EAT: BLUE APRON (National)

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No doubt you’ve heard of BLUE APRON. Founded in 2012, Blue Apron is probably the best known “ingredients delivered, prepared by you” services. In the four years since the New York-based startup starting delivering meals there has been an explosion of competitors–Plated, Marley Spoon and Hello Fresh, just to name a few.

Two years ago, I jumped on the Blue Apron bandwagon when I saw shipments arrive for multiple colleagues. I figured they must be on to something. Back then, the six portions were too much for me to manage. On the evenings when we probably did have enough time to cook from scratch, we found ourselves dashing out for a quick bite or having food delivered. I kept the boxes going for a while, telling myself it was a nice way to make extra portions for lunch. My refrigerator filled up with spoiled produce.

While the service does allow you to skip meals individually– you must log in and select one delivery at a time and opt to skip–it does not allow you to suspend or freeze your membership. Want to take a month off? You’ll need to select each week and skip each delivery. Eventually I cancelled my membership because it was too much work to log in and keep skipping deliveries.

But, 2016 is a new year. And, over the past several months I’ve been cooking a lot more often. The market has also exploded–look for follow up posts where I try different ones–and I found myself lured back by the promise of easily prepared home cooked meals. I figured I’d start back at the beginning and revisit Blue Apron. The basic rules haven’t changed–sign up for recurring deliveries; edit your menu before a specified cut off date; produce and ingredients are packed with frozen gel packs inside an insulated box. Everything needed to prepare the meal is included in the box. The only ingredients customers need to provide are oil, salt and pepper.

Blue Apron offers two types of plans: a 2-person plan and a family plan. The two-person plan serves up three meals for two people. That means the minimum you can order is six portions. (See their pricing page for details.) Like other plans, Blue Apron discount/referral codes are easily found on the internet, allowing new customers to try their first box at a discounted price. The 2-person, 3 meals per week plan we tried breaks down to $9.99 per meal.

All the prepare-your-own-meals have a few very attractive things in common. For me, the biggest benefit is they enable me to try recipes and/or flavor profiles I wouldn’t normally try because I don’t keep the ingredients on-hand and purchasing them for one dish can be expensive. I’m also not great at estimating the amount of produce I need when I’m improvising recipes and I waste more food than I’d like. I like getting just enough for two portions and not having lots of excess. But, trust– you are definitely paying a premium for convenience and ease. So, for us, we use rotate the Blue Apron recipes into our week to add some variety to simpler, familiar favorites.

Here are some examples of the menus I received:

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Korean Tteok & Spicy Pork “Ragù” with Baby Bok Choy
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Trinidadian Chicken Curry with Coconut Grits & Collard Greens
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Blue Apron’s General Tso’s Chicken
Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches with Endive & Blue Cheese Salad
Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches with Endive & Blue Cheese Salad
Black Garlic-Shoyu Ramen with Green Beans & Shiitake Mushrooms
Black Garlic-Shoyu Ramen with Green Beans & Shiitake Mushrooms

Pros and Cons of our experience:

  • Overall, the food was pretty good. Over a couple months there have been recipes we haven’t loved but I’ll chalk those up to personal taste.
  • Blue Apron, probably due to how long they’ve been in the game, have their logistics on lock. At least, we’ve never had any problems. Food always arrived really cold vs. the semi-cold boxes we’ve received from other companies.
  • You can see the menus well in advance. One full month in advance makes it nice if you’re planning around vacations and such.

Overall, Blue Apron is worth trying. If you know a current customer, they earn free boxes and can send you a promo code. Unlike other companies, the box isn’t discounted. It’s completely free. That alone makes trial a bit of a no-brainer. On the downside, the variety isn’t great. Many weeks we think there aren’t enough options for the 3 meal minimum. And, we end up choosing a random third or skipping the delivery altogether.

Final Thoughts: Definitely give it a try. Recommended.

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