It’s easy to see why there’s an attraction to meal delivery services, especially one as popular and praised as HelloFresh.
With a meal kit, you can let go of the pressure of figuring out what to make for dinner every night and the effort it takes to make sure you have all the right ingredients on hand.
While it's hard to argue against those benefits, HelloFresh has made bold claims such as, “our meal delivery service allows you to skip meal planning and grocery shopping.” They also highlight customer reviews on their homepage such as, “we saved over $300 a month in groceries.”
Those all sound great, but are those claims true for the average person? Can a person really skip meal planning and grocery shopping with HelloFresh? What about saving hundreds of dollars each month on groceries?
In this article, I’ll dive into those questions so you can know the truth. You might be surprised by what you discover…
Our Method For Comparing HelloFresh To Grocery Shopping
To find out if HelloFresh is truly cheaper than buying groceries, I picked five random HelloFresh recipes and compared the cost of the ingredients at the grocery store to the cost of HelloFresh meals.
However, there are some things to keep in mind about this comparison:
- This is not a perfect, one-to-one comparison because of the multitude of factors at play. For example, the cost of a single ingredient varies dramatically based on the grocery store, whether the product is organic, its brand name, and more. Also, the cost of an ingredient will differ depending on where one is located. I am located closest to a Walmart, so I chose to use their prices for the grocery comparison. There are also other external factors to consider (such as the cost of gas it takes to go back and forth between the grocery store).
- Since HelloFresh doesn’t exclusively use organic ingredients, I stuck to high-quality products that aren't labeled as organic in my comparison.
- HelloFresh provides the exact amounts of each ingredient you need for each recipe, which means I had to calculate the price of the amount of that ingredient rather than just the price of a full package.
- HelloFresh will sometimes refer to the amount of an ingredient as "1 unit." For produce, it was easy to decipher that "1 unit" meant one whole vegetable, such as a whole bell pepper. However, it would also describe a liquid amount as 1 unit, such as 1 unit of coconut milk. They are clearly referring to the total amount of that ingredient they sent in the box. Since I don’t know the exact amount they are referring to in those scenarios, I simply put down the price of a full can of coconut milk. This means that the price of “1 unit” for a liquid item may not be a perfect comparison, and the price is likely to be slightly less than what I included.
The Cost of a HelloFresh Meal
For this comparison, I chose HelloFresh’s 2-person plan for 5 meals a week. I picked a variety of meals, some adventurous and some traditional. I chose their regular menu meals rather than their special menu items or marketplace items.
The cost of this plan totals $108.89, and the price per serving is $9.79. This means the total cost for one meal for two people is $19.58 (since each meal has two servings).
Food Box HQ Note: HelloFresh plans range in price. The bigger your plan is, the less it costs per meal. For example, on their 4-person plan with 6 recipes per week, it comes out to $8.99 per meal. We specifically chose the 2-person, 5 meals per week plan because it represented the most popular people ordering HelloFresh (couples or small families who are looking to make weekday dinner time easier).
The Cost of HelloFresh vs. Grocery Shopping
Now let’s compare the cost to make each meal using HelloFresh as well as using ingredients purchased at a grocery store.
Coconut Curry Chicken with Bell Pepper over Basmati Rice
This is an adventurous meal full of flavor and spice. As an authentic Indian meal, this is a recipe many might not normally make on their own. Here’s the cost of what it would be to make this meal yourself, with grocery store bought ingredients:
|Basmati Rice||½ cup||$0.41|
|Chicken Breast Strips||10 ounces||$3.60|
|Curry Powder||1 tbsp||$0.46|
|Chili Flakes||1 tsp||$0.21|
|Sour Cream||1.5 tbsp||$0.09|
|Bell Pepper||1 unit||$1.38|
|Tomato Paste||1.5 ounce||$0.22|
|Coconut Milk||1 unit||$2.98|
Total Cost To Make This Meal (2 Servings) Using The Grocery Store = $10.18 ($5.09 per serving)
Since HelloFresh charges $19.58 for one 2-person meal ($9.79 per serving), if you were to buy the ingredients at the grocery store for the Coconut Curry Chicken, you would save $9.40 ($4.70 per serving).
