Praise Be to Thee, Oh Ye Life-Changing Boxes
March 06, 2015
This post is sponsored by Blue Apron, and SPOILER ALERT: There's a code for free meals at the bottom, if you prefer to skip my ramblings and get right to the good stuff.
The best part about being asked to write about Blue Apron is that — as anyone who knows me in real life can attest to — ALL I DO SOME DAYS IS TALK ABOUT BLUE APRON.
I have converted my sister, several close friends, a bunch of Facebook acquaintances, at least one coworker, and also this one girl I met at a party one time, who accepted my referral email invite probably out of fear for her life.
“BLUE APRON,” I’ll say, wide-eyed, while grabbing your arm in a way that makes you a little uncomfy, “IS THE GREATEST THING ON EARTH.”
I mean, don’t mind me, but here are just some photos of my three and a half year old eating Chef Mei Lin’s winning meal from the season finale of Top Chef: Crispy Chicken Thighs with Braised Lettuce, Kimchi and Maitake Mushrooms.
And here is a photo of him LIKING IT.
And here is a photo of my plate, which looks a little fancier but still induced some pretty dorky chair dancing:
We ate that meal on a Monday night, after yet another snow day, a snow day so pointless and crazy-making that I couldn’t even be bothered to make Ike change out of his pajamas by dinnertime, but I cooked that entire meal with pleasure, including homemade kimchi, which I’ve never attempted before. It took about 30 minutes and dirtied up all of one pot and two bowls. I came in under my calorie count for the day, although I may have promptly blown that with an extra glass of wine while the kids unloaded and loaded the dishwasher.
This is the way we eat now. Although we can skip weeks anytime we want, we’ve only done that twice. We went away for a weekend with some friends this winter, and after confirming that our rental accommodations included a full kitchen, we simply loaded our Blue Apron delivery into the car, still in the boxes, along with the only things NOT provided: salt, pepper and olive oil.
(Oh, and a citrus zester, because I am not zesting any fool citrus without that thing.)
My refrigerator is free of wasted squishy herbs, extra produce, containers of specialty condiments growing fuzz because I bought them one time for one recipe six months ago. We spend zero time menu planning and practically no time shopping…while eating better, with more variety. Jason and I have completely crushed our weight loss goals. And my children are just like, “oh, it’s a salmon burger, I dig salmon burgers.”
Meanwhile they don’t even care that I’ve spread hoisin mayonnaise on them and topped them with a cabbage-pear slaw. This, from children who previously would freak out over the presence of ketchup. KETCHUP.
Salmon burgers mise-en-place, from a Blue Apron family-style, four-person box.* I swapped two of Blue Apron’s full-sized buns for three of our patented, go-to Stupid Tiny Buns to make five burgers, and of course added the classy touch of leaving the SALE price sticker on my wine.
*Full disclosure: We are paying Blue Apron members and have been since late last summer/early fall. We receive two boxes a week, each containing three meals for two people, at $9.99 a meal. The chicken dish at the beginning of this post is from that plan. As part of this sponsorship, Blue Apron sent us an extra box of their new family plan membership, which contained two meals for four people, including the salmon burgers. While we are technically five people, the four servings is always more than enough, and we usually have some leftovers. Calorie counts are between 500 and 700 calories per serving across both plans, yadda yadda.
No lie, the last special “kids only” meal I made for them included leftover tempura-battered acorn squash from this amazing taco meal. We had a BOUNTY of fried squash, so I froze it, and now just heat the pieces up like chicken fingers in the oven.
(The kids may or may not dip them in ketchup. Whatever.)
Point is, Blue Apron really has changed the way we shop, cook, eat…and how spend our family meals together. That’s probably where all this effusive praise really comes from.
Jason and I love cooking together now — we used to clash and bump elbows all the time, tripping over each other as we pursued separate tasks, stressing over overly complicated recipes that sparked our interest but had no place being made on a weeknight. (Or just making the same rotating list of meals over and over, zombie-style.) Now we look forward to making dinner. We’ve very much found the rhythm and flow of the Blue Apron recipe cards and instructions, and are of course giant food dorks about learning a new technique or popping open a wee container of some crazy weird pepper sauce or a cheese we’ve never heard of.
