Monday, April 13, 2015

Blue Apron: 3 Meals, 1 Week

A couple of weeks ago, I tried out a grocery subscription service for the first time called Blue Apron. I stick to a pretty standard routine with my groceries and cooking (a lot of quinoa and black bean spaghetti with different combinations of veggies and sauces, frozen meals, and pan-seared chicken). I don't even go grocery shopping every week, as I'll freeze chicken and only buy bags of pre-cut frozen vegetables. I do love trying new foods and recipes, but I just don't have the time or energy to weed through a bunch of recipes every week and go through the hassle of getting all the ingredients from the store. Plus, I'm cooking for one, so I don't need a ton of supplies to ultimately only use the fraction necessary for said recipe. Enter Blue Apron.

It's a novel concept that has picked up on the recent trend of boxed monthly subscriptions (I've tried Glossy Box in the past for beauty supplies). You pick 3 meals (2 servings each) per week for $60. All the ingredients come in a box delivered to your door complete with a recipe and step-by-step instructions. Everything you need (besides your pots, pans, and kitchen stove) comes in the box. The box even comes in refrigerated packing so you don't need to pick it up the moment it arrives.

I had no idea what to expect but my introduction to Blue Apron was definitely worthwhile. The following three meals are what I had in my box for the week.

This was not a recipe I would typically pick as I am not a huge fan of mustard or cabbage, but for some reason this had me sold (the meat and potatoes helped). The cook time should have been 25-35 minutes, but this easily took me three times as long to make. The recipe itself is very straight forward and simple, but having multiple pots and pans on the stove is not something I am used to. For someone who is more used to cooking meals with multiple steps and quicker at cutting up vegetables, I would say the suggested cooking time would be more accurate. But for someone like me who typically uses pre-cut frozen vegetables, washing, cutting, and peeling carrots, potatoes, and cabbage was more time-inducive.

The amount of cabbage mixture and potatoes was easily enough for 4 servings, while of course the two flank steaks were enough for two servings. I used the extra for lunches throughout the week that I used some pan-seared chicken as an accompaniment that I quickly cooked up. Overall, this was definitely a tasty recipe and very well-balanced. I love having a meat, a starch, and a vegetable for dinner, so this was a perfect mixture.

This chili served up a very healthy portion, and was actually enough for 3-4 meals for me. I loved the great attention to detail that Blue Apron had with the supplied toppings that made the experience feel more like a gourmet meal. It was especially thoughtful to include a lime for the sole purpose of keeping the avocado from browning.

That being said, the prepping instructions while well thought out, weren't all necessary. The lime would not have been needed if the avocado was simply cut after the chili was prepared. Additionally, while the variety of toppings were nice and I do love avocado and cheese, a baguette or some type of bread I thought would've been a heartier complement to the chili. As for the actual recipe, I followed it step-by-step, but if I were to make this again I would've definitely seasoned the turkey earlier upon initially browning the meat, rather than after a few minutes of the turkey cooking in the pan.

Overall, I enjoyed the chili. It was tasty and hearty with the meat and the beans. It was very simple to make. I watched 3 episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt while preparing it, but the cook time would've definitely taken a shorter amount of time if I were less of a novice in the kitchen. I'd say this one was a success.

I wasn't planning on choosing a vegetarian meal for my Blue Apron, but this one had me sold: pasta, cheese, and brussel sprouts (one of my favorite vegetables). This took a little over an hour to make, but was very simple even considering I had never before made bechemal sauce from scratch. I'm not even sure the sauce came out properly, but the process was easy enough and came out with no disasters. I thought it was an interesting choice to use brussel sprouts, as they can be a love-it-or-hate-it vegetable, but I personally love brussel sprouts so this was a highlight for me. I also don't usually eat fontina cheese, but I enjoyed it. And again, this served up a substantial amount of food for me. I was able to divide the casserole into four portions.

On the downside, I'm not sure why the recipe didn't include baking the bread crumbs directly on the pasta rather than just sprinkling them on top after baking, but I did think it was a very nice touch to saute them with the sage beforehand. I gravitate to more spicy and flavorful foods, so I added crushed red peppers to cut the creaminess of the cheese and add a little more dimension. I wouldn't say the sauce was bland otherwise, so for those that don't need spice this wouldn't be necessary. Overall, I really enjoyed this pasta and didn't miss out on any meat at all!

So, my final verdict? Personally, the $60/week is a little steep for me. I can get the equivalent amount of meals for a much smaller dollar amount by shopping on my own at the grocery store. I don't know if I would be able to recreate these exact meals with all the necessary ingredients for $60 or less, but I can definitely cook for myself for less than $10/meal. That being said, the price per meal was definitely lower for me as the servings were fairly large (but keep in mind I am a smaller person so I only need smaller portions to begin with). I got this one week for free because a friend who subscribes to Blue Apron on a weekly basis was able to e-mail friends coupon codes.

I like the option of being able to skip weeks, especially because there are some weeks where I just won't need to cook 3 meals what with eating out, leftovers and free meals (there are plenty of opportunities for that on-campus being a student!). Also, I just don't always have the time to cook three meals per week. Typically, I'll cook once or twice a week a fairly large portion that will last several meals. I did like, however, that all the meals I chose were fairly portable, and would've been very easily transportable to school for packed lunches.

Overall, if I had more time and a bigger budget I would definitely get Blue Apron for myself. The recipes themselves were fairly straightforward, and really only took me more than the allotted time because I am a beginner in the kitchen. Especially as I love trying new recipes, I enjoyed the variety that Blue Apron offers. I would definitely not get bored with its offerings. For someone who is strictly cooking the majority of meals at home, Blue Apron would be perfect. For me, it was just a little bit more to bite off than I could chew. In the future I would love to see Blue Apron come out with a plan more suitable for those who are cooking for just one person. While I'll stick to buying my own groceries for the meantime, I would definitely recommend Blue Apron if it fits your budget, schedule, and especially if you enjoy variety.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Friday Five

A sweet bar gift from Caroline From 50 and pouring last weekend at my brothers graduation (hello Nor'easter in May) to 90 and scor...