are organic, but not all of them.
Blue Apron offers four to six 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 assess its packaging regularly, making adjustments based on factors like weather conditions when appropriate. Blue Apron does advise customers to refrigerate the perishable items immediately.
In the box, you get pre-measured and labeled ingredients for each meal and a comprehensive recipe guide that includes pictures and step-by-step instructions that are very easy to follow. You also get nutritional information about each recipe. The day your shipment arrives will depend on your area. You may have different options for delivery based on where you’re located.
Taste and meal preparation: We tried the broccoli risotto and eggs and a salmon and vegetable dish. Both dishes were exceptionally 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 mixed reviews. 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. Consumer Reports gives Blue Apron a “very good” score. Overall, taste is an area where Blue Apron appears to thrive.
Blue Apron benefits
Blue Apron negatives
Our pick for the better meal box is Hello Fresh. While we enjoyed the taste of Blue Apron more, Hello Fresh shines for its variety, customization within its meal plans, and packaging.