The rise of services aiming to save you time (but not necessarily money) continues across a range of app-based and internet services, and food and meals are no different.
While there are a range of apps that aim to deliver you takeaway food, such as Menulog, there are three key services in Australia that aim to deliver you recipe specific groceries and ingredients, leaving you to be the master chef to put it all together.
It’s an appealing idea – cooking yourself with all ingredients delivered is a kind of IKEA mind-trick experience – just by putting it together and cooking it up, it feels like you made it, which means you enjoy it all the more.
HelloFresh, My Food Bag and Marley Spoon are three competitors operating in Australia and on a wider global scale. Each have their own set of ideals and key points of difference.
Techly tried all three over the last months to see how they each compare, and which would emerge as the best of the best.
So as we could do fair comparisons, we tried the most popular dinner option for two adults from each service.
All three options provide to you the ingredients for recipes, minus a few stables which you’ll likely have at home if you cook regularly.
They’re all designed to be nutritious, tasty and attractive recipes that change weekly, and will likely be put together with guest chefs.
None of the services charge a delivery fee, and subscriptions aren’t locked in to any harsh contracts, although each has its own way of attempting to get you to be a regular subscriber.
HelloFresh is the most aggressive competitor in the category. It’s well established in the US and UK, and with that behind it, you probably would’ve collected a voucher or free trial – the vouchers have popped up in magazines, across the Internet and everywhere else from shopping centres to train stations.
HelloFresh Boxes – prices via subscription only. Trial boxes, or once-offs, are priced higher.
Classic Box (Omnivores)
- Three meals per week for two people – $69 per week ($9.30 per portion)
- Three meals per week for four people – $124
- Three meals per week for six people – $179
- Five meals per week for two people – $109
- Five meals per week for four people – $189
- Five meals per week for six people – $279
Veggie Box (Vegetarian)
- Three meals per week for two people – $64
- Three meals per week for four people – $109
- Three meals per week for six people – $159
- Four meals per week for four to five people – $139
Fruit and juice boxes also offered.
Recipes: HelloFresh put all their recipes online for all previous weeks as far back as 2013, the current week, and next week. That provides a bit of a “sneak peek” into next week’s box, as ingredients are listed. Recipes are listed for each of the three main boxes too.
HelloFresh delivers to:
- QLD: Brisbane
- Gold Coast
- Sunshine Coast
- NSW: Albury
- Mid-North Coast
- Central Coast
- Southern Highlands
- ACT: Canberra
- VIC: Melbourne
- SA: Adelaide
Delivery times: Either Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, depending on location.
HelloFresh Value: Compared to the other options on display, HelloFresh appear to have the cheapest average meal, and the largest amount of variety in regards to what different kinds of boxes you can get, how much of it you can get, and where the boxes are delivered to.
Currently, those in Western Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory miss out, but HelloFresh state that they plan to expand their delivery options further.
The key with HelloFresh is that it is a subscription. The trial boxes are priced much higher than the subscription boxes, and with the vouchers and offers, the fact it is a subscription might be lost on some people who might overlook the fairly obvious warnings.
No matter how clear it might appear to be, there is a process to go through to make sure you aren’t locked in and if you don’t do it, you might get an unexpected box of food – plus the bill. Set a reminder, people.
How HelloFresh stacks up, tastes, and rates
With HelloFresh pumping out coupons and deals, we were able to get two free boxes to cook six meals.
HelloFresh were more standard compared to the other offerings. It comes up as cheapest, and in the end, it’s clear why.
While we had no quibbles with the quality of food presented, the portion sizes of the meat were a little smaller than usual for the household. Vegetables are the opposite – you’ll likely have more than you need on hand.
Recipes have strong variety, and it’s unlikely you’ll have cooked many of the dishes in a standard week. That’s part of the allure and problem for food box delivery services – you wouldn’t bother if you cooked all the dishes regularly. So they’re constantly facing the problem of finding new ingredients, unusual dishes, but aren’t too complicated to leave home chefs a stressed mess.
