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Dinnerly vs. HelloFresh: What's the Difference?

Dinnerly vs. HelloFresh

How Does the Most Popular Subscription Meal Kit Stack Up Against the Most Affordable?

Meal kit delivery services come in all different shapes and sizes. Whether you’re vegetarian, gluten-free, counting your calories, or simply looking for tasty meals that save you time in the kitchen, there’s sure to be a subscription that’s right for you. In this article, we’re going to look at two popular meal delivery services to see how they stack up: Dinnerly and HelloFresh.

HelloFresh is one of the most popular services, and Dinnerly is one of the most affordable. In many ways, they’re very similar. They both send recipes and all the fresh ingredients you need to make healthy meals at home in your own kitchen. But since HelloFresh is pricier, you might wonder, “is the extra cost worth it?” Likewise, what extra bells and whistles are you missing out on if you subscribe to Dinnerly? Well, today, I’m going to look at these two boxes side-by-side to see how they compare. Read on to find out more about the food, recipes, packaging, cooking process, and more!

by Lindsey Morse, Taste-Tester Extraordinaire
November 18, 2020| Leave a comment

Dinnerly vs. HelloFresh

In order to get a full and complete picture of what these boxes have to offer, I’m going to compare them in a number of different ways. Here are the categories I’ll focus on: flavors, recipes, ingredients, accommodations for special diets, packaging, price, and overall convenience. If you’d like to jump to a particular section or skip straight to my final verdict, you can use the table of contents on the left to navigate. If you want the whole, unedited story, keep on reading!

Here’s what I’ve found to be the most notable differences (and similarities) between these two meal kit services:

The Food

When looking at any meal kit subscription service, I always like to start with the food. (Because if the food isn’t tasty… well, I’m not sticking around.) The good news is that both of these boxes consistently serve up dishes that are tasty, but the food is very different.

Image from our review.

Dinnerly is one of the most affordable meal kits on the market, and that’s certainly reflected in the food. Now, I don’t mean that in a bad way. The food is GOOD, but I wouldn’t describe it as restaurant quality; it’s more like solid home cooking. The recipes are simple and straightforward, and the majority of the meals fall into the category of modern American classics. Think Pan-Roasted Chicken & Gravy with Rosemary Homefries, One-Pot Tortelloni Florentine with Quick Marinara Sauce, and Seared Steak with Scalloped Potatoes. Sometimes you’ll see international flavors or surprising combinations pop up, but expect most recipes to be familiar classics or twists on traditional dishes (most menus contain at least one pasta dish, a burger, and tacos). If you’re a picky eater, feeding a family, or like no-frills cooking, I can see the food from Dinnerly working well for you.

Image from our review.

With HelloFresh, the food is more elevated. The dishes are still on the familiar side of adventurous, but they feel like something you might see on the menu at a cozy cafe. Expect to see recipes like Ancho BBQ Sloppy Joes with Pickle Slices & Oven Gold Potatoes, and Pork & Caramelized Pineapple Tacos with Pickled Veggies & Lime Crema. Taking a step back to look at the larger subscription meal box universe, both of these companies design recipes that skew “classic” and “family-friendly,” but comparing them head-to-head I think HelloFresh is bolder and a bit more exciting. The high-quality recipes have that special polish that makes them feel like they were designed by a professional chef.

If you’d like to keep an eye on upcoming menus, check out my weekly menu roundup! Every Monday, I take a look at what’s coming up on the menu for DinnerlyHelloFresh, and more (including Home Chef, Blue Apron, EveryPlate, and Green Chef)!

 

What about portion sizes? 

Portion sizes are pretty important to me. I always look for dinners that leave me full and satisfied, and I’ve been known to get cranky if I leave the table still hungry. In my experience, HelloFresh portion sizes tend to be spot on. I rarely have much food left on my plate when I’m full, but I’m also rarely disappointed that there isn’t more to eat. Dinnerly, on the other hand, is less predictable. Some recipes are a little on the light side. One recent example is a meat and broccoli dish that included 5 oz of meat with 4 oz of veg. The recipe suggested cooking up a side of potatoes (not provided), and I think that’s more in line with how much I’d usually eat for dinner. On the other hand, some Dinnerly recipes offer twice the food for the same price, which is a great deal. (Dinner + leftovers for the price of a single serving? That’s awesome!) My advice is to check the recipes before ordering, so you can plan on serving an extra side if you think you’ll need it to help pad out the meal.

The Menu & Meal Plans

Both Dinnerly and HelloFresh have menus that rotate and change weekly. You can log into your account to view upcoming recipes, and you’re welcome to pick and choose which meals you’d like to receive. I’m also happy to report that both subscriptions have a pretty large menu: Dinnerly has around 18 entrees available each week, and HelloFresh offers 23 to choose from.

Image via Dinnerly.

