Freshly vs. Home Chef

A direct comparison between these two meal delivery services

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Home Chef meal on plate

Spruce Eats / Kristy Del Coro

Freshly is a meal delivery service that offers single-serving, pre-cooked, ready-to-reheat meals, while Home Chef sells pre-measured ingredients with recipe cards for easy home meal preparation. Freshly wins on convenience and also has great flavor, but Home Chef wins on variety and customization as well as flexibility for feeding small to large households.

We've broken down the pros and cons of each service to help you figure out which is the right fit for you.

Freshly Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Convenience

  • Quality ingredients 

  • Good variety of cuisines and flavors

  • Simple ordering process

  • Certified gluten-free

Cons
  • No modifications

  • Single serving size

  • Limited or no options for most dietary preferences

Home Chef Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Good value

  • Mix of easy and advanced recipes 

  • User-friendly protein substitutions

Cons
  • Overall, meals high in sodium

  • No sourcing standards

  • Limited plant-based options

Freshly vs. Home Chef: Price

Freshly's meals cost slightly more than Home Chef's but you end up paying for convenience. Freshly decreases in price with increased quantity; a box of four meals is priced at $11.49 per meal, whereas a box of 12 meals decreases to $8.49 per meal. There are no customization options, so there are no potential add-on surcharges.

The lowest price for a Home Chef meal is $6.99 per serving but this is for meals that come with four servings per order. Most meals are around $8.99 each and any additional protein upgrade or swap can be an extra few dollars. Also, keep in mind that both companies charge additional for shipping. Always check for promotions, particularly on first-time orders, to bring down prices.

Another factor to keep in mind with pricing is the portion sizes. We found we were more likely to have leftovers, even if it was just for part of the meal, for Home Chef meals. Freshly meals were most often truly single-serving portions, so Home Chef is a better value if looking at the quantity of food alone. Freshly, however, offers the best value for convenience.

Freshly vs. Home Chef: Meal Choices

Freshly meal on plate

Spruce Eats / Kristy Del Coro

Freshly is ideal for small households, including singles or couples. It's also great for busy working individuals who have limited time to cook or those with limited kitchen space, such as someone living in a small city apartment. Freshly meals are also easy to transport and would be convenient to take to an office to reheat so can be ideal for both lunch and dinner.

Freshly also differentiates itself as a certified gluten-free operation and peanut-free facility, making this a safe choice for those with celiac disease or peanut allergies. While many items on the menu could also fit into a high protein or low carb diet, there are no other specific diets that the company caters to and there are currently no vegetarian options.

There are no customization options for swaps or add-ons at Freshly, but the company does offer a range of flavors across multiple cuisines so there is still practically something for everyone even if you are not gluten-free (with some exceptions). Preparation time could not be simpler; simply open up the package and reheat it in the microwave for 3 minutes.

Home Chef is a different type of program, offering more customization options and a mix of menu items with cooking times that vary from 15 minutes to 50 minutes. Each box comes with a kit of pre-measured ingredients ready for home cooking. Home Chef is very protein-centric but offers plant-based substitutions and has a small vegetarian menu selection. Customizations can only be made to the proteins; for example, seafood can be swapped for meat or an Impossible Burger can be substituted for a plant-based option (or protein can be left off completely).

Serving sizes vary from two to eight, so Home Chef is a better fit for larger households or for those that want leftovers. There are also filters for lower calorie and lower carb options. But Home Chef does require some amount of cooking, even if it is minimal, so these are not designed for easy transport to an office for reheating in the same way that Freshly meals are.

Freshly vs. Home Chef: Creativity of Dishes

Based on the meals we tried, Freshly has a slight edge over Home Chef in terms of creativity. There were more internationally inspired dishes that rely on spices for flavor, whereas Home Chef menus were a little more of the classic “meat and potatoes” format that relies on butter and salt for flavor.

