Lots of people like to cook. They love to get creative in the kitchen with a menu that offers an escape from the oven-chip road to moribund mealtimes. However, all too often, there’s that situation where you find the perfect recipe for tonight’s dinner, only to discover that of all the ingredients listed, you’ve pretty much just got some salt.
There might be a solution to this unhappy scenario in the shape of HelloFresh. This company takes the hassle out by delivering just what you need to enable you to produce the meals you really want to make, not the ones that the contents of your kitchen cupboards dictate.
However, are HelloFresh meals the answer to your cuisine ambitions? What strengths do they have? Are there any drawbacks? We’ll chew over all these questions, but first, let’s see exactly what HelloFresh is and how it came to be.
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Say hello to HelloFresh
So, the ambitions of kitchen creatives all over the place are often thwarted by what’s actually available to use in the fridge and the larder. A quick scan can often just result in a roll call of something like an old piece of cheese and a tin of tomato soup. This could test the imagination of the most gifted of chefs.
To assist in this kind of unhappy circumstance, HelloFresh pairs people with what they need to produce the goods in the shape of high-quality meal kits. It allows subscribers to either sign up for meal plans in which dishes are automatically selected for them, or choose particular meals from a constantly updated list of 40 recipes.
Then HelloFresh delivers boxes full of all the fresh ingredients that are needed for a particular dish. What’s more, the ingredients are supplied in quantities you need for the recipe—no more, no less. So, no pesky leftovers clogging up the fridge and no emergency trips to the local supermarket to top up your garlic stocks.
How did the company start? It all goes back to Germany in 2011, when three entrepreneurs started up a meal kit home delivery service, catering initially to 10 subscribers. Flash forward 12 years, and HelloFresh caters to 8.11mn active customers worldwide.
There are a number of dietary plans you can choose from:
- Meat & Veggies
- Chef’s Choice
- Quick Cook
- Calorie Smart
- Carb Smart
- High protein
- Pork Free
- Fish Free
Each of these plans is open to tweaking - for instance, you can specify that you don’t want seafood or pork.
You can also select meals by picking a particular country’s cuisine. Fancy Italian? How about a Halloumi and Sundried Tomato Risotto? Or feeling like you fancy a little something from the east? Try Hoisin Pork, in among the Asian cuisine dishes.
Most don’t take a long time to make, and for those for whom time is tight, the Quick Cook meal plan consists of dishes that take only 30 minutes or less to prepare.
You can change your meal plan at any time, should you fancy trying out another one, and revert to your original - or not - whenever you like. You can skip a week, and cancelling is possible at any point.
So, you get the idea. Quality ingredients are delivered so that you can follow interesting and easy recipes that are special diet observant and as family-friendly as you want them to be.
But how good are they? We’ll try to answer this by looking at four key areas: choice, cost, sustainability and portion size.
As mentioned, the meals on offer form quite a range. Countries whose cuisine you can go for include the usual choices such as Indian and far more adventurous destinations, including Nordic, Lebanese and North African. Or, if you’d rather select dishes based on food type rather than country, you can choose recipes that are based around pies, potatoes or even pumpkins.
Alternatively, you might be in need of inspiration, in which case the ‘Most popular recipes’ option is a good bet. This leads you to a list of eight big hitters that week, such as, at the time of writing, Greek Style Nachos Grande and Snap Dragon Chicken.
If that’s not enough for you, further down the page are another 32 recipe ideas. With a click, you can load more, giving you more choices in increments of eight other dishes.
If this kind of choice overwhelms you, you can just put in a simple search term, a word that sums up what you fancy. For instance, enter ‘meatballs’, and you get a bunch of delicious-sounding recipes such as Spaghetti Pomodoro and Vegetarian Meatball Tagine.
A decent number of low-carb and plant-based meals are also on offer, including an Indonesian Curry with zucchini and star anise rice.
However, it should be noted that HelloFresh warns that it can’t assert that any of its recipes are totally dairy-free or gluten-free because of the sheer number of suppliers used. Similarly, meat can’t be guaranteed to be Halal.
The landing page tells you that HelloFresh meals start at just £3.15 per person per meal. This is pretty good, given the apparent quality - they really do look like delicious meals.
However, there’s an economy of scale at work here - this figure applies to five recipes per week for four people. Should you elect to go for three meals per week for just two people, you’ll be paying £4.83 per person per meal.
On top of this, you’ll be paying a £4.99 delivery charge for the week (regardless of number of meals). Of course, another expense that has become more significant of late is the gas or electricity you’ll use to prepare these meals. Including this is important, especially if you’re comparing HelloFresh with eating out or a takeaway.
The first point to mention here is that having the correct quantity of ingredients delivered means that there shouldn’t be any food waste. Another factor that helps with HelloFresh’s sustainability credentials is that delivery comes pretty much straight from the producer, so there’s no detour or repackaging en route to the consumer.
As a result, it’s reckoned that the HelloFresh meal delivery service results in 25% less carbon emissions than would be the case were you to source the ingredients from a supermarket. In fact, using offset schemes and renewals-driven transit, HelloFresh is achieving carbon neutrality across its operation.
As well as kudos for its environmental performance, HelloFresh deserves recognition for its charitable efforts too. For instance, if you donate £5 to The Felix Project (an enterprise trying to ensure that food that would otherwise go to waste goes instead to those in need), HelloFresh will give you £15 off your first four meal boxes.
Finally, a common source of food waste is where meals are needed for one person only, but they come in quantities too great for that individual to finish. HelloFresh addresses this by having a meal for one delivery service.
HelloFresh portion size
First of all, if you’re looking to monitor your calorie intake, HelloFresh is tremendously helpful, as every recipe card comes with the calorie count for each portion clearly displayed. Also, as previously mentioned, you can opt to go with just HelloFresh recipes that are all light on calories.
But are the portion sizes big enough to satisfy most diners? After all, people tend to vary enormously in what they consider a decent helping - can HelloFresh fit the bill? The pictures certainly make it look like servings are a good size, but then again, they wouldn’t be the first to use a little camera trickery (or just small plates) to make things look more impressive.
A quick jaunt over to Trust Pilot tells us that most customers are happy with HelloFresh overall, and portion size is mentioned as a plus by a significant number of reviewers. This pattern finds a degree of repetition across the internet, so we can conclude that HelloFresh has its helpings in order.
Fresh ideas for your kitchen
Overall, HelloFresh offers great service to those who want to try out new recipes and practice their home cook skills but are too time-pressed to do all the necessary preparation. By taking out all the headache of amassing the right ingredients (not always easy if you live in a small town), HelloFresh frees you to enjoy new and exciting flavours from around the world.
Some baulk at the price but considering that the average takeaway meal in the UK in 2022 cost £7.93, the HelloFresh figure seems like pretty good value. Especially when one factors in the quality and freshness of the ingredients delivered. And you basically learn to cook as you progress, which is a great talent to acquire.
It’s also good to know that you can skip weeks if your budget is looking a little tight. Conversely, when you want something special, HelloFresh will oblige on those weeks. For instance, it offers Valentine’s meal ideas packed full of aphrodisiacs. Who knows what you’ll end up cooking up with HelloFresh?