Hello Fresh versus Freshly. I spent the last 6 weeks field testing all of the meal planning and meal delivery services out there.
I try to do this every year, so I have the most updated information as they change and get better.
Because. When we talk about automation (removing yourself from the running of the house), I get more and more questions about Hello Fresh versus Freshly, meal planning services, and dinner delivery services than anything else.
And I get the most pushback there too.
When You Think You Can’t Afford It
I’ve heard so many times… “I know it’s easier, but I’m in debt up to my eyeballs”… “I can’t afford to spend extra money for delivery.”
But when we do the hard work and actually calculate their spending for the last month of a delivery like Hello Fresh versus Freshly …
The same people who are are setting their acceptable grocery budget at $650, are routinely spending over $1,200 to feed their families.
This is a super common problem I have to work through with students in Hot Mess to Home Success.
Because on paper, if you’re drowning in debt, trying to save money, and need to spend less… paying extra for grocery delivery or a meal planning service just doesn’t make sense.
But in practice, almost without fail…. If you do this right, you significantly reduce your spending, reduce your stress level, and have more free time to reward yourself (which gives you the bonus of motivating you to do more things like this).
Automating dinner is SO easy now. When we first tested it years ago, we had to pay a small fortune for already prepared and refrigerated foods to be picked up at the gym near our house on Mondays and Thursdays.
There wasn’t a lot of selection to swap out foods you don’t like and if you had allergies, this wasn’t an option for you.
I had just started working with my personality but this was a huge leap of faith for me. I had no idea if it would work, but I thought it might.
We reduced our grocery spending by $500 that first month, lost about 10 pounds each, and I had significantly more time to spend doing things I enjoyed or tackling other areas I was struggling in.
But, this only works if you do meal automation the right way….
Because there’s a lot of people that screw this up, waste a ton of money, and don’t understand why other people sing its praises.
Let me give you a quick rundown on how to do this right.
The easiest way to automate is buying already cooked and prepared fresh foods. It’s almost fool-proof.
While Hello Fresh and Blue Apron sound fun (perfectly proportioned raw ingredients sent to your house with recipes already planned and ready to be cooked by you), they save you a marginal amount of time and not much money.
You still need to cook dinner for 30-45 minutes a night, but now if you can’t get motivated to do that… you waste the $8.99 per serving dinner you paid for that’s rotting in the fridge… that’s not helpful.
And you still might end up eating out. If you have an awful, stressful day and you’re driving home thinking about the potatoes you now have to mince or the carrots you have to peel when you get home as you pass the beckoning light of the Chick-fil-A… it’s going to be hard not to pull in.
To make matters worse…
If you had just skipped ordering Blue Apron (or whatever), you would have paid less at the Chick-fil-A and had no kitchen clean up or time wasted cooking.
Which was probably what you were trying to avoid when you ordered Blue Apron.
Isn’t it ironic? (Don’t you think?)
I should note that for people who LOVE to cook and find it relaxing and that have margins in their day to allow for cooking… meal planning services with ingredient delivery like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron can be a great choice.
If you love to cook, Hello Fresh versus Freshly might not really be a choice.
The vast majority of our readers though don’t have the extra time and end up wasting money with those services.
So… What are better ways to automate?
I’ll start with the easiest…
Best For Complete Meal Automation: Freshly
This is for full meal automation at a controlled cost for people with no time or desire to cook.
Freshly delivers already cooked and refrigerated meals to your house once a week. Each dish has an expiration date on it, so either eat it by that date or stick it in the freezer to be eaten later (all of their meals can be frozen). You’re simply reheating each meal in the microwave.
A common concern here is… isn’t this just an expensive tv dinner?
Not even close. The food tastes (and is) fresh. And most of the meals are healthy (I’m 60 pounds down from last year and these meals fit in pretty well with my Weight Watchers) but you can definitely splurge with sausage rigatoni.
They’re high protein with steak and chicken and use a lot of healthy swaps like loaded mashed cauliflower with bacon and cheese (instead of potatoes). There were tons of meals to choose from.
They cost $8.99 a serving and if you choose to do this, you can be pretty sure you’ll stick with it because it’s easier than fast food. You can bring the meals to work with you to eat for lunch (Hint: Work on the road with no microwave? Pack it in a cooler and stop by any hotel to microwave there), if you get behind and can’t eat it, you can freeze it before it goes bad so you don’t waste it.
How much will it cost? $108 for 12 meals (6 dinners and lunches for 1 person) or 6 dinners for 2 people. If you choose this, I suggest filling in the extra meals with back up meals (things that are shelf or freezer stable and that won’t go bad).
Back up meals will differ depending on your tastes (if we’re weaning you off of big macs… then you’re likely skipping the green smoothies and would prefer cooked frozen burgers that can be reheated), meatball subs made with frozen meatballs, or the classic taco. But basically, it means that you won’t waste it if you don’t get around to eating it this week.
When we tested this last month we did a grocery order for eggs, milk, breakfast sausage, chicken skewers (you can buy these precooked from Costco or make them yourself), meatballs, fruit, and veggies.
This way we could “prep” easy meals for kids while we ate Freshly. So the kids ate chicken, grapes, apples, carrots, and pretzels… but since it was already made, I didn’t have to cook, I just threw things on a plate.
We loved Freshly and I LOVED the break from cooking, so we kept it for quite a few weeks. Later on we’ll dive into another popular meal service, so you’ll have a comparison of Hello Fresh versus Freshly.
Best For When You Need to East Healthy and Cheap: 74 Healthy Freezer Meals Method.
This will work best when you want to eat healthy and cheap and you have time on the weekends to cook.
Love the idea of Freshly but can’t make the cost work and have free time on the weekends?
