HelloFresh: Cost Per Serving Analysis

If you listen to any podcast, by now you’ve heard of meal kit delivery services. It seems like most podcasts can’t go more than one episode without advertising one of them.

And there are many: Plated, Home Chef, Terra’s Kitchen, Chef’d, Blue Apron, Purple Carrot, Green Blender, Green Chef, Red Kitchen, Orange Chef, Turquoise Lettuce, Violet Toaster… OK, I made up the last four. There certainly are some naming conventions with meal kit deliveries.

Basically, what happens is you sign up for a plan. You pay a certain amount each week, and they send you all the food needed for a couple meals for a certain number of people. They send you exactly as much food as you need. No more, no less, so there is no need for any grocery shopping.

I like to cook, but these services never sounded very appealing. I’m one of those weirdos who likes to go to the grocery store. I like seeing the selection, checking prices, picking the freshest food on display, the whole routine of it.

But there is something appealing about getting just the amount you need for a recipe. How many times have I bought more than I needed, simply because the item doesn’t come in smaller sizes. I have rows of spice containers that only have one teaspoon taken out of them. I’ve wasted more bread than I care to admit, until I finally admitted that I need to freeze the loaf since I never eat more than a few slices in a week.

So when a stranger accidentally sent me a coupon for HelloFresh*, I jumped at the opportunity to try it out. And I needed that coupon…

Because HelloFresh is expensive, guys!

No it’s not

The cheapest plan right now is $59.99 per week, which is three meals for two people, so six meals total. That’s almost $10 a meal. They try to sell you this as, “It’s only $10 a meal! Cheaper than a restaurant!” when all I hear is “$10 per person is waaay more than I have ever paid for a meal I cooked myself!”

They probably assume their customers have no idea how much food costs in terms of meals. So using my admittedly restricted sample size of one week of Hello Fresh, I wondered how much more these meals cost than if I had bought the food at the grocery store. The extra amount paid is your convenience cost for not going to the store, and dealing with the extraneous ingredients, I guess.

The first recipe was called something like Jamie’s Salsa Spaghetti or something. This might be low-hanging fruit because Jamie Oliver cooks for children, but this recipe kind of sucked. It is a salsa, so nothing is cooked. That stuff you see is just chopped up raw on top of the spaghetti.

Here’s what it would have cost if I bought the ingredients myself:

Ingredient Cost Size of Package Amount Used Cost Per Recipe
 Garlic  $0.69  Head 2 cloves $0.20
Kalamata Olives  $3.99 10 oz. 1 oz. $0.40
Shredded Parmesan Cheese $3.19 7 oz.  1 oz.  $0.45
Whole Wheat Spaghetti  $0.99 13.25 oz.  8 oz  $0.60
Grape Tomatoes  $4.25 1 lb.  10 oz.  $2.65
Basil  $2.29 .66 oz. .5 oz  $1.73
Red Wine Vinegar  $2.19 32 oz. .85 oz. $0.06
Total  $6.09
Servings 2
Cost Per Serving $3.05

So HelloFresh is charging a $7 premium for this one. But none of these ingredients go bad quickly (beside the basil), so you have nothing to lose buying the bigger sizes yourself.

Blah

The other two recipes were much better. One was Shepherd’s Pie (Veggie Style), which was basically carrots, mushrooms, peas and onions baked with mashed potatoes on top. Nothing to write home about, but it was healthy and, as the name says, fresh. And actually, these other two recipes stretched to three meals for us.

These meal kit companies seem to be famous for their bizarre packaging of tiny amounts of food. The Shepherd’s Pie box contained one tablespoon of flour in a tiny baggie.

Ingredient Cost Size of Package Amount Used Cost Per Recipe
Mushrooms $4.49 24 oz 8 oz. $1.50
Parmesan Cheese $3.19 7 oz. 2 oz. $0.90
Garlic $0.69 Bulb 2 cloves $0.20
Vegetable Stock $21.32 48 cubes 1 cube $0.44
Frozen Peas $0.99 1 lb. 4 oz. $0.25
Milk $3.39 Gallon 1/2 cup $0.11
Potatoes $1.29 1 lb. 1 lb. $1.29
Onion $4.99 5 lb. One $0.50
Carrot $0.99 1 lb. One $0.20
 Thyme $2.99 Package 2 sprigs $0.80
Total $6.19
Servings 3
Cost Per Serving $2.06

In total, it’s close to the salsa spaghetti, about $6.00 assembled on my own. Since this made three meals, the HelloFresh version actually cost $6.66, so it would be $4.40 cheaper to buy the ingredients at the store. Strangely, this is actually cheaper than the dumb salsa spaghetti if I bought both of them at the grocery store.

