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Home Chef is one of many meal-kit delivery services that
packs a box with recipes and their ingredients and sends them to your door.
Home Chef is different from other kits in a few ways. First, you can order a
meal for up to eight people, whereas other services usually stop at four. Second, it
has a line of items, called Fresh and Easy, that prioritize getting a meal on
the table with as little hassle as possible. Those no-muss no-fuss kits come
with disposable baking dishes or foil packets that you use for grilling, so you
have one less item to clean up. Third, for some meals, you can swap one protein
for another (shrimp instead of chicken) or upgrade to a different cut or
quality of meat. It’s very meat- and carb-heavy, and uses excessive packaging, however. It also doesn’t teach you much in the way of cooking skills.

Our top picks and Editors’ Choices among meal
delivery services are Blue Apron for people who want to learn how to cook, Green Chef for those who like
vegetable-forward menus, and HelloFresh for people who eat a
little bit of everything. If you need real groceries just as badly as meal
kits, Hungryroot is another top pick. It suggests groceries and recipes to go with them based on
your eating preferences, and you can customize your final cart or take a gamble
and see what comes your way.

Home Chef Pricing

Home Chef’s meals cost between $7.49 and $9.94
per serving, depending on which meals you choose. The majority of them cost
$8.99 per serving. Unlike most other meal-kit delivery services, the price per
serving doesn’t change if you get more servings per kit. For example, pulled
pork gyros cost $8.99 per serving whether you get two servings per kit or eight. Most meal kit services offer either two or four servings
per menu item. Home Chef lets you choose two, four, six, or eight.

Some meals offer customization options, like
substitutions or upgrades to higher quality meat. Those customizations
sometimes come with an added fee. Those pulled pork gyros I mentioned let you
swap out precooked pulled pork for raw ground turkey or pork for free. There’s
a chicken dish, however, that charges an additional $2.29 per serving if you
want antibiotic-free meat, or $4.49 per serving for organic instead of
conventional.

In addition to the cost of the meals, you’ll pay
$13.99 for shipping. Many meal subscription services waive the shipping fee on
your first order.

How Does Home Chef’s Pricing
Compare?

Home Chef’s prices are fairly standard compared
to what other companies charge, although the shipping fee is slightly higher
than most others’.

The going rate, generally speaking, is between
$8.99 and $12.99 per serving. Two companies with low-cost meals are EveryPlate ($4.99 per serving) and
Dinnerly (between $4.49 and $4.99 per serving). I would describe their dishes as primarily
American comfort food. They keep costs low by not doing too much of the prep work for you, so
you can expect more chopping. They also stick with low-cost ingredients rather
than exotic imported foods. You’re more likely to see mushrooms, zucchini, and
meatloaf rather than truffle butter, quinoa, and dragonfruit.

Most meal-kit services require that you purchase
a minimum of two servings per meal, with a standard minimum of three meals per week,
though some companies let you order just two. That’s not a problem for couples
and small families, but singles may run into trouble. A few companies selling
single-serve meals are Daily Harvest, Splendid
Spoon
, and Freshly. Daily Harvest sends frozen meals,
mostly smoothies, soups, and bowls. You have to add your own liquid to the
smoothies and soups, but otherwise, they’re heat-and-eat or blend-and-eat ready.
Splendid Spoon ships single-serve smoothies, soups, and bowls as well, but those are completely prepared in advance. Freshly delivers single serve
entrees that look like a contemporary take on TV dinners.

Home Chef pasta dish overhead shot

Home Chef “Fresh and
Easy”

Home Chef owns a sub-brand called Fresh and
Easy. It is not a separate meal delivery service but rather part of Home Chef.
A representative explained that Fresh and Easy is a plan within Home Chef, but
from the subscriber’s perspective (that’s me in this case), it’s not really all
that clear. The distinction is a little confusing, and I wouldn’t be surprised
if the company phases it out at some point.

So, to be clear: If you go to FreshandEasy.com,
you land on a page for a meal-kit delivery program focused on meals that are
fast and healthy. The meals are categorized as oven-ready, heat-and-eat, slow
cooker (meaning prepared in a slow cooker), grill-ready, ready in 15, and
entree salad. If you click any link on that page to “pick your meals”
or “get started,” you’re redirected to a page where you sign up for
HomeChef.com.