The recipe cards HelloFresh provide, for the most part, are good quality. Sometimes though, we found the recipes could catch you out when combining the various different elements together if you weren’t familiar with the dish or had carefully studied the recipe in advance. It’s all about getting the flow right.
We also found some of the ‘staples’, as in, things you’re supposed to have in your cupboard or pantry were occasionally ambitious unless you’re already cooking a variety of meals regularly.
Food delivery wasn’t a bother, with cold packs and thoughtful insulation inclusions keeping things cold.
Individually measured out ingredients such as spices and small additions with meant lots of packaging. An option to note which ingredients you definitely have ahead of time might save everyone, while HelloFresh might do better to highlight ingredients you’ll need and might not have would also be useful.
We rank HelloFresh as third best out of the the three for food, which is a shame as it’s certainly the most established offering. With that comes comes the best availability in Australia, the widest range of options, and support – but it also has the hardest subscription to get out of.
If you can get the other options even paying slightly more, we feel, is worth it for better food.
My Food Bag
My Food Bag (MFB) is the New Zealand challenger, arriving in Australia around about 12 months ago. The company has been giving Kiwis food options from late 2012, and now serves 15,000 customers in New Zealand and Australia. The marketing focus for the company is firmly on nutrition, with attention on on the right servings of the right foods.
It offers a higher-end offering than HelloFresh, but doesn’t have options for vegetarians. The way the bags work is interesting – two adults alone really only have the opportunity to go for a Gourmet bag, while families choose more simple options.
My Classic (two adults and two teenagers or four adults)
- $119 for three meals, $9.92 per portion
- $189 for five meals, $9.45 per portion
My Family (two adults and two to three younger children)
- $159 for five meals, $6.36 per portion
My Gourmet (two adults) – 4 meals per week for two adults ($17.38 per portion) – $139.
My Own (one adult)
- $74 for three meals, $24.67 per portion
- $99 for three meals with breakfast option, $14.14 per potion
Meat and chicken free range?: Yes
Delivers to: Currently, there is no list that states what areas are delivered to. The only way to check if MFB will deliver to you is to check the order form at the MFB website or enter in your postcode. My Food Bag told Techly that they only deliver to Sydney and Melbourne metro, with “plans to expand to Brisbane and Perth in 2016”.
Delivery times: Sunday
My Food Bag Value: My Food Bag are the priciest of the three options at the average amount. At the current time, there doesn’t appear to be any straight vegetarian options which leaves some people out in the cold.
As we mentioned earlier, seemingly the only way to find out if My Food Bag will deliver to you is to put your address or your postcode in the order form and see if it works, which is a little frustrating.
How My Food Bag stack up, taste, and rate
We tried MFB’s Gourmet bag, which claims it’s up to scratch as restaurant quality, presuming you have the right skills in the kitchen. Safe to say we were tested, but give ourselves a pass mark.
MFB food quality was high, with ingredients for all meals in the one. The portion sizes across the board were generous, and even in a household used to big meals, often struggled to eat it all or had leftovers for lunch the next day.
The Gourmet range of recipes offered serious variety and twists on great base meals, and tasted great.
As mentioned earlier, trying new recipes and flavours is all part of the attraction, rather than just staying with the stuff you always cook.
Learning to cook a new dish isn’t always easy. The MFB recipe cards were the weakest of the three options, without additional photos and from the ingredients to the directions, the text and composition of the receipe all felt a bit crammed in.
They weren’t the easiest to follow either. While HelloFresh recipes was occasionally tricky, MFB had a couple of pretty big gotchas that meant you had to really read ahead and plan for much more than the other two.
We occasionally needed to take a guess, or cook something a different way to what was suggested. The MFB people were keen, for example, on the heating and covering method for cooking rice, which may not be part of your usual repertoire.
