Over the last few weeks, several of my neighbors have been eyeing my weekly meal kit delivery service, and asking for my Hello Fresh Review. This new trend makes sense given how many of us are cooking from home more these days – while trying to limit our grocery store trips. I’d gotten a few inquiries the past couple of years, after folks noticed the green box arriving on my doorstep each week, but that trickle has now turned into a consistent stream of curious questions…
“Are meal kits worth it?”
“How much does Hello Fresh cost?”
“Is the food good?”
The short answers are:
About $10 per person, per meal (closer to the cost of buying groceries than the cost of takeout).
… and Most Definitely!
My Meal Kit Review Site
My wife and I started ordering Hello Fresh roughly two years ago. At the time, we were simply looking for a supper solution that would allow us to do three things:
- Encourage me to cook more (I’m not exactly the most motivated chef on the planet)
- Eat healthier.
- Consume less restaurant food.
Given recent events, I think these three goals are now shared by a whole lot of folks!
Anyway, after nine months of trying out several meal kits (why not make use of all of those tasty introductory offers?) we not only decided that we loved meal kits – but that the concept was widely misunderstood and under publicized. Consequently, I started Meal Kits Canada which is a review website dedicated to helping Canadians understand which meal kit options are available in their area, as well as showing off various pictures of the food we created!
Who Should Ignore Meal Kits
So here’s the deal. Meal kits aren’t for everyone. If you:
- Love the creativity and challenge of cooking from scratch…
- Look forward to your “hour of peace” as you prepare meals each evening…
- Enjoy watching cooking shows and/or scanning Pinterest for new recipes…
- Get a kick out of getting the most bang for your buck when you meal plan and grocery shop…
…then just keep doing what you’re doing! You’ve got this whole cooking part of life and personal finance on lock, and you honestly aren’t going to get that much value from meal kits.
Why Meal Kits Are the Perfect Fit for Families Like Ours
Here’s the main benefits that we’ve gotten from our Hello Fresh subscription over the last couple of years (and which have been a lifesaver life-easier the last few weeks):
1) I don’t worry about cooking supper until 30 minutes before it needs to be on the table! This is a big deal for me as I actually don’t mind cooking – I just hate preparing to cook! I detest thinking about thawing ingredients or “just running to the store” to get the one last thing I need.
2) We’re trying new recipes from all over the world. Both my wife and I were raised as average middle-class North Americans. We had exposure to foods from European countries, and enjoyed sampling culinary traditions from a wide variety of places – we just didn’t really know where to source the ingredients or actually cook anything that wasn’t “mainstream North American”. Now, all kinds of new spices and ideas land on our doorstep each week.
3) Fewer trips to the grocery store. Yes, I am that classic lazy (efficient?) Millennial who hates standing in lines at the best of times. These days it’s obviously taken on a new dimension. We go to the grocery store roughly half as often as we used to. That’s a whole lot of after-work errands or weekend-eating errands that we no longer have to run.
4) Way less food thrown out. I always feel guilty about throwing food out. I know, I know, if I meal-planned better I wouldn’t ever have to throw food out. If I didn’t love carbs so much I might be a model – sue me! Not having that garbage day shame of “cleaning out the fridge” is a nice little mental pick-me-up.
5) Shrinking restaurant bills and smaller waistlines. Look, I’m a big guy that loves to eat, and meal kits like Hello Fresh aren’t going to change that. That said, I do like to take my health wins where I can get them. Hello Fresh lessens the HUGE convenience factor that ordering delivery has over grocery shopping. Sure, you still have to make the meal – but it’s all ready to go right there in your fridge – and it will taste (at worst) good – and most of the time it’s superb. While Hello Fresh is definitely not “Weight Watchers” it is certainly way healthier than the vast majority of restaurant options! We’ll get into the dollars and cents here a bit more in just a second.
Breaking Down the Cost of Meal Kits in Canada
Like most products, meal kits do vary depending on the brand, and the specific food subscription box plan that you order.
