Inside the Magical Blue Apron Box
Have you heard of Blue Apron? It’s a very interesting concept: exact portions of fresh ingredients come shipped to your home, complete with detailed, full-color recipe cards. It’s designed to not only eliminate shopping (and impulse buying) at the supermarket, but also helps to control portion sizes, which may be a big deal for you if you made a diet resolution for the new year.
Here’s how our first week went.
When you order from the Blue Apron website, you can choose how many days you want for the week (I chose three) and how many portions, either two or four. That’s where it gets tricky. There are three of us, but The Assistant and I tend to be light eaters at dinnertime. Should I go with 2 portions and hope that it’s enough? Should I order four portions and know that I’ll have too much? In the end I opted for two and hoped for the best.
The meals cost $9.99 per person, per meal. True, I can manage more cheaply on my own, but since they include the precise amount that you need for each meal, you don’t find yourself buying an oversized ingredient for one meal. In the end, I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable, plus it gives you a built in level of portion control.
You can specify whether or not you have an aversion to certain foods (pork, shellfish), but for the most part you’re at the whim of the service.
The magical box arrives via FedEx. I had planned for a Tuesday delivery and deliberately didn’t go to the store in anticipation. This was going to carry me through the week. And then I remembered that it’s the holiday season, FedEx tends to come quite late, and there was a good chance that my delivery would miss dinner. Oops.
Fortunately, it arrived just as I was contemplating freezer pizza as a backup plan.
It comes in a densely packed, heavy, neatly organized box. When you open the lid, you’re met with a letter about the week’s meals, and three lovely recipe cards.
I immediately unpacked the box and divided my ingredients by meal. I love the single serving items: one sprig of rosemary; a handful of chives; a tiny container of mayonnaise; just enough rice flour; a perfectly ripe avocado. I wish I could buy these things at the store, rather than 18 ounces of mayo that I use once.
The photo to the left is the contents of first night’s meal: acorn squash tempura tacos. (Not pictured: a package of eight soft tacos.) Inside the brown bag were smoked paprika, mayonnaise for taco sauce and queso fresco. I looked at that collection of food and thought, there’s no way that this will feed all three of us. I was wrong about that, there was plenty.
The Assistant did point out that it was “weird” that there were only tacos. “No rice? No beans? Just tacos?” Hmm, good point, kid. I opted to add rice and black beans to the meal. It just seemed more rounded than tacos alone.
For the second night’s meal, chicken and chestnut pasta, the two-serving thing was definitely too little. Clearly, three people were going to require more than eight ounces of pasta among them. But the additional ingredients were hearty enough that I had no issues with supplementing a bit of my own pantry stash of pasta to compensate. It didn’t seem like the remaining ingredients were stretched too thin.
Bonus: I can’t say that I’ve ever cooked with chestnuts before. I can’t say I ever thought about it. They worked out just fine.
Each recipe includes a time estimate, which appears to me to be completely off base. The tacos, for example, claim to take 15-25 minutes. It took me 15-20 minutes to chop and prep everything, and the batter-dipping and frying took a while (2-3 minutes per side on each batch of squash multiplied by four batches comes out to be somewhere between 16-24 minutes for frying alone). I’m wondering if the time is the actual cooking time, not the fridge-to-plate time.
By the way, if you’re making these tacos at home, I opted to pickle half of the onions and it made a huge difference! Just cover your onion slices in a mix of 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes. It’s a nice kick to the meal.
You can see the finished taco at left: smoky paprika sauce, tempura squash, fresh avocado, pickled onions and queso fresco. It was a tasty dinner.
Is this an every-week thing? I opted out through the holidays when our schedules were a mess and obligations left us with family dinner conflicts at least twice a week. But for January, once things settle down? Yep, I’m back on schedule for next Tuesday.
I’m going to give it a few more weeks before making a final assessment, but I’ve been pleased so far.