It took about a month on the service, but the kids aren’t thrown at all by the appearance of something New or Green — you tell ‘em it’s a taco, or beef/chicken/fish, or has some kind of rice or noodle or grain, that’s familiar enough. The meal battles have all but come to an end.
And watching Noah, who struggled with texture or oral motor issues that made mealtimes SO CHALLENGING for SO MANY YEARS, delight in the discovery that actually, he’s NOT a picky eater, and is PROUD of his ability to try new things and find that he likes them, most of the time…well. I’ve lost my grip on the grammar this sentence but trust me: It’s an amazing thing.
Anyway, that’s probably enough from me, especially since writing this is making me hungry and it’s still HOURS away from dinner time. (Tonight’s menu: Tilapia Meuniere with Moroccan Beluga Lentils and Rainbow Chard.)
This post was sponsored by Blue Apron but all unhinged fangirl opinions are most certainly my own. Sign up for Blue Apron using THIS LINK and the first 100 readers will get two free meals on their first order. So what in sam hill are you still doing HERE? Go! Order! Cook! EAT!
This post pretty much sums up my love affair with Blue Apron also! We tried it out after you posted about the first time, and we're never ever going back to the old way. My husband jokes that I'm like a dealer pushing my Blue Apron on everybody lol We love it so much, and are so happy you introduced us to it :)
Posted by: Amber | March 06, 2015 at 09:54 AM
Ugh! You had me convinced, I headed over to Blue Apron to sign up, and, surprise! They don't deliver to South Mississippi. Womp womp. But I'm now on the email alert list for when they do (crosses fingers for SOON!).
Our 11-month old is very interested in eating our food, which, let's just say, is not nearly as healthy and balanced as the purees she started on. Time to make some real changes at our house!
Posted by: Dana | March 06, 2015 at 10:02 AM
Waaaaah, not in Canada. :-(
Posted by: Megan | March 06, 2015 at 10:18 AM
They don't deliver to the Dallas area! Booo!!!
Posted by: Alison | March 06, 2015 at 10:32 AM
Waaaaaahhhhhh, when are they going to add MN?!
Posted by: yasmara | March 06, 2015 at 10:40 AM
Amy you have also made am Blue Apron convert! I signed up when I was in the throws of 1st trimester nausea/exhaustion. I almost cancelled it but then I discovered my husband, a man who previously hated to cook discovered that he LOVES cooking with blue apron. He loves all the chopping for the mis-en-place. He loves that there are pictures to tell him what to at each step and recipes are written simply. And we both love that the recipes are relatively healthy and have interesting ingredients we've never tried before like fregola sarda, crystallized honey or trumpet mushrooms.
Now that my father in law is living with us I'm finding some clever ways to stretch the two serving meals into 3-4 servings (serving sizes really do vary, in my experience) last night we had the Italian wedding soup and I added in fresh bread and a salad.
My one major complaint is the lack of flexibility in picking meals. It can be really frustrating when you want two veggies meals and a carnivore meal but meal selector won't allow it. You either get the omnivore plan with one pre-picked vegetarian option.
Posted by: Jess | March 06, 2015 at 10:44 AM
My daughter gave us Blue Apron for Christmas, and we are totally hooked!! Love it! For all the reasons you said, except the kid ones. I tell everyone about it. A friend that I started on it says it has saved her marriage!!
Posted by: Lois | March 06, 2015 at 11:08 AM
I'm still not sure about this service, but hearing that Noah is a fan makes me happy. He should be proud! I seem to remember long ago posts when you said his meals were all basically smoothies.
Posted by: flybigd | March 06, 2015 at 11:20 AM
You converted me last time you had a code for free meals :) My kids are less convinced by the food and my husband less convinced by the cost and packaging but I love it even if I'm the only one eating it sometimes (i.e. more tastiness for me). I'm now working on converting all my friends and family members...
Posted by: Joanna | March 06, 2015 at 11:21 AM
I can't even tell you how disappointed I am that they don't ship to Canada. I signed up for NatureBox and rode out the Canada:Beta period and now have tasty but nutritionally-mediocre snacks delivered to my office once a month (you know, so the kids don't get them at home). I would REJOICE if Blue Apron expanded to Canada. We've had leftovers twice and pancakes once already this week, and it's only Thursday...