The biggest challenge in Freshly’s meals was the soft texture that seemed to be present across all items; for example, a breaded chicken in a Freshly meal would not have the same crispy texture that a breaded chicken from Home Chef would because of the way Freshly meals are pre-cooked and packaged. Freshly offers more of a range of dishes, from classic American to Indian to the Caribbean to Mexican to Italian and more. Home Chef also has some internationally inspired dishes, but the ones we found were generally more mainstream.

Freshly vs. Home Chef: Flavor, Freshness, and Quality

Home Chef meal on plate

Spruce Eats / Kristy Del Coro

The nature of Freshly’s pre-prepared meals made the initial appearance less appetizing than the actual taste. Visually, when you open Freshly’s meals, some of the food inside the tray may have shifted during transit to one side or the sauce may have gotten on the plastic film that covers the tray, making it appear messy. But once reheated and replated, the appearance improved and the flavor was generally very good. Our biggest issue was the texture because it was nearly all soft. Even vegetables that would typically be crisper or just tender ended up being on the soft side. Some dishes were also on the salty side but we generally found them less salty than the meals from Home Chef.

The quality of produce for Home Chef meals was all very good, but we could not say the same for the protein. We had one issue with a package of chicken that leaked and overall, the packages for the protein were not as tightly vacuum sealed as we would have liked—the juices from the raw protein that were visible in the package were unappetizing. There were also natural inconsistencies in the portions of protein within the same package, which impacted cooking times. But once cooked, the proteins were perfectly fine to eat, although the chicken and shrimp were on the salty side due to salt solutions that are added to the meat beforehand and additional seasoning.

The steaks and ground turkey were of good quality. We found Home Chef meals overall to be too salty due to the combination of salt in the protein, added salt, and salt in pre-seasoned sauces and marinades.

Freshly vs. Home Chef: Recipe Clarity/Difficulty

Because Freshly does not require any cooking, this is the clear winner for being the easiest to prepare. However, if one does not have a microwave, Freshly meals just need to be transferred out of the container they come in, onto an oven-safe dish, and can be easily reheated in the oven—although this method of reheating may take up to 30 minutes.

Most Home Chef meals were easy to follow and would be appropriate for a beginner cook, especially the meals that come in an oven-ready tray for easy prep and clean-up. The exception was when it came to cooking some of the proteins; this required individual judgment on when the protein was properly cooked, or you could rely on a food thermometer to take temperatures to ensure doneness. We couldn’t solely rely on cooking times on the recipe cards.

There is also some skill required for certain cooking techniques such as pan-searing or frying, but the photos on the recipe cards provided great visual support. Most estimated cooking times were accurate.

Most Home Chef meals were easy to follow and would be appropriate for a beginner cook, especially the meals that come in an oven-ready tray for easy prep and clean-up.

Freshly vs. Home Chef: Supporting Material

Home Chef packaging

Spruce Eats / Kristy Del Coro

Freshly did not provide any supporting material in the box, which we found surprising compared to all other meal delivery services we've tested. But each menu item had detailed information on the package sleeve so these essentially act as replacements for recipe cards and cut back on the number of extra materials. The website also offered additional serving suggestions for finishing the dishes such as fresh herbs or providing another simple fresh side that was not printed on the box sleeves.

Home Chef offered large recipe cards, printed front and back, with a description of the dish, ingredients included, additional necessary pantry ingredients, cooking equipment and utensils, nutrition and allergy information, and step-by-step instructions with pictures for each step. There is also information on how to adjust or modify cooking temperatures and times for any potential protein swaps. We did not find it necessary to look for any additional information on the website, but for a beginner cook who wants more guidance, there are occasionally some extra chef tips on the meal descriptions found online.

Freshly vs. Home Chef: Types of Diets Served

Freshly’s entire menu is certified gluten-free and also peanut-free. Many of the meals are also high in protein and there is a section labeled “Freshly Fit,” which has a selection of high-protein, low-carb options designed for athletes or those following a high-protein eating plan. Keep in mind that meals cannot be customized, but they will be labeled for any potential allergens, so you can pick and choose based on ingredients you may be avoiding. As a customer, you can set your own dietary preferences to more easily find meals that work for you.

