Every two weeks I sit down with my notebook and a pen and try to come up with a meal plan and grocery list. I usually try to do this in partnership with the other members of my family. It typically goes something like this:
Me – “Hey guys, what kinds of dinners do you want to eat these next couple of weeks?”
Children – “Mac and cheese!” “Chicken nuggets!”
Me – “Okay, what else?”
Children – “That’s it.”
Me – annoyed, to my husband: “What would you like to eat?”
Husband: “I don’t know, good stuff. Whatever you want.”
Me – “Ugh! You guys are useless.” Grumble, grumble.
Then we go grocery shopping. We have a house full of food. I start making dinners and hear “I don’t want this. I don’t like this food. Why can’t we ever have anything I like? We just had this food! There’s nothing to eat in this house!”…you get the idea. No one has an opinion, other than junk food until they don’t like the food placed in front of them.
It gets a little tiring and frustrating after a while. Which is why I was really eager to try one of the meal delivery services that are becoming super popular these days.
What is a meal delivery service?
The main idea with these services is that they do all the annoying frustrating work of creating a meal plan, making a grocery list, and doing the shopping. Some of the services even do the prep work! Then they ship it to you and all you have to do is follow the recipes to assemble the ingredients into healthy, delicious meals for your family.
I love spending time in the kitchen. I don’t mind cooking and baking. However, it is a million times harder now that I have small children who bother and distract me while I’m cooking. I don’t have nearly as much time these days as I would like to spend in the kitchen, but when I do have the time, or make the time, it really can be one of the best parts of my day.
While I do enjoy going to restaurants or getting take out foods on occasion, there is something really satisfying about making a delicious meal all by myself. Sure it takes lots of time and energy and leaves me with a sink full of dishes. But food just tastes better when you’re the cook, at least in my opinion.
Why I chose to try Green Chef
I decided to start trying out a few of these meal delivery services to see if they would be a good fit for our family. The first one I decided to try was Green Chef. I chose Green Chef first and foremost because their meals looked amazingly delicious and super healthy. There were so many vegetables on each plate! I’m terrible at making good vegetables for my meals. I usually just grab a bag of frozen veggies, nuke them, and serve them. Boring! No wonder no one likes my meals.
Green Chef is actually one of the most expensive meal delivery options I’ve found. But with the Groupon deal, it made it comparable to all of the other services. The reason Green Chef is so expensive is because they exclusively use certified organic and sustainably sourced ingredients. This makes them very unique compared to some of the other meal delivery services.
The way Green Chef works is that you choose a meal plan based on your dietary preferences. Their plans include options for Vegetarian, Vegan, Carnivore (all meats), Omnivore (meat, seafood, and vegetarian), Gluten-free, Keto, and Paleo. You also choose the number of servings (2 or 4) and the delivery date (Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday). Then they send you all of the ingredients and recipes for 2-3 full meals based on your preferences.
You can change your options each week to customize your selections based on the menu they put out. It is a subscription service, so the default is to automatically send you a box each week, but it is very easy to skip as many weeks as you would like based on your schedule and budget. You can also select certain types of food to avoid if you don’t want to get something with pork, shellfish, chicken, or red meat. (Note: most of these meal delivery services, including Green Chef, are not a good option for people with food allergies.)
My Green Chef Experience
For our first delivery, I ordered 4 servings of each meal and selected the Paleo plan. We received ingredients for:
Cumin Shrimp Tostadas with almond flour tostadas, mixed greens, and guacamole.
Steak Tapenade with an olive tapenade, broccoli slaw, and savory squash.
Chicken and Arugula Pistou with roasted carrots and snap peas, and a turnip “risotto”.
On our second delivery, I went down to just 2 servings and selected the omnivore plan. We received:
Rosemary Sirloin Steak with sweet potato lyonnaise, and a bacon and baby spinach salad.
Greek Chicken Bowl with cumin rice, spinach, hummus dressing, olives, and feta.
(Sorry, forgot to take a picture of this one.)
Primavera Mac and Cheese with broccoli, snap peas, and white cheddar with a spinach salad.
Is your mouth watering yet? These meals were so, so good. I really, really enjoyed both making and eating these meals. It felt like such an exciting adventure to get outside of my usual kitchen rut and try new things. I learned several new cooking techniques. I found that making delicious side dishes to go with my meals is not nearly as complicated as I imagined. And I discovered new foods I’ve never tried before and found them to be quite tasty.
I’m really glad I tried out Green Chef. I want to give you a full-fledged honest review, so here is a rundown of the good and the bad of my experience:
- Trying new tastes and new foods.
- Learning new cooking techniques.
- Eating 1,000 times healthier than usual.
- Not having to think and plan for meals, other than picking between the 3 that were sent.
- Food delivered to my door. You can’t get much more convenient.
- No measuring ingredients and much of the prep work of chopping, dicing, or sauce preparing was already completed.
- Generous serving sizes. My kids (ages 6 and 3) eat small amounts, so we were able to get by just fine with the 2 serving option. When we got 4 servings we had plenty of leftovers.
- I’m apparently a slow cook. Other reviews I’ve read have said the preparation time estimates on the recipe cards were accurate with Green Chef. It actually took me at least 15 minutes longer to cook each meal than the time on the card. I do have two young children who regularly distract me while cooking, so it could be their fault. The cards all said 30-40 minutes, which would have been perfect for our schedule. However, all of the meals took me at least an hour to prepare.
- So. Much. Packaging. When they send you all of the ingredients, pre-measured in the exact amounts you need you end up with a lot of little plastic baggies and small jars. You also have a big box, a big insulated jute liner, and several ice packs with each order. It is all completely recyclable and many of the items can come in handy for other uses (ice packs and small jars), but still, it is an overwhelming amount of packaging. This is apparently the price you pay for convenience as all meal delivery services have this problem.
