Chances are that if you follow various food-related pages on Facebook or check into restaurants frequently, you have seen ads for Blue Apron appear on your social media apps. Blue Apron is one of several companies that deliver ingredients to your door so that you can cook up healthy, homemade meals.

I chose to try Blue Apron specifically because of its commitment to sustainable farming and responsible ranching and its support of local farmers and small specialty food purveyors. While I am a much more experienced cook than Blue Apron seems to target, I despise going to the market during the middle of the week. Instead, our family generally ends up ordering out on Wednesdays or Thursdays, and usually on Fridays. Eliminating fattening carry-out food for approximately the same price as Chicago-area delivery was genuinely appealing.

How It Blue Apron Works

20160711_111410Upon enrollment, you choose how many meals you want included in your weekly box. We signed up for the minimum of two meals and selected servings for a family of four. We have five in our family, but I did not want to pay for the next option up, which is servings for six. I usually plan to serve the Blue Apron suppers on the the nights when we will be missing someone at the table; otherwise, I split an entree with my daughter and fix an extra side.

During enrollment, you have the opportunity to eliminate certain proteins from your box. I eliminated shellfish (I don’t like the idea of receiving fresh shellfish by mail), pork, and lamb. This left me with beef, fish, and chicken. Blue Apron frequently offers one vegetarian meal in its weekly options. You cannot eliminate chicken, so there is never an all-vegetarian option. As long as you log into your account at least two weeks ahead, you can cancel a week or change your meal selections. Your first order consists of the default meals for the week; but following that, you can choose among the four weekly meal options.

We have now pretty much enjoyed about 2-1/2 months of Blue Apron meals, with ingredients delivered on Wednesday afternoon via FedEx Ground. The box always arrives before dinner, so I can plan on serving one of the meals that night. All ingredients are individually packaged and marked “Blue Apron,” which eliminates the worry that your teenagers will eat the ingredients before you can prepare the meal. Vegetables are packed at the top of every week’s box, and meat is packed surrounded by cold packs. Today, the temperature outside was 91° F, but the cod inside was cold upon delivery.

What’s in the Blue Apron Box?

Blue Apron seems to assume that all you have on hand is olive oil, salt, pepper, and water. Herbs and spices, vinegars, specialty oils, and small amounts of ingredients are packaged and placed in a little brown paper bag marked “Knick Knacks” and labeled with the name of the meal. Some of the Knick Knack contents need to be refrigerated; some don’t. I’m lazy and toss the whole little bag into our refrigerator deli drawer upon arrival. It is important to do as you are told and refrigerate any bread products that you receive; otherwise, they mold within a couple of days. One week, we received four raw eggs that were packaged so well that you would never have known they flew FedEx.

Each box includes an 8-1/2 x 11 double-sided full-color recipe for each meal, as well as an insert highlighting an ingredient. For instance, one insert featured pepitas (Central American Pumpkin seeds).

According to Blue Apron, no recipe repeats during a 12-month period. Among our deliveries, our weeks have included the following pairs of meals:

  • Chicken Parmesan & Bucatini Pasta with Fresh Mozzarella & Zucchini
    Crispy Cod Teriyaki with Shitake Fried Rice
  • Herb-Crusted Salmon with Roasted Asparagus & Zucchini Freekeh Salad
    Cheddar Cheeseburgers with Quick Pickles & Thyme-Roasted Oven Fries
  • Beef Tacos & Roasted Green Beans with Cucumber Avocado Salsa
    Chicken Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes & Garlic Carrot Fries
  • Spiced Queso & Pickled Red Onion Tacos with Green Beans, Avocado & Toasted Pepitas
    New England-Style Salmon Rolls with Roasted Potatoes & Chives
  • Red, White & Blue Quiche with Radish, Basil & Arugula Salad
    Fontina Cheeseburgers on Ciabatta with Garlic-Rosemary Potatoes
  • Zucchini & Mozzarella Pizza Paninis with Tomato Sauce & Romaine Cucumber Salad
    Spiced Turkey Arayes with Garlic-Almond Zucchini Wedges & Lemon-Yogurt sauce
  • Summer Vegetable Pizza with Garlic-Lemon Broccolini
    Provencal Seared Chicken with Fingerling Potatoes, Green Beans & Almonds

The Recipes

Blue Apron's easy-to-use instructions.

