Elsewhere, we discussed the benefits of Home Chef. It’s a meal delivery service that gives you the opportunity to liven up your kitchen. But some of its dishes can be challenging, and many people find they have enough on their plate without adding elaborate home-cooked meals to the mix.
Home Chef Fresh and Easy is Home Chef’s solution to the problem. The meals are simpler, but you can still rely on fresh, tasty meals without the hassle of going out and shopping.
But no one wants to invest time and money in a product without knowing more about it. We like to consider ourselves experts in meal kits, and after trying this one out, we compiled a comprehensive guide to Home Chef Fresh and Easy. We’ll tell you how it works, what it costs, and if it’s worth experimenting with.
Fresh and Easy At First Glance
Best match for: Anyone looking for healthy, high-quality meals with a low preparation time.
Availability: Available across 98% of America (does not include Hawaii and Alaska).
Value: It costs approximately 39.99 for two weekly Fresh and Easy meals for two people. Prices exclude shipping and increase proportionate to the number of meals ordered. Free shipping may apply to larger orders.
Type: A variety of meal types in sustainable packaging that include fresh, seasonal ingredients in combinations that serve meals as quickly as possible with as little preparation as possible.
Fresh and Easy: How It Works
Home Chef Fresh and Easy have one primary goal, and that’s to save its customers time. Home Chef began in 2013, and their latest meal kit simplifies cooking as much as possible.
All their dishes come pre-prepped. The idea is that all you need to do is put your pre-prepared meals on the appropriate appliance for the recommended length of time. Depending on the dish, you can use the microwave, grill, or oven – or you may be able to serve dishes as they come.
To keep the cooking process straightforward, Home Chef Fresh and Easy meals arrive in oven-proof trays. The idea is that you can keep cleanup to a minimum, enabling you to relax for longer after your meal.
How Do I Sign Up For Home Chef Fresh and Easy?
That’s how the subscription box service works, but how do you sign up?
Once you navigate to Fresh and Easy’s website, their subscription options become available. The first thing it asks you to do is choose between their boxes, including a low-carb box and a calorie-conscious box.
Once you select a subscription box, you must input the appropriate personal information, including a zip code and banking details. The company won’t charge you yet, but it helps them calculate things like shipping later in the registration process.
There are a few other questions to answer too. As discussed, Home Chef Fresh and Easy gauge your familiarity with meal kits and what you want from their particular box. But they also need to know how many people you routinely cook for and what kind of meals you want.
We’ll get into the various meals shortly. Before you can start choosing your meals, however, you’ll need to provide Fresh and Easy with:
Date of first delivery
Number of weekly meals you want
Once you do that, you can start inspecting menu options.
What Are My Home Chef Fresh and Easy Options?
When you sign up for Home Chef Fresh and Easy, the website asks you what you want from your meal kit. Options include:
Try new recipes
They also ask what your familiarity with meal kits is. Answers range from “New to me” to “Familiar.”
These help Home Chef Fresh and Easy determine the kit or combination of meal kits that will suit you.
They have several options worth exploring, and we’ll explore them in more detail here.
Oven-ready meals have almost no preparation. They come in an aluminum tray that’s oven-safe. So, once the oven preheats, you can stick the tray in the oven, set the timer and relax.
Because the dish is oven-safe, you also cut down on cleaning time. That’s another reason to love these Fresh and Easy meals.
Fast and Fresh Meals
Of all the Home Chef Fresh and Easy meal options, this one is the fastest. You don’t even have to wait for the oven to warm up because the idea behind this kit is that you can prepare it in the microwave.
Like any microwaveable option, we found this kit worked best if you took it out part way through cooking and gave it a stir or turned it over. It helped avoid cold pockets and ensured everything was cooked equally. But it’s nothing you wouldn’t do anyway, and the directions are thorough when telling you what to do.
Additionally, Fresh and Easy offers grill-ready meals. We found these meals ideal for summer weather when no one wants to spend too long in an overheated kitchen.
The meals come in grill-safe bags. All you need to do is throw them on the grill for the stipulated cooking time and wait for them to cook through.
The Home Chef Fresh and Easy entree option are ideal for lighter eaters. It’s also an effective way of ensuring you and your family eat enough greens.
While you might not order this kit every day, it offers much-needed variety. All the roasted vegetables arrive pre-cooked, and everything else comes pre-portioned. All that’s left to do is toss the salad. You can have dinner on the table in minutes.
Finally, Express Meal Kits are Home Chef Fresh and Easy’s recognition that some people enjoy cooking but lead busy lives. If that sounds familiar, this is the kit for you.
The meal kits still minimize cooking and cleaning, but they aren’t necessarily ready-to-cook. Of all the Fresh and Easy meal options, this is the most involved for the chef, with a modest amount of preparation.
As someone who enjoys cooking when time allows, this was our favorite meal kit option. In our opinion, it offered the best of both worlds. We still felt like we were cooking a meal, but we didn’t have to rush frantically around the kitchen stressing about cooking times.
