The Second Lunch Tastes It: The Home Chef Meal Kit

Home Chef Box The Second Lunch

Well hello there! What’s cooking? I’m back in the kitchen today with a quick profile of another meal kit delivery service for your reading pleasure.

This installment? I try it: a week of “Home Chef”.

A few years back I took on a new kitchen challenge: to cook, taste, and review a variety of meal kits. In a sea of meal kits, I wanted to answer the age old question of: which meal kit is the best on the market right now?

Among the initial entrants, I tried Sakara (not actually a kit – it’s really $$$ organic meal delivery), Purple Carrot (vegetarian), and then many months of Blue Apron which I was then too lazy to cancel. On the plus side, it was good for a more comprehensive review, which you can read here.

At the end of the day, I found that cooking meal kit takes me a lot more effort than doing my own meal planning, shopping, and cooking. It’s also a good amount of waste packaging wise. And truthfully, I’m a better and more creative cook.

Nevertheless, I’m still charmed by the appeal of having a box of goodies show up on my doorstep and someone occasionally taking over the mealtime decision making, so I’m continuing my mini quest and trying different boxes every so often in order to share with you all, dear readers.

Disclosure: Home Chef knows nothing about me, but I did get a free box through their refer a friend program, and the links to Home Chef are affiliate links which give you $30 off your kit, and give me more free food. (If you order enough kits, you can send a free box to a friend; on par with most of the other meal kit customer acquisition programs.)

Home Chef Pork Chops The Second Lunch Dog

The details: 

Home Chef Box overview – Home Chef is a more general meal kit without any particular slant. I’d characterize them as American home cooking with a hint of global food exploration but nothing overly fussy or too adventurous for the average palate. The company is based in Chicago, and has raised 57 million through series b (see Crunchbase), which is about a quarter of the funding of Blue Apron who was just shy of 200 million pre IPO and less compared to HelloFresh’s 365 million pre IPO.

How much does Home Chef cost?

This is a little complicated: $9.95 per serving – two servings of two dishes in the box; although you can add on lunches (most are $7.99/serving), seasonal fruit ($4.95/serving), or a smoothie ($4.95/serving) as extra which is a nice touch. If you glance, it’s not totally clear that the add ons will charge you for two servings. You can also choose some weeks from “Premium Meals” which seem to include bigger pieces of steak or lamb for 19.95 a serving, but these aren’t offered every week. And if your order is under a certain amount, you get charged the $10 for shipping. So the minimum box comes in at around $49.80 and goes up from there.

What kind of meat and produce does Home Chef have?

Generally, I found Home Chef’s to have an overall decent quality of produce and meat, although, notably NOT organic. (Most of my personal purchasing is organic and I get my vegetables and meat from a farm share; so I don’t think I’d get the box regularly for this reason alone.) Nothing seemed wilted or bruised, and generally everything was tasty. The fresh sausage packed in the lasagna skillet likely wouldn’t have past the two days I waited to cook it though even though it suggests that it would last 6 days on the recipe card.

The service strikes me as less “foodie” focused compared to, say, Blue Apron’s inserts about the farms and farmers (which sometimes strikes me as greenwashing but I still buy into), although does suggest wine pairings.

What kind of recipes does Home Chef have?

The recipes and ingredients on Home Chef are notably a little bit more basic than other services. I ended up going with two fairly simple dishes which worked well, although I’d be curious as to how the flavors are on the more global recipes. Each week you get to choose from several options on the list.

For my box, I chose the grilled pork chop with whole grain dijon sauce, and the Italian sausage lasagna skillet.

Home Chef Meal Variety

How easy are the Home Chef recipes to follow? 