Each week, Dinnerly publishes a menu with about 18 different meals to choose from. There are usually a handful of veggie options (you can sign up for the vegetarian plan to ensure your meals are meat-free), and recipes are labeled with tags like “kid-friendly,” “under 30 minutes,” “one-pot meal,” “dairy-free,” “no added gluten,” “healthy,” and “nutritious” to help you choose recipes that work best for your lifestyle. In addition to your weekly meals, you can purchase additional add-ons like ready-made dessert or additional proteins.

Menu via HelloFresh.

HelloFresh also has a substantial menu, with 23 different weekly recipes to choose from. You can sign up for the Classic Plan and pick out whichever recipes are calling your name, or you can customize your box to suit the following preferences: Beef-Free, Pork-Free, Seafood-Free, Veggie, Calorie Smart, Quick, Variety, and Family-Friendly. Selecting one of these customization options won’t change the menu that’s available, but it will ensure that the recipes that are auto-selected for you are ones that will work for your diet. (Note that you can always override these preferences and choose whichever meals you like.)

The Recipes

Recipes are more or less a necessity when it comes to meal kits: without a specially-designed recipe, you’re really just getting a box of groceries. How well a recipe is written and how easy it is to follow can make or break your meal experience. Luckily, both Dinnerly and HelloFresh are on their game when it comes to recipes. Let’s look at each one in a bit more detail:

Image via Dinnerly.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Dinnerly is one of the most wallet-friendly meal kit subscriptions, and they’re able to keep their prices low by taking a simple approach in certain areas… like this one. Whereas most boxes send a glossy, full-color recipe card, Dinnerly recipes are all digital. Personally, I have zero problems with this. I’m all for saving paper, and I don’t mind reading a recipe on my phone or computer while I’m cooking. (If you prefer to have a paper recipe, you can always print it out at home.)

Image via Dinnerly.

Along with the recipe itself, the digital card lists cooking time, difficulty level, basic nutritional info, and allergens. In my experience, the recipes from Dinnerly are quick and very easy to follow. The meals are more streamlined than the average box, which simplifies the cooking process. Fewer ingredients = less chopping & cleaning.

HelloFresh is more traditional in the recipe department. Every dish is accompanied by a two-sided recipe card. Each card outlines calorie info, ingredients, difficulty level, items you’ll need to prepare the dish, easy to follow instructions and full-color pictures to accompany each step. I’m a visual learner, so I appreciate having photos to reference throughout the cooking process. But if you happen to run into a question or get stumped while cooking, you don’t need to worry. HelloFresh prints their phone number at the bottom of every recipe, and you’re welcome to call and ask for help.

I’m a pretty confident cook, but even if you’re a cooking novice I think you’ll be happy with the recipes from both of these subscriptions. In my experience, the instructions have always been clear and straightforward, and you can opt for recipes with lower levels of difficulty if you’re a cooking newbie. One tip: regardless of which box you choose and how comfortable you are in the kitchen, I always recommend taking a peek at the full recipe before adding a meal to your box.

Plans & Pricing

When you look at the price points of Dinnerly and HelloFresh, it’s no contest. Dinnerly is the more affordable option by a mile. Both subscriptions charge a flat $8.99 shipping fee, but Dinnerly starts at $4.29 per serving and the average price of a HelloFresh meal is $8.99.

Regardless of which subscription you choose, you’ll likely find a plan that works for you. Whether you’re after a family menu or just looking for a two-person plan, both subscriptions have you covered. You can choose the number of meals you’ll receive in every order.

HelloFresh delivers to the contiguous United States. Dinnerly ships to most zip codes in the contiguous United States (you can find out if Dinnerly ships to you by entering your zip code at signup). Neither company ships to Hawaii or Alaska.

Here’s a full outline of all the available plans with pricing:

Dinnerly Plans & Pricing

Image via Dinnerly.

  • 2 Person Plans:
    • 3 meals per week, 2 servings each, for $29.94 + $8.99 shipping
    • 4 meals per week, 2 servings each, for $39.12 + $8.99 shipping
    • 5 meals per week, 2 servings each, for $47.90 + $8.99 shipping
    • 6 meals per week, 2 servings each, for $55.08 + $8.99 shipping
  • 4 Person Family Plans:
    • 3 meals per week, 4 servings each, for $59.88 + $8.99 shipping
    • 4 meals per week, 4 servings each, for $75.04 + $8.99 shipping
    • 5 meals per week, 4 servings each, for $89.80 + $8.99 shipping
    • 6 meals per week, 4 servings each, for $102.96 + $8.99 shipping

Dinnerly 

HelloFresh Plans & Pricing

Image via HelloFresh.

