Unless you are living under a rock without your phone and with no mail access, you’ve likely been served an ad by Hello Fresh and/or Blue Apron. They’ve been around for a while and while I was curious to try them from the start, I never felt like I would have time to actually cook all the meals before the ingredients went bad. I overcame that hurdle last September when I finally came to terms with the fact I could not give all my paycheck to Seamless anymore.
I wanted to try a meal kit service but with so many options out there I had no idea which one to start with. I decided I was going to go with the most popular one to start, but even that did not narrow it down too much. I ended up doing research on what I perceived to be the top three: Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated. I read LOTS of reviews online and narrowed it down to Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. So many reviews had one of these two options as their top choice and from looking online both offered similar experiences, so I decided to try each service out for myself and draw my own conclusions.
Before we dive in, here are some notes and disclaimers I would like to make:
- There are a lot of details here, this is an actual breakdown of my experience. I find it helpful to have all the details when making decisions so you can decide what aspects of a service or product you value the most in order to make your own call.
- I did not receive any sort of compensation or gifts for this post, I paid for both services from my own little pocket.
- We used Blue Apron in both Atlanta and Hoboken, but we did not try Hello Fresh until we were in Atlanta. Not sure that matters but just in case!
- Both services are top notch and always making updates, so for the latest and greatest on their offerings, do check their websites.
- After you are finished reading, if you are interested in trying either service and would like me to send you a free box hit me up! I have a few boxes to give on each account so happy to share what I can!
Menu Choices: Let’s start with the menu! From a purely mathematical standpoint, Hello Fresh has more menu options each week. It also offers gourmet and dinner 2 lunch options for additional fees. Hello Fresh also offers an option to add a side of garlic bread or other treats such as Baci chocolate truffles, all for an additional price. I did feel, however, that Blue Apron had more unique choices each week in terms of the plate and ingredients.
Pricing: If you are considering trying either service, please make sure you use a discount! They are EVERYWHERE so please take advantage of that. Overall, the more you order the cheaper it will be. I found my sweet spot was 3 meals a week for 2 people. Less than that would increase the price too much and more than that was cheaper but tougher to stay on track with cooking as there are days that you just want to be lazy.
- Hello Fresh
- Standard starter discount= Directly on their website you can claim $80 (usually spread out across first few boxes) or get $40 from a friend using the service.
- Standard cost per plate= $10.15 (when you order 3 meals for 2 people in one week)
- Blue Apron
- Standard starter discount= Directly on their website you can claim $50 (usually spread out across first few boxes) or get a free box from a friend using the service.
- Standard cost per plate= $9.99 (when you order 3 meals for 2 people in one week)
Delivery: I used to get my Blue Apron on Sundays but Hello Fresh did not offer that option (at least in Atlanta) so I chose Monday delivery. At first, it actually worked out ok because I did Sunday night meal prep for my lunches and didn’t feel obligated to cook twice but there were weeks that I wanted to have the cooking experience on a Sunday night so I do appreciate that Blue Apron offers delivery every day of the week. I did not have any issues with late deliveries or damaged boxes with either service.
Sustainability: I must say I am NO expert on sustainability but there are simple things that anyone can notice and Hello Fresh is definitely winning in this category, starting with the little package they’ve created to protect your ingredients. It could vary, but they tried to use recyclable or biodegradable materials to keep ingredients safe and cool inside the box. Both services have interesting ways of “saving” for example Blue Apron always sends me a whole garlic head even when I only need one or two cloves for the recipe. Hello Fresh sends me the exact number of cloves I need but it’s wrapped up in plastic so… which one is better? Blue Apron tends to individually wrap each ingredient in plastic whereas Hello Fresh gives you all the ingredients for a specific recipe in one paper bag (not individually wrapped). Big picture though, I like that they give you the exact ingredients you need so you avoid waste but with all the plastic and cartons you use each week to even get these ingredients delivered, is that really much of a difference?
