Confession time: Even though I love to cook and create my own culinary masterpieces, I subscribed to Home Chef for more than a year. My motivation was to streamline my meal planning and shopping process and also see if I could learn a few new kitchen tricks.
This Home Chef review comes direct from my experience as a subscriber. Incidentally, I’ve also tried two other meal kit services, Dinnerly and Hello Fresh.
If you’re wondering if food subscription is right for you, read on to learn all about Home Chef from an insider’s perspective.
What’s Home Chef?
Home Chef is a meal kit delivery service. Sign up for the program and you receive a weekly meal plan, fresh ingredients for a set number of meals, plus meal preparation instructions in the form of recipe cards. As part of the sign-up process, you select how many meals you want to receive and how many portions will be included with each meal.
Each week, you can accept the default meals or you can browse the weekly menu and handpick your own dishes. You can also skip weeks, pause your account, or send your meals to a different address.
Benefits of Home Chef
For me, convenience was the primary benefit of Home Chef. But there are other perks, too. You can easily access your favorite recipes to make again later, for example. Also, the portion sizes are satisfying without being way too much, and the customer service is very good.
Convenience and efficiency
I typically ordered three dinner meals weekly from Home Chef. Having those meals handled by Home Chef reduced my normal burden of meal planning and grocery shopping by roughly 30%. As a result, I’d spend less time making grocery lists and, importantly, less time pushing a cart around the supermarket.
Also, the Home Chef meals are fairly easy to make and come together quickly. It was rare that I’d receive a meal that took longer than 40 minutes to prepare.
Left to my own devices, I can sometimes get ambitious and make meals that are overly complicated. I end buying too many ingredients, making too much, ending up with lefotovers — which is wasteful. Home Chef gave me more balance in that regard, and also reminded me regularly that simple dishes can taste amazing and satisfying.
You can access the best recipes later
Home Chef saves your recipes so you can access them later. Log into your account and look for the “My Cookbook” option. There, you’ll see every recipe the meal delivery service has sent you. You can also create a grocery list from any recipes you want to make again.
Home Chef portions aren’t big. In my house, we had to adjust to the smallish portions — but that ultimately proved to be a good thing.
Turns out, I don’t need to have second helpings on the daily to feel satisfied. Over time, I came to appreciate the more reasonable portion sizes. Even now that I no longer use Home Chef, I try to keep portion sizes more moderate.
I did interact with Home Chef customer service a few times. Once, my meal kit was missing an ingredient. On another occasion, one of the produce ingredients wasn’t fresh. And a third time, I received the wrong meals for the week.
Every interaction I had with the service team was pleasant and positive. They would politely document my complaint and offer an account credit. There was never a hint of combativeness, which you can get now and then from customer service reps.
Cons of Home Chef
Now, let’s talk about the downsides of Home Chef. The cost of the meal kit service can be prohibitive for many households, you do have to prepare the meals yourself, and the meal options may not accommodate your specific dietary needs.
Meal kits are not cheap
Home Chef’s dinner meal kits are not inexpensive. The price per serving ranges from $8.99 to $21.95. You’ll pay shipping on top of that. Although you usually get discounts to start your subscription, the regular prices can be prohibitive for many households.
I’ll talk more about pricing and value below.
Preparation is required
Home Chef meal kits are not difficult, but there is preparation involved. If you don’t enjoy cooking or learning new prep methods, following the recipe cards can be tedious. Most recipes that I received took about 30 minutes to prepare. It could take longer if you aren’t quick with measuring and chopping.
Menus may not accommodate specific dietary needs
If you’re feeding picky eaters, you may have trouble finding appropriate recipes from the weekly options. In my case, I wanted to limit meals with bread, rice, and pasta. On top of that, my husband will not eat certain vegetables (like broccoli). He’s also suspicious about seafood.
Most weeks, I could find three meals that accommodated us. But, it sometimes involved having the same vegetable (usually green beans or potatoes) multiple times.
Note that if your household needs a consistent selection of gluten-free or dairy-free recipes or a variety of vegetarian proteins, you won’t get it from Home Chef.
Ordering and delivering
Home Chef’s ordering and delivery process is straightforward. Once you create an account, you can log in, review the weekly menu, and choose your meals. The menus post about a month in advance, so you can organize several weeks of meals at a time.
My delivery day was on Tuesday and I had to finalize my week’s order by the earlier Friday. If I forgot, I would receive the default selection.
Roughly 85% of the time, I would receive my meal kits on Tuesday. Some weeks it would be Wednesday, either due to a holiday like Memorial Day or a shipping delay. The kits are packed with ice and insulated, so the delay usually wasn’t a problem in terms of the food staying fresh. In a year, I had one shipment that contained some wilted lettuce.
Meal options and food quality
Home Chef meals are generally good quality. Most of the dishes were reasonably tasty and some were surprisingly delicious. I found the meat to be better-than-average quality, while the produce was average but acceptable. There were times when I’d get smallish vegetables and end up supplementing the recipe with my own ingredients so we’d have enough food.
Home Chef’s weekly menu consists of different meal types. The meal types and their prices (as of June, 2023) are outlined below.
- Culinary collection: Higher-end ingredients, more complex and/or lengthier preparation. Prices per serving range from $10.95 and up. The most expensive I’ve seen is $21.95 per serving. Serves two.
