Hmm, should I go with Blue Apron or Hello Fresh? Oh wait, there’s also Plated?
Hello Fresh vs. Blue Apron vs. Plated… who’s the winner? I LOVE them all… and I’m canceling my subscriptions. Here’s why.
As a business owner whose sweetie is also a business owner, life sometimes gets a tad hairy. Meals sometimes get short shrift.
OK, not just sometimes. In fact, he’s shared his longtime fantasy of consuming some non-cannibalistic version of Soylent Green just to not have to “waste time” eating meals.
And while I’ve downed my fair share of protein shakes standing at the sink (all part of the fun of the binge eating disorder I used to have), I actually kinda like eating real food.
It’s the planning that bugged me. “Deer frozen in the headlights” is about the right look for when I used to sit there, stumped, trying to come up with 5-7 dinners to feed my family.
The usual list looked something like this:
- Meatloaf (my kids called it “meatlove” awwwwwww)
- Chicken on the grill
- Fend for Yourself Night
None of these options stirred much enthusiasm among my diners. Cooking was really more aptly described as “assembling” and “heating” and the only spices I knew how to use were salt and pepper… and sparingly at that.
The kids are grown now, and until I have grandkids, I hope to never ever eat another chicken nugget. Living outside of New Jersey, pizza is mostly off the menu, too, because… why bother. It’s just not right.
Still, Meal Planning Is Haarrrrrrd
My sweetie and I have a simple food philosophy. Fresh, whole, local – if we can get two out of three, that’s good; three out of three is even better. We don’t like processed food-like substances and we’re practically hermits. So, we eat at home most of the time. That means planning.
That’s why I joined Hello Fresh. A writing colleague of mine sent me a coupon and I was hooked.
Before I knew it, I was ZESTING my little heart out with a real zester from Pampered Chef. It’s kind of addicting, to be honest. It was pretty cool learning new cooking techniques, experimenting with different spices (spices that actually matched the food… trust me, grabbing random spices is not a good idea), and vastly expanding my repertoire in the kitchen.
Meal planning mayhem and monotony came to a screeching halt. All I had to do was log in, make some choices, and wait for delivery.
Hello Fresh Helped Us SAVE Money
Sounds crazy, because their meals average out to about $10 per person per meal. Any frugal-minded cook could feed a few people for that!
But what we found is that by using Hello Fresh, we didn’t go to the grocery store quite so often. When we did shop, it was for milk, bread, bacon – you know, the staples. The easiest way to save money at the grocery store is not to go! No impulse buys or temptations whatsoever. Dinner was covered, and the expense was fixed and predictable.
Turned Out that Hello Fresh Was a Gateway Drug
We were getting three meals a week, which often yielded enough food to stretch into a fourth or fifth dinner. So the economics worked out better than planned. The food was delicious. The packaging was a work in progress, going from shoebox-sized cardboard boxes and metallic padded packing material to the far more eco-friendly brown paper bags with this foam-like packing material. The recipes are pretty easy to follow (unless I try cooking after having a wee dram of scotch or some nice wine first). They tell you how long it’ll all take, and it’s been pretty realistic so far, although I’ve heard from slower-cooking friends who’ve spent more than an hour on a 30-minute recipe. No complaints here!
But after a while, I noticed that the same recipes kept coming up in the rotation. Understandable, but half my aim was to get NEW meals to prepare. So, I went looking.
Hello Blue Apron
The price was about the same, maybe even exactly the same. Plus, they’re on Ebates, so we got $40 off our first two boxes, hooray! I started alternating between Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. As long as I remembered to pick meals or skip the week, we didn’t run into any issues.
When I started scrolling through the meal options, I noticed there was a lot of variety – and none of it was exactly the same as on Hello Fresh. Their packaging is… interesting. You open it up and it looks like a kind of grocery free-for-all in there. Lots of loose ingredients, so you have to look at the recipe card to see what to gather from your fridge before you start cooking. Then there’s a little “knick-knack” bag that’s got the doodads and extras needed for the recipe. Everything was fresh and cold. Meals stretched a little less than with Hello Fresh, but there were often leftovers, so no issue there.
And then, the meal choices seemed to get a bit stale. There seem to be loads of vegetarian meals, which doesn’t tickle my fancy. Sooooo many sweet potatoes, too. I like them, but my mate’s not a fan. I don’t know… it just seemed like it was getting hard to find something that looked good. So, I went looking again.
I’ve got one word for you: DESSERT. Yeah, they’ve got it. They also have a whole lot more choices available each week. Pricing is a bit higher than the others, but since they’re on Ebates, and you can save 40% on your first two boxes. The food is delicious. The packaging is a cross between Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. All the ingredients are in labeled plastic bags. The meat, like with the other services, is packed in its own layer of the box with ice packs. Everything is fresh. The recipes are easy to follow. The only downside I found was that they don’t deliver every day of the week (Sunday or Monday would be my preference) – and because I travel a lot and my sweetie’s not wild about cooking something elaborate just for himself, there are weeks I have to skip.
Hello Fresh vs. Blue Apron vs. Plated – Love Them, But Canceling Them ALL
Juggling three meal delivery services wasn’t too hard. It just took a few minutes every couple of weeks to skip weeks from two of them and choose meals from the third. The money part was fine, too. The convenience was wonderful. My cooking repertoire was ever-expanding and I felt really proud of some of these meals. (I made DUCK!!!)
I started grading the recipes, just a little A or B in the top corner of the recipe cards. There were a few over the past six months that weren’t good enough to make again, but not many, maybe three? Now I’ve got about 75 recipes I’ll make again and again.
But here’s the thing… I can make them for way, way less by buying my own ingredients. Sometimes, there’s an odd spice or another ingredient I can’t find in our tiny town. I just skip it or substitute something else.
We just flip through the stack of recipes and pick one at random. Then I check to make sure we don’t have five steak dinners planned for one week (these services do a lot of steaks, which is delicious… but, well, probably not super healthy). Then I make a grocery list and either order it online for curbside pickup or go old-school and go to the store. Even if the cart ends up with some extras and impulse buys, we still come out ahead. And we can re-subscribe any time we want.
What a time to be alive! 🙂
Hey, if you’re not using Ebates yet, you’re missing out on big, fat checks every quarter for buying stuff you’d already buy anyway. If you click on my link, you’ll get an extra $10 when you spend $25, and I’ll get a little finders fee (totally buying bacon with that, yo!)