Today, I’m writing about something that I’ve been searching for a good blog post on for what feels like a very long time – subscription food services! I’ve been cooking all my own lunches and dinners since spring, when I officially ditched any food that you could buy in a mall or order from the comfort of the front seat of your car, what can I say? Takeout is easy when you work two jobs and spend a lot of time in a car. I, like everyone else, am trying to make my life easier and I have found myself wondering if it would be more convenient to have food delivered to my door step, versus finding time for recipes on Pinterest and heading to the grocery store.
I’ve actually really enjoyed cooking my own meals; from searching for recipes to running to the grocery store, to the actual preparation of the food, but it’s time consuming and I’ve found that I end up wasting a lot of food, whether buying more than what I need for a recipe, or cooking too much, only to run out of time to eat it throughout the week and I have also found that I have a really hard time eating the same meal three or four days in a row, not to mention sometimes I run out of time to go to the store, which is why I decided to give subscription food services Home Chef, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Daily Harvest a go! Read on to find out if they’re worth it!
I tried Home Chef at the recommendation of a co-worker and saved $30 on my first order, making it just $29.70 for my first three meals. I thought the website was easy to use and aesthetically pleasing and was genuinely excited about all of the meals I chose. I also like that some meals have options for extra servings, in case you want leftovers for lunch. Home Chef also offers smoothies, and ‘5 Minute Lunches’ that you can add on to your delivery, which is convenient as well. The first order, $29.70, was definitely less than what I would spend at the grocery store to make three meals, but the regular price seems a little more than what I would normally spend for the ingredients at the store, but what I absolutely love is that there is no food waste, everything comes pre packaged with the exact amount you need, all you need in the pantry is olive oil, salt, and pepper!
For my first delivery I did a ‘Creamy Parmesan Steak Penne,’ ‘Turkey Burrito Skillet,’ and ‘Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Peppers.’ I liked that I was able to do three different meats in three different meals and they all sounded unique, but all like something I would eat! I also liked the idea that these were recipes I might not normally find, or try!
Although Home Chef had a lot of variety and the quality of the food was good, I did get a soft red pepper in two separate meal kits, and even though the packaging says to cook within 5 days, I found myself with mushy veg after 24 hours, maybe it was the heat wave, but it was definitely a let down. I also found the recipe rating scale to be a little off in terms of ease of recipe. The steak penne and the burrito skillet were both ranked easy, but the steak penne was definitely a more difficult recipe, with more steps, and a lot more pans/clean up! Although there is absolutely zero food waste, all the packaging feels like a bigger waste, there are ice packs and lots of cardboard to dispose of. I did enjoy the steak penne and the turkey burrito skillet, but was underwhelmed by the chicken peppers.
Overall, I did enjoy using Home Chef and would recommend it to someone who wants new ideas for recipes or the convenience of not having to go to the store, with my inconsistent work schedule I don’t know if it’s really for me! The food was tasty, and came organized by meal, but I did need to make time to cook it before it went bad. I found myself trying to get the food to show up on my day off, only for it to come too late, or for me to be out when it arrived; if my schedule was more consistent I really think it could have worked!
Just so you know, you can save $30 on your first order too, by clicking here!
I also tried Blue Apron, which is arguably one of the most popular meal services out there. Blue Apron’s site is also user friendly, but they seemed to have less options than Home Chef per week, which some weeks made it harder to choose three meals I wanted, so I would skip a delivery here and there. They do have fun stuff like “Bob’s Burgers,” which makes ordering really exciting. They offer $50 off your first two weeks, which works out to be $34.94 for each of your first two deliveries. The first two deliveries, at the promotional pricing, again seem fairly priced, whereas their normal price seems a little inflated, $59.94.
For my first delivery I did ‘Smoky Beef Burgers,’ ‘Chicken Bolognese,’ and ‘Spicy Onion & Pepper Quesadillas.’ One thing I didn’t like about Blue Apron is that even though I selected that I couldn’t eat fish (I’m allergic) it still suggested fish for my meals. The other thing, when my meals arrived I was missing several ingredients and had to contact their customer care! The ingredients are NOT sorted by meal, which means you spend about ten minutes before each recipe trying to match the recipe card to the stuff now scattered in the fridge, which seemed like a pain compared to the other services. The customer care was helpful and issued me a more than generous credit toward my next box, which convinced me I needed another box, where I did “Chinese Chicken Meatballs,” “Udon Noodle Stir-fry,” and “Steak and Garlic Mashed Potatoes.”
