Would it surprise you if I told you that in 2015-2016, Americans spent more money eating in restaurants than on groceries? (1) That’s right, for the first time in history, Americans spent more in restaurants, at $54.857 billion, than they did on groceries, at $52.503 billion. (1) With time at a premium, families often turn to take out and pizza delivery for a quick meal, between school, PTA meetings, sporting events and work.
“I don’t have time to cook healthy.” or “I don’t know how to cook.” These are two of the most frequently heard excuses every nutritionist hears. Granted, planning meals, shopping & cooking does take time. That’s why I decided to try the plethora of meal delivery services currently so popular and on the market. My theory: if these meal delivery services are cost effective, easy to prepare and, most important, taste good, people will no longer have excuses for eating healthy. Over the course of the next several months, my family and I will be trying these services. We will be asking these questions:
- Is the Website easy to use?
- Is it cost effective?
- Is there a variety of meals and is it good quality food?
- Are the meals easy to prepare?
- Do the meals taste good?
The first service we tried was
Here is a video from their website, which indicates Home Chef meals are less expensive than purchasing the same ingredients at the grocery store. (I haven’t added this check to my review)
Is the Website easy to use?
I felt this website was easy to use. You begin by entering your email address:
On the next page you select the number of meals. you want, from 2 per week to 6 per week. Then the number of people, either 2, 4, or 6. You also choose dietary preferences
I really like this next option, allergens. (I’ve found not all sites have this option)
Once you get past this page, you enter your shipping and payment information. It preselects meals for you, but gives you a few options from which to choose. That’s it, just sit back and wait for your food.
Once your account is set up, you can go in and see what your future meals will be, change your menus, and skip or pause shipments at any time. The site is very easy to use
Is it cost effective?
I paid $84 for 12 meals or $7/meal. However, this is including a $35 introductory discount for the first delivery. Subsequent deliveries are $9.99/meal. When you initially look at the price per meal, the cost seems high, but not in comparison to eating out in restaurants. Equivalent meals in a restaurant would have been at least this much, if not higher. Unlike the news report above, I have not worked out how much it would cost to purchase the same items in the store. However, considering the current prices of chicken breasts and pork tenderloins, I don’t think I’d be able to buy it in the store for any less.
Another thing to consider is the price in comparison to other delivery services. My research suggests that these are pretty standard prices. In fact, when compared to some services, these are rather reasonable.
Is there a variety of meals and is it good quality food?
There was adequate variety on the site. They have 6 or 7 different meals on the menu at any given time. However, as far as I can tell, the food is not organic or locally sourced. This could be a concern for people wanting organic, free-range or grass-fed meat. (Such as myself) Another issue were the lack of an ingredients list on the packaged foods. There were several pre-packaged items in the produce bag, such as cranberry sauce, seasoning packets and chicken broth flavoring. None of these items had an ingredient list, which I personally find quite troubling.
With that said, these were, for the most part, whole food meals. The only processed part of the meal was the sauces, which could be left off, if desired. I feel these were good, wholesome, healthy meals.
Are the meals easy to prepare?
I chose 3 low calorie/low carb meals per week for 4 people.
The meals, which came on the exact start date as was given to me on the website, came in an insulated cardboard box. Upon opening the box, the recipe/instruction cards were on top. After removing the cards and lifting the insulation, the produce could be seen underneath. The meat was at the bottom, underneath several ice packs.
Here’s how it looked:
My youngest son and I unpacked the box. The items were all marked very clearly. The produce bags had the name of the recipe written upon it, as did the meat and recipe cards. We separated everything out as indicated below:
The three meals were:
- Maple-glazed pork tenderloin with carrots and Brussels sprouts
- Tex-Mex turkey taco salad
- Sage chicken with cranberry demi-glace and broccoli and butternut squash
My intent was to have my thee boys (2 sons and my husband) prepare the meals, since the purpose of this exercise is to prove that novice or inexperienced cooks can prepare healthy meals.
TEX-MEX TURKEY TACO SALAD
My youngest son prepared the first meal, Tex-Mex turkey taco salad. This son LOVES to cook, and has the most experience. He and I have even taken cooking classes together. Since I ordered for 4 people, the recipes came with 2 of everything. (as you can see in the photo above) We broke this recipe down, and only prepared one pack. We got 2 meals out of this particular recipe.
The ingredients and the instruction card
The final result
SAGE CHICKEN WITH CRANBERRY DEMI-GLACE AND BROCCOLI AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH
My oldest son prepared the second meal, Sage chicken with cranberry demi-glace and broccoli and butternut squash. This son HATES cooking, and would live on pizza and ramen noodles if I’d let him.
The instruction card and ingredients
The final result
MAPLE-GLAZED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH CARROTS AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS
My husband prepared the final dish, Maple-Glazed pork tenderloin with Carrots and Brussels Sprouts. Because I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, and nutrition/foodie, I’ve always done the cooking in our home, so, my husband simply isn’t used to it. Here’s how his dish turned out:
Ingredients and instruction card
The final result
Are the meals easy to prepare?
All three of my guinea pigs said they found the recipes very easy to prepare. The instructions were clear, straight forward and easy to follow. All 3 meals were ready in about 45 minutes.
My older son, who hates to cook, said he actually had fun preparing the meal, and would definitely use this service. He felt it was great for busy people. He also indicated that if you don’t know how to cook, this would be a great way to learn.
With that in mind, I was there to help all three of them. I tried to stay out of the kitchen, but, they did come to me with a few questions. Some of the instructions assume the cook will have some basic skills and knowledge in the kitchen. (Thus the questions. 😊) However, it was nothing major and I think they could have muddled through without me there. Anybody, of any skill level could have made any of these meals.
Do the meals taste good? PLUS Overall impression and closing thoughts
I will be awarding each service up to 5 spatulas (instead of stars) to show my thoughts on the service.
I give Home Chef 4 spatulas. I did not give them 5 spatulas, due to the lack of organic food and the lack of an ingredients list.
I loved all three meals, although I think the Pork Tenderloin was my favorite, with the Taco Salad a close second. My sons liked the Taco salad the best, while my husband preferred the Pork.
Overall, I was impressed with the entire experience. The food was good and the recipes easy to prepare. Most importantly, my family had fun with it. Despite the issue with the meat and lack of an ingredients list, I would feel comfortable referring a nutrition client to this service. It’s a good place to begin, for someone new to cooking, as well as healthy eating.
Stay tuned to the next meal delivery service in this series: HELLO FRESH
** This is NOT a paid advertisement for Home Chef. I am simply doing this out of curiosity and as a service to my readers as well as future clients.**