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Freshly vs. Home Chef — Comparing Two Very Different Meal Subscriptions

Lindsey Morse
ByLindsey MorseMar 9, 2021 | 2 comments

Freshly vs. Home Chef — Comparing Two Very Different Meal Subscriptions

Freshly vs. Home Chef

Comparing two very different subscription meal kits.

Sometimes, it’s nice to pour yourself a glass of wine, chop some veggies, and enjoy the ritual of making dinner from scratch; other days, there simply isn’t enough time for that, and it’s nice to have a pre-prepared meal waiting in the fridge that you can heat and eat in 5 minutes flat. Today, we’re going to look at two very different meal subscription services that offer these very different dinnertime experiences: Freshly and Home Chef.

Freshly is one of the most convenient meal delivery services, and Home Chef is one of the most popular. In some ways, they’re a lot alike. They’ll both save you time meal planning and help you skip grocery shopping, but the similarities pretty much end there. Freshly sends meals that are pre-cooked, pre-portioned, and ready to be reheated and eaten. Home Chef, on the other hand, sends everything you need to cook up a tasty dinner yourself from their very own chef-designed recipes. In this article, I’m going to look carefully at these two subscriptions side-by-side to see how they compare. Read on to learn more about the food, recipes, packaging, and convenience factor!

by Lindsey Morse, Taste-Tester Extraordinaire
March 9, 2021| 2 comments

Freshly vs. Home Chef

 

To really get a thorough idea of how these two subscriptions compare, I’m going to stack them up in a number of different categories. We’ll start by looking at what you can expect from the food, and then we’ll move on to talk about the menu, recipes, ingredients, accommodations for special diets, packaging, price, and convenience level. You can navigate your way around this article by using the table of contents to the left, or you can read on for the full, unabridged story!

Let’s dive in!

The Food

True, one of these subscriptions sends meals that are pre-made and the other sends ingredients for dishes you make yourself, but they both have a similar “vibe” when it comes to the food. Let’s dive in, so you can see what I mean.

Image from our review.

Let’s start with Freshly. As a meal delivery service, as opposed to a meal kit delivery service, all of your meals will be prepared in advance- ready for you to reheat and eat at your convenience. Meals come packed in a tray that reminds me of the meals you’d find in the frozen food section of the grocery store, but Freshly’s meals are fresh and never frozen. The menu is full of classic comfort foods (like Sicilian-Style Chicken Parm with Broccoli), global dishes (like Chicken Tikka Masala with Seven-Spice Vegetable Biryani), and plenty of healthy options (like Very Verde Chicken with Sautéed Greens & Charred Cauliflower).  Due to the nature of the service, you won’t see salads or raw garnishes on the menu, but that’s to be expected with prepared foods like these.

Image via our review.

Home Chef also regularly serves up comfort foods. The meals tend to feel like good old-fashioned home cooking and would be right at home on the menu of a popular gastropub. If you’re a “meat and potatoes” kind of person, or if you regularly opt for homestyle classics, I think you’ll like what’s on the menu at Home Chef. Expect to see dishes like Steak with Horseradish Butter & Roasted Potatoes, Turkey Burrito Skillet, and Salmon with Dill Crema.

If you’d like to see what’s coming up on Home Chef‘s menu, check out my weekly menu roundup! Every Monday, I take a look at what’s coming up on the menu at Home Chef, HelloFresh, EveryPlateGreen Chef, Purple Carrot, and more!

 

What about portion sizes? 

In my experience, Home Chef portions tend to be just the right size. Meals are big enough to fill me up, but I don’t often have leftovers. Freshly portions are typically a little bit smaller, but I think that’s par for the course with packaged and prepared meals. Freshly meals are a little bit more substantial than similar frozen meals, but portion-wise I think they’re more suitable for lunchtime. Personally, if I’m eating a Freshly meal for dinner, I’ll usually pair it with a side salad.

The Menu & Meal Plans

The menus at Freshly and Home Chef both change every week, so you won’t need to worry about getting tired of the same thing over and over again. With both subscriptions, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from: Freshly has around 30+ entrees available each week, and Home Chef offers 21 to choose from.

Image via Freshly.

When you sign up for a subscription to Freshly, you’ll have over 30 different meal options to choose from every week. You’ll find about 8-10 meals on each menu that are dairy-free, 8-10 with fewer than 35 grams of carbs, and 20+ that are under 500 calories. If you avoid gluten or peanuts or prefer to eat a low-carb diet, you’ll be pleased to hear that every single meal is gluten and peanut-free. Vegetarians are less likely to find options that work for them, however, as currently no meals are vegan or vegetarian. All meals are designed with the following principles in mind: less sugar, less processed food, and more nutrients.