Once you have a Home Chef account, you see options for meals that are oven-ready, heat-and-eat, and so forth—the same selling points as Fresh and Easy. You also see “Fresh Start” branded onto some menu items. Fresh Start indicates the meals have been designed to keep calories and carbohydrates in check. The Fresh Start brand uses a URL that makes it easier to understand its place in the Home Chef hierarchy: homechef.com/fresh-start.

Something to note about the oven-ready, heat-and-eat, and other fast meals is you won’t learn cooking skills by making them. There are only a few recipes each week that require hands-on kitchen work. If your goal in using a meal kit delivery service is to learn to cook, Blue Apron will give you more of what you want.

Home Chef’s menu tends toward Americana family
favorites, like meatballs, burgers, and grilled chicken with sides. The
occasional chicken satay is easily outnumbered by meat loaf, tacos, and Sunday
roast. There are limited vegetarian options, perhaps one or two per week. I
wouldn’t bank on filling a box with exclusively vegetarian meals. Try Purple
Carrot (which is all vegan) or Green Chef, if you want a wider variety of meatless
options.

When you explore each week’s options, you see a
little preview card of each meal with a photo and the per-serving cost. The
bottom of the card lists allergens (such as wheat, soy, eggs, and dairy), estimated
prep and cook time, and other tags to indicate if the recipe is “carb
conscious” or “calorie conscious.” A more prominent color-coded
tag shows the method of cooking when relevant, such as grill-ready, slow
cooker, oven-ready, ready in 15, or heat and eat.

When you sign up for an account, you can choose
what dietary requirements or preferences you have and what kind of meals you
want to see. There’s also a page for
seeing meals with special requirements
, say, dairy-free,
nut-free, soy-free, and so forth. Those are all of Home Chef’s recipes that meet the specifications,
however, and not the weekly menu.

As mentioned, some entrees are eligible for
substitutions or upgrades. If you need a few extra grocery items, you won’t be
able to buy them from Home Chef. That is something you can do with Blue Apron,
Sun Basket, and Gobble, however. Blue Apron lets you add on wine, spices, and
finishing oils. Sun Basket and Gobble’s upsells are more like single-serve
breakfast items and double portions of protein.

Home Chef lets you skip a week of delivery if
you need to, or as many weeks as you want. If you’re done with the service for
now, you have to pause your membership, which is easy to do online, right in your account. That’s typical among meal kit services.

Home Chef packaging

Home Chef’s Packaging

Undeniably, meal-kit delivery services generate waste, sometimes in excessive amounts. All your precious food items must be packaged in such a way to
prevent contamination and keep them cold until they reach you. Anyone who uses
a meal delivery service must cope with it. Some meal kit companies do better
than others.

Home Chef uses a lot of plastic. Each meal kit
comes packaged into a plastic bag, except meats, which are wrapped in separate
plastic. Within the large meal bags, components sit in their own plastic
wrappers. The plastics are all recyclable, provided you have a facility that
accepts no. 4 and 5 plastics. They weren’t really reusable, though.

For the two meals in my box, all the ingredients
came precooked or parboiled, chopped, cleaned, and so forth. Nothing, in my
estimation, could have been left
unwrapped. Could there have been paper rather than plastic? Certainly meal bags
can be paper; a few meal-kit companies use them.

A cold gel pack comes in the box. It was still
mostly frozen when I opened mine. These packs are common in meal delivery but a
pain in the neck to deal with. They’re frozen blocks of non-toxic gel wrapped
in heavy-duty plastic. You can reuse them if you have space in your freezer.
You can recycle the plastic—again, pending a facility nearby that accepts them.
As to the gel, you must let it melt and then snip a corner of the bag and dump
it into your trash, which may create a leaky mess. It’s not supposed to go down
the drain. Sun Basket uses a cold pack that it says you can use to water your
garden or dump into a composting pile, which sounds a bit better if you have
some outdoor space.

Finally, there’s an insulated liner in the box,
which Home Chef says is made of cotton and recycled denim and can be removed
from its plastic wrapper and placed in the trash. The plastic, again, is
theoretically recyclable.

