In June 2016 I wrote a post called “A Month of Meal Kit Menus” comparing Home Chef to Blue Apron, two of the more popular meal kit companies back then. Since then, many more have entered the market, but I’ve continued to use Home Chef. Why? That question will be answered in detail below, but the simple answer is that it works for me. Basically, I have a full-time job, a crazy long commute, and little free time for planning every meal of the week in advance.
I placed my first order in May of 2016 and since then I’ve received over 100 deliveries and almost 350 meals, so I think I have sufficient experience to write a comprehensive review. See that stack of recipes in the top photo? It’s over 4 inches high and weighs over 13 lbs!
How does Home Chef work and what does it cost?
You place your order for however many meals for two (or for four) you’d like to receive in the following week and it gets delivered to your door in a box with ice packs and insulation.
Orders can be placed online or through their app. There is a preview available for each recipe, ingredients, and nutritional info before selecting.
On average it costs $10 per person ($20 per meal), though there are now less expensive fast lunch options and more expensive premium options. Delivery is free for orders over $45, and $10 for orders under that. They will automatically ship you an order every week based on the preferences you set up when you sign up but you can skip weeks and select whatever you want to be sent each week. I typically check the menus every few weeks and adjust my selections. I usually get 3-4 meals per week that are a mix of mostly dinner recipes but sometimes I include one of the quick no-cook lunches.
Do you still shop and cook on your own?
Of course, I do! But having the meal kits gives me breathing room for 3 nights a week so I don’t have to think about it. There are plenty of days I leave my house around 6 am and don’t get home until 7 pm. In that time, I spend 3.5 hours in traffic, but it’s easier to come home and cook dinner if I so choose when part of it is already organized for me. This also means I don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time planning and shopping on my weekends. I do still shop for the other 18 meals of the week (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).
Couldn’t you do it cheaper?
Sure. Maybe. There’s zero food waste on these meals. How many times have I purchased food with the best of intentions only to see it rot in my fridge?
Then there’s that meme about bags of baby lettuce:
I know y’all would like to believe that food bloggers are all super-foodies that make everything from scratch all the time, but this is not so. Especially those of us will full-time jobs outside the home.
Do you want to buy veal bones and make veal stock? Great, here’s my recipe. But make sure you freeze it in 2 tablespoon increments because having a quart of it frozen isn’t going to be helpful when making a sauce for your steak on a Wednesday night. Home Chef sends it in just the portion size you need every time.
It’s still real cooking of real food. This is not pre-packaged microwavable food (though if that’s what you want, there’s a service that provides that too). You do you. It’s certainly way better than fast food or a microwaved burrito or a bowl of cereal for dinner.
After 3 years, I’ve seen some repetition, but not as much as you’d expect. Some recipes are brought back as “customer favorites”, like the shumai meatballs below. Whenever I see this, I select it because it’s one of my favorites too.
There have been some changes at Home Chef, and for the better, in the last few years.
They’ve added the ability to order 2 or 4 portions of a specific meal and it doesn’t have to apply to the whole order. This means if you are having guests, you can order extra portions for just one meal. Do you have a family but not everyone is home every night? Just order the portions you need.
Premium meals are now offered at an extra cost but they typically include items with an extra expense like filet mignon or large sea scallops.
Home Chef’s latest option is called “Customize it”. This gives subscribers the option to pick between a couple of different proteins for a specific dish like sirloin steak or new york strip steak for an upcharge. Or choose between ground beef or ground turkey for no extra charge., or shrimp vs scallops, or regular chicken vs antibiotic-free chicken.
Home Chef Pros and Cons:
Convenience- You can pick your selections up to 6 weeks in advance and they are delivered to your front door every week, like clockwork No waste- everything comes in the right portion for that meal. There’s no half-used head of cabbage or bag of lettuce left to rot in your refrigerator Variety- I’ve tried dishes I would have never considered making via Home Chef Healthy options- one of the nice things is that while everything sounds delicious, you’re able to look at calories, fat, carbs, etc before ordering. They always have several options which are low calorie, low carb, vegetarian, etc every week. I also like that I can now select wild salmon over farm-raised, for a small extra charge, Customer Service- If I’ve ever had an issue with a delivery or product, they’ve dealt with it very quickly, usually by crediting my account.
Product issues-The “cooking wine” they use is a salty abomination. Delicate herbs like basil rarely survive shipping, the same goes for butter lettuce. Tomatoes are almost never ripe. Recipes- sometimes the order and direction of the instructions in recipes do not always make sense. They try too hard to keep it to one pan to the detriment of efficiency. Extra Packaging- yes, sometimes there’s quite a bit of extra packaging, but at least it’s all reusable and/or recyclable.
All in all, I’m still pleased with the process and the product and will continue to order from them. If you have any questions, or if you use Home Chef yourself, feel free to let me know in the comments below. If you’d like to give them a try, click here to go to Home Chef to see the current menus and to get $35 off your first box (this is a referral link and I get a credit too, so thanks!).
Helpful Home Chef Cooking Tools:
Home Chef tries to keep the pots and pans to a minimum in their recipes. In this way, they often have you cook something in a saute pan, move that item to a plate and then cook something else in the same pan. Often they have you cook part of the meal in the oven while the other part is cooked on the stovetop.
They also recommend, rightly so, that you prep your mise en place in advance.
Finally, the recipes typically recommend to “line a half sheet pan with foil”. This is to aid with cleanup, but I prefer to use pre-cut parchment paper over aluminum foil (link below).
Useful tools* (these are all items I use in my own kitchen)