Which meal kit company is the best? I tried a few and have a review of Hello Fresh vs Blue Apron vs Home Chef for you comparing and contrasting each one from ordering to unboxing to cooking and enjoying!
This content is sponsored by Blue Apron as part of content I am creating for them as an ambassador for this year. However, they asked me specifically for a comparison post and to be honest and fair, so know that this post is written objectively!
Why I Like Meal Kits
The biggest reason why I like using meal kit services is because they keep me organized!
I have used meal kits on and off since 2014 when I first tried Blue Apron and HelloFresh.
As a mom of two kiddos, I try to automate as much in my life as I can. When I can save time by having someone else do the meal planning, buying groceries, delivery service, and some of the prep work for me, I am all about it!
I decided to compare three meal kit delivery services – Hello Fresh vs Blue Apron vs Home Chef – to see how they were similar and different. Here’s what I found!
HelloFresh vs Blue Apron vs Home Chef Review
The Ordering Process
If you’re going to do a meal delivery service for the first time, look for a promo code first!
Most of the companies offer a discount to try them while you test to see if you want to stick with them for the long haul. The Blue Apron offers are usually $100-200 in free food.
Selecting Recipes + Customization Options
HelloFresh had six meal options including meat and veggie, pescatarian, vegetarian, family friendly, quick and easy, and calorie smart.
And you could choose up to three of those to get a mix of different kinds of meals for the ultimate flexibility.
Then you choose either 2 or 4 servings and 2-6 meals per week.
HelloFresh therefore had the greatest flexibility, especially for large families. They also had add-ons like sides, breakfasts, fresh product, desserts, and extra protein.
Blue Apron had four menu options: Signature, Signature 4 person, Vegetarian, or Wellness Recipes. (I appreciate that the wellness isn’t totally calorie-focused).
We usually do the 4 person choices so we can either feed the kids too or save two portions for a leftovers night.
Blue Apron has add-ons as well, like desserts, apps and sides. Plus they have wine, which is exciting!! Half bottles are perfect for two people to share.
Home Chef had more of a survey-style ordering process that I assume created personalized recipe offerings each week.
You could choose from their Home Chef Plan or the Fresh and Easy Plan (with low- or no-prep meals – I got one of those below).
Plus, select if you want calorie-conscious, carb-conscious, or avoid any of eight different food groups, including nuts, shellfish, meats, and mushrooms.
The next page has you choose between 2, 4 or 6 people x 2-6 recipes per week – another good choice for larger families or batch cooking.
Home Chef had add-ons as well – from dessert to a chopped salad to extra proteins.
- HelloFresh -I had to do the math on the cost per recipe myself, and it came out to $11.99 for the smallest plan and $7.45 a serving for the largest. Shipping was free when I ordered, but is now $8.99.
- Blue Apron – $9.99 per serving for 2 meals per week and $8.99 per serving for 3 or 4. The 4 person plan x 4 meals was the cheapest at $7.49 a serving. Shipping was $9.99.
- Home Chef – Meals were consistently $8.99 a serving. Shipping was $13.99 for small boxes (boo) and $7.99 for larger.
Note: Paid vs. free shipping seems to be changing frequently due to the demands of the postal services.
HelloFresh – I noticed right away that the ingredients were grouped in paper bags.
These had a nice “grocery” feel to them, and I like that I could very quickly store them in the fridge.
I also LOVED the suggestion to use the paper bag as a garbage bowl for scraps and wrappers as I cooked. It folded over nicely and made for easy clean up. Meats were on the bottom with the ice, but they were not double-bagged.
I suspected that one of my meat packages might have leaked a little. A pretty serious problem for food safety!
There were recycling instructions right on the box that said the paper fillers could be recycled and the ice packs could be drained once thawed.
Blue Apron – Blue Apron’s ingredients come loose in the box. This gives a romantic “I shopped” feeling, but it does make unpacking and moving to the fridge a bit more challenging. There is also more opportunity for damage.
And since I’ve been known to travel with Blue Apron, I can admit to leaving an important ingredient at home. This wouldn’t have happened with a grouping bag. I do appreciate the minimal packing from a waste standpoint.
Meats were on the bottom in ice and double-bagged, which was reassuring. I have had a Blue Apron meat burst open on me and the double bag saved my food and my fridge.
Ice packs are drain-safe just like Hello Fresh’s and any cardboard can be recycled. More on Blue Apron recycling here.
Home Chef – Home Chef had by far the most plastic, as ingredients were grouped in baggies.
We also had 4 servings, but ingredients were grouped in 2s, so I had 2 of each recipe (probably an operations thing). I consolidated them from six bags down to three, even if some of them were a little overstuffed in the fridge.
Meats were on the bottom and double-bagged. There was a big plastic liner in the box. Apparently that is recyclable though. Ice packs are eco-friendly drain-safe.
