Freshly vs. HelloFresh
Comparing two very different subscription meal kits.
Meal kit delivery services are more popular than ever. There are kits designed for vegans, subscriptions for those who prefer to eat organic, boxes for those on a budget... there really is something out there for everyone. But how do you find the right one for you? In this article, we're going to look at two very different meal delivery services to see what they each have to offer: Freshly and HelloFresh.
Freshly is one of the most convenient meal delivery services, and HelloFresh is one of the most popular. In some ways, they're very similar. They both send everything you need to get dinner on the table quickly and easily, saving you time menu planning and grocery shopping. But Freshly meals arrived cooked, pre-portioned, and ready to be reheated and eaten. With HelloFresh, on the other hand, you'll receive chef-designed recipes and all of the pre-portioned ingredients to cook up a tasty dinner yourself. In this article, I'm going to look at these subscriptions side-by-side to see how they stack up. Want to know more about the food, recipes, packaging, convenience factor, and more? Read on!
Freshly vs. HelloFresh
To really get an idea of what these subscriptions bring to the table (pun intended), I'm going to compare them in a number of different categories. I'll start out by looking at the food, and then move on to discuss the menu, recipes, ingredients, accommodations for special diets, packaging, price, and convenience level. If you'd like to learn more about a particular category or skip to the end to see my final recommendations, you can use the table of contents on the left. If you want the full and complete picture, let's go!
Here’s what I've found to be the most notable differences (and similarities) between these two meal kit services:
Whenever I look at a meal subscription service, I think it's important to always talk about the food first. As far as I'm concerned, a subscription can have all the bells and whistles in the world, but if the food is just ho-hum, I'm not going to be that interested. Taste is a BIG DEAL to me. With that in mind, I'm happy to report that both of these subscriptions consistently send meals that are tasty. That said, due to the nature of each service, the food is pretty different. Let's dive in, so you can see what I mean.
Freshly is a meal delivery service (vs. a meal kit delivery service), so instead of receiving a box of ingredients and recipes to cook meals yourself at home, your box will be packed with fresh meals that are ready to heat and eat. The menu is full of classic comfort foods (like Sicilian-Style Chicken Parm with Broccoli), global dishes (like Chicken Tikka Masala with Seven-Spice Vegetable Biryani), and plenty of healthy options (like Very Verde Chicken with Sautéed Greens & Charred Cauliflower). The offerings remind me of the meals I see in my grocery's frozen food section, but Freshly lives up to its name. The meals are fresh (never frozen). I think the food is better than your run-of-the-mill frozen meal, and I find the recipes a bit more enticing. Freshly uses some of the same healthy tricks I rely on when cooking for myself, which I really like. Things like lightening up mashed potatoes by sneaking in some cauliflower, occasionally subbing spaghetti squash for pasta, and blending veggies into marinara sauce for a punch of extra nutrients. Due to the nature of the service, you won't see salads or raw garnishes on the menu, but that's to be expected with prepared foods of this nature. Overall, I'm not sure I'd describe the food as restaurant quality (maybe like restaurant leftovers), but it's certainly an upgrade from Stouffer's or Lean Cuisine. If you're looking for tasty (and kid-friendly!) meals that will be ready in the time it takes to zap food in the microwave, I think you'll really like Freshly.
HelloFresh is a more traditional meal kit delivery service. You pick out your meals online and then receive a box with recipes and all of the ingredients you need to cook up the delicious meals yourself at home. You can expect to see recipes like Ancho BBQ Sloppy Joes with Pickle Slices & Oven Gold Potatoes, Persian Spiced Cauliflower and Quinoa Bowl, and Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Sweet Potato and Crispy Green Beans. With HelloFresh, I find the food is often on the familiar side of adventurous; relatable, and yet a little surprising. The dishes feel like something I'd see on the menu at a cozy cafe. 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 see what's coming up on HelloFresh's menu, check out my weekly menu roundup! Every Monday, I take a look at what's coming up on the menu at Home Chef, HelloFresh, Blue Apron, EveryPlate, Green Chef, and more!
What about portion sizes?
I'm one of those people who likes eating a big dinner, so portion sizes are important to me. In my experience, HelloFresh portions tend to be spot on. I find it's usually just the right amount to fill me up; not too little, not too much. Freshly portions are sometimes a little bit smaller, but I think that's par for the course with packaged, prepared meals. I will say that I find Freshly meals a bit more substantial than your average frozen meal, but I still think they're more in line portion-wise with lunch or a light dinner. At least for me. Personally, I like to pair Freshly meals with a side salad at dinner time.
The Menu & Meal Plans
Both Freshly and HelloFresh have menus that change up every week. To view upcoming meal options and pick which weekly recipes you'd like to receive, simply sign in to your account. The user portals on both sites make meal selection easy. And, with both subscriptions, you'll have plenty of options to choose from: Freshly has around 30+ entrees available each week, whereas HelloFresh offers 23 to choose from.
