Service: Blue Apron
Price: $59.99 for three meals serving two people each
Overall Impression: Great for busy weeknight meals and to shake up your cooking routine.
There are some days I just want to put it all on auto pilot. You know, just set everything to cruise control until I have the brain power to, say, come up with a menu for dinner. Enter Blue Apron. After seeing a bunch of ads, I finally decided to try Blue Apron, the pre-portioned, ready to cook meal delivery service after a friend gave me a rave review of the service. Here's how it went.
Blue Apron is a (for the most part) nationwide delivery service that sends you a box of pre-portioned meal ingredients, with recipes. I was curious whether this was a truly helpful innovation in shopping and meal prep, or simply the worst of both worlds — expensive take-out food you still had to cook yourself.
Characteristics and Specs: The kit contained all the ingredients needed to cook three meals, each feeding 2 people, complete with recipes with step-by-step photos. Blue Apron also offers plans to feed 4 and 6 people, as well as a choice between the meat and fish or vegetarian meal plans. Delivery times range daily from 8am to 8pm and 6pm to 8pm, which suited my work schedule the best.
Blue Apron posts the following week's menu on the site a week in advance so I had the opportunity to make sure the menu looked appealing before ordering. My week's dishes included ginger beef stir fry, turkey chili, and salmon with fennel and cauliflower steak.
My meals came neatly packaged in a cardboard box lined with ice packs to keep the contents fresh for a few hours. I arrived home at 6pm to find my box had already been delivered, but the ice packs kept everything cool. Also, the steak and chicken in my pack were vacuum sealed, which meant I had an extra week or two to use them, which helped as last minute plans came up and I had to push one of the dishes to the following week.
Each recipe was well explained and every single ingredient except for olive oil, salt, and pepper was included. Tiny container of soy sauce? Check. One tablespoon of chili powder in a tiny bag? You bet.
This was helpful; however I found myself wishing I could have had the entire head of cauliflower and more than one stalk of celery so I could stock my fridge at the same time.
You've made the meal, now what? Watch the video!
Favorite details: Because Blue Apron includes literally everything needed, making dinner is almost as easy as ordering it in, without the guilt. I liked being able to preview the menu first to make sure I'd actually want to cook the dishes on it, and to know what I was going to cook for dinner a few days later, a rare occurrence for my usual spur of the moment cooking schedule.
Although the recipes included weren't especially creative, I still enjoyed trying a new take on dishes I'd cooked before. I loved the salmon coated with ground fennel seed, and the turkey chili with its jalapeño kick and bright lime flavor won a spot in my regular recipe rotation. The ginger beef was nothing outstanding, but it added variety to the week.
The step-by-step color photos included with the recipes showed major steps in the process and each started with instructions to prep all the ingredients before cooking.
Blue Apron automatically enrolls customers in a weekly delivery plan with the option of skipping as many deliveries as desired at no charge. While I thought I would want to just try the service once and cancel, I've kept with it, skipping any weeks with unappealing dishes or when it doesn't fit my schedule. I often skip a week, but I know it's available when I'm in a bind or a menu looks particularly delicious. Also, the recipes are free to anyone browsing Blue Apron's website and aren't restricted to paying customers.
Potential problems: As of now, Blue Apron doesn't allow any meal choices beyond meat and fish or vegetarian, so it's important to check each week's menu for any food allergies or preferences before ordering. For example, my fiancé doesn't eat pork, and it's not possible to limit the deliveries to exclude it. I would have signed up for more deliveries if several of the menus didn't include a pork dish.
Some of the dishes don't quite add up to the price point, too. If I made turkey chili on my own, I would end up with quite a bit more for $20 (at $9.99 per serving) than enough for two people. To be fair, the portions are generous and some of the dishes would have been enough to feed three people, but you're paying for convenience. Leftovers are unlikely.
Although I loved having everything I needed for the recipes at the ready, I'm not sure I could justify the packaging used for such small amounts of spices and other ingredients on a weekly basis.
To sum up: Overall, Blue Apron impressed me with its organized packaging, clear recipes, and menus. While I won't be using it as a weekly meal service, I enjoy checking out what's on the menu, browsing the recipes, and periodically ordering.
→ Find It! Blue Apron Meal Delivery, $59.99 for 3 meals for 2 people at Blue Apron (other plans available, all at $9.99 per person, per meal)
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