Lastly I tried Hello Fresh, at the recommendation of another friend; I actually got three free meals as a promotion and only paid for an upgrade to a more premium meal, one with steak, so I got three meals for $16.00! I first tried one of their “Hall of Fame” recipes, “Pineapple Beef Poblano Tacos,” and they were amazing! Not only did the recipe maybe take 20 minutes in total, but the tacos were so fresh! Between lime juice, pineapple juice, and cilantro these tacos were definitely different than what I normally make, but were so much more interesting and with about the same amount of work. I was so impressed! This recipe also seemed, in my opinion, to make more than two servings, I was able to get almost three meals out of this one! I also tried the “Rib-Eye Steaks Over Truffled Mashed Potatoes.” This meal definitely made three servings and I loved the dynamic taste of the truffle oil, and the texture that the almonds added to the green beans (yes, I used the word dynamic to describe food, I’ve been watching too much Chopped). I also made a “Presto Pesto Panko Chicken,” but was missing the most important ingredient – the pesto! The chicken was still good, I mean it was coated in mozzarella cheese and breadcrumbs how could you go wrong with that, but again I had to contact customer care about something missing from my box and they only credited me for what the ingredient was worth, even though my meal wasn’t quite the same! Hello Fresh had the best tasting recipes and were the easiest to make as well.
Comparatively, Home Chef packages everything for each recipe in an easy to grab bag, as does Hello Fresh, whereas Blue Apron kind of throws everything in the box and you have to go through to find what you need for each individual recipe. The ingredients I did receive from Blue Apron and Hello Fresh seemed fresher than the Home Chef ingredients, for example no mushy veg. Overall, I liked Blue Apron better than Hello Chef. I found the ingredients to be fresher, the meals more delicious, and generally easier to make as well! The bolognese was easy enough that I could write for my second job while it simmered and the quesadillas were one of the best meals I’ve had recently! Hello Fresh was probably my favorite of the three, even though I was missing something from my box, these recipes and meals were my favorite, they were the easiest and in my opinion tasted the best out of everything, especially the tacos!
I also tried Daily Harvest, which I’m including in this post because it is the same concept, but I wouldn’t really call it a meal service, it’s smoothies, overnight oats, and smaller meals, like chilled soups. I see them as a sponsored post on Instagram all the time and I love their packaging (so instagrammable), not to mention the flavors of the smoothies sounded so interesting!
I took advantage of their first three cups free promo and paid half price for my first order of six cups, which was $23.97, you can get three free cups too, by clicking here. Again, the promotional pricing definitely seemed fair, but full price seems a bit much!
My first six smoothies were Banana + Greens, Cacao + Avocado, Chai + Coconut, Cold Brew + Almond, Mint + Cacao, and Pineapple + Matcha.
I tired the Pineapple + Matcha first and used it to replace breakfast on an early morning. It was refreshing and definitely gave me a lot of energy, enough to skip my morning coffee, which I’ve been trying to eliminate. The Mint + Cacao literally tasted like mint chocolate chip ice cream – so good! I didn’t like the Cold Brew + Almond, it was bitter and a different consistency than the first two. I also didn’t care for the Cacao + Avocado, as again texturally it was granular and too thick to drink, but it also wasn’t a very appetizing flavor overall. I loved the Banana + Greens smoothie! It was probably my favorite one! I used the smoothies mostly as a meal replacement, but they honestly don’t have a lot of calories, so they didn’t leave me feeling full for long, which I considered a downfall. I don’t think I’ll be continuing the smoothie service, but have taken a few pointers about how to make smoothies with spinach and kale still taste sweet and fruity. Living in the Hudson Valley makes it really easy to pick fresh fruit and freeze it throughout the summer for smoothies year long, so maybe I’ll be making my own smoothie bags!
Overall, I really liked having new recipes to try and getting sent everything I needed with literally no waste, besides the packaging! It was nice not to have to figure out what day I could stop at the store, or to have that feeling of not knowing what I want to cook, or what I might be in the mood for, but I think I’ll be shopping smarter at the grocery store and taking inspiration from the recipes I was sent to recreate them in the future, rather than keeping any of the food services! I expected to really like one out of the three, but I think all of them still need some fine tuning, especially when it comes to how much waste goes in the garbage can with all that packaging and the missing ingredient phenomenon, two out of three services missed an ingredient in at least one box! My favorite thing about the food services was that I learned some basic cooking skills that I didn’t have before and I feel a little more confident to experiment with cooking techniques and ingredients in the kitchen.