It started off with the accidental receipt of a former tenant’s Blue Apron package. If you are unfamiliar with this company and others like it, Blue Apron is a service that for a fee, you can have fresh, pre-measured, uncooked food delivered to your home on dry ice, along with the recipe cards to cook these gourmet meals.
It is meant to take away some of the work of shopping and coming up with new meals to make. The food is advertised as being very fresh and therefore both healthy and delicious. Yes, you still have to cook the food – there is no personal chef hidden in the box underneath the dry ice. Maybe that’s how I’ll make my first million. I can dream, can’t I?
If you are someone that struggles with finding worthwhile healthy recipes to cook as well as hunting down specific ingredients, then this is definitely an appealing option. It boasts the promise of taking a little bit of the guesswork, and legwork, out of cooking. I would like to share my thoughts though about why I will never pay for a service like this, and why anyone who wants to make the most of their money shouldn’t either.
Shipping and Delivery Issues
Now, getting back to that first Blue Apron package that arrived on our doorstep let me just say that I wish I had had the new address for the previous tenant so that I could have promptly passed it on to them. Oddly enough we had been living in our rental for several months when this package arrived so to this day I am at a loss for how that happened. While it’s true I was not expecting the package to arrive, by the time I noticed it on our porch, the dry ice was completely melted inside it’s pack. Clearly hours had passed since it had been cold, and so the food wasn’t cold either. If your food is being delivered in January this may not be an issue, but in June, when we received these packages, even dry ice won’t hold up for long.
Now remember, there was raw meat in this box as well as a few small dairy items. Anyone who has taken a food handler’s class (I have) knows that consuming this food would have likely resulted in food poisoning. Even if I had received this package the second it was put on our porch, I doubt it was properly and safely temperature controlled from start to finish and was therefore not safe for consumption. Maybe this was just my experience, but who knows.
Disappointing portion sizes
While I don’t consider myself to be an over-eater, as a nursing mother I am also not exactly on a diet. If you make the selection for your meals to be portioned for 2 or 4 just know that they are portioned out based on proper portion sizes – not Applebees or other chain restaurant sized portions, and not necessarily the way you would portion out food. Unless you are trying to trim calories, you may leave the dinner table still hungry. Given the price paid and the fact that you still need to cook the food yourself, this doesn’t feel like a wise use of grocery money, and you know I am all about practicing good stewardship!
The recipes were full of obscure ingredients (a tiny tablespoon sized cup of cranberry jam, specific seasoning packets) as well as other ingredients that if purchased as a full size item would be a wiser use of your money. For example, there was literally a tiny bag with half a cup of uncooked white rice in it. I had considered trying to donate this food to a local shelter, but seriously, what on earth is a food bank going to do with a handful of rice and 2 tablespoons of cream cheese? In preparing one of these meals, (what else was I going to do with it?) I will admit that the food tasted good, but it was just enough for an “okay” sized dinner for my husband and I. As someone who likes to make enough food for some leftovers to be taken for lunch the next day, this was also a bit disappointing.
The price per meal is the same as if you dined out
You have the option to pick out meals for either the 2 person or 4 person (family) plan. Meal plans allow for 2-4 meals to be delivered each week that will feed either 2 or 4 people depending on your plan. Some of the prices (with shipping costs) based on my zip code here in Michigan, are as follows:
- 2 person plan, 2 meals per week = $10.99 per serving, $51.95/week
- 2 person plan, 3 meals per week = $10.99 per serving, $65.94/week
- 4 person family plan, 2 meals per week = $9.99 per serving, $79.92/week
- 4 person family plan, 4 meals per week = $7.99 per serving, $127.84/week
Some of these plans require you to pay shipping and that cost is already added to my weekly totals. Most of the meal plans throw in shipping for free to try to distract you from the astronomical cost of their uncooked, possibly spoiled, food. This means that a family of 4 using this meal plan for 4 days per week is spending over $550 per month and that is only covering about half of their dinner needs each month. That does not even factor for breakfast and lunch foods, snacks, or beverages.
Wow. I’m trying very hard to not hyperventilate over these prices.
If I could have a moment please… Okay, I’m good now.
If you are trying to feed a family, this is one of the least cost effective ways to do it. Yes, there are one-time promotional rates and coupons available, but that only helps mitigate costs for your first month or two and is not a wise long-term plan. It is EASY to feed an entire family of 4 dinner for $10-15 total per night, and even possible to do it for less than that. But, spending as much as $10.99 for one person’s dinner that you still have to cook yourself? What?! Am I being “punked”? Is “Punked” still a show? I don’t have cable, and I don’t think it’s on Netflix or Hulu… See? This “meal plan” is making me go bananas and now I’m rambling.
One Final Catch
Even if you want to use one of these meal plans for the short term, using coupons to lower the cost, as a way to just find and try out new recipes with the intention of replicating them, there is another catch. I have a feeling they did this on purpose, and kudos to them for their ingenuity, but as I said before there are many ingredients that are a little obscure or that would be hard to replicate, such as seasoning packets. I think this is probably meant to discourage people from just reusing their recipes and then replicating them, for less money, with food purchased the traditional way. It’s a wise business choice for them, but not a wise money choice for you as the consumer.
Can you guess what my verdict is about this kind of service? Go ahead, guess!
In short, there are easier, cheaper ways to eat healthy, fresh food that cooks in a half-hour time frame. I don’t really see a substitute for good old-fashioned meal planning, and for ideas on how to make this easier, check out my post Every Day Savings: Meal Planning. Don’t get caught up in the idea that you have to be a gourmet chef to meal plan. Meal planning is meant to make your life easier, not harder and it works, for far less than the cost of services like Blue Apron. Happy cooking!
For some great bang-for-your-buck recipe ideas, check out my Resources & Recipes page. I’m am slowly, steadily adding recipes so check back often for new ones.
Visit Life Tastes Better on a Budget for more articles like this one by Ashley Slack.