Meal kit delivery services are all the rage lately and are so ubiquitous, you’ve probably heard a lot about them. There are many delivery service options – PeachDish, HelloFresh, Plated, Blue Apron, Terra’s Kitchen, Chef’D, Purple Carrot, Home Chef, Green Chef, Sunbasket, Marley Spoon, Freshly, Veestro, Sakara, Pete’s Paleo. There are even local meal delivery options hitting the market in some areas too (in Boston we have Cuisine En Locale & Foodery).
For a while I didn’t pay much attention to these services. I love to cook, I know how to put recipes together, I have culinary skills, I didn’t think someone like me would benefit from a service like this. But then summer came and, for some reason, we usually hit a food rut in the summer. Whether it’s because turning on the stove seems onerous or we’d rather be out doing stuff than in the kitchen cooking or because we tend to eat lighter, uncooked meals in the summer – the thought began to occur to me that maybe a meal delivery service could be fun and get us out of the food rut.
Like us, you’ve probably heard a lot about Blue Apron since they were the first delivery service to hit the market. I polled friends and family and Blue Apron was well regarded and highly recommended. We got a code for a free week (if you want one, let me know – I have a bunch!) and signed up. I decided to write this post now because we’ve been doing Blue Apron for a few months now and have 6 weeks of meals under our belt.
Before I go any further in this post I just wanted to say that this review of Blue Apron is not sponsored; I am in no way paid, given freebies, or told to say anything in this post. I’m writing about Blue Apron because I purchased the subscription myself and want to share my findings in a candid and informative way.
I’ve broken down my review of our Blue Apron experience into seven areas: structure & cost, selection & usability, what you get, recipes, food quality, diversity, & value, eco-friendliness, and major takeaways.
1) Structure & Cost
Blue Apron is meal delivery service that comes to your home. It’s a box full of fresh ingredients that you cook yourself; it is not pre-assembled and not pre-cooked. Each meal comes with a recipe card full of instructions and all the ingredients needed to make the dish. Blue Apron only assumes you have olive oil, salt, pepper, and all the hardware needed (oven, stovetop, pans, pots, cooking utensils, etc).
Blue Apron has two meal plan options: the Two Person Plan and the Family Plan. The Two Person Plan (what we have) is one box per week that includes three recipes, each recipe makes 2 servings. It’s $60/week, or $10/meal per person. The Family Plan is one box per week that includes either two or four recipes (you choose), each recipe makes 4 servings. The two-recipe plan is $70/week and the four-recipe plan is $140/week, both totaling $8.75/meal per person. Shipping is free, you can skip weeks whenever you want, and you can cancel your subscription at any time.
2) Selection & Usability
Blue Apron has an app and website that are both extremely user friendly. Both offer a two month summary of your delivery schedule, giving you the option to skip weeks and pick your meal offerings. The app and website also keep track of your delivery history so you can refer back to what you’ve tried, rate recipes, and have an electronic copy of the recipe.
There is a full description of each week on both the app and website, including the recipes, ingredients, and wine pairings.
Blue Apron offers six meal options per week and, with the Two Person Plan, you can choose three. Menus are customized to dietary preferences too (eg. I like fish but not shrimp so we don’t see shrimp-based menus). There are some restrictions on the combinations – for example, the vegetarian options usually can’t be combined with meat options – but we’ve always found a balance that works for us.
One final note about the app – it’s full of video tutorials so you can learn new cooking techniques or just watch how a method or preparation is supposed to go before you do it yourself.
2) What You Get
Each week you’ll receive one box with the amount of food specified in your meal subscription plan. Inside the box is a thermal bag and cold packs, along with all of the ingredients in pre-portioned containers and bags.
Here are three examples of what one box of the Two Person Plan looks like (one box = 3 meals, 6 portions):
First things first, each box comes with a recipe card for each dish. The recipe cards are fully illustrated and written with very thorough instructions. In other words, if you can follow directions, you can totally make all of the recipes exactly how they should be made.
The recipes we’ve tried have been awesome so far. There have only been one or two that we didn’t love – that is to say, the majority have been delicious and only a few have been just ok. None of the recipes have been outright bad or disappointing.
Each recipe takes, on average, 40 minutes. The recipe cards give you precise times for each recipe (broken down into prep and cooking times) but they seem ambitious to me, and I know my way around the kitchen. The recipe cards also include serving size and calorie count information.
