Meal Kit Reviews: Blue Apron
Due to popular demand (I swear—at least three people were interested), I have decided to do a series of meal kit reviews. I love meal kits because they bring convenience and variety to our dinners without wasted ingredients. It can be such a pain to scour the grocery store for a particular item only to use a tiny bit for one recipe.
Blue Apron is the meal kit I have the most experience with, and—full disclosure—I am quite fond of it. Therefore, I will review Blue Apron first. All of these reviews will follow roughly the same format.
You may have seen commercials for Blue Apron that declare the company is "building a better food system". Their mission is to work with farms to distribute ingredients at a better value for their customers. They say they are investing in what matters: our environment and our communities. But who cares—you want to know if Blue Apron is for you, right?
Cost: Currently, Blue Apron offers three different plans: a "two-person" plan with three meals a week, a "family" (four servings) plan with two meals a week, or a "family" plan with four meals a week.
The "two-person" plan costs $9.99 per serving, or $59.94 per week. The family plan cost $8.99 per serving, which comes out to $71.92 for two meals or $143.84 for four meals. This pricing is consistent week-to-week: no upgrades and not many options for substitution.
What You'll Get: Blue Apron gives you all the ingredients you'll need except for oil, salt, and pepper. Be prepared for plenty of extra garlic; Blue Apron will send you a whole head every week that you have at least one recipe that requires it.
Packaging Meal kits arrive at your door packaged in a cardboard box with insulated lining. Ice packs keep the ingredients fresh until you unbox. Meats are in the bottom of the box, and any non-meat products are on top. Individual ingredients that don't have their own packaging come in plastic zipper bags, small plastic bottles, plastic containers, or—on occasion—small cardboard containers. You will have to sort through most of the ingredients to get what you'll need for each meal. However, the "knick knacks" (usually sauces, vinegars, seasonings, etc) for each meal are packaged together in a little brown bag.
Quality: Overall, I was pleased with the quality of Blue Apron deliveries. Produce was typically fresh (once in a while lettuce or herbs would be a bit limp by the time I used them), meat was of good quality, and I liked the exotic ingredients that I wouldn't seek out on my own. Customer service was responsive any time I had a problem with a delivery. For example, they gave me a $9.99 credit for a missing sweet potato.
Ease of Preparation: Thus far I have found Blue Apron's meals to be the most difficult to prepare of all the meal kits I have tried. Blue Apron sells itself as a kind of teaching tool for home chefs—the name Blue Apron comes from the aprons that chefs wear while they're learning to cook. To that end, the meal instructions always include proper mise en place. I found myself doing quite a bit of chopping and slicing before I actually got to any cooking. I kicked myself not getting a zester much sooner because it saves a good bit of time with these recipes.
The recipes also put an emphasis on learning new techniques like caramelizing sugar or making brown butter. Other services I've tried tend to use more straightforward techniques and pre-chopped vegetables.
Variety: Blue Apron excels in this area. They promise not to repeat any meals within one year. Using Blue Apron, I got to try dishes that I would never have made at home on my own. This recipe for steak and eggs with kimchi fried rice was one of my favorites, but I would not have sought out gochujang if I'd just happened upon this recipe.
Flexibility: This is an area where Blue Apron could improve. For dietary restrictions, users are able to indicate that they are vegetarian and, if not, if they eat poultry, beef, fish, shellfish, or lamb. Blue Apron is unable to accommodate any other restrictions.
You can see the recipes that are available for each week. For the two-person plan, there are six recipes per week: three vegetarian, one red meat, one white meat, and one seafood selection. Here's where it gets tricky: you can customize your meals, but not much. Say you like the sound of the beef and seafood entrees, but not the chicken. Well, if you pick the beef and seafood, you have to pick the chicken entree. You can't substitute it with one of vegetarian entrees. If you're OK with the beef and chicken but don't want the seafood, there is only one available vegetarian option: you can't choose from any of the three. I understand that this is how Blue Apron keeps costs consistent, but it can be confusing and frustrating.
If you want to change your menu or skip the week's meals, you need to do so by noon six days before your scheduled delivery. For example, if your delivery is scheduled for Monday, June 12, you need to make any changes by noon on Tuesday, June 6.
Taste: As I said, I have the more experience with Blue Apron than any other meal kit service: I started using it back in 2014. With all of those meals, of course I've had the most misses with Blue Apron. There was a period where they sent fennel every (which the other half and I both hate) every week—fortunately, they seemed to chill out on that when fennel came in season the next year. I have also gotten many groans from my fiancé over the many vegetable-heavy dishes (his idea of a vegetable-heavy dish may differ from the average human being's). However, many of the meals were really excellent. The Asian-inspired meals were especially good—I loved getting the opportunity to make ramen at home. They burgers were also a hit in my household. Rarely did we have a meal that was a complete dud. I'd say most were good, some were excellent, and very few were poor (not counting any cooking mishaps on my part).
Final Thoughts: I would definitely recommend Blue Apron for somewhat more adventurous who don't mind taking some extra time preparing some meals each week. I appreciate Blue Apron's focus on learning proper cooking techniques: I now read through other meals kits' recipes before starting so I can prep everything beforehand, even if that's not how the recipe is written. I also like that, other than the garlic, Blue Apron typically sends exactly what is needed for each recipe: no waste!
The cost may seem a bit high, but I feel that for the time you save on shopping, the lack of waste, and the quality of the meals, it's worth it.