Will this recipe box delivery save you money?
Convenient, tasty, nutritionally balanced and easy to make. Sounds perfect, but is there a catch when it comes to recipe box deliveries and how much extra will you pay for convenience? We look at a major player in this field, HelloFresh and explore the real value.
How does HelloFresh work?
HelloFresh is a subscription recipe box company. You pay a set cost for between 2-5 meals a week, which can be paused at any time. Then select the recipes that take your fancy and the recipe box containing all the ingredients, pre-portioned and packaged bar a few cupboard staples, is delivered to your door.
Then it’s up to you to follow the simple recipe to make a meal without having to buy all the individual ingredients at the supermarket. Since you only get what you use, there’s virtually no waste apart from the packaging of which some is plastic, but the amount does depend on the recipe you order.
How much does HelloFresh cost?
Convenience, inspiration, less food waste and time saved shopping and sourcing ingredients are all big pluses for HelloFresh, but when it comes to cost, does it offer value for money?
The following table shows the cost per portion (including shipping costs) and is correct as of January 2024.
|Recipes per week
|Number of people
|Not available to order
HelloFresh knows that a recipe box is very different from shopping for the ingredients yourself, so they have lots of welcome offers to encourage you to try it.
At the time of writing you could get 60% off your first box plus free shipping and 20% for the next two months plus free treats for life.
Even better, go through a cashback site like Quidco or TopCashback as there’s nearly always cashback for HelloFresh on top of the discounts they offer. You could end up with around 90% off, if not more.
If you’ve already tried Hello Fresh keep an eye out for bounce back offers. We list the best deals we spot over on our food and drink deals page.
HelloFresh costs vs the supermarket
To assess whether or not the subscription boxes offer good value, I compared the ingredients in a vegetarian recipe and a meat recipe to the price of ingredients from Tesco, as Tesco sits in the middle when ranked for price against other UK supermarkets.
Of course this difference will vary for every meal, but it’s a good indicator of how it stacks up.
If we take the cheapest option with HelloFresh – five meals a week for four people, this is £67.98 and the cost per head (without welcome discounts) for each meal is therefore £3.40.
Looking at a creamy pasta primavera recipe and comparing the price of ingredients from Tesco, the same ingredients plus spare leftovers since they are not pre-portioned like HelloFresh, come in at £2.09 per head and you have lots leftovers that can be used in other meals including frozen peas, stock pots and pasta. So it costs £1.31 per head more to get this dish via HelloFresh than Tesco.
As meat is an expensive ingredient, then it is only fair to compare the recipe cost of a meaty dish from HelloFresh to ingredients from Tesco too. The cost of a chicken teriyaki meal from HelloFresh costs the same as the non-meat dish, so that’s £3.40 per head on the cheapest subscription.
This time there was less of a difference, with the cost of all the ingredients from Tesco at £3.10 – so only a 30p difference per head. Though again, there are leftover ingredients like rice and sesame seeds.
That’s either a 30p or £1.31 difference per portion. You might not think that’s too much, but if we take just the smaller amount, that’s £6 per week (there are 20 portions in the cheapest box) or £312 a year. That jumps up to a huge £1,362 a year for a family of four vegetarians!
And if you ordered fewer boxes each week then the difference is going to be even larger! The table below shows you the cheapest, middle and most expensive per portion costs from Hello Fresh (excluding any upgrades).
|Hello Fresh cost per portion (5 meals for 4 people)
|Tesco cost per portion (4 people)
|Hello Fresh cost per portion (4 meals for 3 people)
|Tesco cost per portion (3 people)
|Hello Fresh cost per portion (3 meals for 2 people)
|Tesco cost per portion (2 people)
|Creamy pasta primavera
|£2.09 (£1.31 difference)
|£2.90 (£1.60) difference)
|£4.08 (£1.75 difference)
|£3.10 (30p difference)
|£3.67 (£1.17 difference)
|£4.53 (£1.30 difference)
And don’t forget you can bring the cost of recipes down further by buying some ingredients in bulk at the supermarket such as rice and pasta.
HelloFresh costs vs other recipes
Let’s say you don’t mind paying the equivalent of 30p a portion for all the other benefits that come from HelloFresh. Perhaps even £1 is fine by you. Fair enough.
Well, another comparison you can look at is whether you’d save even more money with different recipes. You don’t have to go full lentils and baked beans for a cheap meal.
