Home Chef is a leader in the home meal delivery industry and for three weeks I signed up to give them a try. Here’s an honest review of what I like, what I don’t like, and ultimately who this service is best suited for. If you want to give it a try, click here or check out the link at the end of the article for $30 off your first Home Chef order.
For the last decade, I’ve had the pleasure of working from home. Beyond the benefits to my work, the biggest advantage is being able to spend more time with my family. During the day, that can be more of a curse than a gift but one of the nicest things this kind of career provides is that every night at 6pm, I’m home for dinner. Monday, Wednesday and Friday my wife is responsible for dinner and Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, I’m responsible. Saturdays are usually reserved for dinner out, or take-out in.
Three nights a week, I’m in charge of planning, cooking and serving dinner for a family of four. My children are 4 years old and 16 months old, so making dinner almost always means cooking two separate meals. The night before, I’ll defrost a protein and when 5pm rolls around, I come out of the home office, get to the kitchen, and stare at it for 15 minutes before figuring out what I want to do with it. We very rarely are able to plan something intricate; so we’ve been in a bit of a rut when it comes to new flavors. With this in mind, we decided to give Home Chef a try.
Home Chef Ordering
Home Chef has done a pretty bang up job of making the sign-up and ordering process easy. After creating an account with my basic personal details, I’m immediately able to pick the food I’d like for the upcoming delivery week. Some of the simple questions you’ll first have to answer are as follows:
- What day of the week do you want your meals delivered? Tuesday – Friday are available, no Monday’s.
- How many meals to deliver per week? Two is the minimum, eight is the maximum.
- How many servings per meal? Two, four or six.
These settings can be changed at anytime, and are only asked once. So if you initially sign up looking for two meals per week, then that’s what you’ll receive every week after.
You’ll have twelve primary entrees to choose from. Each entree has a picture, a short description and a full list of ingredients to show you what’s in and what’s out. The twelve are typically made up of beef, chicken, fish, shrimp and pork, with one or two vegetarian options available. For example, at the time of this review, the three selections (I chose two portions / three meals per week) I would make for the week of May 1st would be:
- Baked Italian Sausage Farfalle
- Sirloin Steak with White Wine Demi-Glace
- BBQ Shrimp Pizza
Select your meals, remember to save the selections, and watch as your meals are delivered. Every meal is $9.95 per serving; regardless of quantity or portion size ordered.
Home Chef Delivery
FedEx is the carrier of my Home Chef meals, and they typically arrive in the late afternoon hours. On Tuesday, just as I requested, my first box of Home Chef meals arrived. It came in a nicely sealed box and each individual meal was prepackaged inside. As requested, the box contained three bags, each with one meal & two portions.
Unpacking the meals is fairly simple as is the clean-up. Included in the box are some gel packs to keep the meals fresh; and Home Chef makes the following recommendation on how to dispose of these after you’ve removed your food.
We recommend that customers reuse or recycle both the box & gel packs. To recycle the gel packs, simply cut open once it has thawed, and dispose of its liquid contents in the normal waste stream. The pouch may be recycled along with other plastic recyclables.
Our cooling packs are filled with an eco-compatible fluid that can be safely drained. Our cooling packs can come with or without the manufacturer’s brand printed on the outside. All of these are non-toxic.
Delivery is free with a $45 order, otherwise there is a $10 fee.
Preparing and Cooking the Meals
When placing your order, Home Chef notes the difficulty level in making the meals. Nearly all of the meals they offer fall under the “easy” moniker. Every once in a while, you will come across something intermediate or difficult. They also provide you a spice level, again ranging between low and high. Funny story on that in a minute.
Each meal includes a large recipe card along with a picture of what the prepared meal should strive to look like. Here, I’ve taken out the ingredients for the coffee rubbed steak. On my recipe card, there are six steps to follow; and the entire cooking process should take around 30 minutes.
This recipe was particularly easy to follow; nothing more than cutting and roasting the peeled carrots and potatoes while getting the pre-packaged steak marinated (with the coffee packet you see). Brown the butter, saute the steak with a little light cream and finish with the parsley. Easy, just as the recipe card suggested. Of the nine meals we’ve had in three weeks, this was our favorite. All but one meal was something we would have again (shrimp pineapple bowl didn’t hit the spot).
The only issue I ran into in making all of these meals was that one of the meals had a medium spice level and called for the cutting and seed removal of a jalapeno pepper. While doing this, my daughter was playing around with a squirt gun in the house, and she got me in the face with a good long distance shot. I laughed, and in the same motion as taking the seeds out of the pepper, I rubbed both of my eyes to wipe the water from my face.
