Blue Apron: A mixed box

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Spicy shrimp and cheesy grits.

I had been in one of my funks when I didn’t want to go grocery shopping, didn’t want to cook, didn’t want to think about food, or answer my own question of “what do you want to eat tonight?”.  As a result, I rarely had anything in my kitchen to cook and, more often than not, was eating out or eating junk.

That’s when I decided to give Blue Apron a try. The ads had been popping up on my Facebook news feed for quite some time and then I read a blog about a cynic who became a believer and with the blog was a trial offer of $9.95 for the first week. So, I decided that I had nothing to lose!

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Sloppy Joes and green bean salad.

I was pretty excited when my first box arrived! It was quite a wonderful thing to have everything needed to complete 3 distinct meals without having to leave my house, go to the grocery store, or think for one minute – “what will I have for dinner????”

In case my title didn’t give it away, I do, however, have mixed feelings about the service. I wouldn’t consider myself “won over” and, in fact, I’ll be canceling this week and giving some other options a try. HOWEVER, I do think it’s a good product and that some people would really enjoy it. So, I’m just going to break down what were, for me, the pros and cons of my own personal experience.

I’ll also insert here that I have not been compensated or even contacted in any way by Blue Apron or any other company – this is just my honest experience and opinion. Also, please note that my experience was with the “2-Person Plan”. As a single person, each meal cooked provided me with two meals to eat.

Website, membership and menu options

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Pork chops with sweet potato salad and spicy chow-chow.

The website is pretty user friendly and offers a good bit of information. Before signing up, I had seen a number of introductory offers out there. The one that I went for was $9.95 for the first week which includes 3 meals.

It is, of course, a subscription program. So you will continue to receive one box per week at the regular rate of $59.94 (for the 2-person plan), which includes every ingredient that you need for 3 complete meals.

They don’t really meet a lot of specific dietary needs or preferences, but do offer some options. You can choose to not have red meat, or to not have fish and seafood, or to not have meat, period.

While you can choose to change your menu selections week by week, your options are pretty limited and sometimes you can’t pick and choose quite as much as I would want to.

Things I love about it: You can choose to skip a week or weeks, you can cancel at any time, the website has useful tips on cooking the meal that week (didn’t use it, but it’s great for those who may need the extra help), no additional shipping charges.

The Box: delivery, ingredients and packaging

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I love getting the box.

I’m not a fan of grocery shopping, especially when I’m in one of my I-don’t-want-to-have-to-think-about-food-choices funks!

So having a box full of groceries delivered right to my front door with EVERY ingredient I need to fix 3 meals is a wonderful thing! (Note: you do need to have salt, pepper and olive oil on hand, but those are the only staples that you will ever need for a recipe that aren’t included in the box).

You can choose the day of the week that you would like to have your box delivered. I chose Wednesday because that was the earliest option and I am frequently away on weekends, so I wanted to be able to have my meals before going out of town.

I had three deliveries; all of which were on time and contained all the ingredients listed.

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The contents of the box which includes all the ingredients needed for 3 complete dishes and recipe cards.

The ice packs included in the box did keep the contents cold, but here in the summer, I would not have wanted it left on my front porch until 5 or 6 pm. I’m not sure the cold packs would have held up for that long in this kind of heat.

When I say that they send you everything you need to complete the recipe, I’m not kidding. Other than the olive oil and salt pepper, any oils, spices, condiments, rice, flour, meats or vegetables that you may need to complete the recipes are included in the box.

Everything is individually wrapped and labeled, so there is no confusion when it comes time to cook. For a single person who often finds herself having to buy an entire bunch of green onions or a whole head of cabbage just to fix something for one person, I really appreciated having exactly enough of each of the ingredients that I needed – no more, no less.

img_5807This, however, brings me to one of my biggest complaints. It’s not necessarily directed at Blue Apron specifically, and it comes part and parcel with the concept as a whole – there is a great deal of waste as a result of all the packaging.

Now, it’s true that much of it can be recycled, but living here in a rural area where recycling isn’t exactly convenient, it does add a further complication. It is, of course, just the other side of the coin – the convenience of having perfectly sized portioned ingredients shipped to your door!

 

 

Cooking: food prep, recipes and instructions

Before I get into reviewing the directions and recipes, I’ll just take a moment to explain my own culinary level of expertise… or lack of it… for comparative purposes.

I have been cooking for most of my life and, though I’m no chef, I am comfortable cookingimg_5799 for myself and others. However, I rarely follow a recipe and am not terribly fond of using them. My ADD and dyslexic brain do not do well following recipes and, frankly, it just takes all the fun out cooking. So, I usually just read through a few recipes if I’m fixing something I’ve never cooked before and then follow the concept more than actual directions.

So, I was a little concerned that I would have trouble with the recipes, but I didn’t. In part, because there was little measuring to do as the ingredients were shipped in perfect portions. The directions were also laid out very clearly and took me through each step of the process.

I didn’t encounter any complicated cooking processes, and though I’m pretty comfortable cooking, I think that most anyone who is able to boil water and saute an onion should be able to follow the directions and recipes provided and create an impressive meal.

img_5871If you have a skillet, nonstick pan, some mixing bowls, a few pots of varying sizes, a knife and cutting board; you should pretty much have what you need.

Most of the meals that I ate were tasty… which was good as I had to eat each meal twice! But there were a few of the side dishes that I wasn’t that thrilled with.

Meal prep and cooking seemed to take at least 40 minutes for everything that I cooked. That’s a bit longer than I really care to spend cooking most meals. On the plus side for me, I only had to cook once to have 2 meals. I also messed up more dishes in food prep than I usually do, so clean up also took a bit longer.

Conclusion and overall impressions

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Korean tacos…. insanely delicious!

Overall, I’ve enjoyed my Blue Apron experience. I think the price is quite reasonable and could easily save money if it is used to replace dining out at approximately $10 per meal. I can certainly shop and cook for less than that, but the convenience of having it shipped to my door makes up for a lot of that.

I prefer to buy my meats locally from producers who treat their animals humanely and feed them in a natural manner and without the use of antibiotic and growth hormones. I knew, of course, that I would be making a compromise on that point, so I don’t hold that against Blue Apron. They do seem to make an effort to buy sustainably produced meats and produce. But they do not have an organic option.

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Blackened chicken with zucchini rice and corn and tomatoes.

I’m a pretty adventurous eater and I enjoy trying new things. I was certainly exposed to a number of ingredients that I had never used before in my own cooking including: freekeh, bok choy, and Korean spices (which I now know that I love!). It was a nice change of pace to get some new options added to my repertoire.

All the ingredients were incredibly fresh, the produce tasted like it had been freshly picked. I would caution that if sesame oil is called for in any recipe that you not use the full amount that they call for. It’s been my experience that a very small amount of the oil goes a very long way and the two recipes I had that included it as an ingredient called for about one tablespoon (I’ve never used more than a few drops).

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Basque-style cod on a bed of freekeh.

I plan to give some other options a try. There are quite a few other companies out there providing a similar service and I’d like to see how they stack up against each other. There are also a couple of them that offer organic options, so I’m excited to see what those are like. I’ll be sharing my experience with those companies as well.

If you’ve used Blue Apron or any of the other services, please comment with your experiences below! I’d love to hear from you.

 

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Pan fried chicken over sauteed fennel and onion on a bed of mashed potatoes.

 

 

 

 

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