Image via Home Chef.

At Home Chef, every menu features 21 different recipes, and you can filter by category to view meals that are “vegetarian,” “carb-conscious,” “calorie-conscious,” and “< 30 min.” One of my favorite things about Home Chef‘s menu selection process is that many of the recipes are customizable, so you can tweak certain recipes to feature your favorite protein. Like the sound of Sweet and Sour Pork Meatballs, but don’t eat pork? Swap in ground beef! This is a great feature for vegetarians and pescatarians (who can swap out steak or chicken for seafood or Impossible meat), but it’s also great for carnivores who might want to swap meat into a vegetarian dish.

The Recipes

With meal kits like those sent by Home Chef, recipes are a necessity. You’ll need clear and easy-to-follow instructions if you want to turn a bunch of ingredients into a restaurant-quality meal. With a meal delivery service like Freshly however, things are a little different. In this section, I’m mostly going to focus on the recipes from Home Chef, but I’ll also talk a little bit about Freshly‘s reheating instructions.

Image via Freshly.

Since Freshly meals come pre-cooked and ready to warm up, there’s really no need for a recipe, but it is essential that you have accurate heating instructions for your healthy meals. Those come printed on the back of each package, but since microwaves vary, you may find you need slightly more or less time than indicated. If you’re unsure, you can start by zapping your food for 2 minutes and then continuing with additional 30-second increments until it’s piping hot. If you want more information about the ready meals (ingredients, flavors, that kind of thing), you’ll find a little write-up for each dish on the website.

 

Home Chef sends a two-sided recipe card to accompany each meal. There are step-by-step instructions to guide you through the cooking process, and pictures are provided to help you make sure you stay on track each step of the way. The cards don’t offer a ton of additional information, but they do provide nutritional details, prep & cook time, and the number of days your meal will stay fresh after it arrives. I always use the shelf life guide to plan out my meals for the week and help decide which meals to cook first. Another helpful feature is that recipes are all assigned a difficulty level, which is great for newbie cooks who might not be comfortable with advanced cooking techniques and difficult recipes. The flip side of this is also worth acknowledging: if you’re super confident in the kitchen, want to challenge yourself, and maybe learn something new, you can pick out more advanced recipes.

Plans & Pricing

Despite offering pretty different cooking experiences, Freshly and Home Chef are on par when it comes to price. Freshly meals start at $8.49 per meal (if you only order a handful of meals, though, you’ll pay more: 4 meals per week will run $11.49 each), and most Home Chef meals cost $9.95 per serving. Home Chef meals ship for free if you spend over $49.00; Freshly shipping starts at $5.99 and goes up as your order increases in size.

Whether you’re after a family menu or just looking for a two-person plan, Home Chef should work for you. Freshly doesn’t have family plans, per se, but you can order whatever number of meals you need to feed your crew.

Home Chef delivers to 98% of the United States. Freshly ships to most zip codes in the contiguous United States (you can find out if Freshly or Home Chef ships to you by entering your zip code at signup). Neither company ships to Hawaii or Alaska.

Here’s a full outline of all the available plans with pricing:

Freshly Plans & Pricing

Image via Freshly.

  • 4 meals per week: $45.96 + $5.99 shipping
  • 6 meals per week: $56.94 + $5.99 shipping
  • 10 meals per week: $89.90 + $9.99 shipping
  • 12 meals per week: $101.88 + $11.99 shipping

Freshly COUPON: Limited Time Only! Use code LAUNCH15 to save $60 over your first four boxes.

Home Chef Plans & Pricing:

Image via Home Chef.

  • For most menu items, you can select to receive 2, 4, 6, or 8 servings.
  • Shipping is free for orders over $49.00 (orders under $49.00 ship for $10.00)
  • Meals start at $6.99 per serving, and most entrees cost $9.95 per serving. Things to note:
    • Customizing your entree might incur an upcharge. Let’s use Smoky Pork Tacos as an example. You can swap ground turkey for ground pork for no additional charge, but swapping in steak strips (+$1.99), shrimp (+$2.99), or Impossible meat (+$3.99) costs more per serving.
    • Premium entrees (like sirloin steak and lobster) are also available and cost more.
    • You can also add-on packs of extra protein (like chicken, steak, and seafood) for an additional fee.

