In Which I Eat My Words

Cher Blanc Square Bowls  Rochelle Gold Serving Bowl

I’ve been using Blue Apron for two entire weeks now, so I think that obviously qualifies me to give my expert opinion on it. (That is a joke. But I still want to write about it because I finally hopped on the food-delivery train four years after everyone else, and now I obviously need to be the 1,994,854th person to weigh in.)

Here are the reasons that I pshawed about Blue Apron (and similar services) for years:

  1. I figured they would be expensive.
  2. I figured they would force me to ingest things like kale.
  3. I figured I’d still end up spending nearly as much as I currently do on groceries, because the plan would only cover 2-4 dinners/week.

And yet? Here is what I discovered:

  • Value: So far, it seems like Blue Apron absolutely has the potential to save me money. I’m on the Family Plan, which sends over two four-serving recipes a week, and it’s $69.92 per week. Which isn’t cheap…but those two meals, so far, have almost always been stretched out to cover a minimum of four dinners (with a little help from inexpensive fluffer ingredients like rice and steamed vegetables, which I always keep in the freezer). Granted, this might be largely because I have little kids with little appetites, but still: it’s a hell of a money (and time) saver.
  • Choice: If you don’t want to eat kale (or catfish, or spicy stuff, or whatever), you don’t have to. You don’t get a ton of choice (I get to pick my two recipes out of four options every week), but I don’t actually mind that: I feel like I get to eat the kinds of things I like, but am sort of pushed to try incorporating ingredients outside of my comfort zone. You can also elect to skip a week whenever you want.
  • Lower Grocery Bill: The first week I had Blue Apron, I spent just as much on groceries as I usually do because I forgot that the delivery was coming, and ended up having to freeze a bunch of what I’d bought because we just had way too much stuff. The second week, I spent about half of what I ordinarily spend at the grocery store…and I still had too much stuff, and had to stash some in the freezer for later. I also didn’t feel tempted by the interesting (read: expensive) products I saw while browsing the aisles, because I had a ton of fun stuff waiting for me at home.

There are definitely cons, of course. Among them:

  • A couple of times, the wrong ingredient (or the wrong amount of an ingredient) arrived – one mini eggplant instead of two; diced tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes, that kind of thing. I’m a skilled enough cook that I was able to improvise, but I can imagine a beginner being a little irritated by this.
  • The recipes are interesting for me because I tend not to stick to what I know when cooking – so even though the recipes are fairly basic, many of them are new to me and are teaching me a ton – but I can imagine that were I a more proficient cook I might find them a little boring.
  • Not all meals can be stretched. The bolognese I made last night, for example? Gone. (I think that’s testament to the fact that it was insanely good, though.)

Most importantly, though: it’s fun. It feels like my grownup playtime. Life has gotten so busy lately (more on that in a bit, because I’m overwhelmed in a way I haven’t been since my kids were newborns and could use a little commiseration), and cooking every day has slowly become a thing I do because I have to rather than a thing I do because I want to. And so I end up making the same five or six recipes over and over and over to free up that little square of mental space. I’m bored. I have a feeling that Kendrick is too. (Our kids, however, would be very pleased to be served “pasta with salt” for every meal, every day, for the entirety of their lives. Because they know what’s up.)

I love cooking. I especially love cooking with new ingredients, and learning new techniques. And this service lets me do both, while allowing me to skip the research/planning/ingredient-purchasing part of the process (not to mention the expense of having to buy a full-size product when all I need is a tiny sprinkle of it).

Wayyyy too TL;DR for you? The short answer is I’d give Blue Apron a solid 4/5. I haven’t tried any other services (Plated, Home Fresh, Peach Dish, etc) but now that I know how much I like Blue Apron, I think I might have to.

P.S. If you’re curious about the differences between various meal-delivery services, this Observer article offers an excellent rundown.

easy recipe for hoisin beef stir-fry with vegetables

Hoisin Beef & Vegetable Stir-Fry

What You Need:

  • 1 1/8 lbs thinly sliced beef
  • 4 carrots, thinly sliced on an angle
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 fairytale eggplants, halved and then cut crosswise into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1 scallion, root end cut of and green and white parts separated and finely sliced
  • 3/4 lb baby bok choy, root ends cut off and leaves separated
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup ponzu sauce

What You Do:

  1. Pat the beef dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper. Add the cornstarch and toss to coat.
  2. In a large nonstick pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on high. Working in 2 batches, add the coated beef in a single, even layer. Cook (without stirring) 1-2 minutes, or until browned on the first side. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until just cooked through and tender. Remove beef from pan and set aside.
  3. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan, then add the carrots and eggplants. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, 3-5 minutes, or until lightly browned and slightly softened. Add the bok choy, sesame oil, ginger, and white bottom of the scallion and cook, stirring frequently, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the ponzu sauce to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  5. Add the cooked beef and hoisin sauce to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping up any fond, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  6. Serve over rice, garnished with the green part of the scallion.

easy recipe for hoisin beef stir-fry with vegetables easy recipe for hoisin beef stir-fry with vegetables

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