Monday, October 17, 2016

Nachos Grande Review: Blue Apron!

Three weeks ago, my wife's cousin gave us a code that allowed us to try Blue Apron for free for a week.  Since my blog is named after food - and since I love food very much - I figured it would be a fun thing to offer up a review of the services here!

Basically, Blue Apron is a company that sends three meals (more accurately, the ingredients for the meals) to your home each week (our plan has three two-person meals per week, there is also a family plan available).  Then, on the day that you decide you want your delivery, you get a box full of all the ingredients you need to make three fresh meals.  The cost?  About $60 if you do the two-person, three meals per week, plan (which is what we did).

Since I'm a lover of food, the most important question to me is:  Is the food any good?

The answer, through 2 1/3 weeks' worth of meals?  Yes, the food is quite good.

Our first week (which was our free week) we received all the ingredients to make the following:

Beef & Shishito Open-Faced Sandwiches with Tomato, Cucumber, and Romaine Salad.

This meal was my favorite from our first week.  We actually got too much salad stuff (and the salad was nothing special though the veggies were all nice and fresh).  However, the open-faced sandwich was the star of the week.  One great thing about Blue Apron is that they do send a full recipe card (with the instructions to make the meal on the back - and everything is fully illustrated).  I rated the sandwich a 10/10, my wife gave it an 8/10.

The second meal of the box was Five-Spice Chicken with Vermicelli, Mushrooms, & Baby Fennel

This one was the worst meal of the first week for me.  Part of that was because I do not like the taste of fennel (and I knew that before we tried the recipe).  The other problem was that the meal, despite all the ingredients and work, didn't have a lot of flavor (for me, the fennel was too overpowering).  I gave this one a 3/10, my wife also didn't care for it much and give it a 5/10.

Finally, the last meal in the box was Crispy Catfish with Kale-Farro Salad & Warm Grape Relish

I should note that I'm listing the recipes by the recipe number printed on the bottom of each recipe card (full sized pages really) but my wife and I actually tried the Catfish first, then the Chicken, and we ended with the Beef Sandwich (which was a great way to end the week of meals)!  The Catfish was interesting (and tasty) - and I've never used cooked grapes in that way to make a relish.  Both my wife and I liked this one a lot - I gave it an 8/10 while she gave it a 9/10.

That completed the first week (unfortunately, I didn't think to start taking photos until we did the third meal of the week).  We enjoyed the first week so much (and my wife and I had a great time cooking many of the meals together) so we decided to pay for week #2.  Since you might be curious, here were the meals from last week (our second week in the "program").

Week 2:

Fresh Pimento Cheeseburgers with Collard Green & Carrot Slaw

This was an awesome meal - and that's from someone who prefers grilled burgers over those cooked on the stove top usually!  The Pimento cheese topping was the highlight - but honestly I liked the entire meal.  This was another 10/10 for me and a 10/10 for my wife.  Our first universally agreed home run meal!

Crispy Chicken Milanese with Warm Brussels Sprout & Potato Salad

One thing that Blue Apron prides itself on is using seasonal veggies in the meals.  Since it's now fall, that means using things like Brussels Sprouts.  I've never liked those little green guys but I still found this recipe to be satisfactory (though nothing special).  Both my wife and I gave it a 6/10.

Seared Cod & Udon Noodles with Shiitake Broth & Togarashi-Spiced Cucumber

The final recipe for our second week was a big hit with my wife (she gave it a 9/10).  I wasn't quite as enamored but it was still tasty (I gave it a 7/10).

As you can see, both my wife and I were happy with the majority of the meals - and we absolutely loved at least one each week.  Frankly, those numbers are better than probably what would have happened if we had tried to pick random recipes out from a cookbook!  Even better, since we live in northern Pennsylvania (and the nearest good grocery store is 45 minutes away) we appreciate getting great, fresh fruits and vegetables delivered to us weekly!  Finally, while the $60 seems steep at first glance, all six meals from the first two weeks were quality meals (and none left us hungry).  At about $10 a meal (per person) I think it is a fair value...and when you live in an area where you'll never find some of the unique ingredients used by the recipes, it's better than fair value!

I should mention that the packaging used by Blue Apron is also top-notch.  Each box has ice packs in it to keep the food cold - and everything comes out of the box labeled (both in terms of what the ingredient is - helpful for new stuff and for what recipe it goes to).

Each of our first two boxes also included a fourth insert to go along with the three recipe cards - and that insert was a card that talked about one of the ingredients used in the recipe(s) within the box.  My wife and I are now on our third week's worth of Blue Apron - and this week's box included an insert for turnips - a vegetable that I hadn't had since I was a little kid.

In the end, I would definitely recommend Blue Apron for anyone who:
1.  Likes to cook (many of the recipes take some time to prepare - and they all require a fair bit of chopping of fresh veggies)
2.  Likes "different" food.  While you can choose a meal plan with meat or without meat, you can't do much else in the way of customizing.  If you are a picky eater and don't like trying new things, then this is not the program for you.

If you are looking for ready-made meals (or basic "meat and potatoes' meals) then I would suggest to keep looking in terms of mail-order food meals.

As you can tell, my wife and I approve of Blue Apron - so much so that we are now in week 3 of the program.  Since you can see upcoming meals on their website, I can assure you that we'll be sticking around for a few more weeks as well since there are some tasty things coming up that I can't wait to try (including Spicy Hoisin Chicken and Spiced Pork Burgers in the next two weeks).


Billy Kingsley said...

Interesting concept. I had no idea turnips had been cultivated that long. The program would not work for me due to allergies and the fact that I don't eat fish, but some of these look pretty darn good to me!

P-town Tom said...

Wow. I didn't know such a program existed. I like the idea, but there are nights where neither my wife nor myself have the energy/time to prepare such wonderful meals. I hate to say it, but we may be keeping the frozen pizza companies in business all by ourselves.

The Junior Junkie said...

We do Hello Fresh which is the same basic thing. We've had it for almost a year and love it. Tonight it was ginger-glazed shrimp over jasmine rice with roasted green beans. I'm getting pretty good at it, too!

deal said...

Team Phungo had our Blue Apron experience in early summer. The food was good and it does save you the grocery time. It isn't exactly for us, but it was fun to do once. I did learn to use citrus more generously in my meals.

Nachos Grande said...

Billy: You can choose vegetarian, and I think you can choose to substitute certain meals only (though I haven't tried doing that yet).

P-Town: I actually like that a "week's worth" of meals is only three meals. With both my wife and I working during the week, we don't usually cook more than three "real" dinners per week anyhow.

JJ: I looked into Hello Fresh (and a host of other companies). The free week of Blue Apron got us hooked though and we haven't switched yet.

Deal: I don't miss the grocery store one bit!

Adam Kaningher said...

This looks awesome but it does seem a little pricey.

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