I've long been intrigued by the dinner in a box concept. It's not something I'd do on a regular basis here on the Farm since we grow our food but it looks like fun. This is why I was so happy to receive a one week subscription to Home Chef for free from U.S. Family Guide. I was sent two meals for two at no charge - I will share my thoughts with the process, the meals and if I think the whole dinner in a box concept is worth it.
Home Chef Dinner in a Box - How Does it Work?
It's actually very simple; you go to HomeChef.com and sign up. You need to provide your name, address and a method of payment which can be a credit card or paypal. Once you do that you are asked a couple of questions about whether you have any food requirements; gluten free, allergies, etc. Then comes the fun - the recipes of the week are there for you to choose. I looked at the servings for 2 so I don't know if there are menu differences if you are ordering for a family or if you just get more ingredients.
You can look through a detailed description of the meal, how to make it, what's included and what is needed and then you can decide which meals you would like. Most meals are $9.95 per person. There are occasionally premium meals and they are priced differently. You can also add on smoothie and fresh fruit packages on an ongoing or week to week basis.
What's in the Home Chef Dinner in a Box?
The box arrives by FedEx and everything is well packed and insulated. The first thing you find are the recipe cards that give you the instructions on how to make your dinner. Since this was my first box there was also a binder with cards explaining the Home Chef system. This gives you a place to keep your recipe cards for future reference should you wish. Next up come the separate bags containing the ingredients for each meal followed by the bag with any meats. Watch the video to see how well packed it all is:
I will note that it is good that the meat is kept separate. One of the steak packs in my shipment had been poked by the hard plastic of the pork loin and the blood leaked all over. I called Home Chef to let them know and see what they would say. I will note that their customer service is excellent. The instructions they gave me were solid and the meat was still good. (I will also note that I found a $10 credit in my account the next time I looked. I was not told I was being given a credit and I no clue if my call led to it or not but it got there somehow.)
Dinner Number One
Since the steak package had leaked I decided to make the steak dinner first. The two steaks sent were of a very generous size. The hubby and I don't eat that much meat at any given meal so we decided to share one steak and put the second one in the freezer for another meal.
Cooking the dinner was very easy. The directions were well written and everything was included in the package except for salt, pepper and olive oil. From start to table the meal took me about 3o minutes. We both enjoyed it, but felt that the dressing was a little bland. It needed a kick of something. Also, tomatoes are just awful this time of year so it might be something for the company to look at substituting. Maybe a cucumber? But overall the meal was very good. The steak was high quality and the cheesy garlic bread was amazing.
Dinner Number Two
I was really looking forward to this meal as I don't get to eat pork all that often and I really do enjoy it. Like with the steaks a whole pork loin was far more meat than we would eat in a single meal - it ended up feeding us for a second night. So at least for us this two meal box really went far! The vegetables were two meals worth, but the meat stretched.
This meal was just as easy to prepare, if not simpler, than the steak dinner. The pork marinated, the slaw was dressed, cook the pork, and serve the dinner. It might have been 20 minutes? The dressing on the slaw was simple yet delicious and it tasted like your favorite Asian restaurant. The pork was moist and had a hint of heat; that was controlled by how much siracha was put in the marinade. Both of us felt this was the better of the two dinners.
One of the biggest issues I have heard is all of the trash that accumulates with a dinner in a box delivery. Home Chef does what it can to mitigate these issues by making just about everything recyclable/reusable. The little jars would make great travel containers for shampoo, etc. - after being well cleaned of course. The freezees can be reused. Much of the packing can be recycled - IF you live where such services are available. I don't so anything I don't reuse ends up in the landfill which does concern me.
The meals are good. BUT I am a cook and I think the recipes are geared a bit to the plain. Since I was doing a review I followed everything to the letter. This constrained me and it led to meals that were much simpler in flavor than we normally eat. If I get these boxes going forward I'm sure I'll be adding to the ingredients but that is me.
Would I Do Dinner in a Box Again?
Yes, I would. In fact I've already made my choices for a week when the hubby is going to be away in July. I don't tend to really cook for myself when he is away and I do believe by having Home Chef delivered I will cook myself a real meal for dinner. In general though I don't think this is something that makes sense for us. We grow our own food and that is the point of our living on our little Farm.
Do I think this service is worth it? I do. If I were working I would be all over something like this. The convenience of having everything there and ready for you is just wonderful. When I was at my job up to 60 hours a week having a well balanced meal on the table was a challenge. A subscription service like Home Chef would have been heavenly.
For anyone that would like to give it a try I have a referral link. You will get a $30 credit by using THIS LINK and so will I. It's good for first time sign ups.