Smart Home Cooking with Home Chef
We continue our review of some of the the latest home delivery meal-kit services with Home Chef. Home Chef started its service in 2013 out of Chicago, and has since grown to cover 97 percent of the United States, with 10 million meals shipped last year, according to their website. We had received a coupon for the service in the mail some time ago but hadn’t gotten around to trying it until this month. Our coupon had expired but there are plenty of Facebook ads promoting it so we signed up via one of the several incentives they had available.
Signing up for HomeChef should have been simple. But for some reason, while we trying to sign up by clicking on the Facebook ads we encountered lots of problems. The site would hang forever, sometimes at the beginning of the process, sometimes in the middle and once towards the end. It was really frustrating. We wound up trying it on one of our phones and it finally worked, then for some reason it would not complete the order due to an error with our address. Finally, it occurred to us that maybe it had something to do with the browser we were using (Safari on the Mac) – and sure enough, we switched to Chrome and signed up with no issues, using the same address and credit card. Not sure what the problem was but we made sure to let the customer support folks know.
Selection and Flexibility
Home Chef offers a nice selection of meals, about 11 per week, most for $9.95 per serving. You also have the option to add on some extras, such smoothies or seasonal fruit baskets to your order for $4.95 each. Occasionally they offer premium meals that range in price from $14.95 to $19.95 per meal, but we have not tried any of those yet. We are meat eaters who don’t eat beef so there are lots of great choices for us. It might not be as great for vegetarians but there are at least three choices every week. Shipping is free with a $45 minimum order, so even if you only get the minimum of two meals per week for two people, you could still get free shipping if you added one of the options. You can plan up to five weeks in advance, and if you don’t choose meals they will send you meals based on your stored preferences and your subscription.
Home Chef also has a great taste profile feature that allows you to really narrow in your food preferences, the best we have used so far. Not only the basic meat, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc that you would expect, you can specify many foods that you like, don’t mind, or don’t like, such as mushrooms, nuts, soy, etc. It is really comprehensive. You can even make tweaks such as excluding tilapia or chicken thighs. I don’t think we would ever have to worry about getting a beef meal by mistake and it’s not likely we are going to get anything we really don’t want to eat.
Packaging and Instructions
The Home Chef box arrived at our scheduled time like all the other services. The box is noticeably smaller than the rest of the companies we have tried, and everything is wrapped within a box size cooler inside. Like most of the services, the meats are stored underneath everything else with an extra layer of ice packs.
Unlike some of the other services, Home Chef packages most all the ingredients for each meal in a clear bag with a handle, labeled on the outside with the name of the meal. It makes it really easy to unpack the box and store it in the fridge and find everything when you are ready to cook. The meats are all separate in one bag, and there were a couple of random ingredients that were packaged separately – one week it was cilantro, another week an ear of corn.
Another nice touch – Home Chef sends you a binder with your first order so you can save all your recipe cards. It also includes a nice introduction with some kitchen tips and tricks and suggested equipment you should have to cook effectively.
The recipe cards themselves are also some of the nicest we have seen with any of these services. The instructions are clear and concise, with pictures of all the ingredients plus the individual steps, just as Blue Apron does. But Home Chef also includes some nice summary stats for each meal: prep and cook time, difficulty, cook within x days, and spice level. You can also see the same information on the website to help you choose your meals. This makes it really easy to plan for what we should cook during the week based on our available time and energy level, and we can eat each meal when it is the freshest.
Of course packaging and instructions are nice, but what about the taste? We tried two weeks of Home Chef, and so far all the meals we had have been good. They are not quite as sophisticated as Blue Apron meals, and the ingredients seem to be just slightly lower quality, for example, one of our first meals included cilantro and it was totally wilted in two days and unusable, but we have not been disappointed with the portions or the flavors at all. Most of the meals are designed to be ready in 30 minutes or less – so a bit simpler is expected. Some families with finicky eaters may even prefer the simpler meals.
Our Conclusion: Good, Worth a Try
So far, Home Chef has been a worthwhile choice for meal-kit delivery: flexible, reasonably priced, easy to make, tasty, and with superior packaging and instructions. We would definitely recommend giving it a try.