The meal kit subscription service simplifies cooking, but meal planning could easily replace it, for a better cost and more control.
Subscriptions are the rage these days. Everything, from theater-going to grocery shopping, can be done on a month-to-month or week-to-week basis. Blue Apron is a meal kit service that promises to simplify cooking at home.
My delivery came on time; the friend who recommended the service, however, said theirs was often delivered late, and as they live off campus, they’ve dealt with theft. Blue Apron had refunded them the instance it occurred, but I’m not sure how often the business is willing to do that.
Blue Apron offers six recipes for you to choose from each week, and theirs tend to be heavier options, with creamier sauces and a larger focus on rice and potatoes.
The orange chicken proved a mess. The instructions, which came with the box but are also available online, were full of pictures, something important to me in a recipe. The printed copy allows for recreation of the dish for later. It had everything planned to a tee — cutting vegetables first, then cooking rice, then vegetables, then the chicken by itself, then combining the chicken and vegetables. When I cook, I am generally not that planned out and struggle to not jump ahead.
The chicken took longer to cook than expected. While it was cooking, my roommate remarked she wasn’t too enthused by the smell, and I agreed. The recipe called for the chicken to be coated in cornstarch and cooked in sesame seed oil, and honestly, I didn’t feel that the coating added anything to the meal. Instead, the whole thing tasted strongly of ginger, a flavor that easily overwhelmed the others and is not a personal favorite. For this meal, bok choy and celery were the featured veggies, and seeing as they provided two baby bok choy for four servings, I felt like I wasn’t getting the proper serving of vegetables. For some though, I’m sure the provided amount is more than average.
The other meal was deviled salmon with potatoes and kale. The sides were nothing special, just roasted potatoes and kale, with some seasoning on it. That part was simple, though, I was pretty tempted to not put the kale in the foil and roast it, and instead make kale chips. Given those sides are standard fare, I didn’t expect anything new and didn’t get anything new. They provided two medium sized potatoes and one bunch of kale, which, like kale does, seemed to be a lot less after it was cooked. Again, I need more vegetables, but I may just have a problem. But the star of the dish: salmon. There were two large fillets of meat for four servings. The recipe called for the salmon to be coated in a butter/mustard/spice mixture, with a breadcrumbs and parmesan crusting. The mustard definitely overpowered the dish; it would’ve been fine with just the crust and spice. I could barely taste the spices involved. But salmon is salmon, so I was definitely happy.
One of the biggest flaws about Blue Apron, however, is the waste. As someone who tries to bring her own bags to grocery stores, I felt guilty about making food from the service. Everything is individually packaged, from the small thing of cashews to the kale. These plastic baggies weren’t the proper type to be recycled on campus, and frankly, I wondered why the service couldn’t have put multiple ingredients in the same bag — I can tell the difference between bok choy and celery — or in paper. Plus, each shipment with meat comes with cold packs, which are reusable, but after a few boxes, I can’t imagine needing too many of them.
Costwise, my plan was supposed to be $79.95 for two meals of four servings each, the family plan. If you factor in being able to buy large packs of ingredients that will serve you many occasions, such as for the rice, spices or other things, Blue Apron comes out costly. Sure, at under $10 a meal it’s cheaper than eating out, and probably healthier too. I went to Sprouts and Reasor’s, mostly just because I happened to be in both of those at different times; it was still cheaper than Blue Apron. The salmon, which was on sale that week for $9 per pound, was the most expensive purchase. The rice, cornstarch, sesame oil and soy sauce would be purchased in a larger amount, but all are readily used in other dishes, and I didn’t feel like the corn starch was even necessary.
But overall, I predicted the same meals would cost about $50 dollars if purchased at a store. With that estimate, Blue Apron expects me to pay $30 more just for convenience sake (a convenience slightly dampened by the long walk from ACAC to Norman with a large box). Even on other weeks, when the shipment would include steaks, or another meat more expensive than chicken, I doubt Blue Apron would be that comparable. That additional cost, then, is for the meal planning and time saved when shopping. For those without a way to get to the grocery store, it’s definitely something to consider. But as a college student with a car, I think I’d rather save that money and spend an hour of my time.
Blue Apron forces you to have variety in your meals, providing vegetables and clear directions. In that aspect, it’s a cool service that college students might enjoy. But the dishes tend to be a bit heavier and creamier, so shopping around to see which meal kit subscription service best suits your taste is probably a good investment of time. Personally, I wouldn’t use the service again; I didn’t think it was worth the cost and wasn’t too impressed by the meals I ended up with. Perhaps I’m just terrible at following directions — my roommate would wholeheartedly agree — or a control freak or hate very specific flavors.
Honestly, I ended up skipping my first week, not seeing anything I liked, and other weeks in the future didn’t appeal to me either. Because there are so many services like Blue Apron now, you have options, if you’re interested in meals that are more paleo or vegan or literally any type of special diet. You trade total control of your mealtime for variety and convenience, though when motivated, meal planning is a total adult step.