Dinner Kits

Both of my kids are picky eaters. I won’t get into the details of how we got here or of the ongoing conflict in my house.

I will say that I have, at this point, worked myself into the terrible position of regularly making dinners that nobody eats. Which is soul crushing. Nothing like spending an hour cooking while two kids complain they are hungry, only to have them refuse to eat the meal that you then throw in the trash before facing a kitchen full of pans and dishes to be washed, to make you want to curl into a ball in bed and stay there indefinitely.

I need to make dinner for my family, and I need to not crumble when the dinners do not get eaten.

Enter the dinner kit.

At first I desperately searched for premade family dinners, and have not found that. I can find premade individual dinners, but having everyone pick out a heat ’em up dinner for the microwave every night doesn’t sound like it’s the right direction. Finally I succumbed to the idea of the meal kit, even though it felt like it would be more work than I could emotionally take.

I started with Home Chef, because they advertise a certain number of heat and eat meals.

Okay so you know how the ads say something like “pre-portioned ingredients?” Well, somehow my brain had inserted the word, “pre-prepped.” I thought the veggies would be chopped, burgers would be patted out, etc.

It’s not that way. My kit for some fancy burgers and fries contained, among the other ingredients, a pound of ground beef and a potato.

A whole ass potato.

To make fries.

As I’m patting out the burgers and cutting up the potatoes, I realized that I had been tricked into COOKING. I was just cooking! Like before! What in the actual heck?

By the end of my first week, however, I realized that it did help quite a bit. The method of selecting the meals complete with sides, having them delivered, and just needing to pull a bag out of the fridge to cook saves so much of the mental load of meal planning and cooking.

Also, it is super easy with most of the dishes to make half of it ‘plain’ by leaving out some things. So for example, I can make two servings of buffalo chicken cheesy penne, and two servings of cheesy penne. That is huge for me, and is something I haven’t been able to manage with most meals I pick for myself from cookbooks. I was pretty much sold on the concept at this point.

I then set about deciding which meal kit system was the best for me. I was pretty happy with Home Chef, but I wanted to shop around. I tried Dinnerly and Gobble as well. This is a little summary of each

Home Chef and Gobble are extremely similar.

  • Multiple meal options to choose from each week, including premium options for added cost
  • Many meals are customizable with different proteins, which does affect the cost
  • The meals are sold as pairs, essentially, so if you get a four person plan, you will receive two meal kits with two servings each for each of your selected meals.
  • The ingredients are separated into bags for each meal. You put the bag in the fridge, and then pull the bag out when you are ready to cook. (The meats are packaged separately from the other ingredients.)
  • Each meal comes with a nicely printed recipe card.
  • Both of their recipes seem to use up every pan in the house.

The differences between Home Chef and Gobble include

  • Gobble seems a bit cheaper, but Home Chef has free shipping on orders over $45.
  • Home Chef has full nutritional information on their recipe cards. Gobble only has the calories, but you can find the rest of the information easily on their website.
  • Gobble allows you to split a meal. Instead of four servings of one thing, you can get two servings of one item and two servings of a different item for your four person meal. Home Chef does not have this option.
  • Both companies offer a good variety of meals, but Home Chef is more of a meat-and-potatoes fare, while Gobble offers a lot more international options.
  • Gobble’s meals appear to average 700-900 calories per serving, while Home Chef is more 500-700 calories per serving.
  • Home Chef does have a few ‘heat and eat’ options every week.
  • Gobble is a bit less honest with their marketing. They claim to have more prep work already done and for meals to only take 15 minutes. They have the same prep work as Home Chef, and every meal I’ve made has taken 45 minutes to an hour.

Dinnerly is a different animal:

  • It is less expensive than the other options mentioned.
  • It appears to be the same cost each week, as opposed to the other two in which different selections may cost more or less.
  • There are plenty of options, but not as much customization.
  • The delivery is much more — I don’t know — raw? Basic? Earthy? They are a company that is more concerned with not contributing to issues of wasteful packaging, so the food does not come organized into cute little kits like it does with Gobble or with Home Chef. The food is not separated into different bags for different meals, and there aren’t sauces or dips in their own little containers. It is more like you pick out the recipes you want to make and they send you the box of groceries you would buy to make it.
  • It is much more ‘from scratch’ than the other options. While Home Chef or Gobble will have a little packet of garlic butter, Dinnerly will send you a clove of garlic and some butter.
  • Again to reduce waste, they do not include recipe cards in their boxes. You retrieve the recipes online.
  • The meat is grass fed. This is healthier, better for the planet, but I have never developed a taste for grass fed beef.

In the end, I am choosing Home Chef for right now. I think their selection of food is more in line with what my kiddos might be persuaded to eat. Also I like the fact that they do have the fast options. The big kicker for me, however, was the calorie content. Gobble has that thing where even their healthier seeming recipes — like a shrimp and rice dish — is somehow 800 calories a serving.

So that’s my assessment. All of this was from personal experience only; it is possible I am mistaken about some details.