Meals-in-a-Box delivered to your door
There are several services that offer make-your-own meal ingredients delivered to your home. Blue Apron and Hello Fresh are two of the better known companies, but there are at least five others that I’m aware of.
The premise is pretty simple: after signing up for the service, you receive a refrigerated box of ingredients that have been specifically proportioned for each of that week’s pre-determined meals. The meals are designed by chefs, can be customized to your preferences (vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.), and each requires about 30 – 45 minutes of prep time.
Not all delivery services are available everywhere, but in our city Blue Apron appears to be the best known. We have received several mailers from them offering dollars off the first week of meals and discount offers appear in my Groupon feed all the time. I had been a little intrigued but not enough to try it until a neighbor took advantage of one of the offers and liked it. Then, the stars aligned when a fellow blogger, Denise of My Life in Retirement not only wrote a post about her Blue Apron experience, but offered a week’s worth of free meals to three of her readers (thank you, Denise!).
Here is a summary of our experience in case you are interested in trying one of these services too:
About a week after registering for Blue Apron, a large box was delivered on our doorstep. Packed tightly inside were fresh vegetables, three different proteins for the three meals, starches, spices, sauces, and other “knick knacks” (as they call them) needed to complete each meal. All the ingredients were wrapped inside a foil liner and packed with gel-filled ice packs. Large, full-color recipe cards were included for each meal.
Our first week’s delivery included dishes made with shrimp, chicken, and beef. All required a certain amount of pre-prep (chopping, etc.) but it went quickly because most of the ingredients came perfectly proportioned and didn’t require measuring. Following the step-by-step instructions was easy and the meals came together with very little trouble.
We have prepared and eaten six Blue Apron meals so far. Although some were better than others, they were all good and satisfying. I like my food spicier than my husband does so we prepared the meals more to his taste, then I added more if needed. I thought the spices (depending on how much used) were bold and interesting. It was fun to use ingredients that we had never tried before – these weren’t same old, same old dishes.
Interesting ingredients and flavor combinations. The dishes were unique and the ingredients looked and tasted fresh.
The ingredients came already proportioned for each meal so we didn’t have to buy a whole jar of something when we only needed a tablespoon or two. This cuts down on the food and money waste of buying a lot when we need just a little.
The meals were complete. We could add a salad if we wanted, but the meals all included a starch and at least one vegetable.
The meals were kind of fun to prepare together. It was easy to divvy up the responsibilities which made the dinners come together smoothly.
The proportions were generous. My husband is a big eater and he felt satisfied when done.
We had three meals a week that we didn’t have to plan and shop for.
Three Blue Apron meals for two a week cost $59.94, including shipping (different delivery services costs vary). If you eat out a lot, spending about $10 per person, per meal isn’t over-the-top. If you do a lot of home cooking (which we do), it can seem a bit pricey.
Although the portions are generous, there really isn’t enough for another meal (so, of course, we ate it all in one sitting). We love leftovers so this was definitely a minus. If you aren’t enamored of leftovers this may be a plus.
We have found that our retired lifestyle can make meal planning challenging. Sometimes we have a late lunch and don’t feel like a big dinner or we decide to go out for dinner at the last minute. Having three pre-planned meals a week sounds pretty good, but once we had to make one of the “dinners” for lunch since we knew we wouldn’t be having dinner at home that day.
Packaging waste. This was the biggie for us. Blue Apron claims that its packaging is “eco-friendly,” but it isn’t very easy to recycle it, although they offer a “mail back” option. I was shocked at how much waste was left over after we prepared just one meal. We compost and we recycle curbside, but much of the packaging doesn’t qualify in our area. Plus they package each ingredient separately (for instance: one scallion inside its own plastic bag, a tablespoon of butter in a little plastic tub, 3 tablespoons of flour – flour??!! – in a baggie). There is a lot of negative reaction to the waste on social media and the internet, so I hope they are working on improving it.
Because of some upcoming commitments, travel, house guests, etc., we have cancelled Blue Apron deliveries for now (they only allow the cancellation—not suspension—of service). Once life returns back to normal—or as normal as it gets for us—we will may start service again, but definitely not once every week until they improve the waste problem.