A Blue Apron Experience

Posted 15 July, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 38 Comments

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Thoughts on Blue Apron Food Delivery Service

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

Blue Apron Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs Ingredients

 

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).

Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs Recipe from Blue Apron

Blue Apron Soy-Ginger Pork Meatballs Cooked

 

 

Seared Chicken and Crispy Smashed Potatoes

Blue Apron Seared Chicken & 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.

Seared Chicken and Crispy Smashed Potatoes Recipe from Blue Apron

-Blue Apron Seared Chicken & Crispy Smashed Potatoes Cooked

 

 

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.

 

Final Thoughts

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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Linking up with:

weekend cookingEvery 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!

 

38 Responses to “A Blue Apron Experience”

  1. Too Fond

    We used Blue Apron for a while and had some meals that we loved while others were just ok. Only one real stinker. My kids are those French kids who eat everything, so the ingredients weren’t an issue for us and we ended up trying several vegetables that none of us were familiar with and ended up liking. The biggest problem for me was prep time. I work and generally don’t get home until 6:30, so getting dinner on the table in under an hour is important, and apparently I’m a slow cook because I couldn’t never make these recipes in the time they suggested. They were good for weekends, though.

    • I don’t think you’re a slow cook! (Well, at least not based on the fact that you couldn’t get these meals on the table in the time allotted). Both recipes I cooked at a considerable amount of prep work for chopping veggies and such. Plus anytime you’re cooking a new recipe, I think it takes a lot longer than what is suggested. At least it works out that way for me. I try to cook my experimental recipes on the weekends when I have more time!

  2. I think about trying one of these services every once in a while but really just to add some variety to our meals and, really, I could just finally go through all of the cookbooks I own and find many different ideas. I should do that. ;)

    • ME TOOOOOOOO. Why is this such a struggle? Sometimes I’ll pull the cookbooks out…but then they’ll just sit on my counter for weeks until I finally put them back. You’re not alone.

  3. Diane

    I loved the way you reviewed these meals and the service . The meals do sound and look good. But seem expensive considering the fact you still need to do all the prep work.

    These days, it’s just the 2 of us and we have several great restaurants where the 2 of us fine for about $40 with tip, we do this about 3 times a week and no prep time or clean up which is a huge plus.

    • Not having to prep or clean is definitely a huge consideration! For $10 a person, I don’t mind throwing containers in the trash but I don’t want to have to do dishes, too. ;) I think this service is great for those who really love the process of cooking.

  4. Kay

    I’m been considering trying Blue Apron. We’d do the 2-person route. For me, it would be nice for someone else to come up with the dinner ideas. I completely get into ruts and cook the same things over and over. And I’m not a very adventurous cook, nor a very skilled one. We do eat out on weekend nights usually and usually have at least one night and sometimes two when we each go our own ways for dinner because of meetings or whatnot. I’m glad to know about the food quality. I had wondered and also was curious how they would hold up if not cooked right away. Honestly, getting ‘fresh’ food ‘in the mail’, so to speak, is kind of weird for me. However, I might try it for a bit. Thanks for sharing this, Trish!

    • Honestly I was probably really pushing it when I cooked the chicken dish 9 days after delivery. But everything was great! I say give it a try–it was really fun and the dishes on the website all sounded really delicious. Just wish I had more adventurous eaters in the house (including my other half. LOL!). And I hear you on picking meals…for me that’s MOST of the battle!

  5. My husband and I started getting Blue Apron this spring with a free introductory offer, and we’ve continued the 2- person meals some this summer (I make liberal use of the “cancel this week’s order” button). Even though my 20-year-old son is home from college, we find that adding some more fruits and vegetables that we have around the house anyway makes the meals stretch for three, and they’re a nice change from the stuff we usually cook.

  6. Thanks for the wonderfully detailed post and I loved the photos! Reminds me that I totally dislike cookbooks with photos included. I would find Blue Apron a slice of heaven, but the cost makes it unattainable for my family. I’m confused though… I thought many of these foodie packs were to help busy working moms and career workers have a healthy, but easier, time of preparing their meals (not having to shop is a biggie). However, the food prep time and attention needed would not make this reasonable for say, a person who came home and needed a meal with little fuss. I don’t know, not knocking this at all, just not for me. I really enjoyed reading about your experience however– thanks, Trish!

