Home Chef delivery box filled with meal kit sitting on

Dinner-in-a-Box is Not What I Thought

For months, I’d been hearing a lot about a new way to get dinner on the table. Every few weeks, another one of these meal kit delivery services would contact me with an offer to give it a try.

Seriously? Who in their right mind would trust seafood, meat, and produce from some unknown assembly plant, piled onto a loading dock then moved into the back of an unrefrigerated FedEx truck for who knows how long and until some delivery guy drops it on the porch?

Box sent by Home Cheff

The whole idea sounded ridiculously expensive, if not just plain gross. I didn’t need to test the obvious so I did what comes all too naturally for me: I jumped to conclusions. Turns out I was way off base and so wrong. Today I’m here to come clean and set the record straight.

In this post, I casually mentioned the meal kit option for super busy households. I had just started testing one of these meal kit services. I determined that Home Chef is the least expensive and invited two other families to help me test. I set out to get a true, unbiased picture of how this works and what it’s all about. I needed honest, unbiased, real-life feedback.

One of my testers was a young bachelor in California—a very picky eater with limited cooking skills; the other, a local family of four with two children, at the time ages 7 and 2.

We began preparing and eating Home Chef dinners for six weeks—each of us receiving the minimum order of two dinners (2-servings each) delivered once weekly. None of us came into this with any meal kit experience. We had no idea what to expect.

(By the way, Home Chef was not aware that we were testing. I set up our accounts and covered the cost of all the meals and delivery during the testing period.)

I could write chapters about every detail of our Home Chef experiences, but in the interest of time and space, I’ll cut to the chase:

Home Chef has greatly improved our lives and continues to do so—as varied as our lifestyles and situations are. It is an amazing service. Nothing about it is gross (I’m so sorry I even thought of that as a possibility). In fact, the food arrives fresher than meat, fish, seafood and produce at my local supermarket. It is high quality and did I say fresh?

Home Chef box with all of its contents on the counter demonstrating how complete it is

Home Chef uses some kind of space-age gel packs that are still frozen hard upon arrival. Even if that box sits on the porch all day, those packs remain frozen, but the food is never frozen arriving at exactly the right temperature to maintain flavor and safety. All of Home Chef  packaging is designed to be environmentally friendly—nothing toxic or in any way harmful.

Home Chef does a terrific job of delivering amazingly fresh ingredients and offering a variety of dishes. All of us have loved the meals—even the picky bachelor and equally picky children.

Each meal requires about 30 minutes of preparation. We can change our delivery day, adjust our meals, skip a week or pause our accounts whenever we need to. And there are no contracts involved, which means we can cancel anytime. The food is amazingly delicious, too. In six weeks, not one regret was reported.

MORE: How to Use Meal Kits to Cut Your Food Costs

Here’s how it works: You join (cancel anytime if you want). You sign up for the number of meals you want in the week and the number of servings. Then you choose your meals from 15 different options (they change weekly) featuring steak, chicken, pork, fish, vegetarian and beyond. You’ll discover a variety that meets your needs with recipes changing weekly. You can tailor meals to your dietary needs including low-calorie and low-carb and more.

The cost for Home Chef is $9.95 per serving. Shipping is free for orders over $45; $10 for orders less than $45.

I have done my best to compare Home Chef costs against the cost to buy the exact same ingredients at my local supermarket. While it’s not easy to quantify the cost of say, one tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar (at least with Home Chef I don’t have to buy the entire bottle to get the bit I need), I’m surprised that Home Chef does not cost more than what I would spend for the same exact ingredients locally. This investigation comes to a very similar conclusion.

Based on what our test group experienced collectively, here is what you can expect from Home Chef:

  • You will most certainly improve your culinary skills and repertoire. The food is amazing.
  • It is SO much fun and never gets old opening the box to see what’s for dinner.
  • You will surprise yourself as you prepare recipes you might otherwise skip over in a magazine or cookbook.
  • Your kids and other family members will surprise you when they are willing to try new things and then end up enjoying food items they’ve never tried before or been certain they hated!
  • The ingredients are fresher, higher-quality and generally better than you might find at your average chain grocery store. The meals are amazingly delicious.
  • You will notice your refrigerator has more room because it’s not a repository for leftovers (that sit there until they turn green).
  • Home Chef serving sizes are surprisingly generous (2-servings were adequate for the testing family with two young children who are light eaters).
  • Your children will get engaged in the process. Because every ingredient is perfectly portioned, labeled and ready to go, older kids and teens can get involved in making dinner.

Food displayed on counter ready to be cooked

All of us are impressed with Home Chef. Home Chef has changed our lives in different ways, and all without increasing our food costs!

In fact, Harold and I have spent considerably less on food since joining Home Chef, mostly because we eat out far less frequently.

You can check it out HERE. And when you get to that page, you’ll see that I’ve arranged for you to get a $30 coupon should you wish to give Home Chef a test run. I can’t wait to hear about your experiences!

 

PREVIOUSLY:  10 Easy 3-Ingredient Party Dips That are Absolutely Delicious!


