It all began with a simple question:
“Jen, as a health coach, what do you think of all those meal kit delivery companies?”
To be honest, I didn’t have an answer. I liked the idea of getting people back in the kitchen, especially if they would be cooking with more good quality proteins, whole vegetables and healthy fats. However, I had some questions about the cost of the delivery system as well as the minimum level of cooking skills that would be required so I decided to test them myself to find out.
I began with Blue Apron by request. One of the things that was clear immediately with Blue Apron was the reliability of the company. Once I created my account, I could see which meals would be delivered. The box arrived exactly as they said it would, on the right day and before 8 p.m. The ingredients were kept cool by some monster ice packs, and I felt very comfortable with the level of food safety. Because everything is in its own separate container, there was quite a bit of plastic to recycle. Initially I separated the ingredients by recipe with the guidance of the beautiful recipe cards. Then I put them in small baskets in the refrigerator to make it easier to prepare. I really liked having every single ingredient ready. That was a positive aspect of having the meal kits, no need to make last minute substitutions when making a new recipe for the first time.
My daughter Eliza, who is 13 and has been cooking since birth (observing counts, right?), made the first recipe, Ricotta and Beet Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Persimmon and Marinated Fennel Salad. The back of the recipe cards give you step by step directions. While she had no problem with grating the beet, dicing the shallot and cutting the persimmon, she was stumped by the fennel. Fortunately, that’s what youtube is for, so we looked it up and then went to work slicing the fennel. After 45 minutes, lunch was ready. Everything tasted good, and the combination of the beet and ricotta was an interesting and delicious combination. We don’t often eat fennel, and have only had persimmons a few times so the variety was good not only for our palettes, but for our bodies. Humans thrive on variety, so falling into those food ruts are not only boring, they are unhealthy!
The other recipes, White Bean and Vegetable Minestrone with Fried Rosemary and Japanese Black Rice Bowls with Sweet Potato Tempura and Soft-Boiled Eggs, were similar in that it took between 30-45 minutes to prepare each meal and we occasionally had to do some research. The variety of the ingredients continued and offered new ideas and experiences for the whole family. Because everyone in my house is open to new tastes and textures, we enjoyed the process and meals. The ratings varied from okay to good. Nothing that we wouldn’t eat, but nothing amazing. The biggest positive takeaway from Blue Apron was the variety of ingredients. Researching and using new culinary skills was a bonus as well.
As an experiment and new experience, I found Blue Apron a lot of fun. Personally, I can’t imagine spending that much time making a meal three times a week. I only cook two or three times a week, and warm up leftovers the rest of the time so this experience had me spending more time making smaller amounts of food. The time each meal took, with the many steps including the research, was fine as a fun experience, but I would not want to count on it for my actual meals. What if no one liked it? What if we arrived home late after a very busy day and I needed something on the table in 15 minutes? For those reasons, I know it isn’t something that I would count on a regular basis.
One of the other things that I also found a bit of a sabotage for my dietary goals was the use of so much bread and pasta. I think we ate more of those in one week that we had in the previous month! While I will keep the recipe cards, I will use the recipes in different ways, like combining the beet and ricotta with some farro to top a salad instead of in a sandwich.
When I went to my account to end my membership, I had the ability to see what would be delivered the following week, and decided to keep it for a second week. Why? Because even with all the steps, the length of time it took to cook the meals, and the empty carbs (which I swapped out for better choices), I simply liked the variety and new ideas. This week I am looking forward to the Sweet Potato, Kale and Mushroom Gratin with Apple and Butter Lettuce Salad. I will go light on the cheese and double the veggies in the Gratin, and I will use a gluten-free flour to make the sauce but making substitutions to recipes is nothing new to me. And while I will not get it a third week (other meal kit companies to test), I have enjoyed the Blue Apron experience.
A few things about the costs of Blue Apron. There are lots of coupons available online, so shop around. I spend $34.00 for my first week thanks Groupon, and paid the full price of $59.94 for my second week. I ordered the smaller size, 3 meals for 2 people, because I wasn’t counting on the meals as part of my meal prep for the week. Make sure to keep the size of your family in mind when ordering.
Have you tried Blue Apron or other meal prep kit companies? What was your experience? Please make a comment! I would love to hear from you!
I often use the early morning to organize my thoughts into paragraphs. And sometimes into recipes.