Home Chef COUPON: Use code LD50 to 50% Off First Box.

Dietary Restrictions

Finding a meal delivery service that works for your special diet or food allergy can be tricky, but depending on your specific requirements and dietary preferences, these subscriptions might be able to accommodate your dietary needs. Let’s take a closer look at each one:

Special Diets

Freshly does not design their meals to specifically suit any special diets. That said, all of their food is gluten-free and peanut-free, and most meals are low-calorie. You won’t find specially-designed diabetic, paleo, keto, or vegetarian meals; however, with so many different menu options available, you might still find meals that work for you. (You can set your dietary preferences to automatically filter meals.)

With Home Chef, everyone orders from the same menu, but if you’re looking for vegetarian options, watching your carbs, or counting calories, Home Chef will have recipes that fit your diet. You can also customize many of the available meals and swap out proteins you either don’t like or don’t eat.

Food Allergies

First things first: all Freshly meals are gluten-free and peanut-free. If you have celiac disease or a peanut allergy, it should come as good news that the Freshly kitchen neither stores nor handles wheat or peanut products. The kitchen does, however, handle the remaining big 6 allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and soy. Chefs are required to sanitize pots and change clothing after cooking with these ingredients, but they are not cooked in separate pans. To me, it sounds like Freshly takes reasonable precautions to prevent cross-contamination; however, if you have severe allergies I would recommend doing some more research and using your best judgment.

From Home Chef:

All of our ingredients are produced in facilities that also process eggs, milk, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy. All ingredients are individually packaged, but our facilities are not certified allergen-free. Additionally, because ingredients are packaged and shipped in the same shipping container, ingredients from one meal that contain allergens might come into contact with ingredients from another meal.

Regardless of which meal subscription you choose, it’s always good practice to read through recipes thoroughly and use your best discretion, especially if your allergies are severe!

The Ingredients

Sourcing

Image from our review.

Freshly sources ingredients from the U.S. whenever possible (depending on seasonality, sometimes ingredients will come from abroad). Meats are free from fillers, chemical additives, and preservatives, and meals are free from processed sugars and artificial ingredients.

Image from our review.

Home Chef will occasionally send organic produce, but it is not currently something they guarantee for all meals and does not appear to be a priority at this time. Likewise, when it comes to animal welfare standards, they work with suppliers to ensure that industry-aligned animal welfare standards are being met, but they do not go above and beyond that.

Use-By Dates

Freshly meals are preservative-free, so you’ll need to consume them fairly quickly after arrival. You’ll find a use-by date on the back of every meal, but the rule of thumb is 4-5 days. If you ever find that you aren’t able to finish the meals in time, you can always pop them in the freezer to preserve freshness. (Just make sure to reheat from frozen and add some extra time to ensure internal temperatures reach 165 degrees.)

Home Chef includes a cook-by-date on every recipe, which I find extremely helpful when planning out my meals for the week. Seafood dishes should always be cooked first, and you should aim to consume everything before the end of the first week.

The Packaging

 

When you’re shipping perishable food across the country, it’s essential that enough packaging is used to keep food insulated and ingredients protected. That said, Freshly and Home Chef take steps to limit the environmental impact of their delivery boxes.

Image from our review.

The boxes, plastic meal containers, and cardboard sleeves you receive in your Freshly shipment are all recyclable, and the insulation is largely biodegradable (it’s made from recycled denim!). The gel ice packs can be recycled, too, just make sure you drain the contents into the trash can first. For additional information about recycling packaging from Freshly, you’ll find a page on the website that provides more detail.

open box view showing a cardboard divider protecting the ingredient bags

Image from our review.

Boxes from Home Chef are insulated with recycled textile fibers that promote biodegradation. Both the box and liner can be composted or recycled, and plastic containers are also 100% recyclable. Menu cards can be recycled too (although I like to keep them to use again!), and cooling packs are filled with non-toxic, eco-compatible fluid that can be drained into the sink.

Modifications & Cancellations

Need to change an upcoming order or cancel your subscription? No problem! Both Freshly and Home Chef make it easy to update your order, skip upcoming deliveries, or cancel your subscription online.

Deadlines for Order Changes:

Want to make changes to your menu or change your delivery day? Both subscriptions allow for order changes up until the week before delivery. Here are the specific cutoff deadlines for making changes to your upcoming deliveries:

With Freshly, your order cutoff depends on where you live, but you’ll have 5 or 6 days before your delivery to make changes.