Each week Freshly offers over 30 different healthy meals to choose from. There aren't specific meal plans to sign up for when you subscribe, but with so many meal options each week there's a fair amount of choice to accommodate different styles of eating (like low-calorie and low-carb). Every week, you'll find 8-10 meals that are dairy-free, 8-10 meals with fewer than 35 grams of carbs, and 20+ meals under 500 calories. Every single meal is gluten and peanut-free. Currently, no meals are vegan or vegetarian. All meals are designed with the following principles in mind: less sugar, less processed food, and more nutrients.
With HelloFresh, you'll find a weekly menu that's stacked with 23 different meals. If you sign up for the Classic Plan, you can pick whichever recipes are calling your name. You're also welcome to customize your box with 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.)
With meal kits like those sent by HelloFresh, recipes are a necessity. Clear, easy to follow instructions are essential if you want to turn a heap of ingredients into a restaurant-quality meal. With a meal delivery service like Freshly, however, where the food is cooked and ready to be reheated, things are a little different. In this section, I'm mostly going to focus on the recipes from HelloFresh, but we'll also take a quick look at what information Freshly provides about each meal and what the reheating instructions are like.
Since Freshly meals come pre-cooked and ready to warm up, there's really no need for a recipe, but you will need heating instructions. You'll find those printed on the back of each package. Since microwaves vary, you may find you need slightly more or less time than average. If you're unsure, start by zapping for 2 minutes, and then continue with 30-second increments until your food is piping hot. If you want a little bit more information about the dish (ingredients, flavors, that kind of thing), you'll find a little write up for each dish on the website.
HelloFresh sends a two-sided recipe card to accompany every meal you receive in your box. Every card outlines calorie info, ingredients, difficulty level, items you'll need to prepare the dish, and easy-to-follow instructions. I've found that the recipes are very clearly written and easy to follow, but if you run into any issues midway through the cooking process, there's a support number printed on the card that you can call for help. If you're a cooking novice, you can always pick recipes with a low level of difficulty, but I think even the more difficult recipes set you up for success by clearly walking you through the steps. One tip: regardless of 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
Despite being quite different, Freshly and HelloFresh are fairly similar in price. Freshly meals start at $8.49 per meal (if you only order a handful of meals, though, you'll pay more: 4 meals per week will run $11.49 each), and the average price of a HelloFresh meal is $8.99. You'll pay a shipping fee with both subscriptions.
Whether you're after a family menu or just looking for a two-person plan, HelloFresh should work for you. Freshly doesn't have family plans, per se, but you can order whatever number of meals you need to feed your crew.
HelloFresh delivers to the contiguous United States. Freshly ships to most zip codes in the contiguous United States (you can find out if Freshly 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:
Freshly Plans & Pricing
- 4 meals per week: $45.96 + $5.99 shipping
- 6 meals per week: $56.94 + $5.99 shipping
- 10 meals per week: $89.90 + $9.99 shipping
- 12 meals per week: $101.88 + $11.99 shipping
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HelloFresh Plans & Pricing
- 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
- 3 meals per week, 2 servings each:
- 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
- 2 meals per week, 4 servings each:
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Finding a meal delivery service that works for your special diet or food allergy can be tricky, but depending on your specific requirements and dietary preferences, these subscriptions might be able to accommodate your dietary needs. Let's take a closer look at each one:
Freshly does not design their meals to specifically suit any special diets. That said, all of their food is gluten-free and peanut-free, and most meals are low calorie. You won't find specially-designed diabetic, paleo, keto, or vegetarian menus; however, with so many different menu options available, you might still find meals that work for you. (You can set your dietary preferences to automatically filter meals.)
HelloFresh offers the following customization options: Beef-Free, Pork-Free, Seafood-Free, Veggie, Family-Friendly, Calorie Smart, Quick. As with Freshly, you won't find a lot of accommodations for special diets, but you might still be able to make the menu work for you. If you're a vegan, for example, you could order vegetarian meals and just skip the dairy, though if you're a vegan for ethical reasons this might be a deal-breaker. Pescatarians should find plenty of suitable choices, and there is a dedicated veggie plan, so expect to see vegetarian recipes on every menu. None of the meals offered are guaranteed to be gluten-free, dairy-free, or nut-free.
First things first: all Freshly meals are gluten-free and peanut-free. If you have celiac disease or a peanut allergy, it should come as good news that the Freshly kitchen neither stores nor handles wheat or peanut products. The kitchen does, however, handle the remaining big 6 allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and soy. Chefs are required to sanitize pots and change clothing after cooking with these ingredients, but they are not cooked in separate pans. To me, it sounds like Freshly takes reasonable precautions to prevent cross-contamination; however, if you have severe allergies I would recommend doing some more research and using your best judgment.