As you can see in the picture of the sheet; the recipes are fairly simple and bulleted. You are encouraged to read through the whole recipe before starting (which is good practice, but always a useful reminder). I found that the recipes might leave a little too much room for interpretation for a novice cook, but I got along just fine. There were a few steps in each recipe that weren’t what I’d have written, but in the end, my dishes turned out alright. For example: the skillet called for “one medium oven-safe pan” although the picture seemed to be of a cast iron, I wasn’t sure what actual size cast iron counts as “medium” (8 inch? 10 inch?), so opted for a pyrex.

Decently quick to cook. Unlike other meal kits, the Home Chef recipes seemed to take less steps and take me less time overall to cook. Each dish was closer to 25-30 minutes of cooking (compared to Blue Apron which routinely had me chopping, prepping, etc. for 45-60 minutes.) Home Chef was closer to the promise of ease than other kits that I’ve tried so far.

Home Chef Recipe Cards The Second Lunch

In your first delivery, Home Chef sends you a little plastic binder to save your recipe cards. It’s a little flimsy, but was a nice touch.

Home Chef Recipe Binder The Second Lunch

What’s in the Home Chef Box?

Aside from the recipe cards, the box itself is filled with individual bags – one for the combined meats, and then individually packaged bags for the separate meals themselves which include all produce, spices, etc.

Home Chef Meal Kits The Second Lunch

* Packaging – I’m not sure that anyone will solve this – it’s about the same size box as Blue Apron; each meal comes in it’s own little plastic bag, and the meats are separated into bags, the box here is filled with an icepack, and a soft plastic material filled with batting of some type. Still a PITA to break down and recycle, but what can you do?

I’ll note here that my Frenchie Bertram is not afraid of much in life, with the clear exception of cardboard boxes from meal kit delivery services. Which he wanted to let me know was NOT OKAY for me to put on “his gel mat bed” in front of the stove while I took this photo. If I could have added the audio file from his complaints here, I would have.

Home Chef Packaging The Second Lunch

How much food is in each Home Chef box? Is Home Chef healthy?

Portion Sizes – appropriate for two light-moderate eaters. I was still hungry after both dishes. I tend to supplement meal kits anyway with more vegetables, but volume alone wouldn’t have been enough for me to be satisfied, even though calorically the dishes were in the 500-700 calorie range. I’d love to see more vegetables to round out the dish.

Nutrition: the recipes themselves do have ingredients and high level macros listed (calories, carbs, fat, protein and sodium) for those interested in tracking. You can choose from a variety of different diet preferences, including vegetarian, low carb, and calorie conscious meals.

Home Chef Pork Chops The Second Lunch

Other notes: I had to email customer service to move my first deliver date (before cut-off) because I ended up having a last minute travel situation. They were quick, competent, and pleasant to deal with.

Home Chef Italian Sausage Skillet Lasagna The Second Lunch

The Bottom Line: 

Did we enjoy the Home Chef meals? Yes. Both meals tasted good. The pork dish was slightly better looking in presentation, but flavors were very good with both. As mentioned above, would have liked a little bit more vegetable for volume! I think overall I prefer a slightly more spiced and creative dinner if ordering a meal kit, but Home Chef does deliver on overall taste if you don’t mind a slightly boring meal.

Would we order Home Chef again? Possibly. I haven’t actually canceled the service, so it’s quite likely that I might try another box to compare and update this review.

Want to try Home Chef? Here’s a link for $30 off your first order.

Want to read more meal kit reviews? Here’s my comprehensive review of several months worth of Blue Apron meals, and I’ll be updating this post as I try more kits.

When you have a case of the Mondays… any day of the week

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things that I do when I feel like not doing any work.

It’s that awful feeling. You wake up, have a long list of things to do for the day, and suddenly you are overwhelmed, grumpy, in need of a caffeine drip, and you are just NOT READY start the day.

Not to mention when that feeling hits the middle of the day and your to-do list is long – you’ve been on a roll, things are going well, and then BOOM, you hit the wall. Whenever the mood strikes; here are some ideas to get yourself back on track:

[START NOW] When I’m not ready to start the day:

* Make the bed. This seems to be in every productivity book written in the past decade. Because it works.

