I Found My Favorite Meal Kit — And I’ve Been Using It for 5 Years

published Feb 21, 2020
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Credit: Home Chef

I’m a planner by heart, and like to anticipate my meals as soon as I’m able. Knowing my dinners (and even some lunches) have been set for the next week offers incredible peace of mind. But sometimes meal planning itself can be stressful. So I’ve used meal kit services to help me cope with anxiety. I’ve tried a handful —  Blue ApronHello FreshGobble, and Dinnerly — but my meal kit of choice, which I used for five years is Home Chef. Here’s a breakdown of the service and why it’s been my go-to all these years.

How Home Chef Works

After signing up for the service on their website, you pick your meals for the next delivery (this can also be done on their mobile app). Home Chef’s customization options are pretty awesome, and their website states that members can “choose from up to 26 fresh weekly options.” 

The service will pick meals based on your preferences, but always offer a variety of alternatives, so you’re able to swap meals out, upgrade to premium dishes (like filet mignon, or lamb chops), and add more protein.

The whole kit comes in a cardboard box, filled with large ice packs and insulation, and delivered on the date of your choosing. The meals are organized in individual bags which make it easy to just grab your dinner from the fridge and get cooking. Produce is loose within the larger zipped bags, but other ingredients like rice and proteins are sealed in pre-portioned sizes. Large, easy to read recipe cards are also included.

Most meals come in at about $9.95 per serving; premium meals from the Culinary Collection (like scallops with black truffle cream) range between $11 and $15, and slow-cooker meals, like their tacos, or Italian wedding soup, average about $8 per serving. As long as you hit the $49 mark (about 3 meals, 6 servings total), shipping is free; anything less than that incurs a $10 shipping charge.

According to their website, Home Chef delivers to about 98% of the United States, and since Kroger acquired them in 2018, their kits have even begun showing up in supermarkets.

What I Like About Home Chef

All the meal kits I tried helped reduce my anxiety by providing predictable sustenance on a predictable budget. But there are a few things that make Home Chef stand out.

  • There’s way more variety with Home Chef than I’ve seen with other meal kits. There are always a good amount of chicken, beef, and fish options, in addition to calorie-conscious and vegetarian meals. These kits have helped me lose weight — something I’ve always had anxiety about.
  • I also like that I can order as many meals as I want, versus the set amount allowed in your plan with other kits. Often, I’ll order four meals and use one of them for lunch during the week.
  • Most meals take 30 minutes or less to cook. This is because a lot of the ingredients include pre-cut or canned ingredients. There’s also always a bunch of “quick meals“, which can be ready in just 15 minutes, and some “oven-ready” options, which just need to be assembled and baked.
  • The recipes aren’t as complicated as other meal kits, but the taste and variety has never steered me wrong. In the five years I’ve used Home Chef, only one or two meals has made me go “yuck.”
  • The vegetarian lunch options are great, and I usually get at least two meals out of them, making them a super cost-effective alternative to New York City’s $14 chopped salad.

What I Wish Was Different

Home Chef could do a better job catering to more diets. It’s possible to find low-carb, “fresh start” options, and it’s possible to get meals without dairy, nuts, or soy, but trying to decode which options are keto, paleo, vegan, or even explicitly gluten-free, is more difficult. And not all of the ingredients are organic (I don’t care as much but I know some people don’t use this service as a result).

Other Things to Know

The smoothie add-on option is a nice supplement for smoothie-lovers and Home Chef recently started offering bulk protein delivery as well. Occasionally there are breakfast, and dessert items, and for certain holidays, Home Chef offers nice options you can make or bring for Thanksgiving, Independence Day, and more. 

In terms of packaging, Home Chef does its best to be as green as its ingredients. I’d say about 90 percent of the packaging, including the cardboard box, is recyclable, or at least reusable after cooking (the tiny little jars are great for storing spices!). There’s still a good amount of packaging however, so if you’re really looking to reduce your carbon footprint, it might not be the best choice.

Home Chef in the Long-Run

I used Home Chef for five years and I loved it. I would absolutely recommend Home Chef to anyone looking to get into the meal kit world, based on price, cook time, and meal variety. It’s a great entry point for new cooks and the low complexity of the meals helps boost your confidence in the kitchen. If you’re not picky about organic versus conventional produce, and your dietary needs aren’t too severe, Home Chef is definitely the kit for you.

Have you used Home Chef? What’d you think?