CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Subscription meal services Hello Fresh and Blue Apron deliver just the right amount of food to your door to cook three meals for two, but is it worth the cost?
We cooked up six recipes – three from Hello Fresh and three from Blue Apron. All six passed the taste test, but is the $59.99 price tag outrageous or right on target? To find out, we headed to Food Giant in Cape Girardeau for a price check.
Food Giant didn't have every ingredient we'd need to cook up all six recipes. In some cases, we would have to substitute items like standard cabbage for the more delicate Napa cabbage provided by Blue Apron. The substitution would most certainly affect the result if we were to cook the recipe.
In other instances, there weren't substitutions available in the store, or in any store we called around the region. We had trouble locating Blue Apron's Ancho Chile Paste and Mole Spice Blend, along with Hello Fresh's Israeli Couscous.
The total for our Blue Apron recipes minus the missing items totaled $49.47 at the Food Giant checkout counter. When missing items were included based on prices online or through other retailers, the equivalent retail total for our Blue Apron box came to $66.61. That is $6.62 more than Blue Apron's asking price.
Our basket of groceries equivalent to Blue Apron's Mole Spiced Beef Chili recipe was missing Ancho Chile Paste, Mole Spice Blend, Crème Fraiche and Agave nectar. The basket total came to $12.69 for all other ingredients.
We were able to locate all items (with the substitution of cabbage) for Blue Apron's Cumin-Sichuan Shrimp Fried Rice. The total for ingredients, including more shrimp and jasmine rice than we would need, came to $20.79.
Our final Blue Apron recipe, Spicy Chicken Sandwiches with Alabama White Sauce & Roasted Sweet Potato, had just one substitution. The recipe calls for Sweet Piquante Peppers which were not available. We substituted red bell peppers which, again, would affect the recipe's end result. The total for the Spicy Chicken Sandwich basket totaled $15.99.
We had better luck locating most of the ingredients we'd need to cook our three Hello Fresh recipes locally.
The groceries to make Lemony Pan-Seared Chicken ($10.39), Turkey Chile Relleno ($18.18), and Cumin-Spiced Steak ($16.19) total $45.38.
Food Giant did not have pine nuts which we could find for $3.48 at Wal-Mart, Pablano Peppers available for $2.99 a pound at Kroger, or Israeli Couscous which we found at Wal-Mart.com for $2.40 plus shipping.
With the missing items added to our running total, the cost of the Hello Fresh ingredients came to $54.25. That is $5.74 less than Hello Fresh's $59.99 price tag.
At the grocery store, you can shop for sales and tailor which recipes you cook based on the deals you find. Hello Fresh and Blue Apron are already doing that for you, and you are paying for the convenience of having a box with everything you'll need shipped right to your door without a trip to the store.
"The fact that it comes pre-prepared and takes a lot of the guesswork out – that's a positive for both of them," said our tester Lou Conte of Pomona. "Everything seemed fresh, and individually wrapped. The flavors were all good."
Culinary adventure is a bonus of both subscription services. Our tester really liked the new flavors introduced to him by Hello Fresh and Blue Apron.
"I don't use a lot of spices when I cook because I don't know how, really," said Conte. "I've never tried to use chipotle pepper at home, and adding horseradish sauce to stuff is something I'd never have thought of."
Each subscription service has its own strengths. If you're a foodie searching to expand your tastes – Blue Apron might be for you. The company sends several unusual ingredients that simply aren't available locally, and come together to build unique flavors.
If you're more interested in lighter fare, you might prefer Hello Fresh. Its recipes are typically in the 500-650 calorie range per serving versus Blue Apron's 600-780.
Hello Fresh also offers a vegetarian plan and lists several dietary considerations for customers who are gluten free, lactose intolerant or have nut allergies.
Both services offer family plans and we had absolutely no complaints about the taste.
Visit Blue Apron or Hello Fresh online to sign up. If you do sign up, we suggest downloading the mobile app to stay on top of your deliveries so you can skip weeks you don't want.
Both services are $59.99 per delivery, allow you to skip as many weeks as you'd like, and cancel at any time.