Does HelloFresh Really Save You Money?

Meal-prep subscriptions appear to be one of the few pandemic-era fads to demonstrate real staying power. In fact, the industry's revenue is expected to hit 17 billion dollars in 2023. However, competition in the marketplace is stiff. If you've been exploring the possibilities, chance are good you've come across HelloFresh — the one subscription service voted America's #1 Meal Kit every year since 2019 by USA Today's Readers Choice Awards. In fact, HelloFresh seems to have only become more popular post-pandemic, with 2022 revenues topping $8 billion (which was more than twice their 2020 revenue and more than five times their 2018 revenue). But popularirty isn't everything.

While a lot of people are clearly signing up for the service, is it actually worth it? HelloFresh claims to save you "serious money" over grocery store shopping but is light on details when it comes to their price comparisons. The company also increased prices in 2022 but argued that their (at the time) 6% -7% increase was still less than the grocery inflation rate (In 2022, the Consumer Price Index for overall food prices increased by 9.9%, with food-at-home prices increasing by 11.4%). So what's the truth?

How much does HelloFresh cost?

As of October 2023, the price per serving of the standard "Meat & Veggies" plan on the HelloFresh website shows a range between $8.99 and $12.49, depending on the number of members in your household, and how many servings per week you're looking to order. The individual serving price gets lower the more servings you purchase, and different prices apply to different dietary plans.

One price comparison report found that HelloFresh meals cost almost double the amount of the same ingredients found at the grocery store, while another price comparison found that every individual meal they replicated at the grocery store cost less than the HelloFresh serving price. If you calculate the lowest per-serving price available ($8.99), a family of four would pay $863 (plus shipping) a month for only dinner, and that would only cover six nights a week. The average markup (compared to the grocery store) on an individual HelloFresh serving generally ranges from $3 to $5, which can add up fast, especially for a family of four. 

If a family of four wanted to stick to the current USDA's Thrifty Food Plan, their weekly groceries would cost around $243, or $973.10 for the month. If all four members of the house need three meals a day, this means a family can afford to spend about $2.70 per serving, which is roughly a third of the lowest cost HelloFresh serving price available. Ultimately, HelloFresh is not a good option if you're looking for ways to save money.

Other HelloFresh complaints

One of the major complaints consumers have against HelloFresh is the company's bait-and-switch pricing tactics. HelloFresh often offers great introductory deals and discounts on meals and delivery, only to switch to full-price charges immediately after. While this tactic can often lure new customers (as of late 2022, HelloFresh boasted an active customer base of 7.5 million), it can also lead to sticker shock after a full-priced charge hits a customer's account.

Another element of this less-than-transparent pricing strategy includes HelloFresh menus. While they provide menus for upcoming week's meal offerings (so you can see if any meals look appetizing to you before you sign up) they do not provide pricing or potential upcharges for these items without having already signed up for the service. This means that certain meals you might be particularly excited about might end up costing more, but you won't know until after you've gone through the process of signing up.

Other complaints include a lack of fresh ingredients and poor customer service. While there is always a certain risk attendant to receiving meal boxes instead of shopping for ingredients yourself, the prevalence of customer service complaints and even claims of additional charges are worth noting. It's also important to note that HelloFresh does not offer comprehensive allergen options or special dietary needs plans (including gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance, or veganism). With that in mind, if convenience is a higher priority than pricing or dietary restrictions then HelloFresh might be a good meal plan option. Otherwise, stick to Aldi.