It started with ads on Hulu, rudely interrupting my hair + clothes porn (Nashville).  Then, Guy Raz kept mentioning it during the How I Built This podcast.  Finally, it showed up in my mailbox.  Dammit.  I finally caved and decided to give Blue Apron a spin.

If you’re not familiar (but I bet you are), it’s a service where you’re shipped a cooking kit - the exact amount of ingredients you need to cook a meal (or 4) from scratch.  Blue Apron isn’t the only game in town - it seems like a new iteration of the meal kit model is launched everyday.  But, being happy that they support NPR - and - succumbing to their marketing strategy, I picked Blue Apron to try this new way of getting dinner on the table.

How it went:

It took a few minutes to get my account set up online.  The following week, a box appeared on my doorstep in the mid-afternoon.

They assume that you have things like salt, pepper, olive oil, etc.  And a stove.

Unboxing the meal kit.

Unboxing the meal kit.

The Good

  • The recipe card is pretty, on thick card stock and just the right size to be 3-hole punched and put into a binder.

  • The first week we had it, I spent around $60 less at TJ’s than I normally do, and that’s been fairly consistent.  Overall, I saved money, which surprised me.

  • The 1st recipe was supposed to make 4 servings, but we got more for our family of 2 adults, 1 toddler and a 5-year-old.  There was enough left over for 1 good-sized lunch lunch for the toddler.  Sometimes there’s enough for me or the hubs to eat for lunch.

  • It takes some pressure off in terms of thinking of what to cook, and how.

  • There is way less food waste with this service vs. doing everything on my own.  No more gigantic jars of tahini and ghee sitting around until they’re 2 years past the used by date.

  • The instructions are organized in a way that you're the most efficient with your time, and everything is finished together.

  • There’s a remarkable difference in quality and flavor (and how you feel) when you make absolutely everything from scratch.

  • It doesn’t require a lot of fancy equipment (like a mandoline, ricer, food processor, etc.)

One thing you may like is the opportunity/obligation to try new things.

We’ve got a pretty strong food scene here in Cincinnati, but with kids I don't have time to drive around the city finding things like fregola sarda, quark, or Chinese steam buns.  Had that stuff not been delivered painlessly to my door, I would have never tried those recipes.  Because:

The "MEH"

  • The estimated prep time is off, even without kids in the mix.  For example, the meatloaf kit listed a prep time of 10 minutes and cook time of 45 minutes.  I started prepping/cooking around 5:45 pm and dinner wasn’t ready until 7.  I’m a good cook and know how to chop onions, etc., so it’s not that I’m slow.

  • An equipment run-down somewhere on the card would be helpful, then I could just get everything ready at once, instead of stopping to find things.

Hubs and I enjoyed all the fancy food.  The kids were unimpressed.

Hubs and I enjoyed all the fancy food.  The kids were unimpressed.

Taste test: Italian Meatloaf with cauliflower + fregola sarda

Hubs raved about it.  He said it was better than my meatloaf (I forgive him).  The kids were indifferent.  They didn’t hate it, they didn’t love it.  But they’re kind of that way about everything right now.  They’ll go for weeks wanting nothing that doesn't involve Nutella, then gobble down three bowls of lentil soup , eggs over easy, and roasted seaweed, then refuse to to eat mac n cheese, then try to trick their dad into giving them chocolate and bags of chips.  They’re unpredictable.

Something I love about Blue Apron’s recipes is that their beauty and goodness lie in their simplicity.  The meatloaf and its side dish were so simple, yet so good.  I’m not a huge meatloaf fan, but this was a nice and more flavorful take on it.  I wouldn’t have thought to put raisins in meatloaf, but it was good.  I also wouldn’t have thought to pair the cauliflower with the pasta, and probably would have over-complicated the flavors.  When I read the recipe, I was skeptical (no garlic? no crushed red pepper? NO PARMIGIANO???)  But after sauteing the cauliflower, then stirring in the fregola sarda (toasted pasta balls.  Haha - I said balls), marscapone, butter, and chopped parsley, I took a bite and was hooked.

After using it for several months…

I’m going to admit it: I’ve gotten really sick of it.  I’ve canceled deliveries for the next month, and will probably suspend my account for a while.  I’ve come to dread Blue Apron.  Why?  

It takes so damn long to make it.  

And I literally have two kids hanging on my while I’m trying to do it.  On Blue Apron night, I can count on standing in the kitchen for a good hour, or more.

Part of the reason I’m not digging it right now is because it’s summer, so we’re outside or at the pool as much as possible.  I’d much rather enjoy some perfect weather in exchange for eating sandwiches and veggies for dinner.

Bottom line

Is cooking with a Blue Apron kit fast and easy? No.

Do I enjoy it? Sometimes. I definitely enjoy the eating part.

Has it made my life easier overall? Somewhat.  On the brain-drain, stuck-in-a-rut end, yes.  On the "shit, the day's gotten away from me, I'm exhausted, what can I make that's really fast and easy" end, no way.

Is it a good value? Yes.

Will I continue this into the foreseeable future? I’ll probably start up again in the winter, when I’ve gotten over the excitement of fall soups, etc., and mealtime has become a source of entertainment because it's dark by friggin' 4:30, and cold.

What about you?  Do you use a meal kit service?  Which one?  Has it changed mealtime for good or for bad?

You might also like: 3-ingredient Italian Comfort (Authentic Pasta Alfredo) | Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

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