Meal kit reviews: What I learned about cook-at-home kits

Cook-at-home kits taught me a few lessons I’ll continue to use even if I don’t continue to use the kits!

When my daughter first proposed trying cook-at-home kits a few months ago, I was certainly hesitant to give them a try. But now, after trying multiple meal kit services, I’m glad we did so! I wanted to wrap up the series with my overall thoughts, lessons learned and what we’ll do in the future.

(And, as a reminder, I have no affiliation with any of the meal kit service providers and am earning no commission from any of them. These are just my own opinions about DinnerlyHello FreshHome ChefEvery Plate and EMeals.)

One cook-at-home kit that didn’t work

Of all the cook-at-home kit services we tried, only one didn’t work out at all. Others I liked at varying degrees, but Blue Apron just wasn’t a fit for my family.

While we didn’t actually receive meals from Blue Apron, it wasn’t for lack of trying. In fact, when I saw Blue Apron offers a two meal plan a week, I decided to try them. I looked at the menu and found it iffy. But I decided to take the plunge and sign up anyway.

I discovered that some of the menu items I saw before signing up that looked good were only offered in two-person portions. And I couldn’t change portion sizes within the same box. All of them had to be the 4-serving selections. There were only eight recipe options I got to pick from by eliminating fish, lamb and shellfish.

Its website was the most cumbersome of the ones I used and not very user friendly overall. I couldn’t find meals that worked for my family. The prices seemed higher to me for what I was getting as well. Once I was clear that Blue Apron wouldn’t work for us, I wanted to cancel my subscription. I found that in order to do so, I have to email Blue Apron’s customer service. I did so, but I find that to be quite annoying. All the other cook-at-home meal kit services had options for me to click in my account to cancel or indefinitely pause my service.

The features I liked

Cook-at-home kit services definitely have likeable features. For the most part, food shows up at your door in the right portion sizes and is ready for you to cook. Some of the services made this easier than others. Overall, my favorite cook-at-home meal kit service was Home Chef. It gets props from me in that it allowed me to pick only two meals a week (best for my family), adjust the portion sizes for all selections I made and had the easiest to cook recipes of all the services that delivered food to my door.

I didn’t know these things would be a draw going in, but I quickly learned they made a big difference after I tried a few other services. Your family may not care as much if you three meals a week is the smallest amount offered or if all meals come in the same portion sizes. But, for our family it really made a difference and fit our needs the very best.

Assessing the cost

Along with concerns about whether we’d find enough foods we like in cook-at-home kit services, my other biggest concern was the cost. For each service I tried, I listed the cost in detail in the individual review posts (see links in the second paragraph or at the end.) Almost all of them offered discounts for new subscribers, but the discounts were distributed over multiple weeks, so they were much smaller on a weekly basis.

Because Home Chef was my favorite, I contemplated whether to continue with it once we were done with the cook-at-home meal kit service reviews. I even found that I could opt to get a delivery every other week or once a month. Being allowed to skip deliveries, it could be even further in between, I suppose. But what I ended up with was a box with two meals for my family (one of which was only two portions because half my family wouldn’t eat it and would need other food prepared for them) that cost around $67. I could take my family of four out to dinner twice a week for the same amount. It just doesn’t seem worth it to me in the end. So, I have indefinitely paused my service.

I know part of the fee for the cook-at-home kits is paying for the ingredients and the convenience. For my family, though, I can get the ingredient locally for less and don’t mind picking them up with my regular weekly grocery order anyway. The cook-at-home kits aren’t made to replace our entire grocery shopping for the week, so they weren’t saving me a trip to the grocery store either.

The one service I’m keeping — at least for now

While I’m not keeping any of the meal kit delivery services, I am keeping EMeals — at least for now. That’s in part because when I subscribed to the service, I had to pay for three months at a time and that time hasn’t ended, yet! But, I am thinking I will continue to use EMeals even after that and renew my plan.

I like that EMeals is cheaper and has way more food options that work for my family. It also uses more convenience items that make getting dinner on the table on weeknights much easier for me. When I first tried EMeals, I didn’t think I’d stay with it. Pinterest and other websites basically do the same thing for free. But, I found that EMeals makes finding new recipes and figuring out what ingredients I need much faster and easier. I don’t get bogged down by too many recipes like can sometimes happen to me online.

EMeals helps me stay creative and out of a rut, which I like. And it fits much better in my budget at $30 for three months. (It does offer an option to pay $60 for a year, which I will do if we continue to like and use it as much as we have been these last couple of months!)

The lessons I’ve learned from cook-at-home kits

I don’t regret trying the cook-at-home kits at all. This experience has changed the way I cook and meal plan — both for the better! We are trying new recipes on a weekly basis now (usually two new recipes a week). I have gotten outside of my comfort zone for cooking and made all kinds of foods and recipes I hadn’t made before. The cook-at-home kits taught me some kitchen skills I hadn’t used before.

I’m now pretty dang good at peeling garlic, cooking chicken and roasting vegetables. I’ve figured out how to meal plan entire meals rather than just main dishes. And my family learned that making two separate meals once a week isn’t so difficult. My husband and son are more particular eaters. Cook-at-home kits got me in the mode of making one meal a week that I knew the guys wouldn’t like for just my daughter and me. I put in a frozen pizza or make something very easy for the boys on those nights. Everybody is happy.

I have also learned that cooking from scratch is tasty, but it isn’t always practical for my family. Some of the cook-at-home kits took me at least an hour at prepare. On weeknights, especially, that’s just too much for it to be on a regular basis. I don’t want to use all convenience, prepackaged food, but I’ve found a happy medium.

Finally, using the meal kits also helped my family eat at home more and enjoy what we’re eating even more. They certainly got us out of a dinner rut. And that’s always a good thing!

What have been your experiences with cook-at-home kits? I’d love to hear from you!

Other posts from this series:

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