Thursday, July 30, 2015

Food Subscription Box Comparison of Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Home Chef & Plated


Below is a comparison chart to help you learn about and make a decision on which of the four food subscription boxes you would like to try. The four I have compared are: Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Home Chef & Plated. 

Cost:

Blue Apron - $59.94 (3 meals for 2) or $69.92 (2 meals for 4) or $139.84 (4 meals for 4)
Hello Fresh - $69.00 (Classic - 3 meals for 2) or $129 (Classic - 3 meals for 4), Vegetarian $59 (3 meals for 2) or $109 (Family - 3 meals for 4)
Home Chef - $59.70 (3 meals for 2 people), $9.90 for Smoothies (for 2) & $9.90 for fruit basket 
Plated - $72.00 (3 meals for 2 people)

Discounts:

Blue Apron - discount discontinued, find customer who has free box to give away or enter my giveaways.
Hello Fresh - $40 off your first box, use coupon code "YVWF79"
Home Chef - $30 off your 1st box, click here
Plated - discount discontinued, find customer who has a free box to give away or enter my giveaways.

Billing:

Blue Apron - Saturday or Sunday of the week it ships
Hello Fresh - Thursday before next delivery
Home Chef - Sunday of the week it ships
Plated - the day you make your selections and check out (Update 12/3/15 - order in advance without prepaying)

Shipping Costs:

Blue Apron - Free, minimum of 3 meals for 2 people, minimum of 2 meals for 4 people
Hello Fresh - Free, minimum of 3 meals
Home Chef - $40 and over Free, $10 shipping under $40, changed to over $50 free s/h
Plated - $50 and over Free, $6 shipping under $50

Shipped By:

Blue Apron - FedEx
Hello Fresh - UPS
Home Chef - FedEx
Plated - FedEx

Delivery Arrival On:

Blue Apron - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday
Hello Fresh - Wednesday, Thurday or Friday (added Saturday)
Home Chef - Wednesday, Thursday or Friday
Plated - Wednesday or Saturday

Packaging:

Blue Apron - Foil bubble liner sealed at the top, produce, gel pack number varies, average three, then meat on the bottom. Square box. 
Hello Fresh - White cardboard containers for each recipe's produce, cardboard separator, gel packs, then meat at the bottom of the box. Gel pack numbers vary. Rectangular box.
Home Chef - Thick foam lining the box, produce on top, six gel packs 3 above the meat and 3 below, changed to styrofoam with four ice packs on the bottom, one on top or none on top. Square box. 
Plated - Jute liner, produce on top, as little as one ice pack above meat, usually two in the winter, summer around 4-5 gel packs. Square box.

New Menu Posted:

Blue Apron - Monday
Hello Fresh - Thursday 12 AM ET
Home Chef - Friday 12 Noon CT
Plated - Sunday

Menu Choices in Advance:

Blue Apron - 5 weeks
Hello Fresh - 2 week
Home Chef - 4 weeks
Plated - 3 weeks but have to prepay (no longer prepay)

Amount of Recipe Choices:

Blue Apron - 2 people: 2 land (chicken, pork, lamb, beef or steak), 1 seafood, 3 vegetarian (can only mix some of them). 4 people: have 2 land, 1 seafood, 1 vegetarian.
Hello Fresh - 3 land, 1 seafood, 1 vegetarian, maximum 3 meals (vegetarian option, 3 so no choice), changed maximum from 3 to 5 recipes
Home Chef - 7 land, 1 seafood, 3 vegetarian, 1 smoothie, 1 breakfast, 1 fruit basket (Sometimes a more expensive dinner, appetizers & dessert are offered)
Plated - 3 land, 1 seafood, 3 vegetarian, 2 dessert (only available at checkout)

Meal Quantity:

Blue Apron - minimum & maximum 3 meals for 2 people, 2 or 4 meals for 4 people 
Hello Fresh - maximum 5 meals for 2 or 4 people 
Home Chef - up to 8 meals for 2, 4, 6 or 8 people
Plated - as many meals as you want, minimum 2. Order 2, 4 or 6 of each recipe.