How did the recipes taste?
The recipes felt vibrant, fresh, and healthy. Many were appealing and like something I’d choose to make from a magazine or cookbook.
I loved the recipe cards with lots of photos and visuals – which I think make cooking so much easier than lots of text! They also had an equipment list that was helpful, and calories on the card (no full macros though). We loved this soup so much!
I did order two of the desserts – a cheesecake and a chocolate lava cake. Mazen and I devoured the chocolate lava, which was great, but I couldn’t even finish the cheesecake. Not a big fan.
One-Pot Chicken Sausage & Kale Soup
Salmon in a Creamy Dijon Chive Sauce
And this salmon sauce was EPIC! I licked the plate clean.
Blue Apron has a great mix of classics (we love anything panko-crusted) and lesser-known recipes and ingredients like Soy-Gochujang Salmon and One-Pan Yaki Udon Stir-Fry. I give Blue Apron the biggest thumbs up for recipes that feel a notch above what I would make myself.
Blue Apron’s portions are generous, and I found their ratio of vegetables to carbs and protein to be the best of the three. You can also swap out proteins (say, from steak to salmon), and Blue Apron also supports humanely raised meats and sustainable seafood, which I love.
Sheet Pan Pork & Sour Cherry Sauce with Potatoes & Green Beans
Gimme all the sheet pan dinners! This dinner was delish – loved the cherry sauce and it was also a winner with the kids. Mazen ate everything (minus the sauce 🙂 )
We also stretched this through 2 nights and one lunch (the last slice of pork on a salad) so portion size was great.
One-Pan Beef & Udon Noodle Stir-Fry with Bok Choy & Sweet Peppers
This dish was full of flavor thanks to a delicious sauce made from soy glaze, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and Gochujang. The noodles were plump and veggies plentiful. Loved the one pan use!
Home Chef’s recipes seemed more classic and less adventurous.
They have fewer recipes to choose from, and at first glance nothing was really calling my name when I ordered. I think this is partly because the Home Chef photography seems a bit out of date – like someone in a studio vs. more colorful, realistic photos.
The recipe photography is actually my biggest complaint about the Home Chef experience! Home Chef did use photos for each step of the recipe, but I found the recipe a little difficult to follow. That might be just the way the card was laid out and/or too much text.
The recipes did turn out delicious, but I could have used 3x the veggies (broccolini) they provided!
Crispy Asiago Chicken with Roasted Broccolini and Tomato Risotto
The risotto was flavorful, and crispy chicken is always a winner for me. Loved the broccolini but could have eaten twice as much!
Classic Chicken Fajitas
This was one of their quick-and-easy recipes that came with chopped veggies and pre-cooked chicken. While it was nice to save time, I didn’t love it.
I had to pick the raw onions out of the mix (if I had chopped myself I could have left them out) and it came with plastic trays, which I didn’t feel comfortable baking in. So I used my own baking dish.
The end result tasted good though, and the cilantro sauce and crispy fried jalapeños were great additions!
Why Try A Meal Kit
Cost = Time + Food Waste
While meal kits are not inexpensive, they may not be as expensive as you think. And when you factor in the time saved not having to meal plan, travel to the grocery store, and portion out many of the ingredients, it might actually be kind of a wash when you consider the value of your time.
This study found that cooking with a meal kit may waste 62% less food than when you shop and prep with grocery store ingredients.
Their Carbon Footprint May Actually Be Lower Than Grocery Stores
I think we can all agree that walking to the farmer’s market is the absolute best thing we can do for our footprint. But if we compare the grocery store and a meal kit, I think they’re more or less pretty similar.
Grocery stores come with packaging too – you just don’t see it – and the food comes on trucks that travel a lot of miles. You also have to drive there and back.
While the meal kits also travel, they would say there is less waste at the end and most of their packaging IS recyclable (maybe not as much in a conventional grocery store).
A study by the University of Michigan concluded that meal kits have a 25% lower carbon footprint than store-bought groceries.
Are Meal Kits Worth It?
I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that they’re about equal in cost and time, give or take household to household. We love interspersing regular home-cooked meals with meal kits to sharpen our skills, try new ingredients, and save time.
Here’s a summary of the high points of each of the services offer:
- HelloFresh: Best for flexibility in diet and family size
- Blue Apron: Best for a well-balanced dish with plentiful veggies and best portion size
- Home Chef: Best for add-ons and shortcut meals
And some critiques:
- HelloFresh: Meats were not double-bagged and possibly leaky
- Blue Apron: Looser ingredient packaging means ingredients can sometimes get damaged or spill, charge for shipping
- Home Chef: Plastic bags, fewer vegetables, confusing ordering process, charge for shipping, highest cost
Give them a try and tell me which is your favorite!