Blue Apron Taught Me Some New Tricks

A friend gave me a free week of Blue Apron, a weekly cooking and grocery service that provides you with high quality produce, including seasonal ingredients directly from farms, importers and family-run purveyors, and easy instructions on how to use them. I like good food and I’m a good cook, so I decided to try it out.

How does Blue Apron work?

  • 20140205-223738.jpg

    Pork brats with caramelized red cabbage and roasted potatoes. I’m not a food photographer, but trust me, it was amazing.

    Start an account with Blue Apron.

  • Select the type of plan you want – meat and fish or vegetarian – and the number of people you will feed. Your weekly cost is determined by the number of mouths you feed, about $10 per person.
  • New menus are posted one week in advance.
  • Free delivery via FedEx.
  • You get all the fresh ingredients you’ll need to make 3 meals. Many of the ingredients are pre-measured, but NOT pre-prepared. You don’t have to be a gourmand, but you should be comfortable in the kitchen.
  • You will need salt, pepper, olive oil and basic cooking equipment like pots, pans, and a good knife.
  • You can cancel anytime before the weekly cutoff and/or skip a week if necessary.

The Arrival

Last Friday, a big box showed up on my porch full of high quality proteins and produce and other ingredients. This delivery included a salmon Caesar salad, brats with red cabbage and roasted potatoes, and a lovely pad Thai. Since I have a hungry teenager that likes to cook, we quickly unpacked the box — a large box packed down with ice coolers and insulation to keep the ingredients cool despite the shipping and weather conditions — and started on the brats, his choice.

The Food

Pad Thai with chicken and baby bok choi. Yum.

Pad Thai with chicken and baby bok choi. Yum.

They were delicious. The red cabbage, especially, seasoned with autumnal flavors like cinnamon and allspice, was great and new to me. A couple of times, the big kid put down his fork and kind of nodded his head like he had to grant his plate extra approval.

Like the brats, the pad Thai and Caesar salad were excellent, easy to prepare, and also quite pretty. The Caesar salad is something I make at home quite a bit, and this version was easier to prepare than my usual recipe and was just as good. The instructions are clear and detailed, printed on high quality card stock with color photographs of each major step.  The servings are also a healthy size, enough to feed my family, including one ravenous teenager, without any leftovers.

There is no bland food here. The flavor profiles are restaurant-quality, and they are spicy, exotic, and include ingredients I can’t easily get in central Indiana. Additionally, it gave me a few new tricks, like adding lemon or herbs or other aromatics to recipes I hadn’t considered before. These were welcome lessons that I’ve taken with me long past the length of my subscription.

Who is it for?

I could see this being a valuable service for busy professionals who like to cook, or for people who want to eat more home-cooked meals but who don’t like the process of meal-planning and grocery shopping. 

But the major drawback is the price. $10 a head for three meals a week is way more money than I spend buying my own groceries and planning my own meals. Because of the cost, I wish there was an option to receive only one or two meals a week.  And while some people hate leftovers, I love leftovers.

Over the years, I have cut so much fat out of my budget by cooking at home and eating the leftovers — legumes, y’all — for lunch at work the next day. Packing my next day’s lunch is part of my cooking routine. I love the Blue Apron cooking experience, but this cost in my budget is akin to eating out twice a week, and I still have to cook for myself the next day.

Looking at the packaging and the quality of the ingredients, however, I’m surprised that this service is only $10 a head. It’s very well done.

UPDATE (2016): I’ve tried most of the other comparable delivery services, and Blue Apron remains my favorite, hands-down.

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Lauren Bruce • February 6, 2014

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