Posted by: Laura B. | March 06, 2015 at 11:23 AM
I still don't understand the pricing. The website says $9.99 per person per meal for a two person plan. So prior to the family plan, were you doing 2 of the 2-person plans for each meal? Or $40 each dinner?
Posted by: Khar | March 06, 2015 at 11:33 AM
Re my comment above (and if this is getting too deep for comments feel free to ignore), to get picky kids to eat real food, can the dietary equivalent of CIO/Ferber work? I.e. if we go from yogurt/PB&J/waffles/pretzels & hummus straight to actual meals, will they just throw a fit for a week and then get over it, or better to ease into real food with meals that combine "grown-up" food and so-called kid-friendly options?
Posted by: Joanna | March 06, 2015 at 11:34 AM
Okay, so I just signed up, but I have a question. Where is the meat/fish coming from? Is the fish sources sustainably? I'm very concerned with that. Is the chicken/beef quality?
Posted by: Stephanie | March 06, 2015 at 12:08 PM
Also, I signed up for the family of four but worried that it's too much food for my little girls, who are 3 and 5, but that the two person meals are not enough. I guess I'll just have to wait and see!
Posted by: Stephanie | March 06, 2015 at 12:10 PM
I signed up after your second post and OMG LOVE IT! I sing its praises and have had a few people sign up. I will say to those questioning cost that there were some meals where I thought "hmmm, that probably wasn't $20 worth of product" but you what?? It saved me time and that is priceless. Plus as Amy said your saving money in all the random spices, vinegars, fresh herbs, etc that you buy for on meal and never use again.
Really just try it.... one time... then you'll be hooked and you will actually be sad on the days you don't have a Blue Apron to make.
Posted by: Jennifer | March 06, 2015 at 12:13 PM
I signed up to try it, because l'm eight months pregnant and feeling especially uninspired to go to the grocery store. We have a toddler, so we are trying out the two person, three times a week plan. It's nice that you can put the account on hold. I think it will be extra nice after the baby comes. I don't mind cooking, but trying to organize a meal plan and make a shopping list for my husband is so hard when sleep deprived. Thanks, Amy!
Posted by: Brita | March 06, 2015 at 12:35 PM
Ah so tempting! We have a three year-old who I think we can now classify as a "picky eater" (for now, at least) - maybe this would prompt her to try new things. Question though - how long is the average prep/cooking time for these meals? We cook now pretty much every night, making meals that take at most 1 hr to prep/cook. If Blue Apron is about the same (or even LESS time!) I may be swayed...
Posted by: Anne | March 06, 2015 at 12:43 PM
My question is ... do you prefer the regular meals or the family style meals? In a way, the family meals often look like things I would already put together but I would love to get my kids to branch out but don't want to push them too far. Which plan are you signing up for?
Posted by: Liz | March 06, 2015 at 01:10 PM
Ok. You talked me into it. We signed up - ONLY because of your discount - thanks! I'll surely cancel after the first week (on a Budget with a capital B here), but have been so tempted to try it. Can't wait. Half-surprised that they deliver to my podunk town in NC. :)
Posted by: Angie | March 06, 2015 at 01:16 PM
You are so good at the marketing thing! (No wonder you're so busy working nowadays!) I live in DC and signed up.
Posted by: Emily | March 06, 2015 at 01:36 PM
I tried the service last time you offered the deal. I liked a lot of it (for similar reasons as you) but in the end it wasn't worth it for vegetarian-only boxes. The meat selections look much more robust. I had a few boxes with meals that were complicated in bizarre ways and I sometimes felt like they added a bunch of extra ingredients to make a simple veg meal worth the price. It was a lot of fun, though, and the tempura veggie tacos were a huge success :)
Posted by: Liz | March 06, 2015 at 01:50 PM
The tilapia dinner is delicious! Lentils were so good I made my own version yesterday. We are also big fans of Blue Apron and feed 2 adults and 3 boys on '4 meals'.
