A sign on the side of a building

How to Break the Restaurant Habit

Whether this wicked virus that continues to spread represents a temporary disruption or it changes life as we know it, one thing is clear: We won’t be going out for a lovely restaurant dinner in the foreseeable future. The world of food has been turned upside down.

A sign on the side of a building

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Suddenly, eating out needs to be replaced with cooking in, and that scares a lot of people who’ve become accustomed to eating out.

But how can you go from eating out most of the time to knowing how to cook at home all of the time? Is there a simple way to make that pivot? There is. And while what follows may not become a permanent solution, relying on meal kits for a month or two to teach you the basics of home cooking is really smart. This could get you over the hump with great ease.

Dinner in a box, seriously?!

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?

Home Chef delivery box filled with meal kit sitting on

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. Here’s what happened:

Test and testers

I decided to test one of the meal kit delivery services. I determined Home Chef to be 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.)

It’s been more than three years since we became Home Chef customers and I could write chapters about every detail of our 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 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, easily recycled.

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

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.

A bunch of food sitting on a counter, with Home Chef

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 meals varies but the ones we choose are $9.95 per serving.

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—often less.

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! Home Chef is super family-friendly.
  • 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.

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 $35 off coupon (plus $20 cash back if you have a Rakuten account) to use on your first order should you wish to give Home Chef a test run.

I can’t wait to hear about your experiences!

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  1. Mary S. says:

    I agree with those that are saying to support your local restaurants by ordering online for delivery, take-out or drive-thru. If you prefer to cook at home, that is great, but in some areas it is still difficult to buy certain foods at the grocery stores due to the hoarding of products that has taken place which makes home cooking difficult. We don’t do meal delivery kits, too expensive & too many preservatives. I still think the best thing to do is support our local businesses as much as possible, they are going through really bad times, being forced to lay off employees & some small ones will not recover.

  2. John G says:

    This is a pretty pricey solution for a family of 6. Our meals are way below the $10 per person average stated. In addition, take a look at the sodium in each serving……an entire day’s recommended salt intake is almost entirely consumed with a single serving of just about everything I reviewed in the available menu items.

  3. Andrea Anderson says:

    I think this is the time TO EAT OUT if you can (not literally–order take out or delivery). We need to support our local businesses during this difficult time when they have no choice but to close there doors to eat in business.

  4. Shelly Alvine says:

    I have to disagree Mary. At this point, we have an overstressed delivery system. UPS and FedEx is over worked and may have sick workers also. If many of us are home, just suck it up and cook. We don’t need fancy expensive meals. I hate to accuse Mary if being a sales person for meal kits because I trust her too much but this isn’t the time to promote the expensive kits.

  5. Linda Keenan says:

    Our first Home Chef order came last week. I couldn’t be more pleased. Thank you Mary for a great suggestion! It’s just the 2 of us & it has worked out perfectly. My husband enjoyed every meal so far. We both work and the stress of trying to have healthy meals can be difficult if I haven’t preplanned for the week. This has changed all that. It’s much easier going into the week knowing dinner is covered for at least 3 of the weekday nights.

  6. Colleen says:

    I don’t usually contribute my opinion, but I felt like I needed to weigh in. While I’m typically your biggest fan and usually embrace about 99.9% of your advice, Mary, I have to respectfully disagree with the idea of ordering expensive delivered meals, especially during this time of incredible economic uncertainty (and yes, an average of $9.99 per serving is expensive, any way you slice or dice it!) Market fluctuations have already significantly affected the retirement future and other shorter-term investments of many. I’m not nearly as doom-and-gloom as some people I know, and I believe that the economy will eventually improve and we’ll pull out of this, but it could be some time before that happens. In my humble opinion, I think we could look at the coronavirus experience as a time to re-evaluate and see where we can pare down, economize, reduce debt, increase savings, and continue to prepare for future uncertainties. To that end, I was expecting to see some frugal suggestions on low-cost/creative meal prep, or even ideas on where to go to LEARN some new basic cooking skills if necessary so I’m a little disappointed (but still love you! 😉 Please keep the great information coming–you are awesome!

    • Great answer in these unprecedented times! I agree too, with a prior reader that supporting your local take-away here and there is a prudent idea. It is easy to order online for certain preserved foods, such as Lidl offers at very good value. says:

      comment as above!

      • Evelyn says:

        Also just to add – if you don`t fancy standing in a queue at your local supermarket (how is it possible to stand in a queue with 2 metres distance between each person, so as not to pass on the virus?!) then going to your good old burger joint (either McD or BK!) they usually have good offers on and I believe you can now order in – the King Box for example, is a good deal (particularly in Germany for the current price of 4.99 euros) and is enough for one person or can be split between two if you`re not too hungry with some added extras such as a large salad to share. All good ways to continue to support the economy and allow oneself an extra treat if you`ve spent a large part of the week indoors! On those days, you can be economical. We all need to get out, stretch our legs, and breathe in some Spring air and appreciate all the new blooms, while keeping a sensible distance from those who may be carrying the COVID-19 virus. Even if the worst comes to the worst and you are infected, it is prudent to drink as many fluids as possible to flush the virus through your system to your stomach where your stomach acids will kill off the virus and pass through your system naturally. The first two days of the virus is the most infectious. Get out to the parks and gardens and take along a picnic and share with your partner who hopefully is not infected – this too will pass with everyone`s love and co-operation towards one another. Good health to everyone!!

  7. Mary Ann says:

    We’ve been using Home Chef since October 2019
    and quite pleased with the choices of meals, their freshness, taste, quality.
    They did increase the total you have to spend weekly to $49 and change or a $10 shipping fee is added.

  8. Richard says:

    I have no problem cooking or preparing meals at home. I eat out because I do not appreciate having to eat alone. Since my wife of 56 years passed away (6 years ago) I desire the company of people. Most of the restaurant staff in establishments near my home know me and interact with me when I visit, Especially the Spirit River Cafe who serves exquisite Split Pea Soup on Tuesdays. I will still eat out as often as I am able to. This short term disruption will eventually pass.

    • Lilie says:

      I am so sorry for the passing of your beloved wife. And I hope that you stay healthy and strong so you can continue doing what you and enjoy, as I am sure that those people enjoy your company just as much. And yes, this too will pass and very soon, I know

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