What Is Home Chef?
For months, I saw Facebook ads begging me to try Home Chef, one of several meal subscription services that have sprung up over the past few years.
Being the cheapskate I am, I was skeptical of Home Chef, often thinking that paying $60 for three meals was far too expensive for the average family – our home houses me, my wife and our toddler.
Despite my skepticism, I was more than happy to try Home Chef one time using their 50% off promo code on Facebook.
So, I signed up for one Home Chef box comprised of three meals.
Those three meals served as my Home Chef experience and the basis for this in-depth review about how Home Chef works, what my experience was like, how Home Chef’s prices compare to the grocery store, who it’s good for and our conclusions about the service.
How Home Chef Works
Home Chef is very similar to other meal services we’ve reviewed. There’s a sign-up process where you enter your personal preferences, then an account page where you can customize and change your deliveries.
Signing Up for Home Chef
You start by going to the Home Chef website and signing up for an account.
You enter your email address, then decide:
- How many meals you want per week (2-6)
- How many people you’re cooking for (2, 4 or 6)
- Meat, seafood or vegetables
- Optional low-calorie or low carb
- Optional dietary limits (pork, soy, nuts, gluten, etc.)
Once you enter all this information, Home Chef will ask you for your shipping address. This page will also be where you choose which day you want to receive your meals: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
The final page in the process is the payment page. This is where you can enter any promo codes you: I put in the 50%-off code from Facebook.
Payment takes place as soon as you confirm your payment information. You’ll also be scheduled for your weekly deliveries, so keep that in mind. You can’t buy just one box unless you pause deliveries or close your account, which we’ll talk about in a few seconds.
Cost Per Person
During the sign-process, I ran through several different pricing scenarios in which I added more meals and more people and found that Home Chef charges $10 per meal, per person.
So, if you’re buying meals for five people, then you’ll pay $50 for every meal. At this rate, you’d pay $150 for three meals a week.
Navigating Your Home Chef Account
Your Account page is where you make all the changes – or none of the changes – you need in order to optimize your Home Chef experience.
Each week Home Chef will suggest three meals for your delivery and those suggestions will be sent to you if you don’t take action. You have the option of replacing those meals with eight other choices, one of which is a premium option that requires and additional payment.
When I did my single three-meal shipment, Home Chef gave me the following three suggestions: pad Thai shrimp, chicken quesadillas and steak salad with buttermilk dressing.
I stuck with those selections, even though we had the option of things like pork medallions, another chicken dish and a premium dish with filet mignon. Premium dishes are an additional $14.95-19.95 per meal.
You also have the option of adding a fruit basket and smoothies ($4.95 per serving).
At the time of publishing, the following meals were available (this is just a sampling of choices):
- Sirloin steak with garlic-chive butter
- Salmon with brown-butter tomato relish
- Balsamic shrimp with grilled vegetables
- Thai pork lettuce wraps
- Pesto chicken pizza
Swapping out the meals is easy enough, but your deadline for changing your meals, at least when you do Tuesday deliveries, is Friday by 12 p.m. CST.
If you want to pause your delivery, Home Chef allows you to deactivate your account for a certain period of time or indefinitely. You’ll have to call Home Chef if you want to cancel your account at (872) 225-2433.
Our Experience With Home Chef
As I mentioned earlier, I used a 50%-off code for my first and only shipment of pad Thai shrimp, steak salad and chicken quesadillas.
It was scheduled to arrive on a Tuesday via FedEx and it did.
I set the single brown box on my kitchen table and cut it open. The inside of the box was insulated with rectangles of insulation covered in plastic that’s positioned to split the box into two compartments. The top compartment included three bags of ingredients – one bag for each meal.
The bottom compartment housed the pair of sirloin steaks, the chicken and the shrimp.
A Quick Word About Steak Quality
I was curious about the quality of the steak included in the box, so I emailed Home Chef and received a response from Home Chef’s Chief Revenue Officer and Harvard grad Rich DeNardis:
“We are continually investing in our ingredient quality,” Rich wrote. “Our steaks are US Choice sirloin.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are three grades of beef: USDA Prime, USDA Choice and USDA Select.
USDA Choice is the mid-level grade: “High quality, but has less marbling than Prime. It has at least a small amount of marbling.”
“Marbling” refers to the amount of fat in the meat. More marbling increases the flavor of the meat. The more marbling, the more flavor and the better grade of meat.
Aside from the ingredients, the box also contained a three-ring binder called the “Home Chef My Cookbook” and three menu cards with high-resolution photos of the meal and a list of the meal’s ingredients along with instructions, use-by date and calories.
Our Home Chef Meals
My wife and I agreed that all three Home Chef meals were flavorful; they tasted great. She commented that she enjoyed the fact that all the ingredients come in one bag and are already portioned out specifically for the recipe.