This was unpleasant. So much so that I went upstairs and took a quick shower to run water through my eyes for a few minutes. One might use the word “idiot”–and they would be correct.
So now that we’ve got the process down; let’s talk about what I like about Home Chef, and what I think needs improvement.
Home Chef Positives
- The meals are delicious – I suppose the most important part of this process was actually sitting down and enjoying nearly everything. In three weeks, we ordered nine meals and eight of them were great. The flavors were good, they were healthy and all made with fresh ingredients and I’m thrilled with the quality.
- The meals were easy to make – From start to finish, I never spent more than 40 minutes making dinner. The recipe’s were all easy to follow and the picture of the completed dish was a good reference to use when plating. Included in the time saved cooking was the time saved planning. I didn’t have to think about what to make and how to make it, I was able to simply turn my brain off and follow directions.
- The process is simple – I spent five minutes per weak looking for meals inside of Home Chef with my wife and deciding which ones to have shipped. The meals showed up on time and everything was packaged well. No bad produce, no old meats–everything was fresh and clean.
- There’s a $30 sign-up bonus – This $30 applies to your first order with Home Chef, and it’s simply added to your account as a credit. So if you decide to have 3 meals shipped the first week like we did (2 portions), you’ll only pay $30 the first time around instead of $60. A very nice discount.
Home Chef Negatives
- This is expensive – Home Chef will likely boast about the savings they can provide but based on our grocery list and what we usually purchase, this works out as expensive for us. We make six meals at home every week; and if we used Home Chef for all of them, we’d be spending $500 on dinner alone just for the two of us. Factor in all other meals, snacks and our children, and our grocery bill would be well over $1,000 per month (including Home Chef). Typically, we can feed a family of four each night for $10 and if we splurge on a nice piece of protein (shrimp or steak for example), we’ll get close to $20 for everyone. The convenience and quality is great, but you will pay for it.
- Portion size can be iffy – While the meals are delicious, the portion sizes can be small depending on the meals. In the example above, you saw I had two small steaks, one potato and three carrots to split between my wife and I. It’s a good meal but there are times when I wish I could have more. With 330 pounds between the two of us, and 12 oz of dinner a piece, it wasn’t enough on this particular night. I wish there was an option to increase the portion size for select meals–perhaps have a 10 oz steak or double the potato count for a slightly higher price.
- I want more of a selection – I understand the business model can make it difficult to have a lot of ingredients available every week, but I think Home Chef can do more than just 12 meals available each week. There were a few times we settled for things instead of being excited to try them (one of which was our miss on the shrimp entree). That said, this criticism is a little bit hollow as we liked nearly everything. We also noticed some of the menu items, while different recipes, felt familiar.
- No odd number portion sizes – Not a concern for me, but for a family of three or five, this can be a bit of a wrench. With portions typically on the smaller side, you may end up buying 4 for a family of three anyway but a restriction on odd number portions seems, well, odd.
Is Meal Delivery Right for You?
For three weeks, I used Home Chef as a trial to see if I can work this service into our weekly meal routine. The service was easy to use, the food showed up on time looking terrific, and the meals were easy to make and delicious. Outside of a few minor improvements, I don’t think the experience could have been better.
That said, this is simply not a service that I will continue to use. At $10 per meal, with no discounts or opportunities to save money by locking in a longer term, it just doesn’t work for me and my family. We’ve learned from this experience and are now doing a better job of planning ot our meals for the week vs. waiting until the day of and panicking a bit. Spending $20 a meal, even as a break from our usual routine was just a bit too pricey for us.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not right for you and your family. I think this service would be much more beneficial for two specific types of families:
- Working spouses (outside the home) – Not having the time to shop, and prep your meals every day means spending more on takeout and not eating as healthy. To replace those meals with this service would not only save you money, but likely save you months, maybe even years, on your life.
- People new to the kitchen – I found these recipes to be easy to use; so much so that I learned a little bit about cooking which I’m sure to use in my future meals. Nothing too complicated, but things like browning butter and when to add sauces (and when not to) in order to maximize the flavor. I think for people who are learning to cook, these recipes can be an excellent learning tool.
All in all, I’m impressed with what I experienced with Home Chef and would recommend it to just about anyone who found $10 per serving to be worthwhile. If Home Chef should offer discounts in the future, or lower their price point a bit, I’m confident I would be back.