* Take my vitamins. Chances are I’m lacking Vitamin B. Or a swig of probiotic from the fridge. I find that a small positive behavior can really set me on the path of better habits for the day. This is one of my “anchor habits” that other good habits build on.

* My elaborate morning coffee or tea ritual. Kettle on, grind the beans, get the coffee, curl up with the dog on the couch for 45 minutes before starting the day.

* Read my way to a better place: at least 15 minutes of personal development books – Michael Hyatt, Brian Tracy, Brene Brown, Stephen Pressfield, anything from the self-improvement, productivity, business aisle. Usually this gets my brain thinking “work-mode”.

[Get UNSTUCK] When I’m feeling blocked:

* Just 10 minutes. Set a timer, and commit to doing 10 minutes of work on a task. This also works for those days you don’t want to move or exercise.

* Pull out my notebook. 25 minutes to get stuff on paper. Sometimes 50. What’s scaring me? What am I dreading? What is blocking me?

* Walk outside for 10 minutes. If I’m having trouble transitioning between work projects, I’ll take 15. A change of scenery is a great way to shock yourself out of a negative thought pattern.

* Put on a Podcast. Being Boss, RadioLab, Tim Ferriss. Whatever’s on my podcast list. Usually I pop in the headphones and take the dog for a walk to listen if he’s home with me.

* Create something small and tangible. There’s power in making things. Knitting, cooking, a flower arrangement from the yard.

* Hardboil a dozen eggs. I work from home. There’s something comforting about batch cooking and knowing that I’ll have something good to snack on throughout the day. Also, if I don’t manage to get “enough” stuff done, at least I’ve hard boiled some eggs.

* Gratitude list. Sometimes I start with just three things that I’m thankful for – even if it feels like there’s not much that can go on the list for today.

* Taking 15 minutes to write a short retrospective of my week so far. What worked well this week? What should I stop doing? What should I improve?

* Take the day off. (Sometimes you just need to take the nuclear option.) It’s important to commit to my work, but not at the total expense of my health and sanity. I’ve been working at getting better at stepping away from my work entirely. There’s no shame in taking a well needed personal day.

* Phone a friend. I’ve been getting better at reaching out – be it a friend, a biz-friend, or my mom. Short phone calls have been useful to reset when I’m struggling.

* Take selfies with my dog. Somehow animals make everything better. If you don’t have a dog, cat, bunny, snake, or other lovable friend – watching youtube videos of cute baby animals is a good alternative.

I’d love to hear some of your best ways to reset a rough work day! How do you get back on track?

Need more ideas for productivity and self care? My next mini-course round launches on October 16th. It’s only $29 and designed to get you back on track and focused on yourself so you have the energy to do great things in the world.

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Fall Self Care Bingo!

Oh hello there! I’m excited for my absolute favorite season which starts TODAY. Foliage, cider donuts, stews and braises… it’s HERE! I don’t think I have to tell you that fall in New England is an absolute gem. Unless you’ve never been here – now is the time of year to visit! I’m fired up for leaf peeping, hiking, adventures with my Instant Pot – and savoring those last hot days while I have them.

To make the most of the season, my Fall Self-Care bingo is up and ready for printing!

The board is full of small pleasures to take advantage of the shift in seasons while focusing squarely on yourself. I’ll be printing out my own copy today and playing along with you.

Grab your copy here:

More news from around here:

My next wellness and productivity mini-course is being launched on October 15th! Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.

Also – I’ve been hosting *Do the Thing Hours a few times a week – free online co-working sessions where we hop on a video call; go around and let each other know what we need to accomplish; I mute everyone, set a timer, and we get to work. A little added accountability for your work day, particularly helpful for those of you who don’t go into an office every day. Email me at sam@thesecondlunch if you’d like to be added to the list!

Finally; my facebook page has been given a little facelift! Head over to facebook.com/thesecondlunch for some daily productivity and wellness inspiration.

 

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