Given the gourmet level, the expected ability for the household chef was quite high but most should still be capable enough to give it a go.
Again, some of the ‘staples’ or things you’re supposed to have in your cupboard or pantry could’ve caught you out, so you’ll need to watch that in advance.
MFB’s Gourmet range is getting towards a price which is high cost and you really want to be blown away by what is on offer. It does the job, and is firmly a higher quality/degree of difficulty than HelloFresh.
The recipe cards need a lot of work from MFB, and we hope they sort them out.
MFB do have a simpler range on offer too, but only for families. It’s slightly restrictive, and all in all, we’d recommend as an occasional option, which it’s great for.
Marley Spoon comes out of Berlin and feels like it’s the highest-end offering. Marley Spoon’s Popular Two-Person Plan offers three meals per week for two people at $69.90 per week, or $11.65 per portion.
Marley Spoon deliver to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Wollongong, Brisbane, Gold Coast and NSW’s Central Coast.
A breakdown of all their offerings are below:
2 person box:
- 2 meals = $55
- 3 meals = $69.90
- 4 meals = $92.00
Family box (2 adults and 2 children):
- 2 meals: $84.00
- 3 meals: $114.00
- 4 meals: $143.20
Recipes for Marley Spoon are sent to their users a week in advanced, and the recipes for next week and the week after are available online.
Delivers to: Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Wollongong, Brisbane, Gold Coast and NSW’s Central Coast.
Delivery times: Monday, Tuesday and Saturday.
Marley Spoon Value: Out of the three options, Marley Spoon is the newest kid on the block here in Australia. And despite a successful launch across multiple countries, it’s still early days with only Sydney availability – Techly understands Canberra is about to roll out shortly, and will be followed by Melbourne. They also have the least variety of options – and the wider rollout is coming.
Regardless, Marley Spoon is probably the best product. It’s cheaper than My Food Bag, better than HelloFresh, but you might not be able to get it if you’re not in Sydney. If you can get it, it’s the best value.
How Marley Spoon stacks up, tastes, and rates
The first thing to note about Marley Spoon is that it has the best packaging and design.
All the ingredients for one meal are in one big brown bag, which is the most convenient option.
The recipe cards are beautifully and simply designed, easily the best to follow with a standard 6-step guide, and also include photos of each of the major steps so if you’re at all confused, you can look at the images and get a good idea of what’s what.
Marley Spoon had big portions on offer and genuinely offered recipes we’d never even thought of cooking before.
One thing to note is you’ll almost definitely be cooking with ingredients you haven’t tried before. Our recipes included whole squid, speck, verjuice, and even coconut vinegar.
Second, the ‘cooking hotline’ you can call with questions is available from 9am-9pm, which is great considering that you might run into a few problems cooking with strange new ingredients.
General food-to-you considerations: The main thing to consider is that all of these companies are hoping you’ll subscribe and make the food service a weekly offer.
For us, it was a lot of fun to try out the services and give a go. It was great to have everything you need on hand and ready to go as you come home from work.
However, some of the recipes are designed to be different and often a challenge to get right. Plus, with the food at home waiting to be cooked, you need to be organised and on a schedule to make sure your reasonably pricey, fresh food doesn’t go to waste.
We feel like committing to a service like this every week isn’t quite right and might make the kitchen too much of a challenge – there’s a reason quick and simple tends to win out when cooking at home, especially if time is short due to the usual busy lifestyles we all lead. Consider your own circumstances and if it might work for you.
Final Analysis and winner:
Marley Spoon was our choice for the one we’d go back to ahead of the others.
It’s clear that HelloFresh has the best variety, the widest delivery range, is transparent across all aspects and is the cheapest. Plus HelloFresh will almost undoubtedly have a voucher for you to try at a much-reduced cost.
While My Food Bag offers four meals instead of three, and was a more premium option over HelloFresh, you’re paying almost nearly double for that.