Another plus was the recipe cards that included all the information we needed in order to make the meal a success. We now have three recipes we can use in the future, one of which we want to cook again (pad Thai shrimp).
The Pad Thai was probably our favorite and it was filling – there was plenty for myself, my wife and our daughter.
The steak salad also did a good job of filling us up. The recipe didn’t say exactly how much the two sirloin steaks weighed, but I’m guessing they were in between a third and half a pound.
Rather than cut them up and put them in the salad, we grilled them separately. My wife commented, however, that everything tasted better when you mixed it all in the salad like the recipe said.
We also liked how the meals were packed – there were several ice pouches included in the box that kept everything cool and are reusable.
The downsides to our Home Chef box were that the chicken quesadillas weren’t filling enough for the both of us, toddler not included. We suspected that when we saw that the meal was comprised of six small quesadillas.
Also, one of the tomatoes in our quesadilla boxes was bad and the buttermilk that was supposed to be included in the steak and salad meal was not included in the ingredients bag.
That omission was disappointing considering that the dressing was a buttermilk-based dressing. We improvised, but still would have liked to have received all the ingredients.
The Cost Factor: Is Home Chef Cheaper Than the Grocery Store?
During my research for this review, I ran across an ABC 7 New York broadcast news story about Home Chef. The news station compared a steak frites Home Chef meal to the same meal bought at a grocery store.
The news station found that buying the same ingredients in a local grocery store cost $13.29, whereas the Home Chef meal cost $19.90. They did note, however, that the store they went to didn’t carry black truffle oil, which, according to the news station, would’ve cost $15 for 3.5 oz.
The Home Chef recipe called for 0.5 oz, which, based on the $15 bottle, would’ve cost $2.15, bringing the grocery bill to $15.44, or $4.46 cheaper than the Home Chef price.
In our opinion, it’s cheaper to head to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for a Home Chef meal. However, this is just one dimension of the service. As I mentioned earlier, Home Chef presents the distinct advantage of having everything organized and pre-selected for you.
So, all you have to do is open up your ingredients bag, prep your meat, follow the instructions and eat.
You save the time of planning a meal and going to the grocery store.
Another factor in price is the concept of waste. According to DeNardis, Americans throw away an average of 25% of the food they purchase.
“When shopping at a grocery store, consumers throw out nearly 25% of food they purchase,” DeNardis told us. “Consumers receive only the amount of an ingredient necessary for a recipe, which eliminates entirely their food waste.”
This brings up an interesting scenario – waste vs. value. If grocery shopping does, in fact, cost less than a Home Chef box, is getting that value worth the 25% waste we throw out?
How Home Chef Would Fit in Our Budget
After our final meal, my wife and I chit-chatted about the value. While we agreed that the meals were flavorful enough to be worth the $10 we paid for each of them, they weren’t worth the $20 the meals would cost without the Facebook discount.
As a family of three living in Jacksonville, Fla., our monthly food budget is $650. This includes all grocery purchases and doesn’t include eating out.
So, if we were to get three Home Chef meals every week, that would total out to around $240 a month for 12 days of dinner, leaving us about $410 for the remaining dinners as well as lunch, breakfast and snacks for the entire month.
To us, it didn’t seem feasible to commit more than 30% of our budget to 12 meals.
Who Is Home Chef Good For?
Based on my research and my personal experience, I believe Home Chef is good for a couple who is looking for a way to cut down on eating out through creative means.
Considering that the average couple would pay $75 for a three-course meal in New York City, a $20 meal from Home Chef is a great way to save money and get a flavorful meal you cook with your own hands.
I also see this home-delivery meal kit being good for wealthier families who want an easy solution for planning meals. At $10 per person, Home Chef isn’t the most economical choice, but it does make everything so easy. If you value this aspect of Home Chef, it’s a great choice.
DeNardis told us that he believes “the customers who benefit most from our service are those who are looking to try a variety of recipes without having a number of leftover ingredients.”
Conclusions About Home Chef
In my experience, Home Chef meals were full of flavor but not full of value for families, couples or individuals who are looking for a way to get meals at reasonable prices. ABC 7’s own report backs this up.
Therefore, I find it hard to believe Home Chef’s website when it says, “Home Chef is more affordable than shopping the same ingredients at a supermarket. Not only do our meal kits save you time, they can save you over $20 per entrée.”
Either way, I think the real question you should ask yourself is this: How valuable is your time?
“Say goodbye to long grocery lines, parking lot power-struggles, and Pinterest-induced food fails that leave you ordering takeout at 11 PM,” Home Chef’s website says.
Take a minute to think about where you are in your life. How much do you budget each month for food? How much time do you have to plan meals and shop for them? Do you value convenience over price?
If you have a hearty grocery budget, don’t have any time to plan meals and wish someone could bring ingredients to you and let you do the cooking, Home Chef is a good option.