For us, the kitchen is a place to get creative. But there are days, usually when we’ve been running from meeting to meeting or pushing to reach important deadlines, when the thought of standing over the stove—or standing up in general—is, ahem, less than appealing. So we were pretty excited to discover something that may just save us from ever again resorting to junky takeout or premade meals from the grocery store—which, let’s face it, often pack a ton of calories, sugar, and sodium, not to mention more questionable chemicals than a pharmaceutical lab. Say hello to Blue Apron, your new best friend.
For a little less than $60 per week (for a 2-person plan), Blue Apron, named for the colorful gear apprentice chefs don while learning their craft in France, delivers to your doorstep a box containing the fresh ingredients for three complete, balanced meals for two people, with some leftovers. (Because the box comes packed on ice, it can sit outside for up to 24 hours—especially handy if you frequently work late.) It also includes recipes for each meal, with some photo demos on the back, which are perfect for kitchen newbies. Even better: the only extras you’ll need are standbys like salt, pepper, and olive oil, plus basic pots, pans, and utensils.
Meals are relatively healthful—mostly low in sodium, with a good variety of produce, and in the 500 to 700 calorie range. You can choose from the vegetarian option or the poultry, meat/fish option, so there’s no worry about having to toss ingredients you can’t use. We ordered the vegetarian box, and received fresh ingredients (plus a bag of “knickknacks”—spices and condiments) for making cucumber-avocado maki with a red cabbage–miso slaw, French onion soup with a lettuce and cucumber salad, and a one-dish Moroccan vegetable stew with whole-wheat couscous.
What we loved: The amount of food was generous for three full meals for two people, plus a small amount of leftovers. The recipes were simple and required few special techniques (except the maki rolling—this can be a challenge even for experienced home cooks), and all were flavorful and satisfying. The recipe cards are nicely printed and can be saved for later, in case you want to try the recipe again on your own. But by far our favorite part was having all of the “extras,” like spices and soy sauce, presented in perfectly measured portions—no tearing apart the cupboards to find sesame oil or measuring a few teaspoons of this or a pinch and a half of that. Just line up your ingredients, open the containers, pour in the ingredient at the given point in the recipe, and move on to the next step. Huge time saver—we kid you not.
What we would love to tweak: Of course, there’s no substitute for choosing your own produce, especially if you support the local and organic movements. That said, most of what came in our Blue Apron box was in terrific shape and good quality. We also found the recipe-card layouts, with paragraphs that flow in an S formation rather than the traditional one-beneath-the-other step-by-step, to be a little counterintuitive; it’s a bit more challenging to follow a single ingredient thread if you want to prepare just one part of the recipe first. But for novice cooks, it’s a great way to learn how to budget your kitchen time.
Our verdict: If you love good, healthful food but hate to spend time on grocery shopping and prep, Blue Apron is for you. Because there are no minimum subscription lengths or quantities, you can skip a week or two—or more, as long as you cancel before the weekly cutoff date—before resuming service. We can see Blue Apron being the perfect option for busy workweeks or when we’ve got company on the way and don’t have a lot of time to put together menus or grocery runs. With one click, it’s all done for you—save for the veggie chopping. (Hey, you can’t win them all.)
Now it’s your turn. Would you try a grocery delivery service like Blue Apron? What are your best tips for making healthful meals on busy evenings?