- It ain’t cheap. If your family regularly eats at a restaurant or orders take out three nights a week, then the cost shouldn’t be too hard on your budget. Meals start at $10.49 per plate, which is about what you would pay for a halfway decent restaurant meal. However, you do have to make the food yourself and clean up the mess, but as I’ve said, I think a home-cooked meal tastes better than a restaurant anyways. If your family usually eats at home every night of the week, then this could be a huge hit to your budget. For my family, the quality of the food was way better than I usually make, so I feel it is a nice thing to splurge on once in a while as our budget allows.
- Missed items and slow customer service. My first order was actually missing a couple of ingredients. The family (4 serving) option sends you two boxes of ingredients and you just double the recipes. My second box of ingredients was missing a bag of baby spinach and a bag of snap peas. I emailed customer service right away, but it took two days to get an answer (they did send two auto-respond messages letting me know they were busy and would get to me within 48 hours). When they did finally respond they let me know that they were not able to ship new ingredients, but they would credit my account. The credit was for far more money than a small bag of snap peas and spinach, so I was satisfied. However, it was a bad experience for our very first order. Our second order (using the credit) included all ingredients and was great.
- There are a number of options on the menu each week. However, it’s a little tricky to pick the exact options you want. Each plan (omnivore, carnivore, Paleo, etc) has different meal selections, so I had to keep switching plans until it came up with the three meals I wanted. It would have been much more convenient to just select the meals we wanted, but that isn’t possible. The pricing is determined based on the meal plan (vegetarian is the cheapest and Paleo is the most expensive).
Overall, I really loved ordering from Green Chef. My biggest concerns are the amount of time it took to make the meals and the cost. I think with a little more practice on making these types of meals, I will naturally cook faster and my time in the kitchen will move closer to the time estimate on the recipe card.
As for the cost, I really think that the quality of the food and the convenience factor make the cost acceptable as long as it fits the family budget. This is not something we could do every week (financially or schedule-wise), but with the ease of skipping deliveries for weeks at a time, I would definitely order from them again.
I do want to try another service or two to see if I can find a company with more affordable prices and more accurate cooking times. I really think the “healthiness” of Green Chef sets them apart from the rest of the options I’ve seen, so I’m afraid of sacrificing health for affordability. We’ll see.
Want to try it out yourself? If you use my affiliate link, you can get $80 off plus free shipping on your first order. This is a really great deal!
Have you ever tried a meal delivery service? Are you interested in trying one?
Update: I am slowly making my way through several meal delivery services. If you’re curious, be sure to check out my review of Home Chef, another meal delivery service with somewhat lower prices and more meal options.
Alternative Meal Options
I love Green Chef and Home Chef for an occasional splurge. Blue Apron is another great option. The food is delicious, a welcome change of pace, super healthy, and opens us up to new experiences with both our palate and my cooking. However, my weeknights cannot regularly handle 45+ minutes cooking up dinner in the kitchen. And our budget cannot regularly handle the amazing convenience and delicious food costs for the delivery services.
Because of that, I have tried other services to improve our weeknight meal “challenges”. Here are my current favorites:
Prep Dish – meal plan and prep subscription service
Prep Dish sends out a weekly meal plan with options for gluten free, paleo, keto, dairy free, and more. Each plan includes plans for four dinner meals, a salad, breakfast, a snack, and a dessert (or fat bomb options for keto). I have an annual subscription so I get all of the meal plans each week plus any bonus challenges and other goodies they do throughout the year. The weekly plans include a grocery list, prep day instruction, and serving day preparation instructions. The idea is that you spend an hour or so prepping all of the meals for the week so that you can quickly and easily get a healthy and delicious meal on the table on busy weeknights. I really love Prep Dish, you can read my full review of the service here.
Once a Month Meals – Freezer Cooking
This takes a commitment and was incredibly intimidated for the longest time. However, once I finally bit the bullet and scheduled a freezer cooking day I felt like my life changed. I could hear angels singing, it was so glorious. If you can make it through a very long and laborious cooking day, you will feel like a million bucks for as long as you can make those meals last. I love that all I do now is decide which meal we want and pull it out the night before (or, let’s be real, the morning of) and then pop it in the oven when I get off work. I spend time with my kids while the meal heats up and then we all chow down on delicious food when it’s done. It’s like I have my life back! And since I freeze the meal in disposable containers, the cleanup is a breeze (except for that major cooking day).
Try Once a Month Meals yourself and see how amazing it can be. With Once a Month Meals you can select from a variety of recipes (or choose a pre-planned menu) and they will provide your grocery list, prep sheet, cooking instructions, full recipes, labels, and serving day instructions all organized and prepared with a click of a button to help take the overwhelm out of freezer cooking.
Another option I have tried is eMeals. With eMeals, they do all the meal planning for you. There are a variety of plans to choose from including Clean Eating, Quick and Healthy, Paleo, Budget Friendly, Kid Friendly, and several more. Each week they send you the recipes and a grocery list for up to 7 dinners (they also have a breakfast and lunch plan). It completely takes the brain work out of dinner time. You just buy what’s on the list and cook using the recipe they provide. I used the Crock Pot plan for a while which was super convenient because all the food was ready for us as soon as we walked in the door at night.
I only stopped using eMeals because I wanted the even more convenient option of freezer cooking once a month so I didn’t have to prepare a full meal at all on weeknights. You can try eMeals for free for 14 days to see if it’s something that would work for your family.