  • 2 Person Plans:
    • 3 meals per week, 2 servings each:
      • $53.94 + $8.99 shipping
    • 4 meals per week, 2 servings each:
      • $71.92 + $8.99 shipping
    • 5 meals per week, 2 serving each:
      • $89.90 + $8.99 shipping
  • 4 Person Family Plans:
    • 2 meals per week, 4 servings each:
      • $71.92 + $8.99 shipping
    • 3 meals per week, 4 servings each:
      • $89.88 + $8.99 shipping
    • 4 meals per week, 4 servings each:
      • $119.84 + $8.99 shipping

Save on your first order with our coupons! Don’t forget to use them when signing up!

HelloFresh COUPON: Expiring Soon! save up to $90 off your first five Hello Fresh orders! No coupon needed - just use this link.

Dietary Restrictions

If you follow a special diet or have food allergies, finding the right meal kit can be tricky. Depending on your specific requirements and dietary preferences, Dinnerly or HelloFresh might be able to accommodate your dietary needs. Let’s take a look at how each subscription handles their ingredients and whether their plans might work for you:

Special Diets

Dinnerly is pretty bare-bones when it comes to accommodating special diets. There are a handful of vegetarian options available each week, but otherwise, Dinnerly does not cater specifically to special diets or allergies. No paleo, low-carb, keto, pescatarian, or high-protein menus to be found here. That said, you may still find recipes that work for you, but you’ll need to check ingredients to make sure.

With HelloFresh, you can customize your subscription to be Beef-Free, Pork-Free, Seafood-Free, Veggie, Family-Friendly, Calorie Smart, or Quick. As with Dinnerly, you won’t find a lot of other accommodations for special diets, but you may still be able to make the menu work for you. Vegans, for example, may be able to omit dairy from the vegetarian recipes, but none of the meals offered are guaranteed to be gluten-free, dairy-free, or nut-free.

Food Allergies

I take food allergies very seriously, and I’m pleased that Dinnerly and HelloFresh do, too.

Dinnerly is very upfront about their menu: some offerings are adjusted to omit major allergens, but they do not yet offer full menus that are allergy-friendly. All of their ingredients are processed in the same facility, and they therefore can not guarantee against cross-contamination. They also point out that sometimes ingredient substitutions are unavoidable, though they will always alert subscribers of any changes.

As one of the most popular meal kit subscriptions, HelloFresh is large enough to be able to operate as a large grocery store would. Ingredients are often received and held in the original packaging, and additionally, foods are segregated in the processing facility which protects against cross-contamination. HelloFresh‘s dedicated nutrition team reviews every single recipe and looks for the 8 major allergens: wheat, milk, soy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, and shellfish. If any ingredient contains any of these, they make sure to make a note of it online next to the recipe. Still, they leave it up to customers to review the recipes and ingredient labels to ensure they’re avoiding any off-limit foods.

I think this is advice to live by. It’s always good practice to read through recipes thoroughly and use your best discretion, especially if your allergies are severe!

The Ingredients

Sourcing

Image from our review.

Dinnerly doesn’t have a ton to say about how they source ingredients. On their website, they keep things short and sweet: “We work with folks we trust so you’re always cooking with the freshest fruits and veggies and highest quality proteins.” In practice, you can expect fresh and tasty ingredients, but you won’t see a lot of organic produce or gold-standard, ethically-raised meats. (To be fair, at under $5 per serving, I wouldn’t expect to.)

Check out my review of Hello Fresh for June 2017!

Image from our review.

With HelloFresh, some of their ingredients are organic, but not all of them. The emphasis is really on making home cooking healthier and ensuring a positive cooking experience. The impression I get is that HelloFresh wants to help people eat better and consume more fruits and veggies – it’s just not a priority that they’re grown organically. Standards are a bit stricter when it comes to meat and seafood, though. Fish is all sustainably-sourced, and meat suppliers must adhere to USDA Inspection Guidelines as well as third-party food safety audit programs. All pork and chicken is hormone-free, and HelloFresh representatives visit every meat vendor to ensure facilities are safe.

Use-By Dates

As soon as your Dinnerly box is delivered, you should unpack everything and refrigerate the perishable items to help keep things fresh. Seafood dishes should be prioritized and eaten in the first 1 or 2 days. Chicken and ground meat dishes should be consumed within 2-3 days. Other meat dishes and veggies should stay fresh up until day 5.

With HelloFresh, the recommendation is to freeze your proteins as soon as they arrive to keep them fresher longer and to only thaw what you need a few hours before cooking. Once thawed, the meat should be used within 5 days and seafood should be used within 2.

The Packaging

A fair amount of packaging is required to get perishable items safely to your front door, but I’m happy to report that both Dinnerly and HelloFresh recognize that and do what they can to limit the environmental impact of their delivery boxes.

Image from our review.

