I tried Blue Apron… and hated it

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Blue Apron Samosa Meal
Blue Apron’s samosa meal.

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.

Thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign there are literally hundreds of Blue Apron “unboxing” posts and videos, so we can skip past most of that (google it if you’re interested). One thing that did drive me nuts was pulling out items that I already have in my kitchen. Garlic, baby spinach, oranges, honey, red wine vinegar… all those things are already in my fridge/pantry threatening to rot if I don’t use them soon. And now I have more.  The real kicker was the recipe that came with a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, since I have a TON of those leftover from last week’s meals.

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.

English Peas from Blue Apron
“Shell the peas,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.

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.

Blue Apron Samosa Meal
Samosas, Cauliflower, and Chutney

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.

Crispy chicken with oranges, collards, and mushrooms
Crispy chicken with oranges, collards, and mushrooms

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.

One of the biggest headaches of Blue Apron is the week lead time needed to change or cancel your meals. I don’t always know what I’m doing a week in advance. Mostly though I was just really frustrated with the time-to-deliciousness ratio. It wasn’t any cheaper than ordering takeout, but it was considerably more labor intensive. Not only that but I left both meals feeling hungry.

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?

Comments on I tried Blue Apron… and hated it

  1. We get Blue Apron. I hate the wastefulness of the packaging, and it takes FOREVER to cook the damn things, but here are the reasons why we continue:

    ~My husband and I both HATE cooking, and this at least takes away some of the more irritating steps (going to the grocery store, only using a little bit of something and then it goes bad, making sure you have the right things for a recipe)
    ~Did I mention we loathe going to the grocery store? Aside from the occasional run for milk and wine, we don’t have to grocery shop, like, at all
    ~Could I buy fresh ingredients and DIY for cheaper? Absolutely. Is this something I ever have realistically done, despite my best efforts? Not a f**ing chance. I hate cooking and I hate shopping for food, so I still eat like a damn college student (hello Costco collection of Lean Cuisines) when left to fend for myself
    ~Although I have been struggling to give up all meat, we no longer cook meat at home, and it’s largely possible because Blue Apron’s vegetarian option gives us things to make that aren’t grilled cheese or spaghetti without meatballs, and I don’t have to worry about sneaky meat coming in.
    ~We got a ton of cool kitchen tools for our wedding and now we actually get to use a lot of them, plus it’s teaching us how to cook and be more efficient at things that take forever like chopping vegetables or frying stuff or whatever.

    I hear from a lot of people (not a jab at anyone who’s commented on this thread; I get this IRL) “Oh I could make that cheaper” “why wouldn’t you just go buy the ingredients yourself?” etc, and to those people I say: good for you that the process of planning a meal, going to the grocery store, figuring out what to buy and how much, measuring the ingredients, cooking the thing, and dealing with leftover half bags of whatever you didn’t use all up doesn’t make you stabby. I wish I had that kind of patience. And until I do, I’d rather stick with Blue Apron despite its cons.

    • You may want to look into a grocery shopping service. There are apps for that, and it should be pretty easy to find something local to you. It may or may not be right for you, but if you’re willing to spend more for food to get it delivered, it can’t hurt to check out a few sites. I absolutely love grocery shopping, so it’s something I’ve looked into from the employment side.

  2. Blue Apron is only in the US. I’ve used similar meal packaging companies (Hello Fresh, MarleySpoon).

    For me, we weren’t always happy with HelloFresh. There was low quality produce, odd packaging. We do like the other service. Yes, it has a lot of packaging. Yes, it can take a long time/be complicated. The convenience for me out weighs many of the complaints. It saves me (as a person with a chronic illness) from going to the grocery store daily.

    What saves me time? Actually reading the recipes prior to starting cooking. I usually do this as I’m selecting for the week. It’s the same thing I did when using pinterest. I’m now saving time/energy and also wasting less food.

  3. Boggling at the time this takes. My other half makes samosas from scratch(Madhur Jaffrey’s), including pastry when he’s feeling keen, and they don’t take that long. Though he’s not shelling peas, which helps.

    I’ve been tempted by this sort of thing before, though a lot of UK ones are focused on weightloss. At the end of the day, though, I walk past a couple of supermarkets on the way home from work, so it’s pretty easy to top up shop for whatever we’ve got at home. Monday we had leftovers from sunday roast, so I grabbed some extra veg and made stew. Tuesday I used the leftover leeks from the stew for bangers, mash and cheesy leeks, and yesterday we had the leftover sausages with tinned tomatoes on pasta. I know we’ve got one leek, some carrots, parsley, coriander (cilantro) potatoes and bacon, so we’ll probably have some sort of bastardised tartiflette (creamy potatoes and funny smelling cheese!). We’ve had enough leftovers each day to do me at work, too.

