Back in the fall, while listening to the “If I Were You,” a comedy podcast by College Humor alums Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld, I caught an ad for Blue Apron. For those uninitiated to subscription-based meal plans, basically you pay a certain amount of money for custom-designed meals to be delivered to your front door.
Initially, I laughed at the concept. I know how to cook. I also know how to shop for food. But as always, my curiosity got the better of me. That, and the $20 off the first order.
Here’s how it works:
- Once a week, Blue Apron puts together a menu of six dishes. Three of the meals are for carnivores, and the other three are for herbivores. You can choose either profile as your default, but you can also mix and match the meals you want, though the process is not perfect. You don’t have complete control over your menu all of the time.
- If none of the meals looks like they’re up your alley, you can skip the delivery for the week and pay nothing.
- After you pick the three meals you’d like delivered, they come the next week on whichever delivery day you chose. The ingredients come in a refrigerator bag with freezer packs, all inside a large cardboard box.
- Each ingredient is measured to the amount you will need per dish. So if you need three cloves of garlic for one meal, you get a bag or small container filled with three cloves of garlic. No excess ingredients, no leftovers.
- The meals also comes with recipe print outs, which explain the meal and give you some nutritional facts. On the back side, they show each ingredient as it is used, as you cook them, in a step by step guide complete with pictures if you’re a little lost.
That’s about it.
Cost v. Consumption
We pay $60 a week for this service. At first, Wife thought that was a little excessive and that we could save more buying the ingredients ourselves and following Blue Apron’s readily accessible recipes on their own website.
We tried this one week. We opted out and bought all of the ingredients for the three meals we were interested in. The price was within a dollar of Blue Apron.
There are a few things to consider though:
- When we shopped on our own, we bought store-brand items and things on sale. Blue Apron locally sources their ingredients, and most things are organic. So technically, if we shopped at the local grocery for organic, Blue Apron’s pricing would probably come out on top in that respect.
- As an aside, I can tell you all that organic, no matter where you get it, lasts days longer that the regular items. I’m no champion for this cause, but we’ve definitely noticed that the produce has a longer life in our home when it’s organic.
- While getting the exact amount of ingredients you need is convenient, in the long run, you are better off buying your groceries yourself. For example, if a recipe calls for 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, that’s what Blue Apron sends me. If I buy it on my own, I’m going to get a large box of breadcrumbs, which should last me for a long time. So when the recipe the next week calls for breadcrumbs, I don’t need to keep buying them. With Blue Apron, I’m paying $60 a week – PERIOD. Whether I need all of the ingredients or not.
Adventures in food
This week, we had catfish with a meyer lemon glaze & cracked frekeh. That was a Blue Apron meal that we chose on a whim. Without Blue Apron, I might never have discovered many of the ingredients we used. Frankly, I would need to have come across the recipe online or in a cookbook, and even then I wouldn’t have been able to find some of the ingredients.
What I’m saying is, Blue Apron (or any subscription service for that matter) is a great way to
expand your food profile try new stuff. Case and point: We LOVED a quesadilla the other week that had sugar, cheese and squash in it. That never would have happened, no matter what. Gordon Ramsay couldn’t sell me on that, and he’s my idol. But it was one of six options, it went with the rest of our selections, and we were already feeling adventurous enough to get outside of our comfort zones.
The family that cooks together
Wife and I have cooked a lot together since we started dating. But, no offense to her, I’ve always taken the lead on what we eat, how we cook it, etc. It’s not because she’s not capable. It’s because I did most of the shopping while she worked or I found the recipe that I wanted to try. Also, in most cases, I was home before she even left her office to come home.
With Blue Apron, we pick the meals together, do all of the prep together and split the cooking between us while hurrying the dogs out of the kitchen every two to three minutes. In a lot of ways, having everything laid out has us spending even more time together and has gotten us even closer than we were when we were just dating.
Now, when there’s a little sous chef running around the kitchen in the future, I don’t think we’re going to be feeding a kid “fresh gnocchi & maitake mushrooms with corn, thyme and browned butter” on a weekly basis. There will definitely be months where Blue Apron isn’t delivered even once. But I also look forward to a time when that same little sous chef is standing on a stool and shredding lettuce simply to help out and learn something. And if I can curb my daily kitchen frustrations and cursing, I’ll look forward to teaching that kid all I can.
You are what you eat
Nutritional value is a great deal of importance to me. I’m usually trying to lose weight or at least stay healthy or slim for racing season (March to November), and that isn’t easy. When you cook for yourself, you’re going to stay in your wheelhouse and/or buy the same things over and over again:
- “Bacon would go great with this.”
- “Do we have any cheese? I’ll just buy more. It won’t go to waste.”
- “I know how to make a cream sauce, so I’ll just do that.”
- “Screw it, we’re having pizza instead.”
Getting creative on your own in the grocer or in the kitchen is awesome, but you need to keep control over those things. If you can, bully for you. If not, a highlight to Blue Apron’s recipes is that most all meals are advertised at no more than 700 calories per serving, and I’ve found one serving to be plenty. They don’t all say no more than 700 calories either. Some say “around 600” or some even less. But the basic caloric intake is right there.
Good news and bad news on this one go hand in hand. I use My Fitness Pal to track my meals, weight, etc. When I import a Blue Apron recipe to their site, it isn’t always on track with what Blue Apron is telling me about calories. It’s almost always off. However, about 75% of the time for me, it’s either been in error importing the ingredient (which I can edit with the click of the mouse) or the calories are even lower than what Blue Apron advertised. I can honestly say, at no point in time, was any meal advertised at 700 calories, but was actually 800, 900 or over 1,000. So Blue Apron is wrong, but it’s usually in their favor.
Blue Apron gets a strong recommendation from me, simply because I think the pros far outweigh the cons. It’s become a staple in our kitchen, and I’d wager that we get deliveries two or three weeks out of four. And the reason we don’t order every week is simply because we’re busy and maybe not cooking three meals one week for whatever reason.
(As a nice bonus, I can tell you there have been weeks where we will get three meals delivered, will skip the following week’s delivery, and will keep one of the prior deliveries for that next week. The food is so fresh that it seriously lasts that long – though I would recommend freezing any proteins to avoid spoilage if you do this. Not a doctor, but not a total idiot. )
Do you use Blue Apron or another service? Love it? Had a bad experience? Leave a comment below!