Pasta Primavera with Lemon Sauce, Bell Pepper, Zucchini, and Peas
This creamy vegetarian pasta meal is full of vegetables and packed with flavor. Surprisingly, this recipe features a couple of ingredients that are difficult to come by in an average grocery store. Here’s a breakdown of what it would cost to make this meal yourself, with ingredients purchased from the grocery store:
|Bell Pepper||1 unit||$1.38|
|Penne Pasta||6 ounces||$1.36|
|Crème Fraîche||2 tbsp||$0.84|
|Tuscan Heat Spice||1 tbsp||$0.54|
|Vegetable Stock||1 unit||$3.12|
|Cream Sauce Base||4 ounces||$4.28|
|Parmesan Cheese||3 tbsp||$0.30|
Total Cost To Make This Meal (2 Servings) Using The Grocery Store = $14.14 ($7.07 per serving)
Since HelloFresh charges $19.58 for one 2-person meal ($9.79 per serving), if you were to buy the ingredients at the grocery store for the Pasta Primavera, you would save $5.44 ($2.72 per serving).
Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos with Tangy-Sweet Slaw
There's nothing like the distinct sweet and tangy flavor of buffalo sauce. While most people normally associate the taste with a platter of chicken wings, this recipe offers a unique twist on this classic flavor. Instead of buffalo sauce drenching chicken meat, it coats fried and crispy cauliflower florets over a bed of coleslaw—all wrapped up into a tasty taco. Here’s the cost of what it would be to make this meal yourself, with ingredients purchased at the grocery store:
|Coleslaw mix||4 ounces||$0.49|
|White Wine Vinegar||5 tsp||$0.80|
|Flour tortillas||6 units||$0.97|
|Cauliflower Florets||10 ounces||$3.32|
|Hot Sauce||3 tsp||$0.10|
|Frank’s Seasoning Blend||¼ ounce||$1.19|
Total Cost To Make This Meal (2 Servings) Using The Grocery Store = $10.49 ($5.25 per serving)
Since HelloFresh charges $19.58 for one 2-person meal ($9.79 per serving), if you were to buy the ingredients at the grocery store for the Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos, you would save $9.09 ($4.55 per serving).
Onion Crunch Chicken with Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Broccoli, and Honey Dijon Dressing
This recipe gives a slight twist to a classic, all-American meal with roasted broccoli and mashed sweet potatoes. The crunchy onion spread over honey-dijon glazed chicken invites a burst of tangy flavor and pleasure with each bite. Below you’ll find a breakdown of the costs to purchase all of the ingredients at the grocery store.
|Sweet Potato||2 units||$2.00|
|Sour Cream||1.5 tbsp||$0.09|
|Chicken Cutlets||10 ounces||$3.60|
|Honey Dijon Dressing||1.5 ounce||$0.53|
|Monterey Jack Cheese||¼ cup||$0.29|
|Crispy Fried Onions||1 unit||$2.78|
|Broccoli Florets||8 ounces||$1.92|
Total Cost To Make This Meal (2 Servings) Using The Grocery Store = $11.21 ($5.61 per serving)
Since HelloFresh charges $19.58 for one 2-person meal ($9.79 per serving), if you were to buy the ingredients at the grocery store for the Onion Crunch Chicken recipe, you would save $8.37 ($4.19 per serving).
Balsamic Rosemary Pork Chops with Garlic Toast and Green Beans
A savory meal with Mediterranean roots, this balsamic rosemary pork chop dish is a delicious recipe that caters to most people's tastes. The perfect flavor combination of rosemary, juicy pork chops, and balsamic vinegar makes a dinner you’ll be excited to bite in to. Here’s the cost of what it would be to make this recipe yourself, with ingredients purchased from the grocery store:
|Green Beans||6 ounces||$1.44|
|Demi Baguette||1 unit||$0.99|
|Chicken Stock||1 unit||$3.12|
|Garlic Herb Butter||2 tbsp||$0.38|
|Pork Chops||10 ounces||$3.24|
|Balsamic Vinegar||5 tsp||$0.18|
Total Cost To Make This Meal (2 Servings) Using The Grocery Store = $10.09 ($5.05 per serving)
Since HelloFresh charges $19.58 for one 2-person meal ($9.79 per serving), if you were to buy the ingredients at the grocery store for the Balsamic Rosemary Pork Chops recipe, you would save $9.49 ($4.75 per serving).
HelloFresh vs. Grocery Shopping: Which Comes Out Cheaper?
As you can see from the comparison above, grocery shopping and purchasing all of the ingredients to make the meal yourself is cheaper than HelloFresh. How much cheaper will depend on the specific plan that you go with. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the bigger your plan, the lower the cost is for each meal.