Some meal subscription companies, while hardly
bastions of ecology, are at least working to reduce waste. Daily Harvest is currently shifting toward all compostable containers. EveryPlate leaves
ingredients like whole onions and peppers unwrapped. These are small improvements,
but if you subscribe to a weekly box, they add up quickly.

Home Chef chicken satay ingredients spread

Cooking and Eating With Home Chef

I chose two meals to try from Home Chef. One was
creamy tomato and Italian sausage penne bake with spinach, part of the Fresh
and Easy line. The other was a chicken satay rice bowl with bok choy and
peanuts.

When I started testing meal kit services, I made
a promise to follow the instructions as provided. I made an exception with the
pasta dish from Home Chef, choosing to cook the sausage separately and slice it,
rather than crumble the raw meat on top of the pasta casserole and cook it all together. My partner eats
meat but I don’t, so it seemed like a reasonable adjustment to accommodate us
both. It worked well. We were both happy with the results.

Home Chef pasta dish prepared

Every meal comes with a large, glossy,
full-color recipe card, already hole-punched to go into a binder that you get
with your first delivery. On one side is a summary of the meal, including
nutritional information, ingredients list, spiciness, supplies you’ll need to
have on hand, and how soon you should cook it after receiving your box to
ensure freshness. The reverse side contains step-by-step cooking instructions
with photos. In some cases, the recipe cards also offer notes on what to change
if you made any substitutions.

The pasta-bake dish came with a disposable
aluminum pan, which I’ve managed to clean and reuse. According to the recipe
card, I had five days to make this recipe, but a bag of baby spinach started to
wilt and weep by the third day, so I cut the timeline short. The recipe called
for mixing most of the ingredients together right in the pan, sprinkling some
cheese and crumbled sausage meat on top (that’s where I went off-recipe), and
whacking it into a hot oven.

I imagined what would happen if I mixed the
ingredients right in the shallow pan. It involved spilled food and hungry dogs
slobbering to nab a juicy morsel from the floor. So I added one extra step by
mixing the ingredients in a large bowl first. As a result, I had one more dish
to clean at the end, but I’d rather wash dishes than mop my floor. In any
event, 15 to 20 minutes later, you have yourself a hot and homey meal.

The chicken satay recipe required a bit more
work, but not much. Jasmine rice was precooked and needed just a splash of
water and a minute or two in the microwave in a bowl covered with wet paper
towels. For the chicken, I upgraded to a whole chicken breast instead of
pre-cubed meat, so there was a little slicing involved.

Home Chef chicken satay dish prepared

The meal still came together quickly. The recipe
calls for leaving the chicken separate until plating, so it was easy to spin
out a vegetarian plate. I did manage to taste the peanut sauce, sweet and
spicy, before tossing warm chicken in it. Overall we liked the meal although we
both scooped a little chili garlic sauce on top for extra kick. The only
feedback we had was that we would have liked more bok choy and maybe less rice.

Would You Eat It Again?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve opened my Home
Chef account and looked at the meal options. My taste buds lean toward
vegetables, especially raw or lightly cooked ones, and Home Chef doesn’t have
too much in this category. I was also disheartened by the amount of plastic
used in packaging, which made me second-guess ordering another round of meals.

If the menu options speak to you, then Home Chef
is a decent meal-kit delivery service. It might be even more appealing if you
have a large household to feed or are cooking for a group, since you can order
up to eight servings per kit.

When looking at the range of options for meal
delivery, PCMag recommends four services in particular as Editors’ Choices. Blue Apron stands out for the best
service for novice chefs. It helps that Blue Apron offers free shipping on all
but its smallest plans. Green Chef is a great pick if you like fresh,
vegetable-forward meals, whether you’re vegetarian or not. HelloFresh hits the
same high notes for freshness but has a wider range of flavors and styles of
food. Finally, a slightly different option that we also love is Hungryroot, which
lets you customize a box of groceries that include meal kits (or at least
suggestions for recipes to make) and standalone grocery items. It’s also an Editors’ Choice. 

Home Chef Meal Delivery Service Specs

Starting Price Per Meal $7.49
Vegetarian Options Yes
Vegan Options No
No Extra Delivery Charges No
Product Price Type Direct
Product Category Web Sites

Best Meal Kit Picks

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