Ingredients: Both Hello Fresh and Blue Apron have always included good quality ingredients. They both assume you already have some basic ingredients such as salt, pepper and olive oil. With Hello Fresh, however, they also assume you have other ingredients such as butter and vegetable oil. I tend to always have butter but I did not have your standard vegetable oil when the recipe called for it, so I ended up just using what I had (olive oil or avocado oil). Still, I personally prefer when Blue Apron sends you butter because they are usually nicer quality than your average butter that may or may not be close to expiring in your fridge. 🙂 Perhaps it was the choices I made but I felt like Hello Fresh repeated a lot of ingredients. I swear I was zesting lemons and mixing sour cream almost every time. With Blue Apron I thought it was nice that they integrated different types of cheeses, spices and cream to keep things different and interesting. Bonus for Hello Fresh though, I once did get one free sample of a waffle mix, decent sample size and all. Blue Apron, however, introduced a cool new line of products called Knick Knacks. The line features a combination of pre-portioned ingredients from Blue Apron’s premium suppliers and their own proprietary blends which you can buy through Jet.com and then get the rest of the ingredients for the recipe as you wish. It’s not available where I live yet, but I like the idea of being able to obtain a set of harder-to-find ingredients to create a special recipe without having to buy three meals from the service.
Recipe Difficulty: Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are both fairly easy. If my husband and I can do it, you all can do it too! I swear the first 3 Hello Fresh recipes all asked me to zest a lemon and I had never done that before. Not only did I not have the special tool (Update: I later Googled and learned you zest a lemon with a cheese grater which we did have), I was also confused by the ask. Blue Apron has cool, short videos that show you how to master simple cooking skills like dicing, for example. I’ve found those helpful and would have appreciated one on zesting lemons, for easy access. I found it interesting that both services organize steps and instructions a little differently. Blue Apron has been very clear at stating all the “prep” right at the beginning while I found some “prep” steps mixed in later steps for Hello Fresh. Blue Apron also tends to organize steps or sections depending on what you are making (a section for the rice vs. a section for the baking of certain ingredients) whereas it seems like Hello Fresh predicts a more normal flow and alternates between different parts of the recipe based on how it recommends you approach it. Honestly, they are both FINE, I think psychologically we just got used to the Blue Apron way and then were thrown a bit off by Hello Fresh but nothing ridiculous.
Taste: I did not try one recipe in either service that I could not eat. Sure, there were some favorites but everything was really good! Both services were good at keeping you honest on spice levels and how to make it your own with seasoning to taste. Brian loves all things spicy so I’ve been allowing myself to try a bit more spice every single time.
Gourmet Level: Again, no culinary professional here but I do feel like Blue Apron is a bit more elevated when compared with Hello Fresh at their standard price. We’ve done interesting Blue Apron recipes that mix more than one culture together, providing us with unique ingredients that would be a bit harder for us to get at our local grocery store. Hello Fresh does offer two plates every week as a choice for “gourmet” but you have to pay extra. Personally, at that point, I would rather just go to a restaurant to get a meal served for me but to be fair the recipes do look good!
Portions & Leftovers: I think overall, the portions are fine. As someone who likes to eat a lot, I’ve found it nice that they do portion control for you so you don’t end up going crazy. With Blue Apron I did end up having leftovers on some recipes, not a lot, but some. With Hello Fresh there were some instances where I felt I was still hungry after finishing a meal. Nothing devastating though. There were times when Brian had to cook Blue Apron without me because I was working late and the ingredients were going to go bad. In those instances, he prepped me a plate and I saved it for my lunch the next day. Most plates, however, do not do well reheated. For that reason, I’ve never done any of the plans that offer leftovers for lunch. That’s just my personal take though! I love prepping lunches but I like to think carefully about the menu to make sure it is something that will still taste delicious reheated.
Customer Service: Unfortunately, there were 3 occasions in which I was missing one or more ingredients in my Blue Apron order. At all times, I reported the missing ingredients through the app and received a credit for the amount of the plates affected (usually around $20). Not terrible, but obviously disappointing when you were already planning on having something for dinner and maybe did not have other easy options available. In 2 of the cases, I unfortunately lost most of the other ingredients by not being able to make the recipe due to what was missing. I did, however, attempt to make ramen without various key ingredients. It was… interesting. Let’s just say I made soy sauce soup. Oy. In the weeks with Hello Fresh not once were we missing an ingredient. I almost thought about faking that I was missing an ingredient just to compare the customer service experience but that seemed wrong. 🙂
There you have it. All the ins and out of my experience. If you made it this far, thank you! If you just scrolled down here to see which one I picked, that’s ok too!
And the winner is…
At the end of the day, they are both great services and you will likely be fine with either one. For me, however, Blue Apron offers more variety of ingredients and recipes which makes it all more interesting to explore and try new things. I consider myself an average cook so if I am going to use a meal service kit, I want to be able to get something different and more exciting than my usual go-to recipes.
Have you tried Hello Fresh or Blue Apron? What are your thoughts? Do you use another meal kit and love it? Let me know in the comments below!