Our favorite recipe was Melty Gruyere-Topped Quinoa which included such house favorites as brussel sprouts, quinoa and cheese.

Ingredient Cost Size of Package Amount Used Cost Per Recipe
Butternut Squash $0.99 1 lb. 12 oz.  $0.75
Vegetable Stock $21.32 48 cubes 1 cube $0.44
Brussel Sprouts $2.49 1 lb 8 oz. $1.25
Pecans  $7.19 10 oz 1 oz. $0.71
Shredded Gruyere  $7.99 6 oz. 1/2 cup  $2.67
Red Onion  $0.99 1 lb.  1 onion $0.33
Quinoa  $4.99 1 lb. 1/2 cup  $1.00
Lemon  $0.59 Each 1 lemon $0.59
Dried Cranberries  $4.99 24 oz 1 oz.  $0.21
Total $7.95
Servings 3
Cost Per Serving $2.65

This one was num. All it needed was hot sauce. This one came out slightly more on the whole because of that cheese. Again, since it made three servings, it comes out to $2.65 if I bought the ingredients, versus $6.00 from HelloFresh.

Here’s the total for the box:

HelloFresh $59.99
Grocery Store Equivalent $20.23

Basically HelloFresh is charging a 200% convenience tax, if you want to look at it that way.

The other bad thing, at least to me, is the lack of leftovers. If I’m going to put that much time into making a recipe, I am going to want leftovers to bring for lunch! I suppose I could order the 4 person version if I just wanted more food.

But I also mean the other type of leftovers, meaning all of the food left in the package after you’d normally make a recipe. In a HelloFresh die-hard’s kitchen, there wouldn’t be anything in the cupboards. But the way I think, if I make tacos one night, I’m already thinking of the quesadillas I’ll make with the leftover tortillas. You know what I mean? All that food you’re using here… there’s no more of it after you make the recipe. Despite being so easy, it messed with the way I plan meals because I kept forgetting there wasn’t any more brussel sprouts, squash, tomatoes, etc. There’s no food leftover for creative re-use.

I will say, the one thing I really did like about HelloFresh is that it satisfied some latent OCD tendency. Each recipe comes in its own shoebox-sized box, and they stack neatly in the fridge. I imagine a fridge stuffed with those boxes would look incredibly satisfying, but just imagine the cost…

HelloFresh packaging

And for comparison’s sake, here’s the Cost Per Serving analysis chart.

Anyone use a meal kit delivery service ever?

 

*I have a first initial, last name email address and get lots of email intended for someone else. Usually it’s just a nuisance but occasionally I get something good like this coupon, or access to people’s online accounts or their personal information. Seriously people, know your correct email address!

2 Comments

  1. Oh, I will tell you my meal kit delivery service story.

    I also used Hello Fresh, where the going rate for the cheapest plan (three meals x two people = six meals) was $69.00 (Australian dollars). The only reason I went anywhere near it is that I had a coupon that knocked $35 off for Week 1, meaning $34 for six meals. I knew going in that I would be cancelling after Week 1, keeping the three recipe cards, and then re-buying the ingredients at supermarket prices. And that’s exactly what I did.

    It was fun to get a big box of food sitting on my doorstep, but there were two problems: 1) the amount of packaging waste is unbelievable, and though they say the delivery person will pick up the box for re-use, that didn’t happen. And 2) the wool insulation things that the website says don’t have a sheep-like smell? They smell like a goat. (I hope they don’t use the wool insulation in the US, because that would be nice for you guys, and also will make the previous sentence sound like some weird body-horror nightmare)

    About two months after cancelling, I was offered the same discount to get me back in. I pulled the same ruse and got another three recipe cards. If you are wondering why I seem so pleased about paying $68 for 12 meals and six recipe cards, don’t worry, it seems somehow less impressive to me now.

    The food was surprisingly delicious though.

    • Norm

      January 17, 2017 at 5:03 pm

      The packaging waste is unbelievable. I realize now I didn’t even tackle that park of it. Ours came in some foiled bubble wrap stuff, and two flat ice bricks, the size of small LCD televisions. I put one of those in the freezer to help keep it cold and run less. But no wool insulation stuff. I don’t think we even have anything like that here!

      Agreed, if we get another coupon by mistake, I’d definitely do it again, but only with the discount.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

© 2017 Ridinkulous

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