Absolutely Everything You Need to Know About Home Chef

An in-depth look at the family friendly meal kit service, how it works, what it costs, and whether it's a good fit for you.

Courtesy of Home Chef
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Do you have meal-kit commitment issues? Have you ever signed up for a subscription service, only to tire of cooking 40-minute recipes? Or argued with your partner because you couldn’t agree on the same entrees? Home Chef may be the answer to these woes. Allow us to explain.

What, exactly, is Home Chef?

At first glance, Home Chef looks a lot like other meal-kit delivery services, such as HelloFresh and Blue Apron. For the last eight years, the service has sent out boxes containing easy-to-read recipe cards and individually wrapped and labeled ingredients for customers to turn into a home-cooked meal. Dishes on the weekly menu of around two dozen recipes are simple and globally influenced, and they take between 15 minutes and 1 hour to prepare.

Home Chef diverts from other services, however, with its customization options, which may be the solution for family members who butt heads with conflicting tastes.

How much does Home Chef cost (per person)?

Home Chef’s meals start at $8.99 per serving, and the minimum weekly order value is $49.95. Shipping ranges from $7.99 to $13.99, and taxes may be charged if your city or state has a grocery sales tax. For example, before shipping, a box containing three recipes for four people costs around $110.

When you first sign up, you’ll get $30 off your first box, $30 off the second, $15 off the third, and $15 off the fourth. Home Chef also sells meal kits at Kroger-owned grocery stores; those are available at varying price points.

What do Home Chef reviewers say?

Happy Home Chef users say they’ve enjoyed trying new ingredients and cooking techniques while sticking to their weekly grocery budget. With the meals’ ranging levels of difficulty and customization options, customers can choose recipes that fit their routines. The overall feedback on food seems to be positive, but there are mixed reviews on things like portion sizes, the freshness of produce, and the variety of menu options over time.

Almost all negative Home Chef reviews are about issues with shipping and delivery, with many people saying they’ve had to throw out days-late food that arrived spoiled. However, most of these users said that they were able to quickly get in touch with the company for a refund. You can read full reviews on sites like Trustpilot and ConsumerAffairs.

Is Home Chef easy to use?

Most reviews say that Home Chef is easy to use: All meal kits come with clearly identified ingredients, plus written recipe cards that include photos. Before you get started on a recipe, you might want to read the instructions, organize your ingredients, and get out any equipment you may need for the smoothest sailing. If you’re unsure that the classic meal kits (containing 20- to 60-minute recipes) are a fit for you, you can start with the 15-minute or easy-prep kits and progress from there.

What are the standout features of Home Chef?

  • Plans for larger groups: Home Chef’s meal plans feed up to six people, while most services stop at four. This makes it ideal for those with bigger families or lots of hungry roommates.
  • Variety of difficulty levels: Some services have you choose between meal kits or partially-to-fully prepared meals. Home Chef lets you mix and match the two. You can microwave a spinach Bolognese spaghetti for five minutes on Monday night, then spend 45 minutes cooking Brussels sprouts and brown butter risotto on Wednesday.
  • Customization options: If you have a vegetarian partner and a son who would happily subsist on chicken nuggets for the rest of his life, you could still get by on Home Chef. The service allows you to remove, swap, and add on proteins, so you can compromise with plant-based Impossible-stuffed peppers one night and order extra sides of chicken or shrimp to go with Korean tofu lettuce cups on another night.

Who should sign up for Home Chef?

  • People with kids: As mentioned, Home Chef can send food for a family of up to six. The little ones may even have fun browsing the colorful recipe cards and helping you cook.
  • Couples: Partners who love to cook together might enjoy the convenience of a two-person meal kit. And if you disagree on protein options, you can always customize your order.
  • Budding home cooks: Newer to the kitchen? A service that shops, plans, and sometimes preps for you might take the intimidation out of making dinner. Even if you stick to 15-minute meal kits twice a week, you’ll still get the satisfaction of serving yourself a hot, homemade dish.

Who should avoid Home Chef?

  • Singles: Home Chef’s plans are meant for two or more people, and subscribers have to order at least two recipes per week for a minimum of about $50 per order. This could be a good thing if you like leftovers, but with that money, you could probably buy ingredients for more than four meals.
  • Vegetarians and vegans: Home Chef is best for carnivores. The menu only includes a couple of vegetarian options each week, and while you can sub in an Impossible burger for several of the meals, you’ll get more of a vegetable-centric variety from other services.
  • Non-cooks: If you want to heat and eat fully prepared meals within minutes, Home Chef may not be for you. Its easy-prep meals, while simple, still require some rinsing, assembling, and waiting.
Courtesy of Home Chef

How does Home Chef actually work?

