I Tried HelloFresh. Here's Why It Wasn't a Fit for Me — or My Finances

A woman peeling vegetables in her sunny kitchen.

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I love to cook — it’s one of my favorite hobbies. So when some friends of mine started using HelloFresh and offered me a trial coupon code for three free meals, I figured it was a chance to see what all the subscription kit fuss was about.

I’d never cooked from a kit before. Instead, I have a beloved set of cookbooks from my favorite TV cooking show (Good Eats, with venerable geek Alton Brown), and I also use the New York Times Cooking app. Both of these recipe sources, plus the internet at large, have been more than sufficient to help me track down new recipes to try and potentially add to my regular rotation.

I’m glad I got to try this popular meal kit service — my colleague Steven Porello recently detailed his own experience with HelloFresh. It works well for him, but unfortunately, HelloFresh was in no way a fit for my life. Here’s why.

I prefer batch cooking

The best thing about cooking, to me, is the leftovers. While I do cook one-off meals from time to time, the vast majority of my kitchen activities result in extra bits and bobs I can turn into additional meals. For example, I hosted brunch a few weeks ago, and the leftover sauteed mushrooms and shredded cheese became two more omelet meals for yours truly later that week. I also cook big batches of soup with the intent to stock my freezer with easy lunches for the coming weeks.

HelloFresh meals aren’t intended to generate leftovers — which makes sense, as the appeal of the service is a fresh and creative meal, not eating the same thing three days in a row. When you pick a plan, you can choose between a meal for two or four people. And yes, you could ostensibly opt for meals for four even if you’re only feeding two people, and then bank the leftovers. But don’t forget, you’ll still need to find time to eat those leftovers on top of making the new meals you’re receiving.

When I picked my three free meals, I had to really dig in to find options that would allow me to save the extra portion and ensure its quality. I ended up picking a pasta dish (fairly easy leftovers), a soup (very easy leftovers), and a salad — and I made the salad when I had a second person over to eat with me.

I like being the master of a few recipes

While I like trying new recipes, I can happily claim to be the master of a handful of “signature” ones that I make often, and I usually have the ingredients for them on hand (at least, nonperishable ones). My chicken chili has fans in three countries — ditto for the brownies I make from scratch. I am constantly testing and refining my favorite recipes, adding new ingredients and processes along the way. That chicken chili recipe has come a long way in the more than 10 years since I started making it!

HelloFresh puts a lot of time and effort into crafting new and exciting dishes. The company has chefs on staff tasked with creating and testing new recipes — the HelloFresh website says recipes are tested 200 times before being dispatched to the world. This is wonderful, and makes the service a good option for people who like to cook new dishes every week. Unfortunately, that’s not me. And as a side note, the meals I tried were pretty tasty — but they were so fussy to make! So many little packets to open and things to chop.

I have other ways to save on groceries

Along with batch cooking and making the same dishes frequently, I can save money on food in other ways. One big part of my grocery strategy the last year and a half or so has been to rely on a grocery rewards credit card. And since one of my personal mottos is “go big or go home,” I got a card that offers the top cash back rate on grocery purchases. Whipping this card out in the checkout lane leaves me with visions of high cash back dancing in my head.

I’m also a member of my neighborhood grocery store’s rewards program, and by paying attention to sales and stocking up on my usual buys when they’re cheaper, I can save money. I actually managed to shave $19 off a recent grocery run this way (and paid under $100 for a week’s worth of groceries — it’s been forever since I pulled that off). Meanwhile, HelloFresh’s most popular meal plan (three meals a week for two people) would have me paying more than $70 per week. For six meals.

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Ultimately, I enjoy planning out my own meal situation for a given week and leaning on my favorite recipes, pantry, and freezer. HelloFresh offers a great product, but it wasn’t right for my personal finances or preferred cooking style. If you’re curious about it, I recommend asking a subscribed friend if they have a coupon code so you can try it out for yourself.

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