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:

Results

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 vary but the ones we choose are $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—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 cashback 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. Peg Schweitzer says:

    My husband and I order three meals every other week. Ordering three meals makes the shipping free. The portions are generous so that we prepare the meal but consume only half. That brings the portion price down to around $5.00 which fits our budget. Sometimes I add a salad if necessary. Upon delivery I immediately put the meat in the freezer and then determine which vegetable needs to be prepared first and which one can wait a bit. I have learned so much about sauces, spices,
    and preparations. Sometimes the ingredients are ones that I can duplicate at home at a later time.
    If only I knew what was in those little deglazing packets!

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