Posted by: Kristina | March 06, 2015 at 01:55 PM
Why no Canada...,,whyyyy? Bahhhh. Enjoy your blue apron Americans. I will be here with my soggy herbs and moody condiments. Woe.
Posted by: Christy B | March 06, 2015 at 02:16 PM
Hah. Was going for moldy condiments. Though they may also be moody. Hm.
Posted by: Christy B | March 06, 2015 at 02:17 PM
We're still getting Blue Apron -- I love it. Husband doesn't so much. I'm envious that Jason likes it so much. I wish they would let us switch back and forth between the 2 and 4 person selections.
Posted by: Dona | March 06, 2015 at 02:39 PM
Just signed up again. I miss it badly. I'm so sick to death of everything I make that I went for it. Your posts/IG photos on it always make me want it.
Posted by: Issa | March 06, 2015 at 02:45 PM
You convinced me to sign up with your last BA post and i just wanted to say thank you. I hated cooking because it stresses me out - all the steps, all the ingredients, too much time at the grocery store - but BA has removed all of the stress! It's AMAZING. Changed my life!
Posted by: Erin | March 06, 2015 at 02:56 PM
I've tried Blue Apron, and loved it for all the same reasons you talk about -- but what are your thoughts on the fact that the packaging is almost unconscionable? Individual plastic bottles for 2 Tbsp each of vinegar and heavy cream ... butter in a tiny plastic cup ... plastic bags for single teaspoons of spice blends? I loved not having to plan meals or shop, and I order the occasional box while usually putting the deliveries on hold, in part because of our budget but also because I can't abide by the amount of plastic being sent in every box. You have talked a lot about environmentally friendly choices in your blog over the years. What is your take on the packaging waste? I know to some extent it's a trade-off for moldy vegetables, but at least those can be composted!
Posted by: Bonnie | March 06, 2015 at 03:16 PM
yeah, you did it. you convinced me & i signed up. i'm looking forward to the fanciness and not having to go to publix every night after work - not that i don't love publix - but yeah. fingers crossed!
Posted by: kaity | March 06, 2015 at 03:23 PM
Thank you, thank you, thank you for turning me on to Blue Apron. I also sound like a religious convert when I tell people about it, and have people lining up to get my free meal handouts. Can't say more than you already have, it's changed so much about how we eat and stress about meal planning. And that tilapia dish you're making tonight is gooood. Enjoy!
Posted by: Lori | March 06, 2015 at 03:31 PM
I don't know. This sounds like a great concept and the food looks really good, but $70 a week for 2 family meals just seems so expensive.
Posted by: Sara M | March 06, 2015 at 04:42 PM
I'm trying to figure out what you usually get in terms of feeding your family. With three meals per week but only for two people, does this mean you can actually feed 2 adults and 3 kids on just two meals for dinner? I understand they sent you the four person option for the week but, typically, you two meals suffice for all of you? That certainly would make it more affordable. Please let me know!
Posted by: Liz | March 06, 2015 at 05:07 PM
I really want to try this...but for 3 people, and one a 10 year old boy who eats a lot, will a meal for 2 people be enough? Because I don't want to order meals for 4.
Posted by: jodi | March 06, 2015 at 05:36 PM
This looks amazing, but as I live on the opposite side of the world, it is unavailable:( ... But in a slightly related tangent, when you have a spare 8 minutes (or 40 minutes if you can't just watch one episode), you should check out "The Katering Show" on YouTube, I think you may enjoy it (when I watched it I thought of you #notastalker)
Posted by: ScribD | March 06, 2015 at 05:49 PM
Well, I'm going to try it! I don't cook much and I know I'm not eating well enough, maybe this will help. And I too need to try new things!
Posted by: ccr in MA | March 06, 2015 at 09:05 PM
Last time I checked, BA doesn't deliver to NE Wi, but all the recipes are posted online. I try to look at them for inspiration or add one of the meals to my weekly list. Found some black rice ramen on sale at world market and did the miso ramen chicken soup thing with soft boiled eggs. It was surprisingly good and yet close enough to the usual (and had noodles!) that my 3 yo ate it.
