Saturday, April 26, 2014

Blue Apron: A Review



5-Spice Pork Buns with Red Cabbage, Carrot & Thai Basil Salad (4/4 stars)
A friend was kind enough to send me a free trial of Blue Apron, a subscription cook-it-yourself service. I was skeptical at first, based on some of the  criticisms I have below, but after three weeks,  I'm quite hooked. It has been perfect for this busy end of the semester as it removes the parts I hate most: planning and shopping.  I don't plan on using it much this summer when I have access to farmer's markets, and time to think about something other than my career, but since many have asked, I thought I'd do a little review here.

Orange-glazed Chicken Drumsticks with Mashed Yucca and Arugula Salad (4/4 stars)

PROS:
  • not having to plan the meals (which I like to do occasionally, but not for the entire week)

  • no food waste, as they send you only the amount that you need for the recipe

  • no food shopping other than to pick up staples (breakfast stuff, etc) for the week

  • geared toward people who don't know how to cook a whole lot, so, for example, a recipe will direct you to "peel a lemon, avoiding the pith, then cut the peel into zest with a sharp knife."  Glory hallelujah was I ever excited to have my Microplane zester. (I have this under "pros" though because they really are serious when they say you just need salt, pepper, and olive oil). 

  • there's no minimum commitment, so with 6 days notice, you can do it, or not do it, for the week. Cancelling the service involves writing an e-mail.

  • The price runs $55-$65 for three meals a week for 2 people. That's very reasonable considering how much money I spend eating out at restaurants and paying for food that is sustainable and organic.

CONS:
  • packaging.  Supposedly it is all recyclable and/or biodegradable, but there is A LOT of it, as you might imagine. It comes with these huge monstrous ice packs which can be re-used (by you), or defrosted and emptied of their gel. This is a pain. And my freezer can hold maybe one or two of these things...so if I'm getting one every week...

  • not knowing where the food came from.  I will say this---the produce is quite beautiful, actually.  The meat seemed to be high quality, but I have no idea about its sustainability. Their website says "emphasis on sustainable practices" but that doesn't really tell me anything.  I appreciated the organic soba noodles, but my primary concern is not the soba noodles.
Cod over Linguine with Fresh Peas, Meyer Lemon & Spring Herbs (3.5/4 stars)
SO...

In a perfect world, this is what I'd love to see:

  • Less packaging: Have key ingredients for the week and the cook has to be responsible for portioning the parsley or scallions,  for example. This is part of learning how to cook!
  • Packaging Pick-Up: If there was some way to pickup the boxes, liners and ice-packs when the food gets dropped off, that would be fantastic. I'd even be willing to pay a bit extra to have some way to plop a return label on the box, seal it, and send it back with those materials that the company can reuse.
Fennel-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Grapefruit, Mustard Greens & Japonica Black Rice (4/4 STARS)
 I think Blue Apron is really a great service and very well-suited toward:

  • People who are very busy but don't want to eat take out or go out every night.
  • People who want to learn how to cook
  • People living on their own (3 meals = 6 meals, as there is a 2 person minimum)
If you wind up using the service, I do recommend buying a Microplane zester as almost every recipe has some sort of zest in it! That zester is my absolute favorite kitchen tool.

More Info:
This article in from Fortune Magazine (online) reports that Blue Apron is doing quite well. It also mentions how it contrasts with Plated, a similar service.