Is HelloFresh Worth the Investment?

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One of the most common topics our clients want to discuss isn't about paying off student loans, buying a home or building better credit. No, our clients ask us again and again how to prepare budget-friendly family meals with ease. We get it. Food spending can be a budget buster, espcially if you're eating out a lot or visiting the grocery store too often. Many Americans literally eat through their income, knowingly spending more than they can afford.

This got us wondering, with all the meal delivery companies out there like HelloFresh, Home Chef and Blue Apron, is the convenience of weekly cook-at-home meal kits worth the expense? We decided to break down the costs of delivery meal kits vs. DIY meals to help you decide which is right for your family.

How meal kits work

These services are relatively new to the market, so it makes sense people want to learn more before they buy. The key benefits of a subscription include saving time on meal prep, consistently good meals, and an overall pleasant cooking experience.

Meal kit subscribers don't have to work so hard planning a weekly dinner menu in advance and dragging all the ingredients home from the grocery store. The meal kit company handles everything but the cooking, providing you with easy-to-follow recipes and carefully portioned, fresh ingredients delivered in an insulated shipping box once per week.

How much do meal services cost?

Ordering three kits for two people from a meal delivery service like HelloFresh costs roughly $60 a week or $10 per meal, per person. At $60 a week, meal kits cost less than most restaurants other than fast food joints, but are substantially more than the per-plate cost of a DIY prepared meal. If you shop somewhat frugally and eat your leftovers, you’re probably eating for a LOT less than $10 a serving (keep reading for $2 meal ideas). A meal delivery service saves you money if you currently dine out nearly every night or grocery shop too much and the food you buy is going to waste.

How much time do they save?

Planning and shopping for three fewer dinners a week cuts your preparation time in half. On weeks when you order meal kits, your UPS or FedEx driver most likely drops the box on your doorstep while you're at work. When you return home, all you have to do is unload the fresh ingredients and thought-out meals into the fridge until you're ready to cook.

When compared to the time it takes to find recipes, create the shopping list, and pick those ingredients at the store, meal deliveries are no doubt much more convenient. You still have to cook the meals, but the experience of cooking these recipes is part of the appeal. You learn new techniques, get to know fresh ingredients and it's often more enjoyable.

Meal kit summary

Meal delivery services are an innovative way to cook tasty meals at home. As far as convenience goes, meal delivery does take some of the stress and time out of weekly meal planning and shopping. If you have planned for the expense in your budget, it can give you some time back in your week to connect with your family and relax a bit. However, ordering your food this way won’t ever be cheaper than strategic grocery shopping, but at $10 a meal, on average, it could be less expensive than eating out.

DIY meals for less than $2

For the rest of us who need to reign in our home-cooked meal budget as tightly as possible, here are three easy-to-make and budget-friendly recipes that are truly delicious and worth the extra time and energy. With a little planning (and maybe some Sunday meal prep - a topic for another post) it's totally possible to enjoy homemade dining without having to spend very much money at all.

Caribbean Chicken

  • Canned pineapple chunks: $1.20
  • Red onion: $.50
  • Cilantro: $.50
  • Chicken breasts: $2.98
  • Jerk seasoning: $.60
  • EVOO: $.25

Combine pineapple, onion and cilantro for salsa; season with salt. Pound chicken to 1/2 inch thick, then cut each breast crosswise into two equal pieces; sprinkle with jerk seasoning. In large skillet, cook chicken in EVOO over medium until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

Serve with salsa.Serves 4 - Price per plate: $1.51

Spinach & Feta Quesadillas

  • Roasted red peppers: $1.73
  • Crushed red pepper: $.05
  • Frozen spinach: $.98
  • Shredded mozzarella: $1.16
  • Feta: $2.08- Garlic: $.57
  • Flour tortillas: $1.37

Puree first 2 ingredients for dip; season. In large bowl, combine spinach, cheeses and garlic; season. Spoon mixture onto half of each tortilla. Fold tortillas in half and press to close. In large dry skillet, working in two batches, cook quesadillas over medium until golden, 3 minutes per side. Cut each into 4 pieces; serve with dip.

Serves 4 - Price per plate: $1.98

Chorizo Rice Skillet

  • Chorizo: $1.60
  • Onion: $.50
  • Green bell pepper: $.86
  • Chili powder: $.20
  • EVOO: $.25
  • Canned diced tomatoes: $.50
  • White rice: $.78
  • Scallions: $.49

In a large skillet, cook chorizo, onion, bell pepper and chili powder in EVOO over medium until softened, 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, rice and 3/4 cup water; cover and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, until rice is tender, 20 minutes. Top with scallions.

Serves 4 - Price per plate: $1.30

*Prices as of April 2019*

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