A Hello Fresh recipe box is ideal for busy families who want to rustle up tasty new meals together — without breaking the bank
- Easy-to-follow recipes
- Good-quality fresh ingredients
- Less plastic waste than competitors
- Narrow choice of veggie and fish meals
- Too simple for ambitious cooks
- Many meals cost extra
Ever get the feeling you’ve had this dinner before? Hello Fresh aims to end the monotony of mealtimes – same old food, shops and grumbles – by delivering a different box of ingredients and recipes to your door every week.
In our round-up of the best recipe boxes, Hello Fresh was our top choice for families who want to improve their cooking skills together. For this in-depth review, I ordered a new batch of meals and gave the whole process a thorough test, from signing up to following the recipes. Is Hello Fresh still top of the boxes for family grub?
Hello Fresh recipe box review: What you need to know
Hello Fresh is a subscription recipe box service – and the ‘subscription’ part comes before the ‘recipe’ part. Unlike Gousto (our Best Buy recipe box) and Riverford (our top choice for ingredient quality and customer service), Hello Fresh doesn’t let visitors trawl its website for meal ideas. You have to sign up first.
But you’re not charged until you confirm your order of recipes, which you choose from an ever-changing weekly selection of meals. Fresh ingredients arrive organised into colour-coded paper bags for each meal, along with the best instructions of any recipe box service, packed with detail but clear and easy to follow.
Hello Fresh recipe box review: Price and competition
At around £60 for a box of four uncooked meals for four, Hello Fresh may not strike you as a cheap way to feed your family. But because it cuts out the stress and cost of going to the supermarket while slashing food waste, it’s actually very good value. And it really does add quality and variety to mealtimes.
Hello Fresh’s prices start from under £4 per meal, which is cheaper than Gousto, Riverford or Abel & Cole (all around £6). I did find its meal choices to be more limited and basic than those rival services, so in a sense you get what you pay for. Indeed, there are ‘premium recipes’ in Hello Fresh’s repertoire, with premium prices to match. I found these add-on prices rather annoying, but they’re not unique to Hello Fresh – Gousto does it, too – and they’re all displayed upfront.
You’re most likely to be hit with multiple addon prices if you’re vegetarian or a fish fan (I didn’t see a single fish dish without an extra price tag), or if you love your desserts.
The choice of desserts was very limited indeed when I ordered. Only three, all ready-made Gu products (presumably thanks to a business partnership), costing a hefty £3 each per portion, on top of your £60-odd box price. So if you fancy learning how to cook a baked Alaska, look elsewhere. Riverford is particularly good for mouth-watering desserts.
Delivery is free if you’re willing to accept an all-day delivery slot. You can pay an extra £2.49 to specify morning, afternoon or evening delivery, or agree a safe place for the driver to leave your box. Same goes for other recipe boxes I’ve tested.
Hello Fresh recipe box review: Ordering and delivery
Hello Fresh’s signup process (via website or app) felt slightly pushy to me, given that I had to place my order before I could even start choosing recipes. Clicking View Our Boxes on the homepage simply redirects you to a subscription form. No browsing the food until you’ve signed, sealed and handed over your payment details.
During signup I was asked to select my foodie preferences (‘Protein packed’, Vegetarian, ‘Quick and easy’ or ‘Kid friendly’), but Hello Fresh didn’t seem to take any notice. I’d stated I’m Vegetarian, but when I eventually got to the recipe-picking stage three of the four default meals I was offered (the one marked ‘In your box’ below) contained red meat. Tasty perhaps, but not what I’d specified.
I did find other meat-free meals after a quick scroll down the page, but only a couple. I felt the choice was much narrower than Gousto, but perhaps that’s just because I was looking for veggie dishes.
You’re not charged until you confirm your order. If you change your mind, perhaps after realising there’s not enough recipe variety for you, you can cancel your subscription and pay nothing at all. You can also edit order details, including recipe choices and meal numbers, until three days before delivery.
There’s no option to order a one-off box (Gousto and Riverford both offer this), but you can pause your subscription after one box if you’d rather make ad hoc orders.
Delivery options are pretty standard, as mentioned. I settled for an all-day slot to save cash, and I’m glad I did. I received a couple of texts to let me know exactly when my food would arrive (and the driver’s name!) and still managed to miss it, but no problem – it was waiting in my designated safe spot when I got home.
Plastic usage wasn’t too bad. Hello Fresh uses somewhat less single-use plastic than Gousto, but it’s almost impossible for a delivery company to use no plastic at all, especially when sending chilled goods, and Hello Fresh did quite well on this score. Not as well as Abel & Cole, which uses reusable zip-style bags for perishable items, but still clearly making an effort with paper bags and compostable insulation.
Hello Fresh recipe box review: Ingredients and recipes
Hello Fresh really comes into its own when you start to follow its recipes. And arguably, that’s the whole point.
Once you’ve signed up, you can click any of its meals online to view full recipe details, before or after you choose them for your box. You get a full list of ingredients, allergens, nutritional info, and even a list of the utensils you’ll need, then clear but detailed step-by-step instructions of the kind that Bake Off technical challenge contestants can only dream of. You can even download these pages to view offline – perfect for saving on your tablet then following in the kitchen.
The ingredients in my box were all fresh and high quality. Certainly better than the deliveries I’ve had from supermarkets. I was a bit disappointed to find so many ready-made ingredients, such as sauces and pizza bases, which are among the easiest things to prepare from scratch at home. But that does mean even more time saved. And there were no surprises, because all ingredients for each recipe were accurately listed (with photos) on the website.
Ingredients were sorted by meal, which may sound obvious but it’s something other recipe boxes don’t do. Each paper bag was colour-coded to match the recipe card, making it quick and easy to find the right ingredients. Perfect when cooking with your kids or when half-asleep after work.
Hello Fresh recipe box review: Verdict
Hello Fresh remains our top choice of recipe box for families who want more variety and quality at dinnertime, but don’t have the time or inclination to limit their diet or mess around with difficult recipes.
Its recipes are too basic for budding master chefs and too limited for vegans and others following special diets, which is a bit surprising in 2019. But the range is very well pitched for those seeking a sensible balance of easy cooking and healthy variety, and who don’t want to trawl through pages and pages of dishes. Hello Fresh will even choose your weekly recipes for you if you don’t have time to do it.
If you’d like more meat-free dishes and more challenging international recipes, you’d be better off with Gousto or Riverford, even though they cost more than Hello Fresh. But if you’re simply fed up with staring at the same boring old fridge contents every day, then Hello Fresh is well worth the price.