Blue Apron’s easy-to-use instructions.

Our family consists of really adventurous eaters who have enjoyed the different meals that we have received. Among the entrees, I think the Summer Vegetable Pizza and New England-Style Salmon Rolls are the favorites of the whole family, followed closely by the Spiced Turkey Arayes and the Spiced Queso Tacos. The least favorite was the Shitake Fried Rice that accompanied the Cod Teriyaki. I did not make the Provencal Seared Chicken last week, as the outdoor temp was more than 90° and no one wanted a hot meal. Instead, I cooked the chicken with soy and rice wine vinegar, cooled it, and put it on top of a cold Asian slaw salad.

Indeed, it is an extremely hot summer in Chicago and has been since we received our first Blue Apron box shortly before Memorial Day. While most of the entrees, with the exception of the chicken meatloaf, are seasonally appropriate, I have only cooked the roasted side dishes when the evenings are cooler. Instead of heating up the kitchen for roasted garlic-rosemary potatoes, I served the Fontina Cheeseburgers with a salad made from greens from our CSA and a Caesar dressing. Likewise, the Chicken Meatloaf was not served with mashed potatoes. I sliced the potatoes and roasted them with the garlic carrot fries. The point of Blue Apron, for our family, is to replace carry-out. Mashed potatoes in the summer are just not part of my repertoire.

I also have noticed that Blue Apron’s recipes don’t include as much seasoning as I usually use. I frequently add additional herbs or spices from my spice shelves. For instance, I added oregano to the pizza sauce for the Summer Vegetable Pizza.

The recipes follow the trend on blogs, with photos for each step. The instructions are great for beginning cooks and probably go a good distance teaching them to multi-task in the kitchen. My husband, who could only cook frozen pizzas and boxed mac and cheese, actually had to cook our first meal because of an injury that I had sustained that week. He successfully pulled off the Chicken Parmesan with Bucatini Pasta. However, I learned to cook off of my mom’s recipe cards, and I could do without all the pictures—just give me the recipes straight up in traditional form. But I understand that I am not really part of Blue Apron’s target demographic, so I try to roll with it.

Quality of Ingredients

I’ve been highly impressed by the quality of all of the ingredients. The produce is farm fresh and in great shape. You would never know that it arrived in a box via FedEx on a hot summer day. One week, I did have to throw out a couple of mushy onions. I could have called customer service—I hear they are great. I had onions on hand, though, and didn’t bother. The greens are always perky, never limp. The fish that we have received is very, very good—much better quality than the grocery store. The only canned goods that I have received have been tomato sauces. For those, we have received the highly rated Cento-brand.

The most impressive ingredients have been the pastas and the pizza dough. The dried pastas are exceptional and sourced from small-batch pasta makers. I try to limit my carb intake, but having experienced two of the pasta dishes, I plan on adjusting my orders to always include pasta when available. Yes, it is that good! The pizza dough that we received last week came as an unbaked lump in a plastic bag. We made the pizza the day after we received the box, and the dough smelled as if I had just mixed it up that afternoon. It baked beautifully and tasted better than my homemade recipe.

Has Blue Apron Helped Us Meet Our Goals?

Overall, I think Blue Apron has helped us cut down on fattening carry-out dinners, if only through guilt of having spent the money. Financially, it’s an even swap between two carry out dinner and two Blue Apron meals. I haven’t lost any weight—but we are eating healthier, higher quality meals than if we were to order Italian Beef or gyros from the local grill or if someone, gods forbid, were to bring home Taco Hell.

I am especially looking forward to the fall menus and believe that I, as the family cook, will appreciate it much more once turning on the oven isn’t a high-heat punishment.

Beyond the Family

In addition to purchasing for one’s own family, Blue Apron would be a generous wedding gift for a young couple just starting out. It would also make a wonderful gift of healthy meals for elderly parents on tight budgets.

This is not a sponsored post. I have not received any products or compensation for the opinions in this review. I WAS ALL OF MY OPINIONS ARE MINE AND MINE ALONE.