For the past couple of years I’ve seen so many pictures on social media of my friends cooking up delicious sounding meals from Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and the likes. If you’re not familiar with these food/meal delivery systems, the idea is a simple one–the company sends all of the ingredients needed to make an entire meal along with the recipe and helpful hints. I was thrilled when a friend told me she wanted to send me two free meals (a promotion Blue Apron offers to subscribers).
In order to get the two meals, I had to sign up for a Blue Apron account but it was clear that I would be able to cancel after I received my meals as long as I did so before my second shipment was prepared. Or if I wanted to continue with the service, I would be ready to go. I took a look at the calendar and there were four meals offered for each week–two of which I could choose (there is an option for three meals a week that only serve two people).
I picked a week that seemed to have the best choices for my family. We would receive the ingredients for Seared Chicken and Crispy Smashed Potatoes and Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs with Fried Rice. Yay! We were all set to receive the box…and then Scott booked a work trip for that week. So, I received the box on a Sunday and we didn’t cook our first meal until the following Saturday and one the following week. This is a testament to just how fresh to ingredients are. The only item that wasn’t high quality was the garlic, which I found baffling as I’ll hang on to the same bulb of garlic for (I don’t want to admit how long).
The picture above shows the box as I opened it. All of the ingredients were individually wrapped and each recipe had a brown paper bag with the “knick knacks” (the pre-measured spices and sauces). The meat products were stored beneath the produce and the chicken was leaking a bit so I put it in a ziploc before storing in the fridge.
Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs with Fried Rice
The first recipe I cooked was the Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs with Fried Rice. Neither the meatballs nor the fried rice are foreign concepts in our house; in fact, both are family favorites. With allergies and young palates, though, I knew that I would have to cook the zucchini, mushrooms, scallions, and snow peas separately and that I would be the only one eating them. I prepped all of the ingredients and served up each plate based on everyone’s tastes. I gave the girls the meatballs before I rolled them in the glaze, but I wish I hadn’t done that because I think they would have really liked the sweet flavor. Scott loved it! I loved the fried rice with all of the veggies. This was a definite winner and one that we’ll be making again (with my normal fried rice).
Seared Chicken and Crispy Smashed Potatoes
I wasn’t convinced that the Seared Chicken and Crispy Smashed Potatoes would be as big a winner as the pork balls, but I ended up being surprised at how flavorful the chicken was with just salt and pepper seasoning. I wish I had pounded the chicken before cooking, though, because it ended up a little tough. The potatoes are ones that I’ve made before, but I liked the idea of cooking them on the stovetop instead of in the oven. I had some of the same potatoes at home when I received the order, so I added them to the mix. We are big potato eaters and I’m not sure the Blue Apron portion would have been enough if I hadn’t added extra. I really liked the green beans but was the only one who ate them. This is no fault of Blue Apron. Overall, another satisfying meal.
What I Loved about Blue Apron
The meals were flavorful and easy to cook up with my kitchen experience. I love the recipe cards Blue Apron provided with the step by step instructions as well as helpful hints. If I felt so inclined, I could have gone onto their website for more helpful hints. The quality of the food was good, especially as we were probably eating the dishes much later than what Blue Apron intended. I was still able to control the amount of ingredients going into each dish and was able to make small amendments based on our tastes.
I love that the recipes got us out of our comfort zone just a little bit–adding garlic and shallot to green beans is a great move but not one I would normally take the time for. Similarly, I usually just add frozen peas and chopped carrot to my fried rice but loved the snow peas and zucchini. What’s also great about these meals is that we can try ingredients without committing to a big purchase that will end up wasting away in the pantry or fridge.
What I Didn’t Love about Blue Apron
The cost of Blue Apron is one of the big prohibitors of me signing up for a subscription. The family plan (for four) starts at about $70 a week for two meals. The two-person plan is about $60 a week for three meals. If a family eats out a fair amount or orders take-out, then this is likely less expensive than cooking from groceries? For a homecooked meal, I could buy all of the ingredients for much less. The convenience of having everything proportioned is definitely factored into the price as well as the convenience of home delivery. See more on Blue Apron pricing.
Another pitfall was the amount of prep required. The pork meatball recipe took me a long time to get ready between chopping all of the veggies, making the rice, forming the porkballs. The cook time says 35-45 minutes but it took me a lot longer than this. The chicken recipe went more quickly, but even that required a bit of prep work ahead of time. The bottom line is that cooking any recipe for the first time will take longer than it should, at least for me. I love cooking new things, but it isn’t ideal for a busy weeknight meal with three kids underfoot.
Ultimately, my not continuing with Blue Apron comes down to two factors–kids and allergies. Yes, cost is a big factor but with better budgeting and planning it might work. Allergies is the biggie. Oral allergy syndrome means that hub cannot eat most fruits and vegetables unless they’re cooked down to mush. This makes our dinners complicated as it is (“Why doesn’t daddy have to eat broccoli?”) but it’s manageable when I can plan all aspects of our meals. The Blue Apron selections have a lot of produce, which would normally be a huge plus but not for our limitations.
Kids. I don’t care what that book says about French kids eating everything. I’m considering it a huge win that my kids don’t eat frozen chicken nuggets every night (hey, no judging here!), but they don’t have gourmet palates either. Asking them to try shiitake mushrooms is one thing, but asking them to enjoy them is another. For a family with small children, the meal choices I saw on Blue Apron were a bit sophisticated.
Overall I had a lot of fun cooking up our two Blue Apron meals. For a foodie who loves to cook, this was a fantastic gift and I loved the experience. While it isn’t for us right now, perhaps when the girls get older this could be a really fun way to experiment in the kitchen–especially as the two older girls love to help cook. I was also thinking it would be a perfect gift (or subscription) for my retired parents who don’t have any kids at home (or anyone who doesn’t have young kids at home…or who doesn’t mind cooking more than one meal a night for their kids…or who has kids who will miraculously eat everything). Either way, as these services are popping up all over the place, there’s certainly a market!
Have you tried a food delivery/meal service? I’d love to hear about your experience!! Is there one that you think might be more friendly to young families?
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Every weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking. “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.” Hope you’ll join the fun!