There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Read more here

 

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21 replies
  1. barbara baird
    barbara baird says:

    I tried this after reading about it here. I admit that it was convenient & food was fresh & good. However,I was unaware that when I ordered I signed up for a subscription,not just one order. They didn’t tell me that I would have to remember to log on weekly & choose meals or they would choose for me. Would have been nice if they sent reminder email. I found out they were shipping 2nd meal kit when they charged my debit card again. When I called them I was told that they could not cancel or change the order even though it had not been packed or shipped yet. Since I was going on vacation & had no one to receive package, it sat on my porch & when I returned I had to dispose of the box of spoiled food. I found the customer service to be greatly lacking.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      kcjmc: Of course this option is not right for everyone! Just keep in mind we have millions of readers representing many lifestyles, demographics and financial situations. I’m happy to know you cook from scratch and really know how to stretch your food dollars. There are many in in EC family with two full-time income producers who don’t have the kind of time you might, in order to do so well with your food!

      Reply
  2. PatriotPeg
    PatriotPeg says:

    unfortunately, it seems Home Chef does not deliver in my area, Palm Coast, FL. the info cursor will not allow me to enter my zip, appears frozen on my city box. ah well, i am moving soon, perhaps they will deliver there. thanx, mary for all ya do. just love your columns. been a fan for many years. u have taught me much. happy, healthy new year. peggy

    Reply
  3. Pat Goff
    Pat Goff says:

    I ordered from one of the brands and was impressed myself however I made one meal and forgot about the other ones and ended up throwing them away two weeks later. Granted it was my fault but I would be afraid it would happen again. I agree they are not environmentally friendly and they are not feasible if you have a large family. We have 6 people living at my house at the moment. I doubt the grand kids will ever move out til they graduate. LOL The food was good though and would be okay once or twice I guess but not something I would be interested in trying again.

    Reply
  4. Ellen C
    Ellen C says:

    I agree the meals are delicious but as I have written to you before the recyclable aspect of these is not as advertised. Only the cardboard is universally accepted. The ice bags cannot be put down the drain – I confirmed this with the manufacturer. No one wants them not even the Boy Scouts. I routinely advertised in Freecycle and Craigslist with no takers. Even if you found a taker, you will accumulate far more than they need. The cushioning material claims to be compostible but so much is accumulated you would need to be a very large scale composting concern. Great food but an environmental headache. Please use your influence to change this. When I contact them I get the same answers as on their website.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      This from Home Chef: “Ice Packs – Our ice packs are non-toxic and made of 99% water and 1% sodium salt (polyacralate). They can be easily rinsed off and reused. To dispose of the ice packs, simply cut open the film, throw the contents in the trash, and recycle the film where you recycle your plastic bags.” I don’t know which manufacturer you checked with, but I believe you have incorrect information. I have no reason to doubt HC on this.

      Reply
      • Ellen C
        Ellen C says:

        Hi Mary,

        I contacted the manufacturer listed on the ice pack itself. At that time, Home Chef recommended disposal down the drain – that advice has since changed. In my experience, the ice packs will leak if not kept frozen and the contents is liquid glop that makes an absolute mess in the trash. Very few municipalities have recycling programs that accept plastic film. Many plastics are theoretically recyclable but very few are accepted. Many times recycling programs limit plastics to type 1 and 2’s which disqualifies most of the plastics included in the Home Chef box. After using Home Chef for 6 months, I had in excess of 40 pounds of ‘glop’ to dispose of – no landfill deserves that. There must be a better way. Love the food – not the waste.

    • Shelly Alvine
      Shelly Alvine says:

      I agree with Ellen. It seems like a great idea but the waste and impact in the environment is concerning. Also, add the impact of all the UPS delivery miles. One option might be to check your local grocery store for meal kits. The price may be competitive.

      Reply
  5. Janie L Claypool
    Janie L Claypool says:

    But, is it non-GMO and organic? Grass-fed beef? Non farm-raised seafood? These are the issues that make it a no-go for me.

    Reply
  6. Debi Henson
    Debi Henson says:

    As a vegan, I was disappointed. Even when I tried various levels (low carb, low calorie, both or neither, no milk, pork, red meat or seafood) there were not enough meals to create a subscription. So, a vegetarian who chooses no red meat, no seafood, no pork and no milk has no chance.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Debi, without a doubt Home Chef is not a customized meal kit plan. Im afraid such a thing would be very cost prohibitive—way more than $9.95 per serving.

      Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Beth: Sorry, there was a glitch and I don’t know how or why that happens, but it is correct now. Here it is again: https://bit.ly/2GYx9eq

      Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Brenda … There was a glitch in the link, so sorry! It has been corrected now! Click on this link: https://bit.ly/2GYx9eq

      Reply
  7. annie56
    annie56 says:

    These kits intrigue me & I appreciate you addressing some of my concerns & questions. I know they probably are wonderful for some but not for me. I like shopping for my own ingredients & I really like leftovers so we can have another meal just heating things up. Much cheaper too. Plus I live in an area that no one, not no how can ship anything to that’s still frozen or cold. There’s no such thing as next-day delivery where I live!

    Reply
  8. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    Even the cost of $9.95 per person would be so expensive for us that it is not reasonable. I only eat kosher/organic as I am a Messianic Jew and for 3 people that would be $30 a meal for 3 adults. My husband and I are both Disabled veterans and our pensions would not cover $895.50 a month. Besides we love cooking and we love leftovers. Boxed meals are not what we would be willing to invest in. We buy really great meats at a grocery called Sprouts at a reasonable price and many times the meat we buy will give us 2 or 3 meals from one purchase

    Reply
  9. Kathy Wright
    Kathy Wright says:

    Mary i have to say my husband and i love the meals. He is an ebayer who reuses all but the ice packs. Those i save for when i send food home with our young adult sons. And for 9.95 a meal, restaurants cant beat it! We love Home Chef!

    Reply

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