Shortly after Brad and I moved in together, we realized we were ordering way too much takeout. We decided to stop stretching the “well, we just moved” excuse each time we ordered a pizza.
Yes, I’m all about cooking from scratch and making up my own recipes, but that requires a lot of thinking and sometimes I just want to make dinner without thinking.
So we signed up for Home Chef, a weekly meal delivery service that ships pre-portioned ingredients and recipes — the only ingredients you need to have at home are olive oil, salt and pepper.
It helps make cooking at home easier, make new recipes more accessible and can help reduce food waste.
I rarely do reviews of products or services here, and to be honest, I don’t like to do them. Once I praise something in open forum, I can’t take it back. In reality, no matter how much I like something, no two experiences will be identical and appliances can malfunction, food can be spoiled and most products and services break down at some point.
I don’t feel qualified to be the arbiter of what is good and what is bad.
Nonetheless, I do feel qualified to tell you what I like and don’t like, and HomeChef is something that I like.
About Home Chef
Brad and I signed up in December, shortly after trying out the holiday biscuit bar brunch.
We had been flirting with the idea of a meal delivery subscription, and we like HomeChef for several reasons. First, it’s a local company. Not only is it nice to support a local business, it’s nice that our groceries aren’t traveling 2000 miles to get to our door. Most of the meals have a nice nutritional composition, too — high protein, plenty of veggies, and between 500-1000 calories per serving.
What we like about Home Chef
Brad and I can cook together
When my neighbor, who knows I love cooking, saw the HomeChef box on my door step, she was puzzled as to why I wouldn’t be using my own recipes to cook meals.
I explained to her that the HomeChef recipe cards come with pictures and they’re super easy for Brad to follow, even when he isn’t familiar with the culinary terminology or techniques.
He’s made us Grilled Lemongrass Pork Tenderloin and we’ve cooked together to make both Pan-Seared Chicken and Samosa-Style Potatoes and Italian Sausage Stromboli.
Not on the same night, of course.
Even when I do the cooking, HomeChef nights are more like an event — we’re more likely to open a bottle of wine, hang out together in the kitchen while we cook and because the instructions are right there in front of you, I get a break from planning, thinking and measuring.
We try new recipes we probably wouldn’t have thought to cook
We’ve also been compelled to try things the other might not have picked on our own. As much as I like to try new things, we have different tastes and Brad tends to be a more conservative eater — meat and potatoes, chicken and broccoli. With Home Chef, we have both ventured outside of our comfort zones.
Brad was lukewarm on the Shrimp and Sweet Pea Risotto that I loved, and I discovered how easy it can be to make a bordelaise sauce when we tried the Sirloin Steak with Brown Butter Bordelaise, one of Brad’s favorites.
I make meatballs all the time, but we never would have thought to make Pork Shumai Meatballs on our own, and when we make tacos, we’ve never though to break out the gochujang for Korean Pork Tacos. Sometimes it’s even fun to take something simple, like chicken, and make different sauces like fig glazed chicken breast and chicken with apple barbecue sauce.
We’re actually learning cooking technique
Even though I consider myself to be a self-taught home cook, there are plenty of things I still don’t know. I’m always texting friends with cooking questions and there may or may not have been a small kitchen fire in my house only a few days ago (I still don’t understand how that happened…).
I have cooked steak a few times, using the techniques and suggestions I learned from Home Chef: sear the steaks on both sides for about 2-3 minutes each, then finish them by roasting in the oven until the steaks reach the level of desired doneness. Brad’s desired level of doneness is ‘barely cooked’ and mine is more medium/maybe medium-rare if we are sharing and I want to be a team player.
I had really only ever grilled steaks, so this technique offers us a nice alternative option. Home Chef also helps us play with flavors and textures. I learn by doing better than I learn by watching or reading about something, so Home Chef is like cooking practice for when I make my own recipes.
If you’ve literally never cooked anything before, I think you could still manage a lot of these recipes, but I’d suggest inviting a friend over or making sure your spouse is around for supervision.