Extras are culinary add-ons, like breads and desserts you can add to your meal kits. They are always simple to make and, in our experience, offer several options.
Cooking With Fresh and Easy
Whatever meal kit you choose, it arrives with a brightly-colored recipe card. This coaches you through the cooking process, and the detail varies as appropriate depending on whether you are making an express or oven-ready meal.
If you misplace a recipe card between arrival and preparation, don’t panic. It happened to us several times, and each time we fell back on the Home Chef Fresh and Easy website. There, you can find pictorial instructions.
These give you a step-by-step visual aid for how to cook each meal and offer an idea of what the finished product looks like. It would be helpful if it also included written instructions because we struggled to compare what was happening in the kitchen with what the picture showed on the screen. But the images work in a pinch.
Something else worth noting is that you may need to cough up a few ingredients yourself. But these are almost always household staples, like table salt or cooking oil.
Another cooking note is that we found these kits highly adaptable. If there was something one of our family members wouldn’t eat, it was easy to take it out or substitute a cooking ingredient with something else. That’s important because not all meal kits are equally flexible.
So, that’s how you cook with Home Chef Fresh and Easy. It’s not perfect, but nothing is, and as cooking processes go, we found it reasonably painless.
We discussed substitutions briefly, but what do you do if you have a dietary concern, like celiac or tree nut allergies?
The good news is that Home Chef Fresh and Easy lets you indicate common allergens like tree nuts or shellfish.
The bad news is that it’s not necessarily allergy-friendly. It’s possible to specify several dietary restrictions, such as:
But these aren’t necessarily synonymous with also being allergen-free. A gluten-free dish may use peanuts or soy.
However, we found all the recipes clearly labeled. You can tell at a glance if a dish is suitable for specific dietary needs or not. The header lets you know if it’s gluten-free, soy-free, or none of the above. That makes it easy to disregard dishes you or family members can’t eat.
We also found the process of eliminating and substituting certain foods was uncomplicated. If you wanted to try a recipe that used shrimp but had a shellfish allergy, the process of requesting a chicken substitute was a matter of ticking appropriate boxes.
Despite this, the possibility to eliminate certain foods from your Home Chef Fresh and Easy boxes was, in our opinion, based more on personal taste than diet. For instance, you could say no to pork, chicken, beef, and other meat and end up with a vegetarian diet, but you couldn’t simply indicate a preference for vegetarianism.
Likewise, there were several vegan proteins available if you wanted to substitute a meat- or fish-based one with something vegan-appropriate. But it was difficult to guarantee the rest of the meal would be suitably vegetarian or vegan. A vegetable pasta might come with parmesan, or your vegan protein might need mixing with an egg yolk.
So, if keeping a strict vegan or vegetarian diet is important, you may want to consider other meal boxes we reviewed. Many are similar to Home Chef Fresh and Easy but offer more dietary accommodations.
More niche diets, like the Keto diet, are also difficult to sustain if you want to subscribe to Home Chef Fresh and Easy long-term. Boxes exist that cater to these niche diets, but this isn’t one of them.
One thing Fresh and Easy does have is a dairy-free option. This wasn’t always the case, but it’s a timely addition that makes it possible for customers to eliminate dairy without scrutinizing various recipe cards.
Quality of Ingredients
In keeping with the company’s attempt to promote a greener future, Home Chef Fresh and Easy rely on fresh, seasonal ingredients as much as possible.
That means that not all your favorite dishes will be available year-round, but that adds variety to your meals.
It also helps reduce the company's carbon footprint, and given our difficulty recycling some of the plastic, we appreciate the gesture.
The other thing worth mentioning as far as Fresh and Easy’s ingredients go is their nutritional value.
All the recipe cards are exceptionally transparent about what you get from each meal. That includes not only calories, carbs, and allergens but a comprehensive breakdown of the nutrients in each meal.
If health and weight are concerns you try to keep on top of, Fresh and Easy’s recipe cards make monitoring both straightforward.
How Do Fresh and Easy Compare to Other Meal Kits?
The average meal kit takes approximately 30 minutes to serve up. That doesn’t sound like much time, but it can feel like forever if you are negotiating with kids, arrive home late, or have one of those days where everything that can go wrong does.
Comparatively, all of Home Chef’s Fast and Easy recipes are faster. Their most involved kit, the Express Meal Kit, still cuts the preparation time in half.
There’s also an incredible amount of variety. The menu changes weekly, so you won’t find yourself eating the same thing twice. That’s not to say you don’t have to think about what you eat at all.
The website gives you lots of time to sit down at your computer and choose your meal plans from upcoming menus.
One of the things we appreciated about the website was that even if you initially registered for Home Chef Fresh and Easy, that didn’t preclude you from selecting some of the standard Home Chef options at a later date.
We found that added tremendous range to our cooking experience and wasn’t something other meal kit services necessarily offered.
