Families With Grace

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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:

Meal kit review: EMeals

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 DinnerlyHello FreshHome Chef, Every Plate and EMeals.


From the beginning of this journey, I was most intrigued by EMeals. It is much cheaper because you’re only paying for the meal plans and buying the groceries yourself. They partner will various grocery stores to help make shopping easier. I do like that. As a rather DIY person, I figured EMeals would be the best fit for us.

Signing up for EMeals was pretty painless. I signed up online but then had to download the app to do much else. You can see your account and payment information online, but finding recipes and creating shopping lists has to be done through the app. I’m not anti-apps by any means, but I often have my laptop and like having the option to use it as well. Plans that have both make me happiest!

Menu choices

Since EMeals doesn’t have to source the food for its recipes like other meal kits do, they have many more menu options. There are a few that are family friendly options, and I started with those. Of all the meal kits we have tried, this one definitely had the most options that worked for my entire family. Quite a few of the meals were similar to things in our regular rotation, but there were lots of new options as well. My concern was whether I’d push outside of our comfort zone as much as I have with other meal kits!

EMeals also goes with some premade items on many recipes to make cooking time quicker. That’s a nice bonus for this mama on busy weeknights!

I’d love to have a search feature in EMeals to look for meals that utilize specific ingredients. For example, the first week using EMeals, I bought a half gallon of buttermilk for a blueberry muffin recipe. That’s not something I usually use, so I wanted to find other recipes to make use of the buttermilk.

While you do select a specific plan you’d like to go with (like family friendly, low calorie or budget), you can easily access and pick from recipes in all of the plans. I really like that!


EMeals offers 14 days for free, but you have to put in your payment information for them to start charging at the end of 14 days. Instead of being a monthly or weekly charge, EMeals charges either every three months at $9.99 a month or once a year at $4.99 a month. I opted for the three-month option when signing up, because I didn’t know how much we’d like it. Honestly, I’d prefer a monthly option at least to start with.

For additional fees, you can also add on a breakfast plan and a lunch plan (each costs additional). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anywhere to view these plans ahead of time and they aren’t included in the free trial, so I didn’t go for them.


Shipping wasn’t relevant to EMeals for me. I order my groceries online and pick them up. EMeals partners with a variety of retailers to help you make your list. So, I worked with Walmart, which is my go-to for grocery pick-up anyway.

Once you pick however many recipes you want for the week, then you can click and see your ingredient list in the EMeals app. It will pull up every single ingredient needed to make everything you have saved for the week. One negative to me is that it often automatically adds alcohol to pair with meals to the shopping list. We don’t drink alcohol, so I removed it from the list, but it sort of irritated me I even had to do that. However, it wasn’t difficult to remove. Each item has a box next to it to check whether you need it. It starts out with everything checked. And the list also tells you how much of an ingredient you need and what recipe you need it for. (I like that!)

Before even connecting to Walmart, I was able to remove items from the list that I had on hand. Once that was finished, then I clicked a button and it took me ingredient by ingredient through the Walmart app to add whatever choices I wanted. It pulled up a selection of items and I picked from them. It was easy!

I also was able to add on additional items as well. The items I added to my Walmart cart through the EMeals app also were in my Walmart cart in the Walmart app. For the rest of my shopping, I just switched to the Walmart app itself because that’s what I’m most familiar with.

If you really love having the groceries delivered to your house, then opt for your grocery store’s delivery service.


Again, this is a bit different from the others in that the ingredients being fresh or not didn’t depend on EMeals. I liked the way I made selections of ingredients in the app. However, I also wondered how difficult it would be to find and purchase the ingredients needed for recipes. With previous meal kits, we used multiple ingredients that were a bit more specialty. I wasn’t confident my local Walmart would carry some of them.

However, EMeals recipes are more simplified and use some convenience foods as well, like refrigerated mashed potatoes or mac & cheese. I had no problem finding any of the ingredients I needed.

Cooking the meals

Of all the meal kit meals I’ve made, EMeals were the very easiest. The recipes are more like recipes I usually make for my family on a weeknight. While I love making things from scratch sometimes, a lot of weeknights, I just need to get food on the table and move on. I never felt out of my depth with anything I made from EMeals. They weren’t as challenging as the other meal kits, which is both a positive and a negative. Though they were easier to make, they didn’t push me out of my comfort zone.

I don’t like using my phone to read recipes, which I thought was going to be an issue with EMeal. The recipes are only on the app. But, I discovered that if I share the recipe via email to myself, then it takes me to the recipe on the website and has a print button right there for easy printing. I loved that!

The estimated cook times seemed accurate and sometimes it took me a little less time than estimated, which was great!

Portion sizes

The portion sizes vary on the recipes you make. All of them are clearly marked. Since you purchase your own ingredients, you can adjust the portion sizes as needed. For example, my family isn’t big on eating meat. The first week, I halved our ground beef purchase for the recipes. So we got fewer portions as a result. But feeding a family four with the family plan was super easy. Many of the recipes feed up to six people. The portion sizes seemed spot on for the recipes we tried.

Overall rating

I’d give EMeals a 5 out of 5 stars. It is certainly a different type of service, but for the price, I liked it. I debated back and forth about whether it was any easier than just doing meal planning on my own using recipes I find on the internet. (Check back next week for a post about meal planning without a service.) I definitely could, but having everything narrowed down in one place is helpful. So, EMeals is definitely one of my top picks.

Other posts from this series:

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