Tinned food, dried food and frozen food often make recipes even cheaper too. In fact, there are so many recipes online that are developed around value that finding inspiration is easy. My favourite budget recipe inspiration at the moment comes from Waitrose, delicious and the blogger Thrifty Lesley.
HelloFresh costs vs takeaways and convenience meals
You might be using HelloFresh as an alternative to ordering via Deliveroo or Uber Eats and in that case the savings you’ll make against equivalent choices are probably going to be huge, and you’ll probably get healthier meals too.
But if we pit HelloFresh against some ready meals close in quality to HelloFresh, such as Charlie Bingham and Cook or meal kits such as those by Scratch, you’ll pay less per person for HelloFresh for larger familie
If you’re a couple, then you might find a Charlie Bigham lasagne for two costs less than the recipe box – and it’s more convenient too as you just need to pop it in the oven.
Some meals will be cheaper at Cook too and the Scratch meal kits work out around £3.75 per head at the time of writing so again beat HelloFresh the majority of the time.
Does HelloFresh deliver when it comes to cost?
Though we only looked at two recipes, if it’s replicated across the board, then HelloFresh will be costing you more money than buying your own ingredients and following the exact same recipe. And it’ll cost even more than doing a little research for cheaper yet still tasty alternatives.
So it’s never going to be a budget option. And the fewer meals you buy and the more vegetarian choices you select, the larger the price premium is.
But most people using HelloFresh don’t expect to save money. It does offer value with regards to giving you some time back rather than thinking about what you’re going to cook and then sourcing the ingredients.
When you want tasty inspiration, pre-portioned ingredients and delivery to your doorstep, then recipe boxes from HelloFresh can be a helping hand you might want to pay a little extra for.
However, there are some ways to boost the value from each box you order, which we’ve listed below.
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Tips to get the best value out of your HelloFresh box
Pick more meat and fish dishes
Meat, fish and other proteins are usually the expensive components of a meal so it makes sense to pick a recipe with meat or fish if you are wanting to get greater value from your recipe box. Just to note, HelloFresh has some recipes with ingredients such as steak, where you’ll pay a premium on top of the regular price.
As the plans work out cheaper the more meals you order, then ordering for one or two persons is a pricier option. The cost if you order five meals a week for two people is £4.80 per meal per head whilst if you order the same for 4 people it is just £3.40. It may be worth looking into ordering for more and cooking and freezing the leftovers which would save you ordering every week.
Ordering for one isn’t even an option, so you would have to look for recipes you would enjoy twice!
Use discounts and referral codes
Don’t forget those discount codes to keep the cost of your recipe boxes down for as long as possible. If you’ve taken a break from HelloFresh (perhaps to try a different provider), keep an eye on emails that might have an offer to tempt you back in.
Tips for larger families
HelloFresh only allows you to order for two, three or four people. You can’t add on an extra person which means you’re a little stuck if you’d like to order for more people.
I have a family of five but I could only order for four or I could have ordered for two and three at the same time but would have paid a premium doing so. Unfortunatel,y there’s no perfect solution to this apart from ordering two lots of four person recipes and cooking more than needed and having leftovers.
Or you could switch to a competitor like Gousto that allows you to order for five but if you’re an even larger family, then this doesn’t work either!
Are HelloFresh recipe boxes healthy?
The meals are nutritionally balanced so you know just what you are getting. Calories are clearly shown on each recipe and you’re able to select meals for certain dietary preferences including low calorie, high protein and healthy options.
So are HelloFresh meals healthy? In the main yes, but there’s a shortage of high fibre ingredients like wholegrain options for rice and pasta and some of the vegetarian meals lack a variety of proteins and the vegan meals even more so. But for your run of the mill everyday meals, they are pretty healthy and you can always serve the meals with a side of vegetables for an extra nutrient boost.
I ordered chicken teriyaki for four – this was so easy to cook following the recipe card and the portions were just right for four. And bonus points as everyone loved it!
As I mentioned earlier, this recipe would have cost more than buying the ingredients from the supermarket if I hadn’t used a welcome discount code. But since I was able to save on the first box it was actually a super cheap dinner for us!
Going forward I am more likely to source the ingredients from my local supermarket to save money. If I wasn’t such a frequent visitor to the supermarket then using HelloFresh would be a hassle-free service I would definitely use on occasion to make mealtimes simple and fuss free.