I am on a quest to get out of a cooking rut. After the birth of my daughter we started living on a steady diet of takeout and the same three recipes so I set out in search of the holy grail of meal planning. Last week I tried out CookSmarts meal planning. This week I tried Blue Apron, a meal-kit service that provides ready-to-cook recipes and ingredients. I got the 2-meals-4-servings option, which retails for $69.92. I used a coupon for a free trial week.
On the flip side I was excited to make the samosa recipe, because searching the entire city for samosa wrappers would have taken me the better part of a day and probably still failed. Last time I tried to find an Indian grocery store I ended up at a bodega that sold mostly cigarettes (thanks, Google). The recipes were definitely outside of my normal habits, so if nothing else it was a good push to try new things.
Meal 1: English Pea and Potato Samosas
I made this recipe on Monday, and things got off to a rocky start.
Look, I’m not saying that freshly shelled peas aren’t better than frozen peas, I’m sure they are. So I bristled at the instruction, cursed when peas escaped and went flying across the room, but ultimately ended up with a thing of nice plump peas. I made the chutney, cooked the spinach, prepared the samosa filling, and by this point over an hour had passed. I’d told my 3 year old she could help with the samosas, and she kept very impatiently asking “why is it taking so long?” I also managed to dirty approximately every single bowl and utensil in the kitchen during the prep process.
Every step seemed to take longer than the last, and when the samosas/cauliflower were finally in the oven I thought “why did I make the chutney first? I could have just made it while everything baked.” But then I looked at the giant pile of dishes in the sink and spent the 15 minutes cleaning up instead.
An hour and forty-five minutes after I started we were finally ready to sit down and eat.
The samosas look pretty good, but were pretty bland. I should have added more salt/pepper. The chutney was great, the cauliflower was okay. What really bugs me though is how little protein is in this meal. You get a little from the peas, and some more in the cauliflower, but not much. The serving sizes are small and about half an hour after dinner I was raiding the fridge because I was still hungry.
After dinner I was exhausted from nearly two hours of cooking and cleaning. I collapsed into a heap with the baby (who of course was hungry by this point) while my husband Chris did the rest of the dishes.
Meal 2: Oven-Roasted Chicken and Mixed Mushrooms
Thankfully this meal went a lot more smoothly than the first. From start to finish it took one hour and 10 minutes, which includes 10 minutes of downtime while things roasted (used to clean the prep dishes and utensils).
The chicken came out crispy and the orange “salad” paired well with it. The collards were OK. Our local grocery store doesn’t have much in the way of “fancy” mushrooms so it was nice to try some varieties besides white button. I’m not sure it’s a recipe I’d make again though. Mostly I was relieved that cooking Tuesday’s dinner wasn’t another two hour marathon. I tried to follow the fancy plating instructions on the recipe card, but the sour cream really didn’t want to smear artfully along the side of the plate so I just blobbed it on. Once again I left the table feeling a little hungry.
Time and cost came to 2 hours 50 minutes and $70 for two meals, versus last week’s five hours and $60 for three meals. I knew Blue Apron would come out more expensive, since most of what they’re selling is convenience, but I didn’t expect the two to come so close in time-per-meal. I also really thought the meals would taste better. When doing my own grocery shopping there’s a lot of room for error in the quality of ingredients. Blue Apron provided all the ingredients here except for salt, pepper, and oil.
Originally I’d planned to try a bunch of different meal-kit services, but this week was irritating enough that I might just skip the others. I know many people love Blue Apron, friends of mine swear by it, and maybe this was just an off week for them. At $70 per week though I don’t have any patience for “off weeks.” I keep seeing photos on Instagram and Twitter of these gorgeous meals that people love. It makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong. As someone who has a reasonable well stocked kitchen, easy access to a grocery store, and limited cooking time I just don’t think Blue Apron is a good fit for me. I am willing to exchange the convenience of delivered food for more flexibility in my meals.
Anyone else try meal-making plans? How was your experience?