Two of my favorite pastimes before I had a baby were searching for new recipes and then cooking them up for the two of us. Nowadays? Um. Let’s just say that we eat a lot — a lot — of BLTs.
Thing is, the cooking itself is not so much the issue. It’s the lead-up to the cooking — the planning, the shopping, the prep time and the motivating. It’s just a rare weeknight anymore that all those things line up. Recently, though, a friend raved over her subscription to Blue Apron, and it sounded like a perfect fix: The year-and-a-half-old grocery delivery service builds each delivery around specific recipes, sending the exact (pre-measured!) ingredients needed for three recipes, all delivered to your front door. In short: You get to cook new recipes, but you don’t have to do any of the planning or legwork.
I’d heard of these types of services before, of course — Ash has, in fact, raved over Fresh Direct’s meal kits — but had never tried any. I figured it at this point that it was worth a shot, especially since Blue Apron has a reputation for being one of the more cooking-focused services of its kind.
As it turned out, it was totally worth the shot. The recipes — mostly fairly simple, all relatively healthful — have successfully broken our winter-long streak of sandwiches and stews. And it feels pretty good to ease back into some of my better kitchen habits without having to do quite as much work to get there.
But there’s more to know about Blue Apron … so here’s the whole scoop.
The logistics: You sign up with a credit card and your address; then you note if you have any dietary preferences, aversions, allergies and etc.; then you choose how many people you’re cooking for (between two and six) as well as the day you’d like your food delivered. You can check online to see what’s for supper any given week, and you can also choose to skip as many weeks as you’d like, so you’re not locked in. (You just have to be sure to cancel at least six days before your scheduled delivery.) The food arrives in a refrigerated box, everything pre-measured and sorted; included are three easy-to-read recipe cards and a short letter about what you’re cooking. It’s all quite tidy and efficient.
The cost: It’s $9.99 to sign up, and then each meal runs about $10 per person, per meal. (So for three meals a week, we’re charged $60.) Admittedly, 60 bucks for three meals isn’t the thriftiest meal plan I could design, but the quality of the ingredients is very good, and we have enjoyed leftovers with every meal, so I’d say the $60 usually covers three meals and two or three lunches, too. Plus, because you can skip weeks at will, we’re not locked into spending $60 every week … just on the occasions when we feel we can build that into our grocery budget. (And anyway, what parent doesn’t sometimes shell out a few extra bucks for the convenience factor?)
The recipes: Very solid overall, and pretty nutritionally balanced. And they’re diverse, and mostly interesting: It’s a delight to again be cooking things like blood orange salmon (on a salad of cucumber and chickpea) or fennel-rubbed pork tenderloin with mustard greens and Japonica black rice. Recipes are designed to take about a half hour to make: I find that they take me a little closer to 40 minutes. Still … not bad.
The perks: Blue Apron’s meals range between 500 and 700 calories a serving (which makes portion control one less thing I have to think about), and they also source “as much as possible” from local, sustainable suppliers. The delivery materials are biodegradable, and they donate extra food to City Harvest food bank. The sign-up and schedule-making are super easy. And you can cancel whenever you want, so commitment is pretty minimal.
The drawbacks: If you have very serious food allergies, they recommend that you not try their service. A few of the recipes have used multiple (like, more than three) pots and pans, which is lot of clean-up for a one-pot sort of girl. And biodegradable or no, I do feel a bit guilty about the packaging, as it creates more waste than our re-usable grocery bags.
Get to the point already: Blue Apron has, all-in-all, been a pretty satisfying experiment. I think it’s worth the sign-up, especially if you like making and eating new recipes on a regular basis. Not so long ago, the New York Times quoted a user who said she felt “infantalized” by the pre-measured ingredients, and indeed, maybe very experienced chefs would find this all banal and limiting. But after a long day of momming and working? I just find it super convenient and fun … and a welcome change to our supper lineups.
Meets the Wee standards: