First, let’s review the facts:
– I really like to cook.
– But after a full day of work and baby wrangling, I don’t have a lot of energy left.
– I try to create a weekly meal plan and do all the grocery shopping in one fell swoop.
– Creating a weekly meal plan and doing all the grocery shopping in one fell swoop makes me feel like a cranky old fuddy-duddy. Like a MOM.
– Lately I’ve been stuck in a cooking rut, plodding along on well-worn path of chili, soup, pasta with broccoli, and other similar wholesome dishes that I am completely sick of.
After seeing rave reviews on social media, I decided to shake up my kitchen routine by trying out Blue Apron. This is a weekly meal delivery service that sends a refrigerated box containing pre-portioned ingredients, as well as illustrated recipe cards that tell you how to cook everything. My box contained three meals for two people, for $59.99. Please note, this is not a sponsored post—thanks to a friend’s reference, I got the first box free, but I wanted to give the service a fair shot, so I paid for the second week myself.
The first box arrived on Friday night. The ingredients for each meal were precisely measured and wrapped, but the produce was unwashed. I loved the healthy infusion of leafy vegetables, but lordy, there is nothing I hate more than washing and drying sandy greens. For five of the six meals, I faced the tedious task of rinsing and patting spinach, kale, or Bibb lettuce. (Yes, I considered skipping this step—I often buy pre-washed spinach or kale to save time—but an email from Blue Apron instructed me to “wash all fruits and vegetables before cooking.”)
Here’s what I made:
–Chile-blackened cod with epazote, avocado, and red rice salad (stated cooking time: 25-35 minutes; me: 50 minutes).
–Pan-seared chicken verjus with pearled barley and mushrooms à la Grècque (stated cooking time: 35-45 minutes; me: 1 hour, 20 minutes).
–Roasted Japanese sweet potatoes with miso-dressed spinach and candied cashews (pictured above) (stated cooking time: 25-35 minutes; me: 45 minutes).
–Lemon and black pepper shrimp with fresh linguine, and fava leaves (stated cooking time: 15-25 minutes; me: 45 minutes).
–Spiced turkey meatball pitas with sugar snap peas and Bibb lettuce salad (stated cooking time 25-35 minutes; me: 1 hour).
–Pan seared steaks with green peppercorn sauce, creamed spinach, and roasted fingerling potatoes (stated cooking time 25-35 minutes; me: 35 minutes — and only because I didn’t wash the spinach).
What I liked:
I enjoyed using new ingredients like white miso paste, red rice, epazote (a strong herb), fresh fava leaves, pickled green peppercorns, and the greatest flavor boost of all time, chicken or beef demi-glace (where can I buy this stuff, I want to mainline it).
I learned a few new techniques, like quick-candying cashews to add sweet crunch to salad. I also learned that two teaspoons of olive oil is enough to sauté almost anything.
I appreciated the partial break from meal planning and grocery shopping. I say “partial” because I try to cook at least five dinners a week, so I still had two nights to fill.
What I didn’t like:
The meals took way too much time to cook—especially for only two portions. I missed having leftovers for lunch the next day.
Sometimes the portions were too small. For example, the shrimp linguine meal offered only 3 oz of fresh pasta per person—we had to supplement with bread. After the turkey meatballs, my husband woke up hungry in middle of the night.
Though ingredients came pre-measured, I still had to wash the veg, peel and mince garlic and/or ginger, pluck herbs—e.g. all my least favorite kitchen tasks
Because the meals are designed for “quick” preparation, they’re limited to certain techniques. While the flavors and cuisines varied, every meal seemed to feature similar basic building blocks of sautéed fish or meat, boiled grain, roasted or sautéed veg. Also, the recipe instructions specify an awful lot of washing and reusing of the same sauté pan. I’m not sure if Blue Apron thinks its customers only own one pan? But if speed is the goal, it’s certainly faster to cook several items simultaneously.
To cancel the service, you have to send an email request and wait. Once I received Blue Apron’s response, the instructions were easy to follow, but the process could (should?) be more straightforward and easier to find on the website.
Would I sign up again?
Honestly, no. The meals took too long to prepare and produced too little food for the amount of time and money invested. This could be a good service for people who really don’t like (or know how) to cook, but for me it missed the mark. I may dislike meal planning, but it turns out I like my kitchen independence.