How to Use Meal Kits to Cut Your Food Costs

Faithful readers will recall that my husband and I have been testing and enjoying one of the popular meal kit delivery services.

Since writing about that (see Dinner-in-a-Box is Not at All What I Thought) I’ve gotten the most interesting feedback! But first, a quick review:

From the meal kit delivery services currently available, I selected Home Chef because 1) our zip code is in its delivery area—nearly 90% of the country is, 2) it is the cheapest and 3) I predicted it would be the most family-friendly. Turns out I nailed it. Home Chef meals are absolutely delicious and use normal, fresh food—not exotic fare or ingredients we’ve never heard of and can’t pronounce.

A Home Chef meal kit includes all of the fresh ingredients and instructions needed to cook restaurant-quality meals for 2, 4 or 6 people in the comfort of your own kitchen, eliminating recipe searches and food shopping by sending everything required for that meal—perfectly portioned and ready to go. Seriously, Home Chef is like having your own personal sous chef.

I have enjoyed your feedback—especially the creative, innovative and clever ways many are figuring out how to enjoy Home Chef while at the same time make the service work to cut overall food costs:

SINGLE PROFESSIONAL

Dear Mary: Cooking for one is not an easy task. I’m not an experienced cook, which makes it even more challenging. I end up going to the grocery and leaving with half a dinner and $50 in snacks. Or if I do plan ahead and try to buy ingredients for a specific recipe, I end up with extra ingredients that expire before I use them. Eating in restaurants gets tiresome and very expensive.

With Home Chef, I choose three 2-serving meals per week ($60 with free shipping). I’m single, but still when I prepare one meal, I cook both servings at the same time for convenience. Then I reheat the second serving the following night. HC meals are so good, it doesn’t even seem like leftovers. With some of the meals (for instance pasta dishes) I can stretch it out for a light lunch, too because the portions are large. I usually freeze the meat for the final meal then prepare for days 5 and 6. One night a week (usually on the weekend) I’ll eat out with friends or family.

What used to be multiple weekly grocery store trips plus ordering delivery or take out, has now changed into a $60-a-week Home Chef plan—way less than I used to spend on food. I do make an occasional grocery store or Costco run every few weeks for some snacks, fruit, light lunches, and paper goods. Asher

SINGLE SENIOR

Dear Mary: I am so pleased that I decided to try out Home Chef (thanks for the $30 coupon, by the way). I hadn’t planned to continue after that initial delivery, but I enjoyed it so much, I’ve discovered a way that even on my fixed income, I can make this work.

I order three 2-serving meals plus the 2-serving fruit option one week, and then I use the Skip [a week] option for the following two weeks.

That total cost is $70 with free shipping or about $23 per week spread over three weeks. I freeze some of the meat and follow the instructions for where and how to store the other ingredients.

I divide the ingredients for each meal so I prepare just one serving at a time. Each 2-serving meal makes four meals for me because I’m a light eater and the portions are large. That’s how I get 12 meals plus fresh fruit almost daily from that one Home Chef delivery box!

Cooking has become enjoyable for me again, and the food is so delicious. I call HC my spark of joy. Millie

AVERAGE FAMILY

Dear Mary: We’re a family of four with two young boys. Home Chef is not something we would have thought we could afford, but when asked to be an EC test family, we agreed, happily. Now that the test period is over, we’ve figured out how we can continue without destroying our food budget. In fact, we are spending a bit less on food each week than we did before we had HC.

Each week we order three 2-serving meals (about $60 with free shipping)—three dinner meals. The portions are large enough that we share them four ways, with the adults getting larger shares.

