When the invitation to Blue Apron appeared in my inbox, I thought it might be spam. It was sent by my brother and promised a week of free meals. I’d never heard of Blue Apron before, but it’s one of several services that will mail you all the ingredients you need to prepare several recipes during the week. I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it a try.
You can sign up for either the Family Plan for 4 people or the 2-Person Plan. There wasn’t a plan for single, cat ladies, so I signed up for the 2-person plan which is about $60 a week for three recipes. The first week was free, but if you don’t cancel next week’s shipment at least 7 days before it ships you have pay for it. So, if you want to be a sneaky, slightly unethical person who eats for free, you need to cancel the second week of food before the first week of food arrives.
Here’s a diary of my experience making the first two weeks of Blue Apron recipes:
FedEx delivers my first box of food in the early afternoon. I feel a bit bad for essentially making the delivery man carry my groceries up the stairs. Should I tip him?
I open the box to find my food wrapped in a space blanket.
The meat is at the bottom of the bag, wrapped on both sides by huge ice packs. A cardboard divider separates it from the vegetables and “knicknacks” for each recipe. (Every time I see the word “knicknack” on the labels it makes me want to sing “knicknack, paddy whack, give the dog a bone, this old man went rolling home.”) Everything is bagged and labeled, except for a few loose fruits and vegetables.
I put everything in the fridge and imagine tasty meals to come.
I should cook something. I’ll do that tomorrow.
I should cook something. Or I could order takeout.
Shit, I really need to cook something. They’re going to deliver more food in four days. I look through the three illustrated recipe cards and decide on Red Salmon & Preserved Lemon with Red Quinoa & Pea Shoots. Fancy, schmancy.
I need one bowl for the diced lemon, another bowl for the diced cucumber, and another bowl for the minced shallot. I am going to run out of bowls. Also, I wouldn’t even know what a shallot looked like if they hadn’t included a picture.
I’ve boiled the quinoa but if I try straining it with my strainer (which IKEA says is technically a colander called FLÄCKIG) it will all go down the drain. FLÄCKIG! I have to use the pot’s lid to block the quinoa from getting dumped while I pour out the water.
Oh God, I need another bowl.
This recipe has said “season with salt and pepper” four times now. Is it really “seasoning” if you’re adding that much?
Salmon has been cooked. Salad has been tossed. Kitchen has been wrecked.
However, the meal is damn tasty. Yum. I hadn’t expected to like the quinoa salad, but it is fantastic. The salmon is flaky and perfect. And it looks pretty much like the picture on the recipe card, so there was no food photography trickery at work here.
Oh, my God! My back, my back! I’ve injured my back. Sitting all day really will kill you, or at least weaken your core muscles. I strongly suspect that the 45 minutes I spent standing in the kitchen yesterday was the straw that broke the blogger’s back.
There will be no cooking today. There will be ice packs and ibuprofen instead. Blue Apron did send me ice packs, so maybe they foresaw this. Next time they should send willow bark so I can zest my own aspirin-like painkiller.
Back is feeling 75% better and more food is coming tomorrow, so I must cook. Tonight it’s Miso Roasted Chicken with Spring Peas & Jasmine Rice. What is miso? Wikipedia says: “Miso (みそ or 味噌) is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and the fungus.” Um, yum?
Oh, my God. The recipe card displays six bowls. SIX BOWLS. Do I have that many bowls? I am a single, cat lady, not a master chef. I might need to use the cat’s bowls.
The recipe uses three types of peas. I didn’t know there were three types of peas. I received an email earlier in the week telling me they were substituting the pea tips with Chinese spinach. Without a photo I am not sure if I should use the leaves or the stems. I guess.
I drag a folding chair into the kitchen so I can sit down while snapping the ends off of the peas. I have never felt more sympathy for my grandmother who lived on a farm and no doubt did this sort of stuff every single night of her life. I suspect she had 14 kids just for the extra help.
Still snapping peas. This is quite time consuming.
Need to consult Google. “What is a clove of garlic?” Is it the whole piece of garlic, or is it one of these wedges? I have only ever bought it in a jar before. (It’s just a wedge.)
I have now spent at least 20 minutes peeling and dicing and snapping. No jazz hands. Yet.
Now I have chicken baking in the oven, rice cooking on the stove, and I’m frying vegetables in a pan. I fear this juggling act will fall apart and that I will collapse onto the floor, back broken, Jasmine rice falling down upon me like snow, chicken burning, until the smoke detector goes off and a fireman discovers me dead in a mess of my own making.
Or everything finishes on time and I have a completed meal.