There is roughly a 20% gap between the cheapest and most expensive brands in Canada, but the bigger factor in price-per-serving comes down to two things:
- How many overall servings are you ordering? (How many meals per week, and how many servings per meal.)
- Are you going with a vegetarian plan or an omnivore plan?
Given that shipping is included in the pricing for all of these companies, it makes sense that if you order more services, the per-serving meal cost drops substantially. And given that veggies obviously cost less than meat, (on average) the vegetarian options are cheaper across the board for all of Canada’s meal kit boxes.
Are There Taxes On My Meal Kits?
Short Answer: Almost never.
The more nuanced answer is that meal kits have to play by the same tax rules as other grocery products in Canada. What that means is that any food product deemed to be “essential” can be purchased tax free. However, “snack goods” or non-essential items can have taxes applied.
Overall, I looked through several months of Hello Fresh receipts and I have not been charged PST/GST or HST on any item that I’ve purchased. The charge to my credit card has always been a nice round number. Whatever number you see on the website is the all-in cost as shipping is included, and there are no taxes applied (unless for some reason your kit includes snack foods).
Is Hello Fresh Worth It?
While Hello Fresh meal kits are less expensive than some of the more niche regional food subscription boxes, they are the most expensive out of the Big 3 national brands.
They are also by far the most popular meal kit service.
Here’s why my wife and I decided to go with Hello Fresh after sampling all of Canada’s national meal kit offertings (despite it being roughly a buck-per-meal more expensive).
- Hello Fresh has by far the widest delivery net in Canada. Living in a rural area, this is a godsend.
- Their portion sizes are consistently larger than those of other companies. (Remember, I’m not interested in eating less.)
- The average level of quality and freshness of meals was noticeably higher with Hello Fresh. Nothing to that my uneducated palate found wrong with the other meal kit options though.
Cost of Meal Kits vs DIY Groceries vs Restaurants
When I’ve tried to explain the cost of meal kits to friends and co-workers (some of whom get a little bit of sticker shock at the $10-per-serving rough price) I find it best to give it some context for that number. I’ve found that a lot of Canadians don’t actually know how much money they are spending on groceries because they don’t track their spending.
The more pre-made meal options or “take-n-bake” grocery items you purchase the more you will be spending on groceries, and the less healthy your caloric intake is likely to be. If these type of meals tend to be a staple for you, then meal kits probably won’t alter your food budget line at all! If on the other hand you do more cooking from scratch – and depending on what cuts of meat you prefer – you can probably save a significant amount of money versus meal kits.
The two big factors that I’ve found most helpful to consider when looking at the overall cost-benefit of meal kits are:
1) Do you tend to eat out, get delivery, or order takeout a lot?
2) Do you tend to throw a lot of food out?
For us, meal kits have replaced 60-70% of our restaurant food – at a much lower price. Think about the added expenses that you often have when you go out to eat. You have the tip, possible delivery fee, sky-high beverage pricing, the gas to drive to the restaurant, etc. I think we’re likely to save close to $800 this year by switching from restaurant food to meal kits. We still enjoy the experience of going out once in a while, but it’s just much less now than it used to be. I honestly don’t feel like we have sacrificed anything on the taste buds side of that equation either!
I also mentioned earlier that we no longer throw out much food, because a lot of our meal planning is now done for us, with the perfect amount of ingredients tossed in. The average Canadian throws out 375 pounds of food per year. When you think about multiplying that out by the size of your family, it’s not only something that one can feel a bit guilty about, but it’s also a significant amount of money!
What better time to try getting a box full of fresh tasty meals delivered to your step?!
My wife and I love the lack of mental stress of knowing that we have a healthy, delicious meal ready to go for dinner – and that it will only have to start thinking about it 30 minutes before it has to be on the table! I’d be lying if I said that meal kits (aka: Food Subscription Boxes) have turned me into a “Top Chef” that loves to cook – but I do competently contribute much more in the kitchen department than was previously the case. My wife would likely say that alone has been worth the price of meal kits!