    • Someone once told me that TV dinners were invented for feminists. Ha!! I really enjoyed the whole process–both the cooking and meal part–but you’re right that it isn’t great for people who just want to get dinner on the table in a hurry. I think it’s best for those who enjoy cooking new things and enjoy the actual cooking (and have the time to do it). And I’m with you–I NEED photos with my cookbooks! Even if my result never looks like the photograph. :)

  7. Jenny

    As yummy as these meals looked I’m far too lazy to cook anything that takes more than 20minutes to cook. And even then I usually opt out of cooking and go out. Like I said, lazy. Way to go for trying it. I have always wondered about programs like this. I didn’t expect the price though. Ouch!

  8. SarahBeth

    I’ve been thinking about Blue Apron myself because I tend to cook a lot of the same things too and I’m not an adventurous one at all, because I’m relatively new to the cooking thing. We also are a fan of leftovers and like to try to stretch them a bit further than just one meal.

    Out of curiosity, have you shared your fried rice recipe? If you have could you link me to it? And if you haven’t, uh, do you mind? ;)

    • I haven’t shared my fried rice recipe because it’s one of those that is different every time I cook it. I loosely follow this recipe: http://www.food.com/recipe/chinese-fried-rice-38748 I don’t add sesame oil because I don’t like it and I don’t measure out any of the ingredients. I use day old rice, skip the chicken (because we usually cook up porkballs to eat with it), and don’t add the green onions or bean sprouts. LOL! I add more carrot and peas than what the recipe says. So…just ignore what I’ve said here, try out the recipe and then change it to your taste. ;)

  9. One of our neighbors raved about this service but when I saw the price I was immediately turned off. There’s no way I would pay that knowing that my son would never eat any of it (we’re strongly in that chicken nuggets every night camp….) But I love how you shared this with us …. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll give it a whirl …. But not until the kiddos are out of the picky stage. I kept trying different meal plan services (like eMeals) where for a fee they send you a weeks worth of recipes and grocery lists. They weren’t expensive services,and the choices were nice and varied, but once again the pickiness factor set in. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that there’s a lot of chicken nuggets, spaghetti and tacos in my future!

    • The picky eater stage is the worst!! I’ve finally got Elle on board with tasting everything on her plate at least once, but now she’s into eating all of her meat with ketchup or ranch. This drives me CRAZY but hub has somehow encouraged it. Honestly, I think they give her ketchup and ranch at school because she learned it somewhere. Sigh. I’ve seen the recipe and grocery list services and they’re intriguing…but I think in the end we’d have to do too much customizing as well. Spaghetti and tacos are big favorites, here, too. ;)

  10. Ti

    My friends have been using Hello Fresh and the portions are much larger, enough for them to even pack some for lunch and they just do the 2 person plan. My main hangup is the same as yours. My Celiac and the fact that I could never get my kids to eat a mushroom or a scallion. Picky. Still.

  11. Great review. I had heard of Blue Apron by name but until you explained it, I didn’t know what the service included. The meals look good but I can shop for less than the expense you’d have mentioned. If you want it be adventurous now and again, grab a cookbook and see which ones may look too daunting or complicated. Try it and see, you never know.
    We don’t have little ones in the house anymore so that wouldn’t be my concern, but I get you on the considerations of the young palate.

  12. mae

    You have done a great job describing the reality of this “service.” I read one of Blue Apron’s infomercials once — quite a difference, obviously. I enjoy planning and shopping for food as well as cooking, so I would never consider this type of plan for a nanosecond, but I enjoyed your description very much.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  13. I loved reading about your Blue Apron experience! We got a week’s subscription for my son and his girlfriend for Christmas and they really enjoyed their meals. They are more adventurous when it comes to eating, so this was perfect for them.

  14. I was waiting to see what the cost was and agree that is way too high. We don’t eat dinner out very often, husband requires gluten free choices. I love to cook dinner and know that any home cook could do these meals for a lot less cost.

  15. I’m too involved in what I’m buying, based on what looks good, and pulling together our meals to want that kind of service, but can see where it would really benefit some folks. I get a lot of inspiration from various food blogs, books, etc. and enjoy trying new recipes.

  16. I’ve been tempted by this because I’m a subscription box addict (Birchbox, ipsy, Le Tote, FabFitFun) but the price has scared me off every time. I also didn’t see too many that my husband would enjoy and really I don’t mind cooking or grocery shopping. It does sound delicious but I don’t think it’s for me. You laid out the pros and cons and your experience really well and now I think I can finally stop being tempted by this and maybe find some other subscription to tempt me!