Here are some examples of recipes we’ve gotten and enjoyed:
BBQ Pork Burgers with Onion Rings and Corn on the Cob
Brown Butter Cod with Shishito Peppers, Corn, and Purple Potatoes
Fried Chicken, Kale Slaw, and Sweet Potato Wedges with Chili Honey
Ginger Pork Burgers with Furikake Green Beans and Black Bean Mayo
Crispy Cod, Summer Squash, and Quinoa & Arugula Salad
Grilled Goat Cheese and Plum Jam Sandwiches with Cucumber & Endive Salad
Fresh Papperdelle Pasta with Tomato Ragu
Sweet Corn & Tinkerbell Pepper Pizza with Baby Kale Salad
Porchetta Sandwiches with Baby Kale Pesto and Marinated Cucumber Salad
Roasted Pork with Summer Salsa and Zucchini-Scallion Rice
Seared Cod and Potato, Celery, and Radish Salad
Spicy Peperonata Pasta with Tinkerbell Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, and Pine Nuts
Summer Vegetable and Queso Tostadas with a Spicy Crema
Za’atr Chicken Burgers with Feta-Labneh Spread and Oven Fries
4) Food Quality, Diversity, and Value
The food quality has been excellent so far. Not only has everything arrived fresh and for the most part unscathed, the quality of ingredients is very high. Produce has been full flavor, meat has been savory and moist, and the fish has been extremely fresh. The fish is the best aspect of Blue Apron recipes I think – I never know what to do with fish on my own and these recipes have given me more confidence when it comes to fish.
The recipes have introduced a whole bunch of new ingredients into my life that I never would have tried before and didn’t even know I liked! (eg. furikake, labneh, za’atr, endive, cotija cheese, black bean paste, korean rice cakes, sambal, ricotta salata, lemongrass)
As you can see from the pictures above, the diversity of the recipes is terrific. Above shows 14 different meals of the 18 we’ve received and none of them are exact duplicates. We’ve had pasta, pizza, burgers, sandwiches, stir fry, pork, chicken, fish, vegetarian, asian, Italian, traditional American, Mexican, Greek, comfort food, one pan wonders, etc.
For the quality and value I would compare these meals to restaurant-quality dishes and find them to be above that standard. $10/per person per meal may seem high but I consider some of that cost being the investment in new recipes and new techniques. I also see it as covering some of the labor costs of going to the supermarket, buying ingredients, and portioning them out. And finally, a restaurant dish of this quality in Boston costs anywhere from $10-$40 so I consider these meals, at a per night cost level, to be well under what you’d spend eating out (though, likely over if you got the ingredients at the market yourself but again, I consider that drudgery part of the investment).
When Blue Apron first started one major criticism was of the excessive packing and the amount of trash associated with the boxes. They have taken steps to reduce this waste by making much of their packing recyclable and/or compostable. There are two recycling options: recycle at home with regular curbside recycling or, if that’s not available where you live, you can send the packing back to Blue Apron for free and they will recycle it for you. You can also always upcycle your Blue Apron packaging too!
Another part of Blue Apron’s eco-friendly mission is to develop a more sustainable food system including direct relationships with farmers, sustainable fishing, not using any products with added hormones or antibiotics, reducing food waste with thoughtful planning and portioning of meals, and the use of seasonal produce.
And finally, because all of the produce is whole and unprocessed, I feel good about composting our scraps as we normally would. Some meal services process all the food scraps for you, which is definitely convenient but I prefer to do it myself and compost the scraps.
6) Major Takeaways
I have three main overall takeaways from using Blue Apron:
- Blue Apron reignited my love for the basics. Many of the recipes build flavor with simple, every day ingredients like spices, fresh herbs, vinegar, shallots, and garlic. I realized I was skipping that foundation building in my cooking in the interest of time but it adds such rich depth to any recipe and is truly is a game changer, so should not be skipped.
- I learned some cool new cooking tricks! From making my own spicy crema for tacos to making my own quick-jams and quick-pickles to building a delicious pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes, it’s been fun to learn new techniques and new skills.
- Most importantly though, trying Blue Apron encouraged me to rethink the time I invest into meal planning. For so long we’ve meal prepped and planned on Sundays so that we don’t have to spend tons of time after work making dinner. I told myself that I didn’t have the time after work and couldn’t fit it in, and have ended up with marathon 4-5 hour long cooking sessions on Sundays. But the Blue Apron recipes never took more than an hour and finding that time between 5-6pm after work actually wasn’t hard. In fact, it actually helped me unwind from my day while spending time with John doing something fun together. I am really grateful to have learned that.
Overall, I am so happy with our Blue Apron experience and plan to continue using it. I may try other services to get a sense of how they compare but that would be purely out of curiosity. I hope this post has been helpful and do let me know if you want a free meal code from me, I’m happy to share!