If you're in the market for a Meal Kit Delivery service, I'm here to help you find the best fit for your family. The market is now flooded with competitors, and I swear another 3 that I had never heard of popped into my Instagram feed last week. I'm doing my best to cook my way through and review them ALL so your hard earned money goes to the right place.
Table of Contents
How Each Kit is Rated
I've cooked my way through another box of meal kits, and y'all? While they're not necessarily how I want to cook all the time, they sure are pretty convenient. The newest service we tried was HomeChef, and so far I have to say it's my favorite. That said, it wasn't perfect and I still would change a few things.
For consistency's sake, I will consider the following eight metrics: Variety of Options, Cost, Ease of Recipes, Average Time Spent (Start to Plate), Clarity of Directions, Flavor, Recyclability of Packaging, and Replicability. I’ll also have a Notes section that I’ll use to pass along any other information to you that is applicable. Now, on to the review of Home Chef's Meal Kits!
Variety of Options
In terms of the sheer number of options given each week, Home Chef is a strong competitor. Not only were there a full 19 different meals to choose from for the week, they also have some pretty cool "types" of kits including two different 15 minute meals, 5 different oven ready meals, and two of what they call the Culinary Collection, which are premium options you have to pay more for. I chose the following:
- Crispy Orange Chicken with Broccoli and Rice
- Cuban Avocado Black Bean Quinoa Bowls with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
- Maui Pork Tostadas with Scallion Ginger Crema
Additionally, unlike other meal kit services, Home Chef also has a "buy in store" option that is pretty convenient. So, if you're not a plan ahead kind of person or don't want to get roped into a subscription model, you're in luck! You can still get meal kits - either the kind you assemble yourself, or the oven-ready version - at your local Kroger owned store.
Finally, some meals offer a "customize it" option where you can trade out your protein. For example, the Maui Pork Tostadas I made had the option of substituting Ground Turkey or Steak Strips at no additional cost, or Impossible Burger for an additional $3.99/serving. Because of all of these options, I give Home Chef a 5/5 in this category.
In terms of cost, this has been my cheapest purchase yet at just $3/portion. That said, the $18 for 3 meals for 2 people was a result of a Groupon deal. Generally speaking, though, each portion costs $8.99 if you don't choose a premium dish ($12.99) or the salad option ($6.99). This lands them in the same price bracket as HelloFresh.
There are multiple promo codes out there for new customers, ranging from $15-30 off 1-4 of your first orders. And as long as your order is $45 or more, shipping is always free. If you invite friends who then use your code, you receive $35 credit while they get $30 off their first order.
Ease of Recipes
When you first sign up for Home Chef, you do a short quiz to get recommendations based on your skill level and flavor preferences. I answered that I was comfortable in the kitchen and specifically chose one recipe in each category: Easy, Intermediate, & Difficult.
While the Crispy Orange Chicken recipe was the most difficult due to batter frying the chicken, it was still quite tolerable. The Maui Pork Tostadas were supposedly Intermediate level difficulty, but I found them to be roughly on par with the Easy level dish, Cuban Black Bean and Quinoa bowls. Please also reference the following section, Average Time Spent for more information.
Averaging the "Difficult" meal with the other two meals, I'd give Home Chef a ⅘ in this category. Had I chosen all Easy/Intermediate meals, I'd bet they would receive a 5/5.
Average Time Spent
Home Chef does a lot of prep work for you, so the time to complete these dishes is between 25-40 minutes. I was very pleased that two of the meals only took 25 minutes, while the Difficult level dish took just under 40 from start to plate.
The thing I was most excited about was not having to chop the chicken breast for the Crispy Orange Chicken recipe. The Cuban Black Bean and Quinoa Bowls were the most prep intensive meal of the bunch, and prep still only took about 10 minutes.
Clarity of Directions
Home Chef did a great job with being very clear in their recipe cards. While there were a few things that weren't listed (e.g. salting the water for rice), most of the recipes were very clear. That said, the photos Home Chef chose for each of the steps were not particularly helpful. I give Home Chef a ⅘ in this category.
Each of the meals we ate was quite good. In terms of ranking, the Cuban Avocado Black Bean Quinoa Bowls were at the top, Crispy Orange Chicken was in the middle, and Maui Pork Tacos were my least favorite. In this category, Home Chef gets a ⅘, on par with HelloFresh.