We used to do something similar by making 74 healthy freezer dinners in 4 hours for $100/week.
We did this for MONTHS (and remembering this makes me want to do it again).
Best for When You Don’t Want the Hassle of Cooking: Freezeasy
If you have time in the evenings but you don’t want to cook, Freezeasy is another one we go back to frequently. This is easiest if you have time in the evening, but you aren’t motivated to cook.
Because I can usually make 10 freezer meals in an hour with Freezeasy and they have a drag and drop menu builder that lets me change out meals easily so I’m making the ones that I love. And once they’re prepped, I can make them the night that I need them by sticking them in the oven, on the grill, in the instant pot, etc. With very little effort.
But most of my favorite Freezeasy meals, still take an hour to bake or 30 minutes to cook passively. So, if your rushing home from work stressed, this may not always be a great option because you’re still going to succumb to that Chick-fil-A line.
But, since you can’t waste the meals (they’re frozen and can be made any time), and the groceries are cheap (and most people have Walmart Grocery Pick Up or delivery now so there’s no upcharge) and the Freezeasy membership is $10 a month and can be easily canceled.
Best If You LOVE to Cook but Hate to Meal Plan: Hello Fresh, eMeals, or EveryPlate.
There’s two options for this.
The first is eMeals, which has SO MANY meal choices that are easily switched out. And, they create your menu plan (just for dinners though, their lunches are meh. At best) Once your plan is created, you press a button to have your shopping list auto-sent to Walmart Grocery Pick Up (or delivery) or Shipt. (Hint: Walmart Grocery Pick Up will be the cheapest with no upcharges, then Walmart delivery, last Shipt)
They have tons of categorized 30-minute meals and with the grocery delivery and list building attached (you can also add other things you need too). I find this to be just as easy but cheaper than something like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron with very similar results.
For meal delivery services:
Hello Fresh gets our recommendation (but again, I think eMeals and everything else on this list is cheaper and easier). Because they had a lot of options to choose from, they did a lot of pre chopping and ingredient prep for you (but not all!!) and most meals still took 30-45 minutes to make.
I still have to say if we are comparing Hello Fresh versus Freshly, Freshly is the winner in my house.
Side note: I hated Blue Apron the most. Meals took me 45 minutes to an HOUR AND A HALF! The food was super fancy but not necessarily a win for someone like me with the palate of a 5-year-old and they were the most expensive. They didn’t even give you recipe cards (you had to use your phone to view the recipes).
EveryPlate is the cheapest of the meal delivery services. They’re similar to Hello Fresh and Blue Apron in that they deliver the recipes and the ingredients and you need to make them. They’re also about 30-45 minutes to cook, and they cost $5.99 per serving. They don’t have a ton of options though, to find meals you like (or if you need to deal with allergies, etc) so they couldn’t be our top choice.
Best For People Who Aren’t Ready to Commit to Trying This and Hate Cooking: Plan to Eat Out.
One of the points I try to make to people is that eating out is usually only a huge problem because people plan to cook at home and eat out anyway. So you’re really paying for both.
What would your potential budget look like if you just embraced your personality and said you’re going to eat out every day instead of eating at home. Hint: the cost would be similar to Blue Apron without the hour and a half needed to cook.
Here’s an example:
I love Chipotle. I’m obsessed with burrito bowls. They’re $7.46 here and I could happily eat them every day.
I am equally obsessed with Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets.
Well, if you do the math, we’d spend about $260 a week by eating Chipotle bowls every day for lunch, and splitting a 30 count Chick-fil-A nuggets, and bringing our own chips, apples, and waters.
Which sounds a little crazy right? Eating out every single day is a horrible idea.
Except that a lot of people spend more than that trying to “do it right”.
So if what you’re doing now is more complicated and more expensive than doing that? Then just do that for a while to control your costs.
There are so many choices for meal services at this point we have moved beyond just Hello Fresh versus Freshly. But those are definitely two of the top contenders.
Does any of this make sense? Or do I sound a little crazy?
P.S. I have a feeling that you’ll really like Freshly! They deliver delicious chef-cooked meals right to your door and they’ve made mealtime easier than ever for me. Plus, here’s $40 off your first two weeks to get you started!
My wife and I are retired and financially independent. Cost doesn’t matter on food but we are frugal by nature typically buying store brands when equivalent. But we do usually cook about six Blue Apron meals a month. We enjoy cooking together and generally get four servings per meal for what Blue Apron says is two servings. So the cost is less than $5 per serving. Maybe they didn’t use to but now all Blue Apron meal kits come with recipe cards, just like Hello Fresh. We have plenty of time, I agree it isn’t unusual for meal prep to take 45 minutes, but that’s part of the fun.
These are some fantastic ideas! I especially love the pizza idea. We have been considering the food subscription boxes for the days I know I am far too busy to be cooking something.
[email protected] says
We’ve given all the major meal delivery kits a shot (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Sunbasket, and a few more I don’t even remember the name of).
I think Hello Fresh was the best, mostly because the portion size seemed to work well for us. Blue Apron was very tasty, but often too small (we’re a pair of active mid-30s).
We hadn’t ever looked at a service like Freshly. That’s a neat idea.
If you can plan in advance, making your own DIY meal prep frozen meals is certainly going to cost the least. But it’s a lot of extra time.
Joy Rosevear says
We have used Blue Apron (just got another box because I forgot to skip), it can be very time consuming. We tried Hello Fresh, but I don’t like the way the recipes are written for two or four at the same time, allowing for errors. We just finished our first week (3 meals) of Freshly and love it. It’s usually the two of us and I had ankle surgery in September, so it was a good time to try these, along with Door Dash. So this week we are having our Blue Apron meals along with Street Tacos and Chicken Pot Pie from Costco.