It is very flexible
When we signed up for Home Chef, I was a little worried that we were signing our lives away for the bargain price of $40 per week. I travel a good deal for work, and we do eat out a lot, both socially and for our date nights.
When we realized that we were letting too many of our meals go to waste, we also realized how incredibly easy it is to skip a week of meals if you’ll be out of town, too busy to cook or if you don’t see anything you like on the menu. When we have a lot going on, we’ll skip a few weeks and then start back up again. They don’t make it hard for you to opt out, and then back in because life.
What isn’t so great about Home Chef
We waste food
If you’re not a stringent planner, Home Chef — or any other meal delivery service — might not be the best choice for your household. If you are a strict planner, you’ll reduce food waste, but that hasn’t always been the case for us.
There have been a lot of occasions where Brad worked late so I hit the cheese and crackers, or we had a last minute invitation to go out to dinner. Because Home Chef arrives at our door step on Tuesday, and we tend to have social plans for dinner on the weekends, that leaves us with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to cook. If our plans change on even one of those nights, it can throw off our entire dinner schedule and leave us wasting an entire meal.
When that happens, we do try to repurpose. When we knew we weren’t going to have a chance to make the Steak and Blue Cheese Salad, Brad grilled the steak for his lunch one Saturday morning and we used the salad fixings to accompany our dinner the next night, but we’ve still had to throw out more Home Chef meal than I would have liked.
We wash a lot of dishes
I probably shouldn’t complain about this, because we are lucky enough not only to have a dishwasher, but to have a dishwasher safe set of cookware so it’s rare that we do have to wash our dishes by hand. We also have a pretty well-stocked kitchen. Since I’ve been blogging about food for almost nine years, I’ve accumulated a nice stash of mixing bowls, prep ware, spatula, pots, pans and the likes, which increased when Brad and I moved in together and combined my well-stocked kitchen with his moderately stocked one.
If you’re a newer cook with only the most basic kitchenware, you might find Home Chef frustrating at times. Some recipes will call for as many as two pans, a pot, and a baking sheet, plus bowls and utensils in addition to serve ware. We make it work, but if you are just starting out in the kitchen and have only the basics — a pot, a pan, etc. — you might have a harder time pulling off these recipes.
If you don’t have a dishwasher, you might find yourself spending more time cleaning up than you spend cooking. Maybe you’re into that kind of thing, but it definitely would not work for me.
We don’t need as much olive oil as Home Chef thinks we do
I don’t know if this is a constructive criticism as much as it’s a personal preference, but I feel like Home Chef recipes call for a lot of olive oil. It’s something I always keep in the house and for the first time in maybe years, I ran out of olive oil before I could buy more.
We had a salmon dish served simply over an arugula and tomato salad, yet had over 700 calories. A lot of this was due to the olive oil used in nearly each step of the recipe. Though it didn’t taste greasy or excessively oily, I was still surprised. It’s not that I’m some health nut, but I’d rather use less olive oil, and then have dessert.
Now, I usually halve the amount of oil needed, or I eyeball it, and all of our meals have turned out great.
We are probably fat kids
Sometimes, as much as we love the HomeChef meal, it isn’t always enough food.
I know that the chefs who come up with the recipes are probably mindful of portion size and want to adhere to certain nutritional guidelines. I would rather see some of the butter and oil swapped out of the recipes and replaced with more filling whole grains or extra veggies. We would welcome simple swaps like brown rice instead of white rice. Offering different serving size options for protein and veggies might be a good option, too.
Depending on the meal, I’ll sometimes add rice, baked potatoes, or a salad to make the meal a little more filling. I can usually tell if a meal hasn’t been adequate for Brad if he finishes a meal, raves about it, and then heads to the fridge to get string cheese to snack on after dinner (as was the case with the Mardi Gras Shrimp Po’Boy, which we loved).
That said, most people would probably be fine with the portion sizes set, and Brad and I are probably just fat kids at heart.
Have you tried Home Chef or a similar recipe service? Tell us what you think in the comments!