A series of unsponsored meal kit reviews and comparisons
A few months ago, my daughter made a case for us to try meal kits. I wasn’t so sure at first. Whenever I had checked into them previously, they seemed expensive and didn’t have a lot of recipes we would actually like. I have two particular eaters in my household, and we’re pretty plain eating folks. But, I decided to check into it again and found there were many more options, so I decided we’d give meal kits a try. I started with one company, but I was anxious to do a meal kit comparison and see what we’d like most.
So after about five meal kit boxes from one provider, I paused my account and changed to another. I just wanted to see the difference. At the same time, there was a third one I was curious about as well. I figured all this trying would end up being a great meal kit comparison to share!
Before ordering, I tried looking at meal kit comparisons, but most of them seemed to include affiliate links or sponsorships with the companies. I am not affiliated with or sponsored by any of these meal kit companies. When I started writing this meal kit comparison, in fact, I had no idea which service I’d end up liking the most — if any of them. I didn’t even intend to make it a blog post!
Then, once I decided to make it a blog post, I thought it’d be just one post. Pretty quickly, I realized that I needed more than one post to include all the information to make a helpful comparison. Over a few weeks, I’m posting our experiences with Dinnerly, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Every Plate and EMeals.
Next I chose Home Chef. Its ads kept showing up everywhere, so I figured it was a good one to try! One thing I noticed in the ads was some ready-to-heat meals. That piqued my interest for sure. The menu looked like it had enough options for my family, so I was in.
From the beginning of picking meals with Home Chef, I was pleased. Home Chef had a variety of options that worked even for my particular eaters. The Home Chef menu was different from the others in that you can customize the number of servings for each meal selected for the week. I picked a two-meal-a-week plan.
My plan was to pick one meal my whole family would like and then another that my daughter and I would eat without our particular eaters. I loved that Home Chef had the option for me to pick just two servings for those meals. It saved me money and made food prep easier as well. I also like picking serving sizes for times we have company so then I could opt for more servings.
And, as I mentioned, some menu choices were marked as oven-ready.
Home Chef listed the price per serving clearly on each of the menu choices. The majority are $8.99 per serving, but some were lower at $6.99 per serving. The highest price I saw was $14.99 per serving for some more gourmet dishes. As I selected meals and servings, Home Chef updated my overall price at the top of the page, which is great if you are trying to stick within a certain budget. It also doesn’t result in an unexpected higher price in the end.
The price without discounts for one 2-serving meal and one 4-serving meal a week was $53.94 plus $8.99 shipping for a total of $62.93. If I had done two 4-serving meals, the food cost would have been more around $71.92 for $8.99 meals, which is what I usually got.
I received my Home Chef meals via FedEx, which worked really well. Just like UPS, FedEx usually delivers in my neighborhood around lunchtime.
Ingredients for each meal came packaged together in a large, resealable zip-top bag. I could easily pull out all the ingredients I’d need for prepping a meal. I liked the bag being clear so I could see what was inside. The only thing that shipped outside of the bag was meat. For oven-ready meals, the pan was even included in the bag for easy prep.
Just like with the others, the ingredients were all pre-portioned. I needed very few things from my own pantry with Home Chef meals, usually just olive oil, salt and pepper. For recipes that needed butter, Home Chef even included pats of butter. One thing I especially appreciated is that fresh veggies came prepped and ready. Green beans, for example, were already trimmed. I just rinsed them and got to cooking. For recipes that used garlic cloves, the cloves were packed in sealed bags and were already peeled. They were ready to go, which I greatly appreciated. It saved prep time!
One of the other things Home Chef did differently was include some plastic containers with some of the ingredients. One of the Mexican dishes, for example, had a plastic jar with a twist-on lid full of enchilada sauce. I saved the containers, because they work well for leftovers or other home projects. Plus there is less waste that way!
The only drawback for some people is that the meat arrived frozen. My husband isn’t usually a fan of frozen meat. But we couldn’t tell a flavor or texture difference, so I think it was frozen just before shipping. I liked that better, actually, because I felt like the meat was likely to not spoil as easily during shipping and it would stay fresh a day or two longer than non-frozen meat.
Cooking the meals
Hands-down cooking the Home Chef meals was the easiest of all the meal kit services I’d previously tried. While the meals from Dinnerly and Hello Fresh both took longer to make than the recipe said, Home Chef meals took either the same amount of estimated time or less!
Each box arrived with 8.5×11-inch glossy recipe cards. The recipe cards were hole-punched to easily store in a three-ring binder if desired. All of the recipes are also available in your account if you prefer to cook with the recipe digitally on your phone or tablet. I’m a fan of recipe cards myself!
The directions were easy to follow. Home Chef had some prep required for things. Even the oven-ready meals needed a bit of prep, but it wasn’t nearly as much as the other meal kits. For example, with Hello Fresh I made a pasta with tomato sauce and started with whole tomatoes I had to puree and cook. With Home Chef, a similar recipe came with tomato sauce that I added seasonings and tomato paste to for easier and quicker prep. As a result, we also used less pots and pans with Home Chef recipes, which made for easier clean-up.
My 12-year-old daughter could easily make the Home Chef meals on her own. I appreciate fresh ingredients and doing things completely from scratch, but for weeknight meals, I loved that much of the ingredient prep was done for me. It saved me time on cooking dinner, which is always a bonus.
The only drawback is that since some of the items were prepared for us (like a marinara sauce and pesto that one pasta recipe used), it could be difficult recreating those dishes with just the recipe card later. For us, that wasn’t such a drawback, but I can see where it might be for some people.
The portion sizes were good. For the meals I got two servings of, my daughter and I usually ate them without leftovers. For the servings of four, we tended to have some leftovers. But that is in part because my son is hesitant about eating much of new recipes.
I’d give Home Chef 5 out of 5 stars. We got good home-cooked meals with less work that gave me more time to enjoy my family!
Other posts from this series: