Let’s talk meal delivery services. They seem to be catching on fast and there are getting to be a ton of services to choose from, not to mention types of services. For the sake of this article, I’m taking services that send you all the ingredients and you have to do the cooking, not the services that send ready-to-eat meals.

A while back I was looking for meal planning solutions. I was burnt out on having to make all the decisions, put together a menu, a grocery list, get it all, and cook it all. A friend was offering up a coupon code for a free box from Blue Apron so I thought what the fuck, let’s give it a go.

I ended up using Blue Apron for a couple weeks, then tried Plated, and finally Home Chef. After lots of research, reading reviews, and trying these three services I have stuck with Home Chef. I’m going to explore a bit about why I picked Home Chef and then we’ll walk through an unboxing together so you can see what to expect.

First up, why I picked Home Chef. When I first got the idea to try one of these services I hit up the google machine and searched for companies. I opened websites for about 15 different companies. The first criteria I looked at was “Do they deliver to my area?” I’m in a fairly rural area and turns out a lot of companies just won’t ship my direction. That simplifies things. Next, I checked out the cost, most are around the same price within a dollar or two per meal, there was a few outside of that so I cut them. A couple more got cut because I simply didn’t like the looks of their menus.

Once I narrowed it down I set up delivery over a few weeks for Blue Apron, Plated, and Home Chef. Blue Apron was delish but it was a very limited menu so you didn’t have many options. Also when the box arrived it was a jumble of all the ingredients and it was up to me to make sure the right items (and amounts) were used between meals. Same pros and cons for Plated, additionally their menu choices were a bit too exotic for our tastes but would be great for a foodie wanting to explore new foods and cooking methods.

That left Home Chef. There were three main selling points for me. One was lots of choices. There are 10 dishes each week to choose from. Selling point two ties into one in that I get to pick how many meals a week I want (Other services you got a set 4 no matter what). Some weeks I only want three meals others I want 6 and with Home Chef I can do that. Sometimes I picked based on what meals sound good. And the last big selling point was that all the food comes pre-sorted into bags so you know exactly what to use for each meal.

Enough talking, let’s unbox!

The Friday before delivery (delivery days vary depending on your location, mine is Friday’s) I pick my menu. The next Friday a big ol’ box shows up courtesy of FedEx.

The box is well insulated and full of ice packs**. I often get my box around 4 pm and even on 100+ degree days this summer I never had anything ruined by heat. There are also recipe cards for each meal you ordered. Your first box also comes with a three-ring binder to keep those cards.

**The ice packs are safe to cut open and dump down the drain and the insulating material can be recycled with the box. I’ve also saved a bunch of the ice packs for throwing in coolers.

The recipe cards are full of photos, easy to follow steps (seriously just follow the steps and given times), nutritional info, and how long it takes to make. They also include the ingredients list and amounts so you could recreate a recipe again.

Then you get to the food. The top layer is separate bags for each meal that includes produce, sauces, cheese, nuts, all the little parts and pieces (each bag is label too). Then a layer of ice packs. Then all the meats individually packaged as well. The meat isn’t lavel beyond what kind of meat and cut, so if you have two chicken dishes double check that you grab the right one (I have a week that had breasts and filets in it, but it’s never been an issue).

And there you have it. Get it all stashed in the fridge and wait til dinner time!

Most meals take around 20-40 minutes and only use 1 pot or pan and 1 cookie sheet. They do a great job at keeping things simple, fast, and clean.

I don’t use Home Chef every week but it has been a relief to have a backup plan for busy weeks or when I’m out of ideas and need a break from decision-making.

Do you use a meal delivery company? Who do you use and why do you love them?