To sign up with Home Chef, you’ll first answer a few questions about your dietary and cooking preferences (or take an entertaining quiz to learn “what kind of chef” you are) before entering your zip code and email address. Next, you’ll choose how many people you’re cooking for (two, four, or six) and how many recipes you’d like to receive each week (from two to six).

After filling in your name, address, and desired delivery date, you’ll see a price estimate and enter your payment information. The cost shouldn’t change unless you choose to customize or add extra items to your meals.

After that, it’s time to choose your meals. Home Chef’s menu is organized by difficulty level. First are about a dozen meal kits that take 20 minutes to an hour to cook—think artichoke chicken Milanese and shrimp and cheddar grits. Next are a couple of 15-minute meal kits that require minimal prep and quick stovetop cooking, like easy stir-fries. Last are about 10 easy-prep meal kits that involve little to no advance work but need to be assembled and heated in the microwave or oven. These include dishes like tacos and pasta bakes. If you like, you can add more items (bread, snacks, dessert, or extra proteins) to your box before moving on.

Menu items are labeled with tags that show if they’re part of Home Chef’s greatest hits or culinary collection, lighter fare, or customizable to be vegetarian. The description also includes the total cook time and a list of allergens. Click on each recipe to read the ingredients list, full instructions (including what equipment you’ll need at home), and customization options.

After signing up with Home Chef, you can make changes to your order, skip a week entirely (or donate the meals to Feeding America), or cancel your subscription before the menu closes at 12 p.m. Central each Friday. You’re also free to update your plan size or change the frequency of your deliveries to be weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Menus can be viewed up to five weeks ahead of time.

When you get an order, put the ingredients away as soon as possible. Some things will need to go in the fridge, others can be kept in the pantry, and produce should be washed before using. Each item should be labeled with storage instructions and a best-by date, or you can read that information here. When you’re ready to cook a meal, follow the instructions on the recipe card or online.

To get help from someone at Home Chef, send a message through the support page or get in touch via phone using the numbers and business hours provided. You can rate and review meals in the “My Cookbook” section of your account to keep track of your favorites and send feedback to the culinary team.

Courtesy of Home Chef

Are there alternative Home Chef meal kit services out there?

Home Chef works well for families with varied tastes, but if you can afford to be pickier, look into these options for…

Cheaper meals: Dinnerly and EveryPlate

These services start at $4.69 and $4.99 per serving, respectively, making them about half the cost of Home Chef. They’re both meant for a minimum of two people and require you to order at least three meals per week, but even if you’re a single cook, your per-serving cost will be lower.

Cheffier recipes: Blue Apron and Marley Spoon

If your vibe is less meat-and-potatoes and more flavors-of-the-world, consider one of these options. Blue Apron offers wine pairings with dishes like salsa verde gnocchi and shawarma-spiced tilapia, and Marley Spoon’s menu is created in collaboration with Martha Stewart, so, enough said.

More plants: Sunbasket and Green Chef

Home Chef’s protein-centric menu won’t be much help for those trying to cut back on meat. Sunbasket and Green Chef, on the other hand, have omnivorous options with a larger emphasis on vegetables.

Courtesy of Home Chef

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Home Chef’s delivery area?

Home Chef delivers to 98% of the U.S. See if your area is covered by entering your zip code when signing up.

When will I receive my deliveries?

Available delivery dates depend on your area and carrier and can be viewed in your account settings. Home Chef delivers Monday through Friday.

What dietary needs does Home Chef meet?

Home Chef offers a couple of vegetarian options per week and also lists the allergens contained in each meal—but they are not made in certified allergen-free facilities. There are also three “calorie-conscious” (fewer than 625 calories per serving) and “carb-conscious” (fewer than 35 grams per serving) meals per week.

Can I customize a menu item to suit my dietary needs or preferences?

You can customize most meals by adding, removing, or swapping proteins such as chicken, beef, pork, Impossible plant-based beef, and seafood. You cannot customize vegetables, sides, or other specific ingredients. Any meal that can be modified has a “customize it” button.

Is Home Chef organic?

Home Chef’s ingredients are occasionally organic; the status depends on the ingredients, the suppliers, and the season.

How long does the food last?

Meals are packaged in insulated boxes with ice packs that keep the food cold, not frozen, so all items should be properly stored once delivered. Recipe cards tell you when each meal should be cooked—usually, within three to seven days. Read this page for more information about food safety.

Can I recycle the packaging?

All packing materials are recyclable or reusable; read the instructions here for disposing of boxes, plastic containers, and ice packs. For your local recycling information, head here.

Are there discounts or rewards?

Besides the initial $90 off your first four boxes, Home Chef has a $101 student discount that can be redeemed here. First responders, doctors, nurses, hospital employees, teachers, and those in the military are also eligible for discounts and can verify their credentials in the payment section of the sign-up process. Home Chef also has rewards for referrals: You and a friend each get $35 off an order when a friend signs up with your code.

Sara Cagle is a Thrillist contributor.
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