Dinnerly has a page on its website dedicated to recycling, and the outer box, plastic ingredient packaging, parts of the box liner, and outside plastic part of the ice pack can all be recycled. I’m glad to see that a subscription so committed to saving money hasn’t pinched pennies by using packaging that isn’t earth-friendly.

Check out my review of Hello Fresh for June 2017!

Image from our review.

HelloFresh boxes can also be recycled along with the separator, meal kits, and honeycomb liners. They also have a page on their website that helps identify what packaging can go where. Gel ice packs can be recycled after emptying the gel filler into the trash can, summer liners can be taken to the recycling center, and winter liners go in the trash can.

Modifications & Cancellations

You can easily adjust your delivery schedule or stop your subscription with both Dinnerly and HelloFresh. It’s easy to make updates on the website, and you can even cancel your subscription online (without having to call and speak to someone).

Deadlines for Order Changes:

Want to make changes to your menu or change your delivery day? Both subscriptions allow for order changes up until the week before delivery. Here are the specific cutoff deadlines for making changes to your upcoming deliveries:

With Dinnerly, your order cutoff depends on where you live, but you’ll have 5 or 6 days before your delivery to make changes.

HelloFresh requires that all changes are made by 11.59 pm PST 5 days prior to your next scheduled delivery.

The Final Verdict

Still on the fence about which box is right for you? Let’s take one final look at how they match up:

Price? If you’re looking for a low-cost box that will save you as much money as possible, Dinnerly is a clear choice. Dinnerly starts at $4.29 per serving and the average price of a HelloFresh meal is $8.99. (You’ll always pay $8.99 shipping costs with both.) That said, the old adage is true: you get what you pay for. If you’re willing and able to pay a bit more for HelloFresh, you can get more elevated cuisine, higher-quality ingredients, and printed recipe cards. There’s no question that Dinnerly is the more affordable option, but I still think HelloFresh offers good value for money.

Taste? HelloFresh comes out on top here, in my opinion. While both subscriptions deliver tasty meals, the food from HelloFresh is more exciting and just a little bit better. Dinnerly meals are like solid home cooking, but very often HelloFresh is restaurant-quality. If you like simple foods and straightforward recipes, you’ll probably be pleased with Dinnerly (if you’re looking to feed four people or more, it’s my pick for the best all-around family box), but if you’re looking for a meal kit subscription that will take the place of dining out, I think you’ll be happier with HelloFresh.

Recipes? The recipes from both companies are straightforward and easy to follow. Overall, you can’t go wrong with either, but there is an important difference to call out. Dinnerly recipes are virtual, so you won’t get a paper copy in your box like you would with HelloFresh. You’ll find essential information (like nutrition info, allergens, difficulty rating, and ingredients) on both, but if you really like having a paper copy of the recipe, you might miss that with Dinnerly. (Of course, the flip side of that is also true. If you’re used to cooking from recipes you find on your phone or computer, you might prefer digital recipes and find paper ones unnecessary.)

Ingredients? You can count on both companies to send fresh and tasty ingredients, but if you care about where your food comes from you might appreciate that HelloFresh is more likely to send organic produce (note that HelloFresh does not guarantee organic produce, but will occasionally include it) and that they are more dedicated to sourcing sustainably-sourced seafood.

Special Diet? This category is tricky. Depending on exactly what your needs are, either box might work for you. Let’s break it down. If you’re looking for vegetarian meals, in search of low-calorie entrees, or avoiding pork, beef, or seafood, HelloFresh‘s customization options should work for you. With Dinnerly, vegetarians will find meal options that work for them, but the menu is not designed with other special diets or allergies in mind. That said, it might still work for you, but you’ll need to check the recipes closely and decide for yourself.

Convenience? When it comes to convenience, I have to call it a tie. Both subscriptions offer pre-portioned ingredients that are grouped by meal, easy to follow recipes, and user-friendly online portals. They’re both extremely convenient and will save you the time it takes to go grocery shopping.

 

Final Thoughts: If you’re looking for affordable meals that are simple and tasty, you won’t find a better box than Dinnerly. It’s a great choice for families and those on a budget. But if you have a bit more to spend, I think HelloFresh is worth the additional cost. (There’s a reason why it’s so popular!)


Ready to skip takeout this week and give one of these boxes a try? Check out our HelloFresh and Dinnerly offers to score some free meals!

Dinnerly 

HelloFresh COUPON: Expiring Soon! save up to $90 off your first five Hello Fresh orders! No coupon needed - just use this link.


Have you tried one (or both) of these meal kits? Share your experience in the comments!

Written by Lindsey Morse

Lindsey Morse

Lindsey is a professional baker, cold brew coffee addict, and rosé aficionado who loves writing about food and wine. When she’s not sharing her love of subscription boxes with the world, you’ll find her in the podcasting studio, perfecting her cake decorating techniques, or cursing her way through the New York Times daily crossword puzzle.

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