Home Chef Review: The Good, The Bad and The Balance

Home Chef
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It seems like everytime time I turn around, I see an ad for a meal delivery service and I’ve been curious as to whether they were any good.  As you know, I’m not a fan of premade anything so I had decided to forgo trying them.  Until…

I received an email from Home Chef stating that my stepmother had referred me to the program and, if I signed up, my first box would be free.  Now “free” is definitely one of my favorite things so I decided to give it a go.

Here is my review of the Home Chef Meal Box that I received for free:  the good, the bad and the balance.

Order Up! Online Sign-up Form

Online Sign-up Form for Home Chef

I cruised over to the website to sign up.  There was an initial glitch (more about that later) but it was quickly solved by customer service and I was able to sign up with minimal fuss.

There are 7 different categories to choose from: Culinary Collection, Meal Kit, 15 Minute Meal Kit, Grill-Ready, Oven-Ready, Entrée Salad and Protein Pack.  You can also designate desired cook time.  Menu choices can be further narrowed by opting for carb conscience, calorie conscience and vegetarian, as well as what sorts of proteins you prefer or food sensitivities you have.  Some kits can be modified in regard to which type of protein will be included.

The choices change weekly, although some of the more popular dishes will reappear from time to time.  The week I looked at had 19 extremely varied options.  The description is very good, noting the items that make up the meal.  Possible allergens and nutrition profile are also included.

The price is noted when you first look at selections (before clicking on the description) so it’s easy to stay within your budget. Both of my choices ran just under $9 per serving, which seems to be the minimum price, while some selections run close to $13.  My box of 2 meals twice weekly (4 meals total) would have cost $49.53 at full price, including shipping.

It’s All About The Food

Now for the important section because it’s all about the food, right?  The two meals I chose were shrimp paella and apple cherry spinach salad.  Each entree provided two servings.

Home Chef Shrimp Paella

The shrimp paella was an “oven-ready” selection, which boasts no prep work.  I had assumed that this meant it would come pre-assembled in the pan a’la frozen dinners (but not frozen).  This was not the case. All the ingredients were packaged separately so I would have to assemble them myself.

This was not a difficult task and the meal came together quickly.  I simply dumped all the ingredients (except shrimp) into the included tin pan, mixed ‘em up, laid the shrimp on top and baked it for 18 minutes.

The shrimp paella was tasty with the fresh peas, fresh peppers, crispy red peppers, pine nuts and shrimp giving the dish an interesting mix of textures.  The flavor was mild but varied and the shrimp was very fresh.  The packaging indicated that I would have 3 days to cook it although I cooked it the day after receiving it so I have no idea how the freshness might have held up had I waited.

At 468 calories, 44 grams of carbs, 23 grams of protein and 21 grams of fat, it’s well within the guidelines of what would be considered a healthy meal.  It contains 1717mg of sodium, which runs around 75% of your daily intake but higher sodium is a given for prepacked ready-to-eats.  This amount is definitely something you could work around by modifying your intake for the rest of the day.

Home Chef Apple Cherry Spinach Salad

My second choice was apple cherry spinach salad with goat cheese and sherry shallot vinaigrette.  This was a no-cook selection, although I chose to add on the chicken breast option, which did have to be cooked.

The produce that came with the meal was fresh and unblemished.  The chicken breasts were well-trimmed with no visible fat.  In addition to cooking the chicken, there was a small amount of prep work to be done, namely cutting the apple and the scallion.  It came together in less than 10 minutes.

There was a generous amount of walnuts, dried cherries and vinaigrette, which gave the salad a fabulous flavor.  The only shortfall, in my opinion, was the amount of spinach that was included.  I used both portions of spinach for my first salad and some romaine I had on hand for the second one.  Again, I enjoyed the mix of textures from the apples, walnuts and dried cherries.

