So after I posted about how the Boy and I have been using (and still enjoying!) Plated earlier this year, my friend E emailed me to say how interested she was in that post. She was particularly interested because she has been a user of Blue Apron, but was frustrated at the volume of food she was getting (Blue Apron does 3 meals of two servings each) – and would I be interested in swapping codes for free meals to each try it out?
The answer was yes, but since the Boy and I already had “a thing” of cooking the Plated meals together, I decided to take advantage of the fact that Blue Apron also offers more servings – if you order for a “family” of four, you only have to choose two meals each week. This was very interesting. The girls are interested in cooking, and it’s been the kind of life skill we like to make sure that they have. Because someday they’ll be on their own and if they’re afraid to use the oven, or to use a knife, it makes feeding themselves that much more difficult. So I went with the family option and decided we would use it as an opportunity to cook as a family.
How did it go? Pretty well. I think it helps to choose recipes that are very close to your family’s comfort zone – both girls like pasta, so making a ragu from scratch, and then pasta with greens on top along with the sausage made it that much more appealing. And anything where you get to stir a pot or pan while the contents simmer is THE BEST. I think I found myself saying a few times with the sauce, “You can let it stand a moment without stirring since we want it to thicken up!” The food was tasty, and I think it made the girls proud to know that they had helped contribute to such a “fancy” dinner.
The next meal we made together was a little more challenging to the palate. Glazed chicken over broccoli and soba noodles. Even trying to explain what soba noodles are, and how you have to be delicate with them was an education. And while roasting veggies is second nature to me, it’s fun to show little people the magic of a little olive oil, salt and time in the oven when it comes to vegetables. And here’s where that “teaching skills” comes into play – H has a fear of the oven. She thinks she’s going to burn herself no matter how many times we show her, or have her put things in. The number of frozen pizzas that have been thrown onto the oven rack (losing toppings along the way) is appalling. Slow and steady though – it’s harder to refuse to put a tray of broccoli in the oven when you know that’s not just your dinner, and there’s someone on hand supervising and making sure it’ll be ok.
We had a couple of other good meals through Blue Apron on the family plan – pork chops with apricot pan sauce and a side of cheesy broccoli and potatoes, and some amazing lemongrass turkey burgers which were topped with super yummy radish (a challenge veg!) and roasted sweet potato “chips”. But maybe you’ll notice the past tense there – had. Because we’re not doing Blue Apron anymore. As much fun as it was, and as good experience as we had with the girls helping out, it’s a lot of pressure, and we don’t have the girls every day of the week, which limits when we can make the meals.
The main point I keep hearing from people who are doing these meal boxes is that no one has time. And/or that it’s too much food, despite being single servings. If you’re one person ordering a box, you’re getting at least 6 meals. If you’re a family, or anyone with a relatively busy schedule, it can be hard to find a night or two to make your meals. My cousin and her boyfriend were just telling us about how they cooked two sets of meals in one night because the ingredients were about to go bad. A friend of my cousins will freeze the meats and whatever ingredients she can, and then purchase replacements, or substitute out for other things that are fresh when she finally has time. It’s definitely a challenge.
So – who could actually use and enjoy a service like Blue Apron (or even Plated or Hello Fresh, or whatever other meal kit-delivery service comes next)? Well, it’s definitely more than one person, unless that one person really likes leftovers. Ideally, a couple. This couple also has a regular schedule where they are able to regularly find two or more nights each week to devote to cooking together. It helps if they hate grocery shopping so much that they’re willing to pay more for someone else to do all of it, and also if they’re not expert chefs enough where the recipes will be more adventurous than anything they would make on their own.
But the kind of person who fits all those criteria tends not to be the ones these kits are geared towards (millenials) – the ideal market is probably childless or empty-nest couples who are older. Late-stage baby boomers, or early Gen-Xers whose kids are off in college, and who have previously abandoned cooking in favor of ready-prepared foods or take-out, but who in their newly found free time (and free-er budget) are wanting to try something new. I’m not saying that there aren’t younger people for whom the system works (the Boy and I will continue to get our Plated box once or twice a month when our schedule allows), but despite the reduced food waste because of pre-portioned foods, it’s still possible to let things go to waste.
And while I may have cancelled Blue Apron, the company sent me a code trying to entice me back at some point, and still sends emails (which are annoying) with tempting weekly meals. At some point in the future when things quiet down, I may go back to Blue Apron, but we’ll see. I may have another meal kit delivery company to review in the near future…
Details: Blue Apron (sorry – I’ve got no codes for BA, but maybe I can hook you up with my friend E who probably has a few? Or if you want a Plated code, I can definitely get you one of those!)