Posted by: Katie | March 07, 2015 at 03:14 PM
My husband and I started Blue Apron about a month ago based on an earlier posted where you raved about it. As a new mom who just returned to work it has been a life saver! Before we started BA I would come home from work and be so consumed by taking care of the baby that we were eating like crap. Now we eat healthy meals that we prepare and everything is sooooooo good!
We had those Crispy Chicken Thighs last week and they were bangin'! Best. Ever.
Posted by: Marisa | March 07, 2015 at 03:27 PM
I've been SO tempted to try BA, especially since your last post about it. We are a family of 5 with a 6 month old baby who still doesn't sleep well. I've been so exhausted to cook lately, so we've been ordering and going out more often than I'd like to admit! This sounds like the perfect solution, and I'm about to pull the trigger and go for it, *but* my oldest daughter and I are gluten free. Is there a gluten free recipe option? It doesn't look like it from what I can see on the website. Does anyone know? Thanks!
Posted by: Aylin | March 07, 2015 at 08:13 PM
Thanks to you, I got this for my parents for their anniversary and the LOVED it!
Posted by: Kristen | March 08, 2015 at 01:14 PM
The only thing stopping me from signing up is my middle son (who is 11) is so picky. Can you comment on how long it took Noah to become a convert?
Posted by: susan | March 08, 2015 at 08:45 PM
I signed up the last time you posted about it, and while I loved the recipes (my boys, 4 & 6, were so excited about red quinoa, black rice, orange cauliflower and what I termed "flavor bubs" in the Moroccan Salmon - capers, currants, pine nuts), I have a major issue with the service.
Like Bonnie, I find the amount of packaging horrifying. Like, I literally gasped when I opened the first box and saw all the tiny bags and cups. We have been transitioning towards Zero Waste over the last couple of years, so the trash (sorry, no, most of it is NOT recyclable, despite their claims) from one Blue Apron box was greater than the rest of the trash we produced that week.
When I went to cancel the service, "Too much packaging" was one of the options for reasons for cancelling, so they are obviously aware of the issue but perhaps don't give a damn...
I also felt like the prep time was on the high side - there's a LOT of chopping and steps in the recipes, which I suppose ups the "I did it myself!" quotient, but often I would not leave enough time for the prep causing us to eat dinner much later than planned.
I also find the recipe cards hard to read, but perhaps that's just me being crotchety.
I do still recommend BA to friends who don't really care about environmental issues (and who may need to expand their culinary horizons) but I'm obviously not their target audience.
Posted by: Susan | March 08, 2015 at 10:51 PM
Darn. I'd be interested in trying it with the coupon code. I can't quite stomach the price, because we managed to spend only $300 last month on groceries, and there's no way I could spend that in a month for only two or three meals a week. BUT. My husband has multiple food allergies: nuts, milk, eggs, lentils, and they don't have any sort of accommodations for that. So sad face. But we'll look up the recipes!
Posted by: Holly W. | March 09, 2015 at 09:36 AM
I have been subscribed to Blue Apron for around 6 months, and I personally love it. It's expensive, but my husband and I both work, and I pay to outsource many things (cleaning, watching my kid), so I'm happy to add meal planning to that list. I love eating a variety of healthy things every week. However, I have one major problem with it -- my 2.5 year old almost never eats it at all. He's a picky eater to start out with, and seems perfectly content to skip meals (he doesn't ask for, or get, any other food Blue Apron nights). What am I doing wrong? How did everyone else get their picky eaters to eat Blue Apron?
Posted by: Alyssa | March 09, 2015 at 11:09 AM
I just started getting Blue Apron last month (using your coupon code from last time) and I LOVE it! The food has been delicious and unlike anything I normally make. I love that it's usually chock full of veggies, because sometimes I'm not so good with getting those in. It helps with portion control. And at every single meal so far there has been at least one ingredient that I've never cooked with or even eaten before! It has really been fun. We didn't get a box last week because we were gone for four days, and yesterday I had to go grocery shopping and then spend several hours in the kitchen (I was making several meals at once). Can't wait for Thursday to get my next box!
Posted by: Anna | March 10, 2015 at 12:15 PM
It fills me with pain that my son is allergic to a bazillion foods and these options don't work for us. Sob.
Posted by: Hillary | March 10, 2015 at 03:25 PM