HelloFresh has grown into a monster of an operation, and with that size comes certain benefits. 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 has a dedicated nutrition team that reviews every recipe and looks for major allergens (wheat, milk, soy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, and shellfish), and any that are found are labeled clearly on 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 solid advice. It's always good practice to read through recipes thoroughly and use your best discretion, especially if your allergies are severe!
Freshly sources ingredients from the U.S. whenever possible (depending on seasonality, sometimes ingredients will come from abroad). Meats are free from fillers, chemical additives, and preservatives, and meals are free from processed sugars and artificial ingredients.
Some of the ingredients you receive from HelloFresh will be organic, but not all of them. 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.
Freshly meals are preservative-free, so you'll need to consume them fairly quickly after arrival. You'll find a use-by date on the back of every meal, but the rule of thumb is 4-5 days. If you ever find that you aren't able to finish the meals in time, you can always pop them in the freezer to preserve freshness. (Just make sure to reheat from frozen and add some extra time to ensure internal temperatures reach 165 degrees.)
HelloFresh recommends freezing 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, meat should be used within 5 days and seafood should be used within 2.
The boxes, plastic meal containers, and cardboard sleeves you receive in your Freshly shipment are all recyclable, and the insulation is largely biodegradable (it's made from recycled denim!). The gel ice packs can be recycled, too, just make sure you drain the contents into the trash can first. For additional information about recycling packaging from Freshly, you'll find a page on the website that provides more detail.
HelloFresh boxes can also be recycled along with the separator, meal kits, and honeycomb liners. And there's also a page on the website that helps identify what packaging can go where. In brief, 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 bin.
Modifications & Cancellations
Changing or canceling your order with some subscriptions can be a drag. (I HATE having to call and speak to someone in order to cancel!) Happily, both Freshly and HelloFresh make it easy. You can update your order, skip upcoming deliveries, or cancel your subscription online.
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 Freshly, 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
So, what do you think? Is one of these boxes calling your name? If you're still on the fence about which one might work best for you, let's take one final look at these subscriptions side-by-side:
Price? When it comes to price, these boxes are in the same ballpark; however, if you're only ordering a small number of servings then HelloFresh meals are notably more affordable. (Freshly meals decrease pretty significantly in cost the more you order.) But I can't leave it at that, because I feel like it's worth noting that judging meals from these companies is kinda like comparing apples and oranges. I mean, pre-made meals offer additional value that's worth taking into consideration, right? With that in mind, I think it's safe to say that HelloFresh meals cost less overall, but that both offer pretty good value for money.
Taste? HelloFresh wins this matchup, I think, but only by a nose. To be fair, both subscriptions deliver tasty meals, but I find that the food from HelloFresh is just a tad more exciting and a little better. Of course, it's hard to beat food that's freshly prepared, and part of me feels a wee bit guilty taking points away from Freshly for not being "home-cooked," when that's not what they're about. I will say this: Freshly is awesome. Their food may not beat HelloFresh's in a head to head, but it wins hands-down against similar ready-to-heat meals you'll find in your grocer's freezer section.
Ingredients? Both companies send food that's super fresh. In the case of HelloFresh, you'll receive good-quality produce (that's sometimes organic), sustainably-sourced seafood, and tasty meats. Freshly meals are made with fresh ingredients that are sourced from the U.S. whenever possible, and the food is free from processed sugars, artificial ingredients, and preservatives.
Special Diet? Depending on exactly what your needs are, either box might work for you. All of Freshly's meals are gluten and peanut-free, but you won't find dedicated menus for special diets. That said, you can adjust your dietary preferences to filter out any meals that won't work for you. But keep in mind that not all preferences will be supported; if you're a vegetarian, for example, you're out of luck. HelloFresh, on the other hand, does offer vegetarian options. HelloFresh also offers meals that are low-calorie, quick, and free from pork, beef, or seafood.
Convenience? When it comes to convenience, I think Freshly wins hands down. Step 1: open box. Step 2: remove meal. Step 3: heat in microwave. Step 4: eat. It doesn't get any more convenient than that. But if you have time to cook in the evenings, HelloFresh certainly streamlines the process.
Final Thoughts: If you need dinner on the table fast, Freshly has you covered. Their meals are super convenient, and I appreciate the dedication to quality food and healthy recipes. When I'm slammed and don't have time to cook, I'll sometimes rely on expensive takeout and quick, unhealthy grub. I like that Freshly helps me avoid those pitfalls. But when I do have the time to cook, I really enjoy meals from HelloFresh. The food is delicious, the recipes are easy to follow, and I enjoy the ritual of making dinner in the evening. For me, it's not necessarily a case of "one or the other," but rather "which one do I have time for this week."
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Have you tried one (or both) of these meal kits? Share your experience in the comments!