Hello Precious Readers!
For those following me on Facebook and Twitter, you might have heard hints that I tried the Blue bandwagon and tried Blue Apron (“BA”)for three months. This is a non-sponsored, unbiased review of my Blue Apron experience. My spousal life partner, Pilot and I tried this as a couple with no children. We have dogs, but they didn’t get any bites. Much. Pilot is a Beginner cook. For me, I’d say my skill set is Advanced. I can slice, dice, shave, spiralize, bake, cook, fry, steam, roast, grill, shuck, etc. I can make tomato roses, stacked level cakes, frittatas, prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner by myself, y’all. Recognize the skillz, yo. That’s right. Skillz. With a “Z.”) Below is based on our personal experience and is of my sole opinion.
Pilot and I are a couple on a limited budget. I was diddling around on Groupon, which I tend to do a lot. I was surprised to see a Groupon allowing the user 3 deliveries at a discounted price.
I had 2 coworkers who had standing BA deliveries and sang its praises over and over. I was skeptical, as Pilot and I like to eat. (Like to eat = eat more than 1 portion of food per person. As in 2.) Week after week, I’d watch as food was delivered to work before we close. This was surprising since I work in a school and our building closes at 3 pm. As in, no deliveries are made, no one can enter the building, the campus is basically sealed at 3 pm. I was impressed at the consistent delivery times and that the box was light enough for many to carry. I will say that one coworker who is 5’3 and weighs probably half of what I do could lift the box. I could lift it easily. I may be larger, but I’m “farm strong.”
I was a bit put off by the price ($55-65 per week!), but was reminded that the food is supposedly mostly prepped, the convenience of delivery and no headaches at the grocery store, and the preparation of ingredients being already portioned out with complete written and visual photographic instructions. With us both being in education, working full time, and me still expanding my global novel-writing network for world domination (mwahaha!) plan, eliminating an additional 1+ hour to my day to drive around and get groceries was tempting. Really, deliciously, joyfully tempting.
I can’t tell you how much I hate going to the grocery store. Most people are in a hurry, the parking is always atrocious with pedestrians and cars fighting for their right to exist between each other, and wayward shopping carts lurking around, waiting to ding the body of my beloved Cranberry. (For those who don’t know, I call my car “The Cranberry.”)
As I eyed that Groupon with the hunger of a thousand soldiers, and a dream in my heart of being grocery store-experience-free, I clicked on it and signed Pilot and I up for our adventure. To be fair, I probably shouldn’t have been looking at it before eating dinner.
Website (Ease of Use, Making Adjustments)
After completing the purchase on Groupon, I went to the BA website. It was simple, clean, efficient, and intuitive. I have to give BA some serious mad props for making their website user friendly.
There are two choices of meals: 2 meals per week, 3 meals per week. And, there are 2 options for deliveries. 2 portions per meal (single/couples), or 4 portions for meal (“family” sized). I went with the 2 portions choice. The websites shows you what your upcoming deliveries will contain. 1 delivery = 1 week’s worth of deliveries.
The website has you choose what proteins your prefer, or vegetarian. There are no real other questions such as dietary restrictions (dairy-free, diabetic/low-no-carb, gluten-free), so be aware of that.
A plus, is there are several tutorial videos that are also available on YouTube to assist those who have never cooked before.
This is where it gets weird.
I don’t remember upon initial signup if the website had me select the time of delivery, or if BA dictates it on its own. All I know is that despite the ease of interface use, the website will not let you change the general time you’d prefer of delivery. This is a problem.
I live in an apartment building where anything left on your doorstep is free reign of people coming to steal what’s there. Also, our leasing office closes by 6. So, if a delivery is made, it’s taken to our leasing office, and hope that you pick it up in time before it closes. That is more of a personal problem in relation to Pilot and my schedule. BA allows you to leave notes. We have a cabinet that “hides” things from our neighbors. We asked that if delivery was made to our door, to please place the box in our cabinet. We specified in the note that our area has a high theft rate. The cabinet would be large enough to hold the package, and keep the box from view. We also noted that we have dogs who get excitable if someone knocks or rings the bell, and to please give us time to put our dogs away after knocking/ringing the bell.
Here’s the thing… BA allows you to track your box. I could see that it was in Bellingham, WA and making its way to our home 1.5 hrs away. I was notified the package had left Bellingham around 8:30am.
Unlike my coworkers whose deliveries showed up at around 2:30pm consistently each week, our first delivery showed up at 8:30pm (12 HOURS LATER) and delivered it to our door. Keep in mind, Bellingham is not that far away from us. How did 1.5 hours turn into 12 hours? If they had other deliveries, I understand, but even our standard USPS delivery to our apartment comes by at 11am each day. The messenger knocked on the door, dumped off the box on the porch and left. To be fair, it’s via USPS, not a special BA delivery. Not in the cabinet, not to our hands, even though we called out, “Just a moment!” Nope. Dumped on the ground.
Second delivery went to our landlord at 5:45pm, I didn’t receive the notification until 6:30pm that it had been delivered, and I didn’t get to the leasing office in time. It was closed and we had to pick up the box the next afternoon. Luckily, the food was still cold, but I’ll get to packaging later.
Third delivery was at 7:30 pm, back on our porch. Not in the cabinet.
Inconsistent, didn’t follow instructions, and quite the hassle. I spent much of each day worrying about the status of my box. And yes, I know how that sounds.
There has been much controversy over the packaging of products for BA. And I can understand the frustration. In Washington, we’re conscientious of our Earth and believe in recycling and biodegradable packaging. I will say that although the packaging is recyclable, it’s not easily recyclable. BA offers to recycle the packaging for you, but you have to mail it back in. As someone who does my best to watch my carbon footprint, it was disconcerting that I’d have to deal with finding a method of mailing everything back to BA, plus all of the transportation costs and damage that transporting via truck would do.
