Reviews of products sold at expos and more by an average runner. Make me your guinea pig!
This post slightly breaks the rules of my blog. I did not, in fact, sign up for Blue Apron at a race expo. Instead, it began as a conversation with another runner. She raved about their freshness, tastiness of the meals, and how it cut down her trips to the grocery store. Here’s where I test out a Blue Apron subscription to see how it fits into my life as a runner and a teacher.
For those of you who are totally unfamiliar with the new trend of curated meals, Blue Apron is one of several companies in recent years who employ gourmet chefs to design tasty meals whose ingredients can be shipped in a box efficiently and which are easy enough for folks with little experience to cook. Sounds like a tall order? It’s pretty impressive from my perspective.
Signing up on the web site was easy. I managed to find an offer to give me a trial box free. If you know someone who subscribes to the service, ask them for a referral. They will have a limited number of codes to pass along to friends for you to try it yourself.
Blue Apron offered my 6 possible meal choices. I had to settle on 3. At the time of my test, Blue Apron offered meal options for 2 people or a family. I chose 2 people reasoning that I would just have leftovers and stretch my 3 meals to 6.
As I moused over some meal options, others became unavailable. I would imagine this is because their ingredients could not be shipped together due to space or cost. No matter, I found a combination of 2 meals I knew I’d like and 1 that was a bit of a stretch for my tastes. I tend to survive by expertly heating bags of Trader Joe’s meals, so the thought of a dinner that took more steps than 1) Open bag. 2) Microwave sauce packets. 3) Heat bag contents on stove. was intimidating.
The web site prompted me to select which day of the week I’d like to receive my shipment. I chose a Saturday so that the food would spend the least amount of time in the possibly warm sunshine and I wouldn’t have the pressure of cooking a complicated dinner on a work night.
The box arrived on my doorstep on the designated day. Yay! Great, so far. Wow, was it heavy though!
Opening up the box showed me the silver mylar material of a cooler bag. The box carries a notice that the contents are recyclable. As I opened the cooler bag, I noticed a distinctly cool puff of air on my hands, so it was definitely doing its job. I found the recipe cards right on top. They’re colorful and coated with a plastic lamination. I imagine that’ll be helpful later to prevent a spill from obliterating my instructions.
Inside the ingredients were packed much like a trip to the grocery store, with heavier items on the bottom and more delicate items on top. Everything was packaged well; no broken containers or leaking liquids! There were 3 small, brown bags. Each brown bag has a sticker to label which meal it belongs to, so you can’t accidentally mix them up.
Beneath the produce was a layer of ice block. If you lift up the ice, you’ll find whatever meats are included for your recipes. There’s one more ice layer at the bottom of the box, but I’ll leave those in the box for now.
The first piece of advice I would give based on my trial and error is to follow the prep instructions as they are laid out on the recipe cards. It was much more helpful to chop, slice, grate, or peel everything in advance so that I could just dump things in as needed.
As you can see, my kitchen is short on counter space. I began putting ingredients in small Tupperware containers and stacking them off to the side.
The Blue Apron web site advertises that each recipe should take under an hour to prepare. I’m a little slow on the prep side and tentative on cooking, so I think my first meal took slightly longer.
My first meal was seared barramundi with collard greens, fregola sarda, and shallot agrodolce . Basically, that was a white fish that tasted similar to tilapia but with firmer texture, collard greens, grain mix, and tangy sauce made with shallots and golden raisins. It was ridiculously tasty and definitely provided enough for leftovers the next day.
Overall, I’m not sure this service is quite worth $60 per week. The food was fresh, the vegetables were tasty, and the recipe instructions were clear. However, it’s still a bit pricey. What’s difficult to put a price on is confidence and stretching my comfort zone. I impressed myself with my food. It didn’t come out perfectly; the grains were slightly under cooked and I seared the fish close to scorching in a few spots. I did love the fact that I never would have even attempted it without this service, though. I previously would have just assumed that it was too advanced for me. I’m also not especially fond of the cooking time I need to invest every other day. I’m more comfortable with heating something bought at Trader Joe’s.
I’ve decided to continue ordering Blue Apron deliveries about once per month to build a new cooking comfort zone for myself. I’m not quite ready to budget $240 per month for just 6 dinners per week. I also found it tricky to carve out time on an ongoing basis to make the meals from scratch, go for a run or workout, and have time to grade tests. I did like the fact that my meal was made from scratch, or close to it. I felt that I was doing a good thing for my body during my test week.
Yeah … still not a fan of the $60 per week price tag, though.