Monday, January 11, 2016

Home Chef Meal Prep Service Review + $30 First Order Discount!

If you live in an urban area, you probably have access to brick and mortar meal preparation services. Apparently the fixed costs, labor intensity and razor thin margins make these businesses hard to sustain because they tend to shut their doors rather abruptly. It is not surprising that the concept has moved on line. With no research, I can think of at least seven on-line meal delivery services and I'm sure there are a lot more than that.

Having been a long time customer of a local meal prep place, I was intrigued by all the meal service discount offers flooding my in box.  In checking the details, I found that many of the menus are too specialized, too gourmet or just too adventurous for me.  Some just cost too much. The one that seemed to offer the most normal meal options at a reasonable price was Home Chef.

The cost of a meal prep service is usually stated in terms of price per serving and includes everything you need (except very basic ingredients and utensils) to make the dinner.  These prices generally run from about $9 to $15 per meal.  At $9.95 per serving, Home Chef offers one of the lower priced services.

They have five diet plans available:  Omnivore, Meat & Seafood only, Meat only, Pescatarian and Vegetarian.  You can switch between these as much as you want but I chose Omnivore for my first order.  You can also choose the number of servings you want per meal (2, 4, 6 or 8) and the number of meals you want per week (2 through 8). You also have the opportunity to indicate personal preferences, such as low calorie, low carb, ingredients to avoid and whether or not you want a breakfast, a smoothie and some fruit added to your weekly box. If you complete your account profile, there is very little risk of getting something you really dislike.

For my first order, I received ingredients for five meals, two servings each. In hindsight, that was probably too much for one order but I was curious and wanted enough variety to give them a fair evaluation.  Everything arrived in a huge box that was very well insulated.

A thick layer of custom insulation surrounded everything in the box.

All items were packed in a logical order with meats on the bottom, fruits and vegetables in the center and fresh herbs and condiments on the top.  There were several ice packs to keep everything at an optimal temperature.

Home Chef provides cooking instructions via pre-punched card stock pages. Each recipe lets you know at a glance the approximate prep time, the level of difficulty and number of days you have to cook the meal.  The card also gives nutrition information, drink pairings and step by step instructions with color photos. They even include plating instructions which ensure a restaurant quality appearance.

Since the photography for a review like this is time consuming, I will focus on just three of the five meals I received.  First was the Blackened Chicken Salad with Cracked Pepper Buttermilk Dressing.  All of the ingredients, except the chicken breasts, were packed and labeled in a separate bag with seasonings and non-produce ingredients individually labeled.

Here are the smaller items, all pre-portioned and ready to go.

The quality of the meat and produce is exceptional; some of it is better than I can buy at a regular grocery store. They clearly go out of their way to provide the very best ingredients. 

The card said this would take about 40 minutes to prepare and as I remember, that was about right.  The plating instructions made this a spectacular meal.  Absolutely delicious salad!

The second meal on the menu was a Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza.  I have to confess...I didn't really know what that meant, just that I like pizza.  Here are the ingredients and the card said it would take 50 minutes to prepare; again, just about right.

This pizza is much more basic in construction than what I usually make.  The main ingredients are just tomatoes, mozzarella, Italian sausage and red onion.  The ingredients are added in a reverse order from traditional pizza with the cheese on the bottom and the sauce on the top.  This was easy to prepare but I discovered I don't really like Chicago style pizza.  This was not the fault of Home Chef, just my lack of familiarity with this particular dish when ordering.

As with all the Home Chef meals I've tried, the portions are very generous.  Even though I purchased "two serving" meals, I often ended up with enough for three or four meals.  Most of the meals are complete in the sense that you have a main dish and two sides but the pizza was heavy enough that nothing else was really needed.

Along with my order, I requested one breakfast dish.  This is Harvest Pork Sausage & Eggs.  I loved the appearance of the ingredients before even getting started!  And yes, those are liquid eggs in the tall bottle.

I can tell you...breakfasts of this substance and quality are rarely seen around my house. This was absolutely delicious!

I've made about ten Home Chef dinners now.  The above three meals are representative of the quality and effort required overall.  What I love about this service is the restaurant caliber ingredients, the explicit instructions and the generous portions.  The downside is mainly the prep time.  This is not fast food and if you're accustomed to whipping something out of the freezer, nuking it and having it on the table in ten minutes, meals like this are going to seem like a lot of work.  There is a LOT of chopping, dicing and slicing of produce and herbs involved. After my first two or three meals, I realized that having a Home Chef meal for dinner meant a serious time that I didn't always have. If you have the time, this can be an enjoyable process but I can't imagine it being a practical option for working adults who need to get dinner on the table quickly. 

One other thought...some of the flavors and seasonings in these meals are probably more sophisticated than many people generally prepare at home.  Because these meals are expensive, I'm not sure they are a good option for children or adults who are accustomed to very basic diets.  I'm sure Home Chef would disagree but if your family is used to mac 'n cheese or hot dogs, they may not appreciate the quality and effort that goes into these meals.  On the other hand, it's a great opportunity to broaden their palates!

If you might be interested in trying Home Chef, click here for $30 off your first order.  I have found it a great way to learn new cooking techniques and polish some old ones. Having amazing recipes and ingredients delivered directly to your door is wonderful motivation for putting better quality meals on your table!  

Thank you for reading,


Disclosure:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was purchased by Lone Star Shopper. Post may contain referral or affiliate links.

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