Photos:

I have ordered numerous times from each of the subscription boxes over the last five and half months. You can view pictures of the food we made on the following of my Pinterest boards:


Simply click on the photo and it will take you to my blog review of that recipe. 

Taste Test:

Blue Apron - cooked 30 recipes, 50% were above average (meaning 4 & 5 stars)
Hello Fresh - cooked 16 recipes, 50% were above average
Home Chef - cooked 50 recipes, 54% were above average
Plated        - cooked 34 recipes, 61% were above average                  

My Favorite Subscription (as of March 2016 no longer my favorite, went back to Hello Fresh & Plated):

Home Chef and the reasons are:
  1. Having so many recipes to chose from each week: 7 land, 1 seafood, 3 vegetarian, 1 smoothie, 1 breakfast, 1 fruit basket. 
  2. Most consistant shipping with the most ice packs (except seafood, don't order during spring & summer.
  3. Recipes are easier, faster and use ingredients that aren't so unusual, some recipes now take much longer than indicated.
  4. Calories vary so you can chose diet food or something for a treat.
  5. Pork, lamb, chicken, beef and steak portions are always a generous portion. Often portions are so generous you'll have leftovers for a snack or lunch (as of Dec '15 they were increasingly smaller, especially the chicken).
  6. Especially enjoy their smoothies, breakfast recipes & fruit basket (kept sending frozen fruit which defrosted and then turned into mush, leaking out of the jars and send brown peaches).
  7. Can order up to 8 meals, but don't order over 5 because they won't increase the size of the box and the ingredients will be damaged.
  8. They deliver via FedEx & they deliver in the morning at my location. You may want to pick one based on what time of day they deliver for the hot summer months or how many ice packs they use (didn't tell anyone they increased free s/h to orders of $40 to $50).
  9. Price and generous referral program. 
  10. Fast & generous customer service response when something is missing or damaged which isn't often (last two complaints not one cent of store credit for ingredient issues until I complained twice).
  11. They are not repetitive with the types of produce they send, lately (Dec '15) they have been repetitive.
  12. You have the chance to win four free meals each week just by posting a photo of your recipe results on social media with the hash tag #homechef. I just won this week and I'm super happy to receive the credit! (Update - no longer offered)
My Complaints:

Home Chef - UPDATE since December 2015 there have been serious issues with their chicken, 5 chicken bones were found in the chicken thighs and then later a long chicken bone in the chicken breast. I chipped a tooth on one of the chicken bones that was found in the chicken thighs and they ignored my complaint. Other customers have indicated that they had the entire breast bone still attached to the "boneless chicken breasts". The chicken breasts are at least 1/3 the size they were prior. Also, they have been sending smaller portions of the ground turkey, ground pork, ground beef and salmon. They have said for two months that they are "working on it" and yet no changes have been made. After complaining about yet another chicken bone found their response is "based on your experiences with us, our service has proven not to be a fit for you". They are ok with losing a customer who sent them at least 35 referrals and a customer who ordered every week for 10 months! I had to ask twice for store credit for ingredient issues last week and this week yet again not one cent of store credit only to find this week I received shrimp that turned pink due to the temps being too high during shipping. Update - they called and emailed and gave me a small store credit.

Blue Apron - they repeat produce in the recipes for the week and then week after week into months. Became so sick of fennel, snap peas, pickled foods & other produce they kept repeating that I stopped ordering for months. Too frequently missing items and not enough ice packs. Not enough recipe choices, often there were only two that I liked or it wouldn't allow me to pick the 3rd one I wanted. Beef, lamb, steak, pork, chicken and fish portions are too small. Often left the table not full. Customers have been complaining about portion sizes and they have yet to make any changes. No longer offer store credit for referrals. 

