This is not a sponsored post. Just my honest opinion!
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine offered to send me a link for three free Blue Apron meals. I've always wanted to see what the fuss was about, but wasn't about to pay for the service, so I took him up on it and excitedly scheduled my meals to be delivered this week (and then promptly cancelled the service so I would't get charged $60 next week).
As someone who meal plans regularly (and enjoys it), I couldn't really imagine that I'd love Blue Apron enough to fork over the cost and frankly, we can't afford to pay that amount of money for three 2-person meals each week. I can totally see the benefit for many people, but for us, it was just a nice treat to have the meals planned for us, delivered to us, and pre-portioned.
Our box showed up last Saturday, and I quickly unpacked it to see what I was working with. I had briefly looked at the meals we'd be getting, but wasn't really sure what to expect. The three free meals were for the 2-person plan, and we have four mouths to feed, so I knew I'd have to plan to add something to the meals to stretch them to feed the whole family.
Before we went to the store for our weekly shopping trip, I'd read through the recipes and realized that this was one that I could easily bulk up to stretch it further and feed the whole family. I bought and diced one extra sweet potato, but otherwise only used the ingredients that came from Blue Apron. In the end, we had enough food for 2 servings of leftovers, so we would've had enough food for the whole family without the extra sweet potato, but it was great to have leftovers for lunches this week!
This was an Indian-inspired dish, and I love Indian food but don't make it often, so it was a nice treat. It came with a pita that we toasted and added some garlic to, which was delicious. Both kids cleaned their plates (after convincing a certain 3.5 year old that it was really good), even though there was a bit of spice. This is definitely something I would try to make on my own in the future, and it would make a really good vegetarian meal, too!
This meal came with enough pasta sheets to make 6 cannelloni, plus had a generous portion of salad, so I didn't really plan to make anything extra when meal planning. I did end up roasting a few carrots with the meal for the kids. The adults each had 2 cannelloni and large salads, and the kids each had one plus some carrots. No leftovers with this meal, but for a meal meant for 2 people, I was impressed by the amount of food we got.
The meal was pretty good, but nothing too special. I'd read some reviews that the sauce was bland, so we spiced ours up generously, but the ricotta filling didn't add much to the dish in terms of flavor. The marscarpone cheese + lemon dressing for the salad was something different, so I'll keep it in mind in the future.
Additionally, there was a lot of prep work for this meal, which had both my husband and I tied to the kitchen for a good 40 minutes. For busy families, that much prep work is going to make these meals a little more difficult, especially with young kids. If Blue Apron offered a plan where everything was already cut up, I bet people would pay more for it!
I was feeling sort of 'meh' when I saw this meal because we make burgers on a regular basis (and my husband makes good ones!), and we already had salad with a meal this week. My husband wasn't home for this meal, so the amount of food was perfect for the three of us.
I thought the burgers would be a flop since I normally don't cook the burgers at our house, but they turned out surprisingly well! The caramelized onions and the mustard sauce that was provided were a nice touch and something different than I'd normally have. But, the salad was pretty boring (I added my own sunflower seeds), so I'm docking some points for that.
- Convenience: Not having to plan and shop for those 3 meals and having everything delivered straight to your door was a nice treat. We scheduled our box to arrive the day before we did our weekly shopping trip so could plan around the meals, but you can have it delivered on the day that works best for your schedule.
- Trying new meals and ingredients: Everyone gets stuck in a rut with their meals on occasion, so it was nice to get some new things into the rotation, like the Indian Chili recipe, a new salad dressing idea and fresh pasta.
- Pre-portioned seasonings and "knick-knacks": All of the provided seasonings were in pre-portioned packets and little things like fresh garlic, 2 olives, 2 salad peppers, etc. were packaged together in a paper bag for each meal.
- Generous portions: We were able to stretch 2 of the 3 meals to feed our family of 4, and even had leftovers for one of the meals, which was a nice surprise. I think the portions are pretty big for 2 people, so a couple could easily get leftovers with many of the meals.
- Easy instructions: Even though the meals took a bit of prep work, the instructions were easy to follow, and are sturdy enough to keep on hand if you wanted to make the meals on your own.
- Recipes: Even if you don't use Blue Apron, you can access all of their recipes. How cool is that? Find them here. I will definitely be checking out their recipes for inspiration for my meal planning.
- Price: Obviously you pay for convenience, so the price of the box wasn't surprising. We ended up getting 12 servings from the 3 meals we received (with only a few vegetables added from our fridge), so at $60.00 for 3 meals, it would have come out to about $5/serving for Blue Apron. That isn't terrible, but it's hard to swallow when you spend about $115/week on a full week's worth of groceries for the whole family. Additionally, if I would have made the Chicken Chili on my own, there's no way that would have cost $5/person for a sweet potato, some chickpeas, a chicken breast, and some seasonings, so paying for the convenience wouldn't be worth it for that meal. However, for the fresh pasta dish, $5/person is a pretty good deal, so I think it balances out in the end.
- Waste: Almost every thing came in its own tiny bag or plastic container, which seemed really wasteful. Did the one carrot really need to be in a bag? Also, two of the recipes called for romaine lettuce, and each bunch was in a different bag. Couldn't they have combined them? Some of the plastic containers were recyclable, but still, for someone who brings reusable produce bags to the grocery store, it seemed like A LOT of packaging.
- Preparation time: The prep and cook times weren't too big of an issue for me because I'm used to cooking at home, but for people with school-aged kids that need to get to sports or other activities, or a couple that works and then goes to the gym before dinner, I can see the prep and cook times for these meals being a downside. Like I said above, if everything came pre-chopped, I bet people would pay even more for the service!
- Calories: Each of these meals was 700+ calories per serving, which seems pretty high for a meal. I don't count calories, but for someone on a diet, they would likely need to cut the portions down if they wanted to keep their meals lower in calories.
I think this service would be great for people who don't like/want to meal plan, are looking for convenience vs. budget options or want to learn to cook more, but need more specific instructions and don't want to buy all of the ingredients for every meal. As someone that likes to meal plan, and cook at home vs. going out to eat, it's just not worth the cost. But it was a nice treat to get some high quality meals for free this week!