The nutrition profile broke down to 460 calories, 33 grams of carbs, 6 grams of protein and 200mg of sodium, all of which play well into a healthy diet.  The 34 grams of fat seemed a bit high but it would be easy to cut back on the vinaigrette, as it was a very generous 3 oz portion.  There was no notation as to how much the chicken breast changed that profile.

The things I love

Home Chef Meal Kits

The freshness of the ingredients is pretty amazing.  I only have this one box to go on but everything I received was high quality and exactly what I would have chosen if I had picked it out myself.

It’s easy.  The ingredients come premeasured and, in some cases, pre-prepped.  All the ingredients you need are in the box so there are no surprises or last-minute trips to the store.  In the case of the oven-ready selections (such as my shrimp paella), they even include the cooking pan.

The food is high quality and delicious.   The portions are generous and could possibly be stretched into 3 adult portions, depending on appetites.

They indicate possible allergens that might be present on the ingredient list for each recipe so there’s no need to go searching for that information.

The price per serving is indicated right up from so it’s easy to stick to a budget.  My box would have cost $12.38 (including shipping) per serving which would be equivalent to eating at a moderately priced restaurant.  If I were to stretch the box out to 6 servings, each meal would cost only $8.25.  I think this is a great value. And guess what makes it even better?  I’ve partnered with Home Chef to give you $60 off your order!

The customer service is excellent.  When I first went in to accept the offer, a box popped up informing me that I already had an account and could not receive the discount.  While this was technically true, I had never ordered after my initial sign-up.  I sent an email to Home Chef to explain this.  They replied promptly to tell me that they had deleted my original account and I would be able to proceed with the offer.

The things I love less

According to their website, Home Chef claims that their ever-changing weekly menus lead them to use different vendors to obtain the ingredients they need to fulfill those menus.  Although they say their ingredients are “occasionally organic” and that they source responsibly “whenever they can”, they are unable to guarantee either.

Despite the fact that they include allergens on their “ingredients list”, the actual lists themselves only include the major players in the recipe but no macro ingredients.  “Rice Pilaf” and “tomato seasoning” were listed on the ingredients list of my shrimp paella but there’s no way to ascertain what these two items actually contained in regard to spices or artificial flavorings/preservatives.  And you know how much that rankles me.

And then there’s the “leftovers”.  I’m a bit horrified by the amount of trash that was generated by 4 meals, as you can see in these pictures.

According to the Home Chef website, the cardboard shipping container is recyclable, which, of course is always a good thing.

The insulated liner is made from recycled cotton and denim, which I assume is biodegradable, although this isn’t mentioned specifically in their literature, nor do they address the possible contamination due to the dies used in denim.

The ice packs contain water and polyacrylate (which is harmless) and can be reused or split open to dump contents down the drain.

This leaves lots of plastic, wraps, bags and containers, which can be more problematic.  I don’t want to delve into world events in this article, but I think it’s safe to assume that we’re all aware that plastics are not as easily recycled as they used to be (and to be honest, some never were).

I don’t have any solutions, I’m just saying it makes me uncomfortable to add this entire tall kitchen bag full of trash to the top of the heap at my local transfer station.  This is four meals worth.

The Final Conclusion

Home Chef Meal Kits

What’s the bottom line?  Where do we draw the line between convenience and what are (or may be) negative consequences?  What’s the final conclusion?

The truth is that we make these compromises every day.  Every time we start up our car, everything we mail order, every single item we choose that isn’t locally sourced from small businesses.  Even those locally sourced products, in most circumstances, come at some cost.

In the case of these meals, they may be a blessing to those who don’t have easy access to a store, have limited cooking facilities or cooking abilities.  They may be a lifeline for someone who wants to eat a healthier diet but doesn’t have the time, knowledge or capacity to make that happen on their own.

I, personally, found them to be tasty, convenient and (for the most part) healthy.  I would not rule out ordering again.

Check out My Review of HelloFresh meal kits!

