After having tried several meal kit plans, I thought I would take the time to share some thoughts about the first plan we tried, and the one we have returned to – Home Chef. We first decided to give Home Chef a try in August of 2019. There were only two of us to cook for on the weeknights, and between full time work, commuting and other activities, we thought those meal kits might make life easier, and they did.
After having researched what plans were available at the time, I concluded that Home Chef seemed like the best fit. The price wasn’t the least expensive, but the reputation and quality seemed to be amongst the best. As we were only purchasing a plan for two people, it seemed within reach. Once we began receiving the meal kits, we were quite pleased. We were two tired adults who at the time were taxed by questions as simple as, “What should we have for dinner tonight?” This plan allowed us to plan weeks ahead of time and choose from an assortment of meals ranging from “comfort food” to “healthy options” to “dinner in a hurry”.
The way the plan works is that you select meals with 2, 4, 6 or 8 servings from a menu of approximately 20 different meals. The meals are usually $8.99 or $9.99 per serving with the exception of the Culinary Collection meals which can come in at a higher price, but usually feature a more expensive protein. There are also add-ons that you can purchase that include snacks, salads, breakfast sandwiches, desserts or even a bake and eat loaf of bread. There are also a la cart proteins or protein bundles that may be purchased. There is often the option of customizing the protein for a meal kit, which may include an additional charge or just be an even swap depending on the protein chosen. There is no customization for vegetables offered. There is a minimum purchase of $49.95 and shipping costs range from $7.99 to $13.99. For us, shipping 3 meal kits with 2 servings apiece costs $7.99. You can place your order several weeks ahead of time, and you can skip a week or cancel at any time.
The level of time investment in preparing these meals can vary. The Culinary Collection recipes tend to be a bit more complicated and require a larger investment. On the other hand, there are 15 minute meal kits that are designed to put dinner on the table in flash. Our favorites tend to be the Oven Ready or “easy bakes” as Tom puts it. These are meals which require minimal effort on our part, but are on the table within 45 minutes.
The boxes come well packed with reusable ice packs, separately packaged meal kits, recipe cards, and at the bottom is a package with all the proteins for the order. The recipe cards are nice quality large cards featuring hole punches for placing in a binder. The information on the front of the card shows a picture of the plated meal, a list of items that should be in your box, what items from your own kitchen you will need to make the recipe, the prep and cook time estimate, level of difficulty, spice level and the time you should cook your meal within. This is especially noteworthy as seafood will need to be prepared sooner and things such as lettuce or pre-sliced vegetables will not hold up in the refrigerator as long as whole vegetables. On the flip side of the recipe card are the instructions which are clear and well written including instructions you’ll need if you customized the protein. Having tried several different meal kits, I cannot emphasize the importance of clear and well written instructions enough.
As with all things in life there are occasional errors made. In the beginning there were a few times the vegetables in the kit did not hold up well, which seems to have not been a problem recently. There is the odd missing ingredient, but not often. When that has happened, we have contacted customer service and always received a quick apologetic response with a generous reimbursement.
The only real con I can think of is the packaging. There is a lot of packaging most of which can be recycled. It does feel wasteful, though. In Home Chef’s defense, I will also say this packaging does deliver quality food. I have had other meal kits come with vegetables tossed all over the box sometimes bruised or ripped apart to the point of being inedible. I’ve also had multiple experiences with other kits where the ice packs ruptured all over the food leaving the food covered in a slimy substance that I don’t even want to think about.
So, if you are thinking about ordering meal kits, Home Chef is a solid choice. The food tastes good, the customer service is excellent, but before you order this or any meal plan, make sure to look for a promotion before ordering . All the meal kits seem to have many promotions all the time so I encourage you to give one a try.