The Cuban Beans were awesome. They were very filling, super fresh tasting and had a delightfully fresh dressing that woke it all up. And on top of all that, they meal was vegetarian and low calorie. Had the ingredients for the Bean Bowls not required me to supplement with my own inventory due to damage, it would've been a damn near perfect meal.
The Crispy Chicken was very tasty, and had a lot of broccoli which was a huge plus after Dinnerly. The tempura batter seemed a bit thin and the sauce was a little sweet for me personally. Joe loved it, though, and happily devoured his portion. I believe the addition of some toasted sesame seeds or sesame seed oil would've helped give the recipe a bit more dimension.
Our least favorite dish, the Maui Pork Tostadas, were still quite good. They were also a bit sweet for my taste, and Joe agreed that they were a bit one-note. We were able to amp up the flavor pretty easily with the addition of a hefty squirt of Peruvian Green Sauce, after which neither of us left anything on the plate.
Recyclability of Packaging
Home Chef knocked this one out of the park. While there are bound to be some items in a meal kit that cannot be recycled, I was thrilled by how much of Home Chef's packaging was recyclable.
The insulated liner was PET plastic, so I could recycle it in my normal curbside bin. The ice packs were the kind that you can flush down your sink and recycle the bags. The containers that some of the items came in were actually reusable before recycling.
As far as this type of service is concerned, Home Chef absolutely gets a 5/5 in this category.
Replicability of Recipes
For the most part, all three recipes would be fairly easy to replicate at home. The Cuban Avocado Black Bean Bowl had zero ingredients that would be difficult to find at a normal grocery store.
The Maui Pork Tostadas had some branded ingredients that could be purchased, although the coffee rub in particular might be a little difficult to find at the store. Asian Garlic, Ginger and Chili spice mix is not something I have seen before, but I'm sure I could reverse engineer it with the individual dried spices.
Finally, the Crispy Orange Chicken would likely be the most difficult to replicate, as the tempura mix and the orange sauce came pre-made. However, using Google and Amazon, it's likely that similar ingredients could be found with little effort. Home Chef received a ⅘ in this category.
Home Chef has three separate "protein packs" that you can add on every week. The packs are pre-determined and have quite a bit of meat in them (e.g. 6 salmon filets and 10 chicken breasts) so they're not necessarily as customizable as some of the other meal kits' add-on services. These protein packs range from $60-75 per pack, so they are also a bit pricey.
Because of their partnership with Kroger, they can offer a "pantry" section of paper products and non-perishable food items. I thought that was a pretty cool feature, especially if you're trying to avoid the store altogether. In this way, they are acting as a sort of hybrid meal kit/online grocery delivery service. I just wish you could order add-on proteins in smaller quantities.
They also have a "Kitchenware" section where you can purchase utensils for your kitchen. Knives, pots, pans, and a potato masher were some of the items featured.
In my box, I also received a bunch of coupons. Most of them were useless, but there was one for $4 off a Home Chef meal in store. Add that to the Ibotta app deal, and the meal is basically free. (If you grocery shop a lot, get Ibotta. I've already earned $30 for buying stuff I would've purchased anyway, just for snapping a pic of my receipts.)
Finally, there were a few issues with product freshness for my third and final meal. I waited the longest number of days stated on the recipe to test my theory, and unfortunately I was right. I received the package on Thursday and cooked it the following Wednesday. While the Cuban bowl said to cook it within 7 days, the avocado, several grape tomatoes and garlic had turned. Per the recipe card I should still have been fine.
So far, this is the third of this type of service that I have reviewed. It far outpaces Dinnerly in most categories, and is slightly superior to HelloFresh in a couple. If you're in the market for a meal kit delivery, this is definitely one that is worth considering.
Most importantly, if the Groupon is still available, GET IT. Three nights worth of meals that show up on your doorstep for $18 is a dang steal. Even if I had to supplement an avocado, that's still only $19 for three meals that are relatively stress free. WORTH IT. Also, remember you can purchase in Kroger stores without having to sign up for a subscription.
If any of the following applies to you, Home Chef could be a viable solution (at least in the short term):
- You are too busy, too stressed or otherwise unable to meal plan yourself
- You're bored with the recipes you know how to make and want to branch out
- You love food and love variety in your meals, but don't know many recipes
- You're new to cooking
- You don't like the grocery store
If you're curious about giving it a go, here's a referral code for $30 off your first order. While I'm not an affiliate of Home Chef, y'all know I love me some free food. If you order with this link, I'll get some credits to my account. Until next time, friends! I hope this review was helpful, and I hope you have a delicious and healthy day.
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Let's taco 'bout it.