I have a confession to make: I hate the grocery store. I don’t dread it every single time, but almost. I always put it off until we have basically zero food in the house, and even then I procrastinate another day and we either order out or just phone it in with a couple grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s not like the grocery store itself fills me with anxiety or resentment, I just always end up forgetting my list or my eco-bags or I go overboard and buy ALL THE SNACKS (Tostito’s on sale? Better buy 3 bags. Never mind that you don’t even have the cabinet space for one). Basically, I have issues. I’m aware of that, I own it. But one of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to be better at meal planning, so when Home Chef contacted me last week about trying out a box of meals in exchange for an honest review, I was SO on board.
Home Chef is a meal-kit delivery service that takes all the guess work out of mealtime: they send pre-portioned ingredients and recipe cards that follow that week’s menu. No more “what’s for dinner?” followed by “I don’t know, what do you want?” because Home Chef decides what’s for dinner for you. Let me clarify: you set up a food profile where you say how many people you’re feeding (up to 6 per meal), how many times a week you want to cook (which determines how many meals they send), and what kind of food you like (or don’t like) – so you won’t get sent fish if you don’t want fish and you won’t get sent 7 meals if you only have time to cook 3 that week. There are also gluten free meals and other dietary preferences to make note of, like low calorie and low carb. There are 10 meals to choose from and they change weekly.
The cost for each of the meals I received would have been $9.95 per meal, per person – so the cost for the whole box would have been $59.70 for three full meals for two people. That sounds like a lot and I’m not going to lie, it isn’t cheap when you consider it’s only three meals compared to what could be a cart full of groceries. But when you put that cost up against restaurant prices, it’s not bad. You’re getting restaurant quality food for $10 per person, you just have to cook it yourself.
There isn’t a minimum number of meals you have to order, though because shipping is free over $40, it makes sense to buy at least two meals for four people or four meals for one person, and so on – otherwise you’ll pay $10 for shipping, which is the cost of one whole meal. They don’t delivery to every single city in the country, but it’s easy enough to plug in your zip code and see if the service is available to you before you sign up.
My delivery came via FedEx on Thursday in a well packed, insulated box with freeze packs to keep everything cold and fresh. I got three meals: one breakfast and two dinners, though I used one as a lunch.
Each “meal” came in an individual bag neatly filled with all the ingredients I needed to make each one. The only things I needed that weren’t included in my box were olive oil, salt and pepper (and if you don’t have those staples in your kitchen then you might need more help than a meal delivery service can provide). Everything that wasn’t produce or meat was clearly labeled in portioned containers (probably not the most environmentally friendly packaging but listen, you can’t have everything). The meat was vacuum sealed.
First impression: I was impressed with the packaging and I was excited to try everything. And being the stingy hoarder that I am, I knew I could reuse those plastic bottles and containers for other things later on 😉
Each meal comes with a recipe card on nice shiny cardstock, with info like how many days the ingredients will stay fresh, how long it takes to prep and cook, and even drink pairings. The back side of the recipe card listed the supplies needed and instructions for preparing the meal, with step-by-step photos so you can make sure you’re doing it right. There were even helpful notes peppered throughout the instructions, like why you cook something one way or the reason they have you do things in a certain order.
I made the steak meal the first night. It took me a little longer than the meal card said it would, but I was taking my time with it and probably could have finished in the allotted time if I really wanted to. Prep time was about 10 minutes longer than it took to actually cook the meal. It was delicious and our favorite meal of the three. I even got Joe to eat shallots – and he is FIRMLY against onions of any kind. Chalk that one up as a win. I’ll probably even make the potatoes again on their own.
Saturday, I made the Neapolitan pizzas for lunch.
This meal contained my only complaint of the whole service – the basil was really sad looking.
Tasted fine, but it was droopy and limp and not fresh and crisp. That could just be because I threw each bag in the fridge without opening and inspecting the included ingredients to determine proper storage. Not a huge deal either way. Neither one of us was crazy about the arugula but that’s just a taste preference.
I made the breakfast last. Joe didn’t have any of this one because he doesn’t like peppers or onions, or sweet potatoes for that matter.
There was a lot going in this dish – scrambled eggs, sweet potatoes, bacon, brown sugar, onions, red pepper, jalapeno, grape tomatoes, goat cheese – but it all worked. It was really, really good.
I would have never put everything in that breakfast skillet but it came together really nicely. In fact, all three meals were delicious and I would definitely classify them as restaurant quality. One thing I will say is that you have to have some basic cooking knowledge and be familiar with your own palate if you’re going to be successful with these types of services. For example, with the pizza meal we got four packets of roasted red pepper flakes, but I didn’t even use one whole packet because I know the spice level we prefer.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with Home Chef. I certainly won’t use it every week, but it’s nice to know that the option exists where I don’t have to decide what’s for dinner and even better, I don’t have to shop for it (which means I don’t have the chance to forget anything!). If we have a really busy week ahead, I can have a box delivered and just set aside an hour to cook a few nights that week, instead of setting aside time to meal plan, go through the cabinets, make a grocery list, shop, unpack everything, etc. There are even fruit basket and smoothie options.
It was also nice trying new things that at the same time, weren’t too far outside our comfort zone (one thing I’ve heard about Blue Apron, a comparable service, is that the selections were a little exotic). It’s nice to have a little variety in your meals. I tend to find something we both like and cook it often, especially if it’s easy, but it was fun to branch out and be rewarded for it. Too often you find a recipe that looks bomb on Pinterest and ends up a disaster. Everything was so neatly spelled out and lined up by Home Chef, it’s kind of idiot proof – which was nice for this kitchen idiot 🙂 If nothing else, it’s a nice way to expand your horizon and try new things. I learned I like goat cheese this week!
So tell me, have you ever tried a meal-kit delivery service? Did you like it, or do you want to try one in the future? If you want to give it a shot, use code INSTACHEF to get $30 off your own order!