Home Chef offers carb-conscious, calorie-conscious, and vegetarian menus, but overall it is a very protein-centric menu. While meals contain vegetables, they are not the star of the dish. Home Chef has options to substitute or add-on extra protein or even buy protein packs which are like family packs of different proteins. Home Chef has allergens labeled but does not operationally adhere to any strict guidelines in conjunction with a specific diet.

Freshly vs. Home Chef: Nutritional Value

Freshly meal

Spruce Eats / Kristy Del Coro

Both Freshly and Home Chef meals are generally high in protein and both have lower-carb, high-protein options. Home Chef currently offers more vegetarian and plant-based options, although Freshly launched a plant-based menu featuring six meals in August 2021. Freshly's meals are also all made in a certified gluten-free facility but Home Chef's are not, so there is the potential for cross-contamination with Home Chef items.

The sodium varied across the board for both services, but Freshly meals were lower in sodium overall and tasted less salty. We found Home Chef's meals to generally contain more preservatives and processed sauces, while Freshly's meals contained more all-natural ingredients.

Freshly vs. Home Chef: Customer Service

Customer service for Freshly can be reached by email, 24/7 chat agent, text message, Facebook messenger, and by phone. There is also an extensive FAQ section. Home Chef can be reached by searching informative FAQs, by email, or by phone. Although helpful, we found Home Chef’s customer care agent to be less knowledgeable about our question and we had the impression they did not have any additional insight beyond what we could find online ourselves.

We contacted Freshly customer service via the 24/7 chat during evening hours and were quickly able to be transferred to a live person. Our question was answered with clear insight beyond what was available online, so we felt Freshly’s customer service had a slight edge over Home Chef’s.

Freshly vs. Home Chef: Making Changes and Canceling

Home Chef chicken and broccoli

Spruce Eats / Kristy Del Coro

Changes for Freshly orders can be made up to three weeks in advance and can all be managed online. You can make changes to your overall meal plan as well as specific meal selections and modify the delivery day. Canceling can also be done easily online.  The deadline for modifications varies depending on your location and delivery day, but customers generally have about five to six days before meals are scheduled to arrive to make any changes to the order.

Modifying meals, making substitutions, or making changes to delivery dates for Home Chef is very easy through the online account portal. It is also easy to cancel online. All changes must be made online prior to noon CT on the Friday prior to the delivery week, regardless of which day your delivery is scheduled to arrive the following week. After the cutoff, changes can be made by calling customer service throughout Friday afternoon.

Freshly vs. Home Chef: Additional Features

Freshly and Home Chef both have mobile apps that allow customers to view their account info, meal plans, and upcoming orders and make meal selections or changes to future orders. Customers can also rate their meals through the apps and contact customer service. Home Chef has a unique feature that allows you to add ingredients from selected recipes to a shopping list so that you can remake it even without the meal kit.

Freshly also offers free chats with their team of Wellness Experts for additional questions about the nutrition information of the meals, ingredients, or how to order based on specific individual health goals.

Final Verdict

Freshly is the best choice for individuals with limited time, ability, or interest in cooking but who still value a home-cooked meal. Freshly meals are ready in a matter of minutes and generally contain nutritious ingredients with flavorful spices. Home Chef is recommended for both small and large households that want help with meal planning and recipe inspiration and also want to save time on meal prep but still make a semi-home-cooked meal.

Methodology

We spent numerous hours looking through 48 meal delivery services’ websites, ordered meals and cooked them at home, photographed the process, spoke with customer service representatives from the companies, filled out detailed surveys about each company and their meals, and wrote in-depth reviews and comparison articles. Our expert panel includes dieticians, chefs, and longtime food writers. The one thing they all have in common is their love and knowledge of food.

The criteria we used to evaluate each company included:

  • The ordering process
  • Meal selection
  • Packaging and support materials
  • Recyclability
  • The cooking process
  • The flavor, freshness, and quality of each meal and ingredient
  • Nutritional information
  • Customer service
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