  17. Whenever I’ve checked these sorts of companies out I have always thought that the cost was just too high to be good value. If you already have a good range of spices and pantry basics at home, you only need to pick up the fresh ingredients. Have a great week. Cheers from Carole’s Chatter

  18. It’s funny that you posted this because I’ve done 3 weeks of Blue Apron myself and was actually going to post about my experiences, too! I’m going to quit doing it because my husband is just too picky and I’ve ended up feeling like it’s been a waste of money when he won’t eat that night’s meal. But. If I was married to someone who would eat whatever, I would LOVE the service. I haven’t found the meals too difficult to prep and cook (of course, no kids running around over here!) and everything I’ve made so far has been really good.

    • Yes! I would love to hear about your experiences and that meals that you received. UGH–men and their picky eating. The struggle is so real. Though I couldn’t have afforded it at the time, this would have been great when I was in college and learning how to cook with my roommates. I definitely think it’s best for people with an open mind for what they want to eat! :)

  19. I had no idea your husband has Oral Allergy Syndrome, Trish! I have it too. I rarely meet anyone who’s even heard of it before, everyone just gapes when I tell them I can’t eat raw fruits and veggies. Mine has been a *little bit* less bad as I’ve gotten older, and taking a daily allergy pill helps me too – I can eat a little bit of raw f & v before my mouth / throat starts to itch.

    Thank you for your thoughtful review of Blue Apron – you’ve confirmed many of my assumptions about it. It’s super tempting, but with my allergies and my husband’s somewhat picky eat habits, I’m not sure it’s flexible enough for us.

    • Oh I’m so sorry you have OAS, too! It really is so awful and people do look at you strangely when you try to explain it. Makes eating out frustrating and especially dining at other’s homes. I’m curious about your allergy pill–husband doesn’t take anything and hasn’t been to an allergist since college. I keep telling him that there have likely been some advances since then! And yes, lots of produce included…and I hear you about picky eating habits. Sigh.

      • I think there are various levels of OAS – some people’s is worse than others. Does your husband get an immediate and very serious reaction? For me, it usually took eating a lot of something to have a *serious* reaction. In my case, an allergy pill every day has allowed me to eat some raw fruits and veggies – in small to medium amounts. It’s been AMAZING to be able to eat some again. Sounds like it could definitely be worth him going to an allergist again – worth a shot. I’m going to go to a new allergist soon – one that was highly recommended by co-workers. I will let you know if I learn anything interesting about OAS!

  20. I have two (and maybe three) issues with Blue Apron and similar services: (1) the cost — I cook from-scratch meals almost every night for less money than that (though the prices are not outrageous). (2) I’m picky about my meats and produce — I spend a lot of time at the store or farmers market picking out the freshest, nicest-looking produce and I prefer non-hormone-filled meats and poultry. (3) I have mild food allergies and would likely be concerned with contamination. On the other hand, I like the idea for someone like my mom, who still loves to cook and has no allergies but who doesn’t get out to the grocery store as often as she used to. Thanks for satisfying my curiosity.

    • I’m trying to remember what the packaging on the pork and chicken noted. I believe the chicken was non-hormone, but I totally understand the desire to shop your own meat. I much prefer the chicken that I buy from the market to what they provided, but the veggies were all really great. And yes, definitely not great for those with allergies or food sensitivities. And unfortunately the prepackaged sauces did not list all of the ingredients…nor nutritional data (though calories were calculated per meal). I do think there is a market for these services, though! Obviously. ;)

  21. $35 for a meal for four is cheap compared to going out but way too expensive just to have the meals delivered and some of the prep work done ahead. But then I like to cook and experiment and shop for meals so I’m weird that way!

    • I don’t mind the prep work (chopping chopping chopping) as long as I can listen to my audiobook. LOL! Of course, these meals are basically impossible on the evenings when Scott is home late from work and the girls are wild and starving. Otherwise, I love to cook and experiment as well. Though I wouldn’t mind skipping the shopping part. ;)

  22. As much as I love the idea of this service, I cannot commit to it. I like the idea that you are introduced to different foods and flavors, but I doubt that any of these meals would feed a family of four adults without adding some of my own food to them – which defeats the purpose in my opinion. I’m still waiting for grocery delivery service in my little town. Then I can have the best of both worlds!