What about you?  Have you ever tried a meal service or do you use one now?  Tell me all about it in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

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10 Replies to “Home Chef Review: The Good, The Bad and The Balance”

  1. My husband was raised on fast food and boxed food, where as I was raised on meals from scratch, this leads to the problem of different flavor pallette. Even though I work from home I dont have time to be in the kitchen cooking 2-3 hours a day. I’ve tried a local meal prep and it just wasn’t great. Ive been thinking about doing something like this a few times a week just to take the stress off and save money on mediocre delivery options. I will definitely check this company out. Thanks!

    1. You remind me of a story my son-in-law always liked to tell:  My daughter was served instant mashed potatoes with dinner at his house.  She asked what they were and he didn’t believe her when she said she had never had them before!  Not surprisingly, they had the same challenges at mealtime that you do.

      I definitely think meal service has its place in today’s society for many different reasons, including “I don’t have time for this”.  Maybe you could let your husband choose a few meals 😉  Let me know how it turns out!

  2. Hi! Quite enticing article on Home Chef. Thanks for your honest review. I normally do not use Meal-services because it  generate waste, sometimes in excessive amounts. Your food items would have to be packaged in such a way to prevent contamination, quite not my thing. I am a little bit pushed to give it a try tho, maybe Hamburger or so

    1. I agree with you on the waste that’s generated but I think it can be a valuable service for some.  For those who don’t have easy access to a supermarket and/or want to eat healthier (but don’t know where to start), this could a great place to start.  I appreciate your thoughts on the subject!

  3. Hello,

    After reading your article about the food you received from “Home Chef”, a prepared food company, I appreciated your review of the food you ordered and received.  You went on to describe the different aspects of the meal you received and the effort needed to prepare the food for consumption.

    I have ordered from two different food preparation companies that allow you to order specific food items from a long list of available food items. In fact, one of the food companies from which I received food items was Home Chef. I also was not expecting quality food items, but simply food that tasted good and required minimal food preparation time. 

    You indicated that you were surprised that after a minimal amount of time preparing the food, you ate a meal that was good and much tastier than you had expected. In my case, the food I received was good as well as somewhat tasty.  I certainly thought the food would have tasted better than what I received.  However, I was satisfied since I did not have really high expectations from the beginning regarding the quality and taste of the food. I felt there should have been higher standards for this food when you consider the price.

    After ordering from another company of which I do not recall the name, I felt this was unfortunate because the finished product was extremely tasty and I was very satisfied with the ingredients.  The meals from this company were much more complicated plus taste as well as quality were part of their general standards.  

    I again ordered several meals which came with a long list of food items and I still had to prepare the food and cook the meal. If the recipe called for 2 Tbsps of fresh tarragon, you received 2 sprigs of tarragon.  You did not need to supply anything because everything was included in the package from the company and I  always found the recipes very easy to follow.

    I really appreciated the idea and content of your website and it is perfect for families today.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences with different home delivery services!  I haven’t tried any other ones (yet) but based on your thoughts, I think I will.  

  4. Home Chef is the best! The ingredients are superb. Meats are the best cuts and top quality. You cannot beat the price for the excellent quality and amount of food. So many options on meals. I have tried four boxes already with three meals each and haven’t come across one I didn’t like. The meals are definitely of the highest quality. Home Chef has definitely expanded my food variety and learned so much! Dinner time is my favorite time now and my fiancè and I love making it a date, cooking together, and having a wonderful time. Take Care!

  5. Hi, I’ve just gone through your article on home chef review; the good, the bad and the balance. I found it very interesting. I love cooking but believe me, I have given up because most of the time I fail. Now I spend most of my time eating something cooked by my mom or granny. Anyway, your post inspired me a lot and I wish to give it another try. Thanks for sharing this amazing post, I will be sharing it further too.

    1. The directions on these meals are very good and the food measurements precise.  I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know how it goes for you!  Thank you for sharing!

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