Hello Fresh - too few recipes to chose from and often too few ingredients per recipe. Recipes are sometimes very simple and not exciting though they require less preparation time as a result. Shipping without enough gel packs and once one of them leaked and ruined the entire box. Sometimes they send out boxes with leaking meat packages which contaminate the rest of the ingredients. UPS tends to sit the box on it's side due to it's rectangular shape which makes it easy for the leaking blood to travel to the top of the box where the produce is sitting. Shipping is via UPS which doesn't deliver to my location till late in the day which means ingredients are more likely to go bad due to the longer shipping time. Recipe cards don't come with punched holes and are too small for storing in a binder.

Plated - ingredients are often too strange like squid ink pasta. The recipes tend to be more complicated and take longer than the card states. Often the recipe isn't well written and confusing. This becomes increasing frustrating if you are making one of their recipes after a long day at work. They don't allow you to preview the instructions to see if it's something you want to do. No longer offer store credit for referrals. 

Well there you have it, my breakdown and comparison of the four subscription boxes. Notice that Plated wins in the taste test followed by Home Chef. Plated came in with 32% five star dishes, Home Chef had 26%, Blue Apron & Hello Fresh both had 12%. The reason I prefer Home Chef over Plated is because the recipes are easier, less time consuming (no longer less time) and the ingredients are more common. If you want more challenging recipes with hard to find & unusual ingredients, then Plated would be a better choice for you. A few suggestions and few more facts: all of the four subscription boxes offer a credit to your account when something is missing or is damaged during shipping. None of them will give you a credit back to your credit card nor ship you a replacement. So I recommend checking your shipment when it arrives in case you need to go shopping for something that you need as a result. Contact via email is the fastest and easiest way to resolve those issues when they occur. Expect one of those issues to occasionally occur due to the fragile nature of the groceries. I don't recommend ordering any seafood during the hot summer months unless you live very close to their warehouse. Be sure to leave produce that isn't ripe out on your counter to ripen and plan to make those dishes later in the week. It's best to make the recipes within five days, but some can last up to seven days. If any produce looks very ripe I would recommend using them within three days. Sometimes the ingredients will last past seven days but it is rare and I don't recommend it, more so likely with the vegetarian dishes. Be sure to alter the recipes to fit your taste with the spices, tasting it before adding all of the spice provided. If on a low salt diet, just skip the salt or add less. Three of them provide recipe cards that are 8 1/2 x 11", double sided and in color. Hello Fresh is the only one that has smaller cards. Home Chef now hole punches their cards so you can place it in a binder of your own. Home Chef occasionally sends out recipe binders to random customers as a gift. Blue Apron is selling binders now, but they are overpriced. Hello Fresh & Plated don't offer binders to hold the cards, but you could hole punch those and put them in a binder yourself. Blue Apron also offers kitchen supplies for sale. I have purchased their cutting board, recipe holder, cutting board oil, pepper and salt and the package arrived in only a couple of days. So I recommend their store since shipping is fast and their products are of high quality. Just make sure you can't find it cheaper somewhere else such as their English salt which can be found at Earth Fare or Whole Foods for much less. Home Chef sent us as a gift of expensive chocolate during the month of November 2015 and on Valentine's Day they send us a sample sized one.

I hope that this chart and information has helped you either to make a decision on which of the four you will subscribe to or for current subscribers to use as a reference sheet. I know I will be referring to it when I can't remember something. So which of the four is your favorite and why? Please comment below! If you have any questions, feel free to ask below. Have fun cooking!

Update - I updated this post with some changes which are highlighted by bold text (March 30th 2016).

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Have a PEACEful Day!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Wendy - I really like your blog. There is a new food box company that I recently tried and I think it is my new favorite, it s called Gobble. It looks like they only deliver to the west coast now but you should try it when it comes to your area. Not only is the food really good but the meals take only about 10 minutes to prepare and most take only one pan. That's a real plus as fewer dirty dishes.

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