I take a bite and, DEAR GOD, I think I just ate a pillar of salt. Did Lot’s wife pack this meal? Fermented soybeans with salt and fungus, indeed. I check the comments on the recipe online and discover I’m not the only one who thought this was too salty. I scrape off the miso and eat the rest. It’s ok. I’m glad I didn’t make this recipe first. If I’d injured my back making this I would have been pissed.
My next shipment is coming today, so it’s time to wrap up the week with Lamb & Risotto-Style Ditalini Pasta with Spring Onion & Green Beans. The people in the comments on the recipe page are comparing this to Hamburger Helper like that’s supposed to be a bad thing.
I have to zest a lemon using a peeler. Do I own a peeler? [roots around in kitchen drawers] I own a peeler! Wait, why do I own a peeler?
There is slicing and mincing and zesting. Lots of chopping. The guy who lives in the apartment next to me chops things several nights of the week. When he moved in, I thought he was hammering nails in the walls to hang up pictures, but when it continued for several weeks, only in the evenings, I eventually figured out he was chopping vegetables. I want to cut a hole in the wall and ask him for advice because this is taking forever. Of course, my neighbor has set off the fire alarm at least four times (that I know of), so maybe I shouldn’t be taking cooking advice from him. I imagine that he now hears me chop, chop, chopping and is wondering why I’m hammering so many nails into the wall.
Once everything is cut up, it’s basically a lot of stirring and simmering from here on out.
Pretty good. They didn’t knock it out of the park though. They told me to add salt and pepper six times in this recipe, but I didn’t as a form of protest against all that salt in the last recipe. That might have been the wrong decision.
So tired. Can’t handle any more chopping, and I haven’t been to the grocery for over a week because of my back. I order takeout.
Eat leftover takeout.
I’ll cook tomorrow.
A frozen Trader Joe’s meal sounds good.
Got a sandwich after work.
Oh, no! I’m way behind on my food homework! This is like that recurring dream I have about not being prepared for my final exams. It’s too late to cancel tomorrow’s order, but I still have time to cancel the order after that, so I do.
More food is coming today, so I MUST COOK. I’ll make the seafood dish first and hope that it won’t give me food poisoning after being in the fridge so long. That means we’re making New England-Style Shrimp Rolls with Grilled Green & Yellow Wax Bean Salad. My mom started Blue Apron this week too and said this meal was delicious. (She agrees that these recipes call for way too many bowls.)
I have halved and deseeded more lemons in the past two weeks than I have in my entire life before this. And I grew up with an Atari, so that’s a long span of time.
The tarragon is looking a bit soggy, probably because it’s over a week old.
When they say they sent green beans and yellow wax beans, they mean they sent literally two yellow wax beans and twenty-something green beans. I’m not complaining, but I think it’s funny.
I had no idea you could cook shrimp in just two minutes. I’m learning all sorts of new things.
This recipe calls for a grill. I hope the George Foreman variety will work.
The shrimp is done long before the beans. I’m hungry, so I eat the shrimp roll without taking a picture. It looked pretty much like it did on the recipe card. Overall, pretty good. I probably should have cooked the beans longer, but that’s no tragedy.
Eat shrimp leftovers.
Today it’s Crispy Fried Chicken with Kale-Cabbage Slaw & Buttermilk Biscuits.
I check the online recipe notes. “What makes panko so special? As strange as it may seem, panko isn’t baked… it’s electrocuted.” Am I the only one who thinks it’s kind of creepy this bread has something in common with a convicted serial killer?
Not much chopping and not too many bowls. I love this recipe!
Very good! I wasn’t sure what I’d think of the cabbage and kale salad, but it tasted good with the dressing as long as I don’t eat too big of a piece of kale at a time. It has a really bitter taste.
Insomnia last night. Tired all day. No cooking.
Headache is raging today, probably because of insomnia yesterday. There shall be no Blue Apron.
So tired from work that I grab a sandwich on the way home. Oh, dear, am I ever going to finish these meals?
I don’t feel particularly awful today, so I shall cook Grilled Cheeseburgers with Feta-Watermelon Salad & Pickled Watermelon Rind and I will be finished with the first two weeks of recipes! (And it only took me three weeks.)
I love watermelon, but I still think it’s bizarre that we’ve genetically modified them to be spherical. I assume it’s genetically modified, right? Do spherical watermelons occur naturally?
I try to imitate the onion mincing technique that looks so easy in this Blue Apron video, but no dice. Literally. My dicing needs work.
Everything comes together, but I’m not a fan of the pickled watermelon rind or the dressing for the salad. I end up tossing both of those items out and just eat the burger and watermelon slices.
I just plain forgot to take a photo of this one. But I’m finished! Yay! (Except, not really, because I have another week of food they sent which I will not be blogging about. Will someone come over here and cook it for me?)