Home Chef requires that order changes be made by 12 pm Central Standard Time on the Friday before the following week’s delivery. This is also the deadline to skip, pause, or cancel.

The Final Verdict

 

Hopefully, this article has helped you decide if one (or both) of these subscriptions is right for you, but if you’re still unsure, let’s take one final look at them side-by-side:

Price? When it comes to price, these boxes are in the same ballpark; however, if you’re only ordering a small number of servings then Home Chef is likely to be a bit more affordable. With entrees that go for an average price of $9.95, Home Chef will cost less than Freshly, where meals start at $11.49 per serving plus shipping. If you’re ordering at least 6 meals, though, the prices become more comparable. Additionally, I feel like I have to point out that pre-made meals offer additional value. That’s worth taking into consideration, right? With that in mind, I think it’s safe to say that Home Chef meals cost less overall, but that both offer pretty good value for money.

Taste? When it comes to taste, I really don’t think you can go wrong. Both Home Chef and Freshly deliver on flavor, and you’ll find lots of comfort foods and classic dishes on both menus. Personally, I think it’s hard to beat a “home-cooked meal,” so I tend to prefer meals from Home Chef. But Freshly is great, too, and it definitely wins out against similar meals you’ll find in your grocer’s freezer section.

Ingredients? Again, it’s a close one. Both Home Chef and Freshly send delicious meals and high-quality food that’s super fresh. In the case of Home Chef, you’ll receive tasty ingredients and good-quality produce. Freshly meals are made with fresh ingredients that are sourced from the U.S. whenever possible, and the food is free from processed sugars, artificial ingredients, and preservatives. 

Special Diet? Depending on exactly what your needs are, either box might suit. All of Freshly‘s meals are gluten and peanut-free, but you won’t find dedicated menus for special diets. That said, you can adjust your dietary preferences to filter out any meals that won’t work for you. But keep in mind that not all preferences will be supported; if you’re a vegetarian, for example, you’re out of luck. Vegetarians should find ample choice with Home Chef, though, and the customization options open up a lot of choice for pescatarians.

Convenience? When it comes to convenience, I think Freshly wins hands down. It doesn’t get any more convenient than popping in an oven-ready meal and heating it up. But if you have time to cook in the evenings, Home Chef certainly streamlines the process.

 

Final Thoughts: If you don’t have a lot of time to cook, Freshly has you covered. The pre-made meals are super convenient, and I appreciate the dedication to quality food and healthy recipes. When I’m slammed and don’t have time to make a meal from scratch, I’ll sometimes rely on expensive takeout and quick, unhealthy grub brought to my door by a food delivery service. I like that Freshly helps me avoid those pitfalls. But when I do have the time to cook, I prefer Home Chef. While both delivery companies allow you to choose from a wide selection of classic comfort dishes and send tasty food, in my book, you just can’t beat a home-cooked meal.


Ready to skip the grocery store this week and give one of these boxes a try? Check out our Freshly and Home Chef offers to score some free meals!

Freshly COUPON: Limited Time Only! Use code LAUNCH15 to save $60 over your first four boxes.

Home Chef COUPON: Use code LD50 to 50% Off First Box.


Have you tried one (or both) of these meal kits? Share your experience in the comments!

Lindsey Morse
Lindsey Morse
Lindsey is a professional baker, cold brew coffee addict, and rosé aficionado who loves writing about food and wine. When she’s not sharing her love of subscription boxes with the world, you’ll find her in the podcasting studio, perfecting her cake decorating techniques, or cursing her way through the New York Times daily crossword puzzle.

Lindsey Morse
Lindsey Morse
Lindsey is a professional baker, cold brew coffee addict, and rosé aficionado who loves writing about food and wine. When she’s not sharing her love of subscription boxes with the world, you’ll find her in the podcasting studio, perfecting her cake decorating techniques, or cursing her way through the New York Times daily crossword puzzle.
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2 comments

Susan

How do you get the free shipping on Home Chef? I signed up a few weeks back but regardless of a $30 order or a $60 order, I am charged $7.99 shipping each time. How did you apply the perk of free shipping for orders over $50?

Lindsey Morse

Hi, Susan! Free shipping is always automatically added to my order when I spend over a certain amount. Let me reach out to Home Chef customer service and see what they have to say. Perhaps pricing varies for subscribers in different locations. I’ll report back. 🙂

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Our reviewers research, test, and recommend the best subscriptions and products independently; click to learn more about our editorial guidelines. We may receive commissions on purchases made through links on our site.