The boys, ages 7 and 2, mostly enjoy the meals and are trying new things all the time. To stretch our HC meals, we supplement the boys’ plates with things they like such as carrot sticks, cheese, applesauce or mandarin oranges. No one leaves the table hungry and we are eating fresh, healthy food that is really delicious. HC is such a huge help for our busy lives. Wendy

LARGE FAMILY

Dear Mary: We are a family of six (four teenagers) for whom it has become prohibitively expensive to eat out in a nice restaurant. Even limiting eating out to special occasions like a Birthday or to celebrate a big accomplishment takes a toll on the food budget. I used the $30 coupon you offered to try Home Chef just to see what it would be like. I loved it.

Because I discovered I could have a Home Chef account that we can use on and off (the Skip option lets me skip one week at a time, but the Pause option puts my account on hold and allows me to start it up and then pause again, anytime), our kids now have the option for their Birthday dinners to go out for fast food or to have a Home Chef 6-serving family meal at home ($60 with free shipping). So far, it’s Fast Food: 0; HC: 3. The kids do the cooking for our Home Chef meals (super easy-to-follow instructions) and that’s been a big hit.  Suzanne

DINNER CLUB

My husband and I plus two other couples have over the years created our own Dinner Club, where we take turns hosting Friday night dinner for the group. The last two times we’ve hosted, we ordered a 6-serving Home Chef meal kits ($60 with free shipping). We loved preparing the meals and everyone raved about the food.

Here’s the fun part: Without meaning to I think we’ve raised the bar for the Dinner Club. More than that, we used to spend a lot more than $60 for one meal—and it would take me all day to shop, prep and cook. Now our friends think we’ve gone to culinary school because it’s so good and nearly effortless. We’re loving Home Chef! Bob and Joyce

The cost for Home Chef is $9.95 per serving. Shipping is $10 or free shipping for orders over $45. You can check it out HERE. When you get there, you’ll see that I can still offer you a $30 coupon should you wish to give Home Chef a test run. I can’t wait to know what you think!

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  • tinydogpries

    Everyone’s comments sounded so good, especially the single, senior comment which matches my situation. I again visited the HC website but they just don’t offer meals that I would enjoy. As a child I was always required to at least try everything offered, but that rarely resulted in my LIKING everything I tried. Some of the HC meals offered an entree that sounded good, but the side would probably get tossed, or the side sounded great, but it is paired with something I DON’T like, or maybe both items are appealing, but then they ruin it by spicing things up ( I DESPISE any food that bites back). Each week I found one meal I would order, one week I even found two I would be willing to try. I’m sure this concept is great for many, but I am a good cook and have simple tastes and can easily eat on much less than $10 @ serving. It’s not for everyone.

    • Mary Hunt

      I think you should at least give it a try for just one week … with $30 off it will be so cheap! I hate kale by the way but they way they have me prepare it … wow! I am liking it a lot. That’s a miracle. Clearly I’ve never known how to fix kale properly 🙂

    • maxhalberg

      Also you can forgo any spices they include! Usually it’s a small little packet of siracha or a pepper here and there so you aren’t missing out on something that you paid a lot for.

  • Bookworm

    I did try it, and love it! I will use the skip option, because I’m cooking just for me and have other, cheaper meals I like to prepare for myself. But I will continue to use HC about every other week or so. Thanks for the $30 coupon!

  • Lori

    We really enjoyed our first batch of meals and can’t wait for next week’s delivery. I really like this service, but would love them to address all the packaging that comes along with the convenience. It would be amazing if they could figure out how to use a returnable crate (and returnable ice packs) at a minimum. I know everything is recyclable, but it is still a lot to toss out.

    • Mary Hunt

      I break down the box and when I have a few offer them for free to my community FB page for moving boxes. They are great for heavy kitchen things. People clamor for free boxes around here.

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  • Chris

    The only thing about Home Chef that was disappointing was the high sodium levels in the meals! I am on a low sodium diet and the amount of sodium was really high! The levels are written under the photo of the meal and under the recipe.

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  • Barbara

    I liked the quality of the meal kit I used. But I am still concerned about all the plastic bags and tiny bottles to dispose of. Have you found a meal kit that tries to be environmentally friendly?

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