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Blue Apron has been showing up all over social media, traditional media ( I see the commercials all the time), and even in the offline conversations you have with friends and family. This meal delivery service can be a great addition to a family’s lifestyle, if they are too busy to create meal plans on their own. The question that we’ve been emailed and asked a lot on 4 Hats and Frugal is a good one:
Is Blue Apron for families on a budget? It’s a great question that we’re finally going to answer.
Blue Apron offered to send our family of 5 a 2 meal kits to try out the service. We decided to accept, but also pay for another week’s worth of meal kits to fully review the service. They covered one week, we covered the other. This was helpful for us to give you an honest review, and truly see if this would work for families on a tight grocery or food budget. There were some pros (and cons) to the meal delivery service, especially for our $64 a week grocery budget family.
Pros of Blue Apron
The first thing we loved about Blue Apron is the detail with the items in the box. If the recipe called for sesame oil (something I most definitely don’t keep on-hand), it was already included in the box. Their knick knack bags were filled with everything needed for the recipe, except simple items like olive oil, salt, pepper and water. As the meal prep person in our house, I loved this so much.
The quality was good, but not great. We appreciated the quality of the proteins that were sent. They are usually of high caliber, and were something that we may not have spent money on at our grocery store (they gave us ground lamb and beef for salisbury steak!). The reason I say good instead of great is that when it came to the produce, if we didn’t use it within a few days, they started to look a bit sad. This was key for us, since we meal plan, and the meals that were sent were put into our existing plans. It may have arrived on Monday, but we didn’t have it planned until Thursday or Friday. The fresh produce may or may not fair well with that 3 day delay. I still count this as a pro, because it means that the items sent should be made for your family within a day or two, just like if you shopped for very fresh items from a farmers market or butcher.
The portions were perfect. I’ve read and heard that the portions Blue Apron offers, especially within the family boxes, aren’t enough. We didn’t see that as the case. I have to admit, when I pulled out the veggies, I was shocked at how little was sent. 4 pieces of asparagus? 2 potatoes? It didn’t seem like enough. It was. And weirdly enough, we found that we always had extra protein left. The extra protein was incorporated into the next day’s lunch, which gave us another meal out of the dinner from the night before. That’s always a plus when you’re on a budget.
We tried new recipes, that have been tested. As much as I love finding recipes on Pinterest, they aren’t always “tried and true.” The recipes that Blue Apron sends are tested, and we enjoyed just about every one of them. I also liked that I could go on the website, and see what recipes were going to be sent ahead of time. So, if I have a picky eater in our home, I see if the next box will contain items that they won’t want to eat. I’ve heard that you can change your recipes around once you use the service a bit more, but we didn’t have that option since we were still new customers. For families with picky eaters who are afraid of wasting food, this would be awesome.
Cons of Blue Apron
The knick knack bags need more instruction. Some of the bags contained items that needed to be refrigerated, and I unfortunately assumed that every bag could be left at room temperature on the counter. When I went to open one bag, and found a sad container of feta cheese looking not-so-delicious, I was frustrated. While the items are listed on the recipe card, I think Blue Apron should mark knick knack bags that contain refrigerated items. It’s a simple thing, but means so much to a tired mom that wants to make a meal without thinking too much about it.
The meals take a while. While there were a few meals that we completed in under or at 30 minutes, most were 35 to 45 minute time investments. If this is for busy families, the recipes need to be quicker. Some moms may only have an hour to make dinner, serve it, and get the family out the door for soccer practice. For the Blue Apron family plan, the meals need to take up less time.
Some recipes can’t be cooked right away. There were 2 boxes where the protein was frozen solid when we received it. One of those nights, I’d planned to make one of the meals in the box, instead of other meals I could have planned for the week. The frozen protein threw me for a loop, and I had to move up a meal I wasn’t planning on cooking until later in the week. Again, frustrating for a busy mom.
We need more vegetables. Remember how I said the portions were a pro? They still are. Blue Apron gives us the exact amount we need for 4 servings. We actually were able to feed the baby as well, with each meal. BUT. It would be awesome if we received more vegetables in the boxes. If it’s a vegetable that doesn’t cost much (like cabbage, carrots, red onion or potatoes), maybe we should be given more of those. For the price you pay for the meal delivery service, more vegetables would be VERY nice.
Is Blue Apron for families on a budget?
Not exactly. The price is just too high for those of us on a very tight grocery budget to use this service weekly. While the convenience is amazing, it’s very difficult to account for this in a grocery budget. But, there are circumstances where this may be needed, or may be a fun luxury for those of us on a budget:
As an alternative to going out to eat when you have little ones. This would be a great treat for a date night in, or for a family treat once every few months. The meals were spectacular, and it would be a great activity for the whole family to enjoy, since the recipe cards are easy to read and the ingredients are already measured.
A gift for a budding chef. One tip my husband mentioned is that this would be great for teens that want to learn how to cook, or are interested in culinary school. This would be an inexpensive way to have them learn how to make delicious and upscale meals for their family. Again, the recipe cards are pretty great. This could be a monthly treat for your teen, and a welcomed break for you in terms of cooking.
It gets Dad cooking more. My husband made 2 of the meals. My husband does NOT cook, but he rocked those meals. They were so good, and I didn’t have to coach him through it. He’s expressed interest in having Blue Apron delivered to the house when I’m away on military duty, or when I travel for blog work. The price of one box (which is 2 meals) equals what he would pay for take-out food for the family while I’m gone. So, if we did order a box for him once a month, it could easily come out of our entertainment budget.
It’s good for families that want to learn more about portion control. I think this may be the biggest pro for Blue Apron. By sending the recipe cards, and the right amount of food for each recipe, they are inadvertently teaching us portion control. Americans are notorious for eating too much, even when we cook at home. We buy way more protein than we need, order more than we can eat, and cook more food than we should. If portion control is something that is important to the health of your family, and you have the budget to try this for a few months, Blue Apron is a great way to learn it.
Have you tried Blue Apron? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.
Would you like to try Blue Apron for yourself? Click the graphic below for $20 off your first order:
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