    Is online food shopping less of a thing in America? A lot of recipe sites here link to online supermarkets in the UK, so you can meal plan for the week, and then get all the ingredients transferred to the online shop and tweak it there before ordering.

  4. My main issue with Blue Apron was that there wasn’t quite enough food for us! When we were receiving the boxes, our family consisted of myself, my husband and our son who had just turned one. My husband and myself and fairly hearty eaters (and so is my son, for a one-year old) and we had enough for dinner, but just barely. There were never any leftovers. With another boy on the way now (and our son getting older and eating more and more all the time!), we would definitely have to upgrade to the larger boxes, which adds so much cost.

  5. It seems like the author isn’t the ideal consumer for Blue Apron, rather than that the service is just bad. Blue Apron is more for people that want to spend time cooking, but don’t have time to meal plan and shop, and the author said that she’s the exact opposite of that. I’ve been doing Blue Apron for a few weeks now and I love it, because I enjoy cooking and trying new things, but getting to the store to buy ingredients is often a bit too much to fit into my busy day.

  6. Blue Apron or similar servicesmis not yet available at my country (yet I think), but recently I bought 2-minute meal planning ebooks pack from Jules Clancy (stonesoup). You have to do shopping, but it has quite funand simple meal planning system and many template recipes. I use it for 2 weeks now, cooking is fun again (like in these cooking shows and mystery boxes things), meals are ok or delicious, often with leftovers and we waste less. So it works for me, maybe it will for you?

  7. We enjoyed Blue Apron during the winter. As a couple we enjoy cooking together. We bought the glass stacking bowls to put the prepped food in, just like in their pictures and it made a huge difference in the amount of time when it came to actual cook. We were able to do everything within the time frames on the recipe cards. I don’t like spicy and he does so we can cook some things separately to accommodate our tastes. We never eat our leftovers so we are happy to not have any stinking up the fridge. The amount of food is what you are supposed to eat, and there isn’t any food for seconds, so it is helping us eat healthier. The amount of packaging is a pain. But it is to keep the food safe and meats cold. Just a pain to recycle. Small price to pay for fresh products, not having to find the ingredients in multiple stores, entertainment and doing something together as a couple during the winter nights. We also have beefed up our cooking techniques. We will cut back during the spring and summer when we can go out more.

  8. I wanted to try this, but figured it would probably take more time than I wanted to spend on meals. Pl;us, all that packaging x.x

    I decided to just go on another Whole30 and do my meal prep and all that veggie chopping on Sunday of each week. Very little cooking is needed during the week and the kitchen stays neater (I hate cleaning it multiple times a day!).

  9. We are subscribed to a local meal delivery service (Vancouver, Canada) and I love it. It’s $60 for 3 meals for the two of us – so more expensive than groceries but way cheaper than what we would be spending on takeout.

    My favourite part is that they do all the prep for you – all veggies are cut, garlic minced, etc. From start to finish pretty much all the meals take under 30 minutes.

    One issue I’ve found though is dealing with my partner’s allergies – he is celiac and has a shellfish allergy and sometimes things won’t be labelled correctly online when I’m ordering which means we have to sub things on/out our only I’m able to eat certain things.

    Overall though very positive experience with it – I’d recommend this type of service to anyone that enjoys cooking, but struggles with grocery shopping and meal planning.

  10. I like the idea of encouraging people to enjoy and become confident with cooking, but unfortunately the packaging is wasteful…the carbon footprint is high considering everything ships from only two distribution centers…food is not local… and of course the lack of vegan options signals a lack of care for animal lives…

    Here’s my review on Blue Apron from an animal rights and environmental activist point of view.

  11. Ugh! I just completed fixing a Blue Apron meal. I am pretty tired and my kitchen is a mess. What I made was ok.
    I might just start doing take out. Easier and lot less frustrating. I get Hello Fresh Tuesday I am going to see How that goes.

  12. What are your 3 goto meals?

    Last night I did Steak (single piece of flatiron for $10 feeds 4 of us, you could do flank, or NY or Rib Eye depending on what you like), 2 baked potatoes (we each eat half a baker) with butter and sour cream (if you feel adventurous chives and bacon bits), steamed cauliflower (you could roast, I did a cheese sauce which might be more than your comfortable with, but my MIL just puts a little shredded cheddar on the hot cauliflower and it works just as well). Sliced tomato, basil and fresh motz cheese from costco with a drizzle of EVOO, balsamic and S&P. I can knock that meal off in an hour easy. Roast a chicken, roast baby carrots and cook some uncle Ben’s, that’s maybe 45 mins. Just chicken breasts and its under 30 mins, Lots of options. don’t overthink it. Protein, starch, veg. find 4 or 5 of each that the family like and rotate them around.

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