However, it’s also more expensive than other boxes, and that’s important if you want to rely on your subscription meal kits for most of your meals. Many meal companies factor shipping into their prices, but this isn’t one of them. That said, shipping is free once you spend a certain amount.
We’ll talk about pricing in more detail later, but for now keep in mind that shipping is an auxiliary cost with Fresh and Easy, not folded into the advertised price.
How Many Options Do I Have?
When you sign up for Home Chef Fresh and Easy, you get approximately 20 menu options to choose from on any given week.
In our experience, these range from easy-to-prepare extras like pizzas, to things you might hesitate to make yourself because of the preparation time, like Greek-Style meatballs.
As discussed, you can always swap out certain foods and indicate favorites, which helps Fresh and Easy work with you to create as many suitable menu options as possible.
One thing we found helpful was that if you decided you wanted to swap out a particular protein, Fresh and Easy sent a box including alternative ways to make sure you still got enough protein in your diet.
This proved true irrespective of what you substituted. Home Chef Fresh and Easy is primarily about simplifying the cooking process for busy chefs, but it also wants to provide meals that are as balanced as possible.
Low Carb Options
While it can be challenging to adapt Home Chef Fresh and Easy to vegetarian or vegan diets, one option the meal kit company offers is a low-carb diet option. It aims to help customers manage their weight and balance their blood sugar levels.
Calorie Conscious Boxes
The other distinct option offered by Home Chef Fresh and Easy is a calorie-conscious box. This primarily targets weight loss. It reduces your calorie consumption while ensuring you still get enough to eat.
How Is Fresh and Easy Packaged?
All Home Chef’s Fresh and Easy boxes use sustainable packaging where possible, and that’s another reason we liked the box.
There are some caveats. All their ice packs are recyclable, but only if you drain them first. Alternatively, you can keep your ice packs for use another time. That said, each box comes with several ice packs to keep the food cold, and while we have many uses for a good ice pack, keeping everyone that comes with a meal box wasn’t tenable.
Additionally, the containers for microwave and oven-ready meals are recyclable once you separate them from the adhesive plastic. However, you want to check your local recycling regulations closely.
We found that even though the containers were recyclable, our collection company wouldn’t accept them since they had previously contained food.
The film covering some of the meals can’t be recycled, and there are a lot of films. Likewise, any plastic bags can be recycled, but again, you have to check who accepts them. It may require a trip to a recycling center.
Even then, many customers, including ourselves, found that this was highly variable and ended up driving several miles to recycle their plastic. It’s a minor thing, but for a company with a mission statement that prioritizes convenience, it stands out.
How Much Does Home Chef Fresh and Easy Cost?
So far, we’ve talked extensively about the various meal plans and box options, but haven’t mentioned pricing.
Unsurprisingly, prices go up proportionate to the number of people you cook for and the meals you request.
The average Fresh and Easy box for two people ranges between $35.96 and $107.88. The lower price is based on an ordering of two weekly meals, while the higher measurement accounts for a household ordering up to six meals a week.
Neither price includes shipping.
The price goes up again the more people you cater to. So, the weekly cost for a family of four ranges between $71.92 and $215.76.
Families of at least six can expect to pay between $107.88 and $323.65 per week.
Allowing for price increases based on family size, that’s still more than most people spend on their monthly groceries.
However, Fresh and Easy prices also factor in the pre-prepped food and the fact that they save on cleanup. They cost more than the average meal, but you have to do considerably less.
If the price makes you hesitate, it’s also worth noting that many of the pricier box options include an option for free shipping, but you will need to look closely at the website to find out when that becomes applicable.
Another thing worth mentioning is that when you order your first four boxes, Fresh and Easy gives you a discount. The result is that you get as many as 18 meals free. That’s lots of time to decide if the service is one you want to use regularly.
Pros and Cons of Home Chef Fresh and Easy
Is Fresh and Easy worth it? There’s a lot to recommend.
- Low cooking and preparation times
- Proteins can be easily swapped/replaced
- Recipe cards clearly indicate if meals appropriate for the diet
- Includes vegetarian and dairy-free options
- Sustainable packaging where possible
Conversely, drawbacks associated with Fresh and Easy include:
- Difficult to recycle plastic
- Hard to accommodate vegan diets
- Shipping is not always included in the pricing
- Insufficient allergen support
Is a Fresh and Easy meal subscription worth the cost? On balance, we found that it was.
It’s true that it’s not a perfect service. Ideally, shipping would be included and it would be nice to see more dietary options.
However, I found the short meal preparation and the variety of meal plans offered by Home Chef Fresh and Easy outweighed these issues, particularly because nothing keeps you from dipping into the Home Chef meal plans when you wanted to.
It’s true that if you need or want to adhere to a particular diet, there are other boxes that will serve you better. But for fast, reliable meals that taste good, we think Fresh and Easy is worth the price.
Its ingredients are seasonal, there’s almost no cleanup, and the meals you get always taste excellent.