One of the most surprising things about the packaging was BA’s determination of what would receive packaging, and what wouldn’t. The image above is an example. Note the lemons and potato, wild and free. Then, note the carrot, trapped and suffocating. The single. Lone. Carrot. In a sealed bag. You’re not dreaming, it truly is not peeled, sliced, shaved, julienned, or anything. It’s raw and unpeeled. A single carrot in a sealed bag.
I don’t know about you, but this makes no sense to me.
All of the products are sealed in a silvery bubble bag that keeps it insulated. In the base of the box, are 2 large flat rectangular ice packs that separate the protein(s) from the rest of the products. The protein(s) are sandwiched between these ice packs. I am grateful for the ice packs. They kept the protein and veggies at a safe temperature for 24 hours, although I was nervous about using the proteins for it.
The packaging is recyclable, and luckily our apartment complex has recycling bins. If you don’t recycle, the BA process of sending back packaging doesn’t inspire recycling to me. And I want to inspire you to recycle. Help a planet out, bro.
Quality of Food
Food quality was good… if you do it right. The packaged greens would spoil quickly if you waited. I would suggest airing out the greens and placing them in a bag with paper towels to keep the humidity high, but not rot the veggies faster.
The products are of good quality. Having said that…
Cooking (Ease of Instructions, Prep Time/Work)
So, let’s get to the cooking shall we?
When spending $55-65 dollars per week for a “prepackaged” set of meals, I was surprised at the “rawness” of the food. I was hoping this method of food preparation would be a time saver. Instead, I was surprised at the amount of prep work each meal required. Washing, peeling, chopping, slicing, shaving, etc. Also, since many dishes were new to me, it took longer to make sure that I was following instructions correctly.
If you count the prep and chopping time of produce, discarding the packaging, and timing the dishes to complete on time, I was in the kitchen far longer than on an average night. I am a slow cooker fanatic. This process reminded me why.
I was spending far more time in the kitchen than I wanted to on a work night. For the price, I would’ve hoped the produce would’ve been fully prepped already. I was looking for “throw together,” not “cook from scratch.” I think this can be a misconception about their products.
Also, nearly every single instruction started out with “add 2 tbsp of olive oil / salt.” Even advanced cooks know that although thoroughly seasoning is important, even these instructions were heavy handed with the salt. The first week I found my food drowning in olive oil. You don’t have to follow the instructions verbatim, and should adjust to your needs… but you would think a professional cooking service would know when to season and when it’s beyond what’s needed. For a business that advertises being “fresh and healthy,” this contradicted their motto.
Flavor and Portions
Flavor gets 5 stars from me. The recipes are unique ranging from tangy, to spicy, to savory, to rich and decadent, to light and fresh. The variation in origins of food did open up my world to more ingredients… however, not all of the ingredients provided by BA are ingredients easily found at my local grocery store. No offense, but Whole Foods is way beyond our price range.
I looked forward to BA being able to mix up our daily food selections, but I found the recipes to be so exotic that not all ingredients would be easily found on weekly/monthly basis without visiting multiple stores. I think that’s where the convenience of delivery is strong… but the recipes fall short.
Portions are a completely different ball game. As mentioned earlier, Pilot and I selected the 2-person meals plan for 3 meals per week. For our stomach’s sake, we should’ve sprung for the “Family Size” portions. But, that requires more money, and we frankly couldn’t afford that. After cooking each meal (again, sometimes spending upwards to 1.25 hours in the kitchen), we’d finish our meal, look at each other and go, “Okay, that was a great snack. Now what do you want for dinner?” Sometimes I’d cook 2 BA meals in 1 evening, (even more time in the kitchen) to satisfy our hunger.
Remember the Lone Carrot? Yeah, keep that in mind when cooking for 2 people. There are no leftovers.
I repeat: There are no leftovers.
Price – Is it worth it? Meh.
After the Groupon expired, I’ll admit, I kept with it. Pilot and I stuck with BA for THREE MONTHS. I’d say that should be considered giving it a solid try. Did I want more food? Yes. Did I want to pay an addition $10-15 each week for more food that I’d still probably be hungry for, and only provided dinner 3/7 nights? No.
I’ve made dinners that have lasted 4 nights over for less per week than BA cost, and without the anxiety over the delivery. Do I hate the grocery store? Yes. Do I like having groceries ready in my kitchen when I want them? Yes. I am willing to sacrifice time once per week (we have a small refrigerator) to ensure I can make home cooked meals that last longer than 5 minutes? Yes.
I’ll just continue to go to the grocery store at 10pm when there’s no crowds for the rest of my life.
Pros / Cons
If you are someone on the go who wants to cook often from scratch, doesn’t like leftovers, (AND has access to a recycling bin), this will work for you.
If you like having leftovers to stretch out that pricey meal, this isn’t going to work.
PROS: Fresh ingredients. Exposure to new cultures and flavors. Perfectly portioned for those who don’t eat much. (Make sure you have snacks handy.) Delivery to your door is a nice feature (if the delivery service is consistent and works for your schedule, and they’re reliable messengers.)
CONS: You’re cooking from scratch. Not for busy people. Price per meal is high considering what you could plan for at the grocery store. If you have a family of 5+, they don’t make a meal plan for you. You still have to cook 4/7 nights. This is just for dinner, no other meal times.
VERDICT: Was fun for awhile, but not for me.
Have you ever tried a home delivery meal service?
Do you like Blue Apron?
Do you prefer a different service?
Do you have dietary needs, and do you feel services like these meet your needs?