- Meal kit: These are Home Chef’s base options, priced at $8.99 per serving. They typically include a protein, veggie, and, sometimes, a starch. Serves two.
- Family meal: Family meals make enough for four people, with a modest price per serving (less than $10).
- Express plus: Upgraded meals that are ready in 20-30 minutes. Serves two and the prices per serving are usually less than $15.
- Express: Quick, easy meals ready in 10-15 minutes. Serves two at $8.99 per serving.
- Fast & fresh plus: Meals with premium proteins that can be baked or microwaved. Ready in 10-15 minutes. Serves two at $13.99 per serving.
- Fast & fresh: Meals that can be put together quickly and microwaved. They are ready inside of 15 minutes. Serves two at around $9.99 per serving.
- Fast & fresh family: Quick, easy meals for four people. Price per serving is usually less than $10.
- Oven-ready plus: These meals have premium protein plus pre-chopped ingredients. Prep involves little more than arranging ingredients in an included tray and popping it in the oven. Serves two at less than $15 per serving.
- Oven-ready: This is the same as oven-ready plus but with standard protein. Virtually no prep and efficient cook times. Serves two at $8.99 per serving.
- Oven-ready family: Easy, oven-ready prep with enough food to serve four people at less than $10 per serving.
- Protein pack: Protein packs aren’t meal kits — they’re simply an order of uncooked protein. One week’s classic protein pack, for example, included six 6 oz. sirloin steaks and plus 30 oz. of steak strips for $80. You may also have the option to buy chicken breast, ground beef, or seafood in a protein pack.
- Dessert: Desserts have a single price, rather than a per-serving price. Usually, they’re less than $10 but they can serve two to six people, depending on the recipe.
Home Chef Recipes
Here are some of the recipes you might see on your weekly menu, along with their meal type and per-serving prices:
- Chicken with fig bacon jam with blue cheese fondue green beans (meal kit at $8.99 per serving)
- Pesto turkey meatloaf with Parmesan pecan butternut squash (meal kit at $8.99 per serving)
- One-pot Italian sausage minestrone-style soup with cheese and parsley (family meal at $7.99 per serving)
- Blackened Mahi-Mahi tacos with quick-pickled jalapenos and cilantro slaw (express plus meal at $13.99 per serving)
- Steakhouse sirloin and black garlic butter with blue cheese-stuffed mushrooms (culinary collection at $13.95 per serving)
This wouldn’t be a legit Home Chef review if I didn’t also show you some of the meals I’ve made. So here’s a look at two of them: steak and brown butter mashed potatoes with roasted carrots and Milanese-style pork chops with salsa and butternut squash. The photos should give you an idea of portion size.
Steak and brown butter mashed potatoes
This was a meal kit recipe, priced at $8.99 per serving. It took 40 minutes to prepare.
Milanese-style pork chop with butternut squash
This is another $8.99 per serving meal kit recipe, with a prep time of 40 minutes.
Pricing and value
Home Chef pricing is about the same as its competitors. For reference, see more information on HelloFresh cost.
If you limit your choices to the cheapest menu options, you’ll spend about $64 weekly on three meals per week for two people. The breakdown is:
- Three meals for two equals six servings.
- Six servings times $8.99 is $53.94.
- Add $9.99 in shipping to get to a total of $63.93.
You can see, based on the variation in per-serving prices, that your weekly cost can quickly escalate. Say you choose three meals from the Culinary Collection at $13.95 per serving. That week’s total will be $93.69.
The question is, can you cook equivalent meals for less than $95 or $65 per week? Absolutely you can. You’ll spend more time planning and shopping, but it can be done. So the value of Home Chef boils down to convenience. If you like home-cooked meals but can’t stand planning them, then a meal subscription may be a good fit for you.
You can reach Home Chef customer service by phone, via a form on the website, or via online chat.
You can reach Home Chef by phone at 872-225-2433 or 855-949-3049 during these hours:
- Monday through Friday 9am to 6pm CT
- Saturday 10am to 2pm CT
Form on the website
If you don’t need an immediate answer, you can submit a form to customer service here.
Live chat reps are available from the website during those hours, plus on Sundays from 10am to 2pm CT. Note that when you use the live chat, you’ll get a bot first. If you keep asking questions or typing “customer service” repeatedly, the bot will transfer you to a live agent.
Home Chef vs. competitors
I only have direct experience with Hello Fresh, Dinnerly, and Home Chef. Here are my takeaways:
- Dinnerly is the least expensive of the three. The meals are more casual — you’ll see lots of hamburgers and fries, for example. Also, Dinnerly doesn’t package the meals into individual, labeled bags the way Home Chef does. And you don’t get a recipe card. Instead, you find your weekly recipes in Dinnerly’s app. I liked Dinnerly but found the meal selection to be a little repetitive over time.
- Hello Fresh is the most expensive of the three, with most meals priced at $11 per serving or more. The recipe quality and portion size is better (in my opinion) than Dinnerly or Home Chef, however.
Is Home Chef worth it?
Only you can decide if Home Chef is worth it. Having someone else plan some of your meals can make dinner more interesting. But it’s a not a cheap way to eat. Still, the expense might be worth it if you like to cook without hassle.