Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Blue Apron Review

You know the drill. It's 6:30 and you just got home from work or school or the PTO fundraiser or the dentist or the ridiculous playground that has the water feature right next to the massive muddy sand pit - quite possibly all of the above. The kids are starving, there's sand in everybody's underpants and you just realized you're out of garlic and you forgot to thaw the pork chops. The takeout menu drawer is beckoning. Pizza. Subs. French fries. Burritos. Maybe Thai food if you're lucky. Not exactly health food and probably not all that delicious either. But wait...it doesn't have to be that way. Have you heard about Blue Apron, yet?

Blue Apron is a complete meal-based grocery delivery service. Basically, a team of culinary specialists put together creative, seasonally-inspired recipes for three complete meals each week so you don't have to. You choose from a vegetarian or carnivore option. Once you've placed your order, you receive a grocery box shipped directly to your home containing everything (and I do mean everything!) in the exact quantities you'll need to prepare three complete meals for your family.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of trying out the service firsthand when the folks over at Blue Apron sent over a free box as a gift for our family to try out. Check out the goods!
We selected the meat/fish/poultry option. Everything arrived in great condition in a sturdy, well-insulated box. The meat and fish were ice-cold, vegetables ripe and unbruised, and even the fresh herbs you see above arrived vibrant, green and fresh. That's no small feat shipping from NY to Chicago! I was seriously impressed with the packaging.

The KC kids weren't nearly as impressed with the packaging as they were with the box contents. They unpacked the whole thing shouting out ingredients and trying to match the food to its corresponding recipe. Looly claimed the experience of unpacking the box was like "Food Christmas." Not a bad reception from the 7-and-unders.
To be honest, I wasn't sure Blue Apron was going to work for us. Ten years ago, pre-kids, when we were both working full time, Mufasa and I would have been all over something like this. But these days, I like my cookbooks and food magazines. I look forward to browsing and selecting recipes to try. And really between picky kids, food allergies and 5 mouths to feed I just wasn't sure I wanted someone else planning our supper. But then this happened:
Cod with Pickled Grapes & Summer Succotash from Blue Apron
I thought that might get your attention. Beautiful, right? The rainbow of produce, crispy on the outside, flaky on the inside seared cod, pickled grapes. Sure, we cook like that sometimes...on the weekends. But see, here's the thing. With Blue Apron, that was Tuesday night dinner. Tuesday, people!
Stuffed Squashes with Caesar Salad from Blue Apron
And how about Friday night's stuffed squash? 

One of the best parts for me was how excited the kids got. They loved having colorful recipe cards to follow with a photo that looked exactly like our finished product.
Having all the ingredients pre-measured and at the ready made the whole experience of cooking with kids fast and totally painless. And no last minute grocery store runs for tomato paste or garlic required!
Roo sauteing the succotash
Looly was so inspired to help she even volunteered to wash the dishes, so yeah, thanks, Blue Apron!
Our third meal of the week was Chicken Tikka Masala and overall, we were slightly underwhelmed with it compared to the other two meals. In fairness, however, Mufasa is Indian and we live in a city where we can order excellent Chicken Tikka Masala from a slew of fine restaurants (2 within walking distance) on any given night so perhaps we're more than a little biased. It still served its purpose and there were hardly any leftovers to speak of.

I did run into a couple of minor issues preparing the meals throughout the week. First, since Roo is allergic to eggs, we opted not to use the mayonnaise that was provided for dressing the Caesar salad and instead subbed an egg-free canola-based "mayo." The dressing was still garlicky, lemony and totally spectacular. Second, I didn't get around to making the stuffed squash and Caesar salad for a few days after our box arrived by which time the chicory was showing its age. We subbed fresh lettuce from our CSA box instead.

On the whole, Blue Apron offers an innovative, feasible solution to the weeknight dinner conundrum. What do you do when you don't have the time and energy for full on healthy family meal planning and a grocery store run but you don't want to succumb to the the take-out trap. Blue Apron makes fresh, creative, wholesome home-cooked meals accessible and easy.

The recipes are healthier and tastier than what you'd receive with most take-out. The meals are scalable to your family's size and appetite, meaning you won't be left tossing out tons of leftovers or half-heads of rotten cabbage. You can subscribe or cancel the service any time, and at $9.99 per person per meal, it's not any more expensive than what we would end up paying at a family restaurant in our town. So why not bypass the burger joint this week and give Blue Apron a try?

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