I’ve been wanting to check out Blue Apron for awhile now, especially after seeing so many friends, whose foodie sensibilities I trust implicitly, give this subscription food delivery service a thumbs up. If you’re not familiar with Blue Apron, they deliver recipes complete with all the ingredients you need right to your door, so all you do is put them together and cook them. Sounds awesome, right?
However as a busy single mom of four kids ranging in age from ten down to four, I was curious to see whether the service is worth the price, which as you might guess is on the higher side; the two-person plan is $9.99 per person, with the family plan at $8.74 per person. That means cheaper than eating out (or ordering in) but definitely pricier than cooking from scratch.
The appeal of Blue Apron, at least for me, is that it really cuts out so much of the work involved in cooking — planning a meal, finding the right recipes, then gathering all the ingredients for it. That’s not a big deal for avid home cooks but for busy working parents like me, it definitely is.
So I bit the bullet and plonked down my credit card to give it a try with my own family. Here’s my review after trying it out myself.
How Blue Apron works
Once you sign up for the service, you choose your plan (number of meals, how many mouths to feed) then set your preferences. Red meat? Shellfish? Fish? Vegetarian? You pick the kinds of recipes you prefer, which you can preview for the coming week right on the site. Then select when you’d like your box to arrive and get ready to cook!
The boxes will arrive are carefully packed to stay fresh, so you don’t even have to sit at home and wait for it to arrive.
Even though I’ve got five people in my house, I went with a family plan that feeds four and I have to say that the portion size was pretty spot on for four people, if they’re adults or kids that are big eaters. Just know it might not seem that way when you open the box, probably because so many of us tend to overbuy certain items.
These boxes are very carefully portioned, which I find to be incredibly helpful.
What’s in the Blue Apron Box?
The boxes include all the ingredients for the recipe, which is attached on a colorful card with both written and visual directions. That means even if you don’t fancy yourself an expert in the kitchen, you can absolutely cook these meals. Plus they’ve got plenty of help for you, from videos and photos on their blog, plus a Blue Apron app, which can walk you through tips for finely chopping a shallot in no time.
I was very impressed with how fresh everything every ingredient was — the fish, the veggies, even the “knick knacks” as they call them, which are condiments and other smaller items needed for the recipe. Super top quality, with the meats all naturally raised, though not organic, if you’re wondering. But nearly all the ingredients come from smaller businesses and family farms employing sustainable practices, right down to the spices.
And when they say you get everything, you do get everything — except the cooking oil. But hopefully you have some of that at home.
Is it Easy?
As someone who really isn’t a big cook, I easily followed the directions and cooked up a pretty fabulous meal, if I do say so myself, that included pan-fried salmon, and an arugula farro salad with roasted cauliflower. Wow, it was amazing. Seriously awesome.
All in 35 minutes from start to finish, which is what the services promises. So yes, easy.
What About Picky Eaters and Allergies?
Of course, the challenge for plenty of families with young kids is picky eaters, and even though my kids are not what I consider very picky, they did not devour the meal as I would have hoped. In truth, they had never had farro before, and I don’t even remember the last time they had cauliflower. The fish, however, they slammed, including my two little ones who aren’t generally huge fans.
(Though I admit I had a little help from mayo and ketchup.)
However aside from the vegetarian option, Blue Apron doesn’t accommodate for kosher diets, gluten-free, or even specific food allergies. You can choose meat as a whole, but you couldn’t omit veal as a preference, for example, so if you don’t like one of the offerings that week you have to just skip it.
That said, they do offer help if you want to know how to substitute any of the included ingredients or dietary reasons. But this is definitely not a service for those of you worried about whether the wild rice was processed in a gluten-free facility.
Also, as you may have figured out by now, this is not a spaghetti-and-meatball kind of a service. Lots of the recipes are inspired by African, Creole, South American, or Asian cooking; even on the family plan, expect slightly more adventurous meals like Chicken Mole, or a Brown Butter and Butternut Squash Gnocchi. (Yum.)
Definitely check out their sample recipes to get a sense of whether the options will work for you and your family.
The Bottom Line for Families
I will say that everything about Blue Apron is seamless, aside from a few completely minor blips like the moment when I was worried that I didn’t have the proper strainer, or when I was trying to figure out how to best cut up a cauliflower. And aside from that strainer for my particular recipe, everything you’ll need at home is pretty typical.
Of course you are paying for convenience, so that makes the service pricey. At around $9-10 a person, I’d call that the very high end of cooking a meal at home, unless you’re a Whole Foods-only shopper.
If you’ve got really picky eaters, I wouldn’t advise that it’s worth the expense for the whole family, given that your meals will likely only be eaten by you and your sigOth anyway. Your home, your call on whether you have a “you eat whatever I serve rule,” but it’s an important consideration since these recipes are not what I’d call kid-friendly fare.
Convenience also means convenience packaging; in other words Blue Apron is not the most planet-friendly way to shop, considering all the individual little plastic bags and ice packs to store the food. However what it may be saving is a lot of food waste. If you’re the type who’s grocery shopping and then dumping some (or hey, a lot) of the food you buy at the store because you’re not cooking those artichokes or serving that chicken breast in time, then it’s worth crunching the numbers to see if this is a reasonable option for you.
And keep in mind that the pre-portioned ingredients does eliminate the need for infrequent cooks to have to buy a whole thing of miso paste or hoisin sauce that you aren’t going to ever use up.
From a family POV, overall, I think Blue Apron is truly perfect for busy working parents who aren’t penny pinching and are willing to pay for a convenience that helps them get back in the kitchen. It’s a special way to treat yourself for a couple of weeks for an easier weeknight dinnertime routine. It’s also makes a fantastic gift for an exhausted new mom, especially if she’s not a not-quite-as-exhausted partner to cook it for her.
But most of all, I love that it got me excited about cooking again, and sitting down to proper family dinners which, with after-school clubs and crazy work schedules aren’t as frequent as I’d like.
In fact, when my oldest daughter remarked, “You’re cooking!” it was honest indication as to how long it’s been since I’ve actually done some real cooking in my kitchen. I miss it. I feel like my kids miss it. And if you can afford it, Blue Apron could be a cool way for you to get back into an important mealtime routine.
You can get more info about Blue Apron on their website. And yes, I paid for my own subscription.
Note: Blue Apron emailed us and kindly offered up a discount for our readers which will get you 2 meals free on your first order.