While we compared the cost of each meal, there are some other expense variables that add to the cost of grocery shopping you should be aware of:
- Gas: Depending on how far away your local grocery store is, gas could add up to a significant additional cost.
- Car "Wear and Tear": Going back and forth with your car also leads to more maintenance costs. This might be an additional cost to consider as well.
- Your Time: Consider what you could be doing with the 1-2 hours (or more) you spend grocery shopping and putting everything away. Would you rather be using that time doing something more productive such as spending time with friends/family?
The extra ~$3 to ~$5 cost associated with each HelloFresh meal is for the added convenience of not having to deal with finding new recipes, going back and forth to the grocery store, purchasing full-sized ingredients, and taking a risk cooking a new meal.
When considering these factors, it makes sense why HelloFresh meals are, on average, ~$3 to ~$5 more expensive per meal than finding the recipe and buying the ingredients yourself.
The Hidden Benefits of HelloFresh vs. Grocery Shopping
While grocery shopping, prepping, and making everything yourself is undoubtedly cheaper than a HelloFresh subscription, there are certain advantages to using a HelloFresh meal kit versus grocery shopping and making the meal yourself.
The first and foremost advantage of a HelloFresh recipe is that all the ingredients arrive at your door in pre-packaged amounts, which are usually pre-prepped (except for produce). This means the ingredients are used in their entirety for the recipe, and you don’t have any leftover waste.
This is especially beneficial for recipes that call for ingredients you wouldn’t normally have on hand or buy at the store. The perfect example of this is the Pasta Primavera with Lemon Sauce recipe I mentioned above.
As a specialty and authentic vegetarian pasta dish, it calls for crème fraîche. I’d never heard of crème fraîche before this recipe, so searching for it at the grocery store was difficult. And get this, the only size available for this ingredient, an authentic French cooking and topping cream, was a pack of two containers, 4.5lb each.
I have no idea why they were being sold in that large amount! Imagine having to buy that much of an ingredient just for a single recipe—it would be extremely difficult to use all 4.5 pounds of the crème fraîche before it went bad.
Going off of that, HelloFresh allows you to try new, authentic recipes that call for ingredients you wouldn’t normally buy or even know what to do with after having used them.
If making these meals yourself, some of these ingredients would likely go bad before you had the time to use them up. This leads to my next point...
How HelloFresh is Combating Food Waste
The amount of food waste happening in the United States is shocking. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply.
This waste occurs at several stages in the food supply chain, starting with harvesting out in the field. Food waste occurs thereafter because of improper storage, transportation malfunctions, and retail-level food waste where food is culled because of expiration dates and damage. The average American also contributes to food waste by throwing out food that has gone bad or throwing away leftovers and kitchen scraps.
Meal delivery services are helping with food waste by cutting back the food supply chain. Food is delivered directly to the manufacturing facility, and from there it’s sent to your home. This reduction in the food supply chain means there’s less room for damage to occur to the products, which means less food waste.
Because HelloFresh customers receive precisely measured ingredients for each recipe, the likelihood of food waste at the consumer level drops dramatically.
Food Box HQ Note: While meal delivery services like HelloFresh are actively reducing food waste, even those who choose to continue grocery shopping can lessen how much food they send to the landfill. Food waste can be mitigated by starting a home compost pile. Produce, including kitchen scraps, vegetable peels, and moldy fruits and vegetables can all be recycled back into the Earth. Check out this article to learn more about how the U.S. is planning to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030.
HelloFresh vs. Grocery Shopping: Final Thoughts
So, will you save hundreds of dollars on groceries if you start using HelloFresh? Probably not.
The greatest benefit of HelloFresh versus grocery shopping is the added convenience of having all the ingredients you need to easily make a tasty recipe. It's a great option for those who are looking to spice things up in the kitchen, learn new recipes, and make meal time a bit easier.
Plus, knowing that it helps you waste less food (since they send you the exact ingredients you need for each recipe) is a nice bonus.
So, if you’re a busy couple or family looking for a way to enjoy more home-cooked, delicious meals, then you may thoroughly enjoy what HelloFresh has to offer. That being said, if you're on a strict budget or you have a lot of time on your hands, grocery shopping and making everything yourself might be a better option.
Food Box HQ Note: If you want to use a meal kit but HelloFresh is out of your budget, consider trying EveryPlate or Dinnerly. Both of these meal kits are cheaper (at around $5 per meal) and offer a similar meal kit experience.