Was the food good?
Yes, the food was overall pretty good, and at least one or two dishes each week were extraordinarily good. The recipes were certainly fancier and more varied than I would have made if left to my own devices. There were a couple misses, like the Miso Chicken and the pickled watermelon rind, but I enjoyed most of the meals.
Will you make any of these recipes again?
I’ve saved the recipe cards for three of the meals and will probably make the main dish or side item from them again in the future. However, I would probably take shortcuts. Instead of freshly squeezing lemon juice, I would just use the bottled kind from the store. Same for the minced garlic and most of the herbs. They might not taste quite as good when you buy them prepackaged and/or dried, but I don’t like spending all that time doing prep work. I strongly believe in the division of labor.
Was it worth all the work?
Not really. As someone who has chronic pain, I have a limited amount of energy I can use every day. I’d rather not spend 30-45 minutes in the kitchen prepping a fancy meal when I’m just as happy heating up a frozen Trader Joe’s meal. Also, if I still lived at my old place that didn’t have a dishwasher, I would have tapped out of this challenge after the first week. I had to run the dishwasher after each meal, which is unusual for someone who lives alone. But if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have had enough clean bowls for the next meal. (So many bowls. So, so many bowls.)
The estimated cooking times on the recipes are fairly accurate, so you do know what you’re getting into. Only the lamb recipe went significantly over the estimated time to 50 minutes total, mostly because of all the chopping and snapping of peas. My mother suggested it might be easier to do just the main dish or just the side dish from the meal each night instead of doing them all at once.
The images on the recipe card help a lot, and I appreciate that they take the time to create those for each recipe. However, the instructions are written in paragraph form instead of as a list, which makes them hard to follow. I had to re-read the directions several times during certain stages of a recipe to be sure I didn’t miss a step.
I’ve never cooked before. Should I use Blue Apron?
Oh, sweet Jesus, no. This is Cooking 301. You need to complete several prerequisites before your sign up for this class. My knife skills are pretty basic, but I was able to stumble through the recipes all right, if slower than someone skilled with a chef’s knife would be. That said, I do own a chef’s knife and evidently a peeler too, though not the right kind of strainer. I was also able to handle having 2-3 things cooking at once, which will trip some people up. If you’re just learning to cook, taking on Blue Apron is like throwing yourself into the deep end of the pool to learn how to swim.
I’m trying to lose weight. Would Blue Apron work for me?
According to the recipe cards, the meals I cooked had between 575-700 calories per serving. It’s not exactly diet food, but it could be worked into a sensible meal plan, particularly if you split the food into 3 servings instead of 2.
I’m a vegetarian. Would Blue Apron work for me?
Yes. You get to personalize your “Dietary Profile” which states whether you will or will not eat beef, poultry, fish, lamb, pork, or shellfish. You can also preview what they’re going to send you a few weeks ahead of time and can edit which 3 of the 6 recipes you want, though you can’t just select any 3 you want. Picking 1 item usually eliminates at least 1 or 2 from being selected, probably to make sure the costs works out for them.
Who do you think would most enjoy Blue Apron?
If you really enjoy cooking and want to try new foods and learn new skills, but don’t necessarily have time to seek out recipes and get all the ingredients, Blue Apron is for you. The tradeoff is that you’ll pay more for the ingredients than you would if you bought everything yourself, so you have to decide whether you value your time or your money more. I typically value my time more. I certainly fall into the group of people who don’t like assembling all the ingredients, but I don’t enjoy cooking enough to continue to put myself through this every week.
Do you plan to continue using Blue Apron?
I haven’t cancelled the service completely. (The make it a bit hard to do that since you have to email them for instructions to do so.) I have cancelled the next few weeks of orders. I’ll keep an eye on the upcoming recipes and if anything looks particularly interesting I might sign up for delivery that week. If I go several months without ordering anything, I’ll probably cancel all together.
Any other tips for someone who wants to try Blue Apron?
Google is your friend. It will help explain what “Miso” is and what a clove of garlic looks like. There are lots of helpful videos on the Blue Apron YouTube channel that will show you the best cooking techniques, even if they seem to be demonstrated by dark wizards with inhuman cutting skills you won’t be able to reproduce. Read the comments on the recipe pages before making a meal because other customers will have left tips and warnings for you. Be sure you have your own salt, pepper and olive oil (and water) because Blue Apron does not provide those. Be prepared to read the phrase “season with salt and pepper” a lot. Has anyone invented a Blue Apron drinking game? If not, I should totally get on that…right after I cook the three remaining meals they sent me. [weeps silently] I hope I have enough bowls.
This is probably obvious, but I did not receive any compensation from Blue Apron in exchange for this post or the food they sent me.