Blue Apron · News · Tips and Tricks

Finally! @BlueApron offers packaging return

Whenever someone asks me about the pros and cons of Blue Apron, I always tell them: it’s a cost effective, high quality, fun ingredient-delivery service to supplement your weekly meal planning, but it’s really hard to stomach all the packaging. They describe themselves as anti-waste because they only ship the exact amount of food you need for each meal, but with everything in its own box, bag or carton, it does feel as if you’re throwing away a lot of garbage as you cook. They’ve long had instructions on their website for breaking down and recycling the shipping and packing materials, but after trying all those suggested steps just once, I decided it was too labor-intensive and time-consuming for even a die-hard recycle-er. So I gave up, put the cardboard shipping box out with our paper goods on trash day, and threw away everything else. Until now!

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Enter the new Blue Apron package return system.

There are two options:you can still follow this guide to recycling the packaging at home, or you can send all the packing materials back to them at no charge for reuse and recycling on their end. This page has detailed instructions on how that second option works. We are definitely going to do this, especially since the shipping is covered by Blue Apron if you wait to send back two weeks worth of packing materials at a time. All you have to do is create a mailing label on their website.

It won’t solve the problem of how long it takes to clean all those little baggies properly for recycling, but it will take care of the worst offenders — the large freezer bag and jumbo reusable ice packs that I’ve had no choice but to thaw and discard up until now.

What do you think? Does this change your mind about Blue Apron? Read my initial thoughts on the service here, and check out a couple Blue Apron recipes here and hereAnd have a great week! 

Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Have you tried Blue Apron?

I know I’m late to the trend! But a couple weeks ago I finally got to give Blue Apron a try, thanks to a friend who couldn’t cook her order before leaving for vacation.  And I have to say, it was absolutely delicious, and I felt like it broke me out of my usual recipe rut. I never cook something with this many ingredients these days, and the flavors were so much more complex than what I typically end up making for weeknight dinners. Overall, I’m definitely a fan and am considering signing up.

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What I made

The recipe I got was for Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes with Miso-Dressed Spinach and Candied Cashews. YUM.

The ingredients included two sweet potatoes, brown rice, baby spinach, scallions, sesame oil, sugar, fresh ginger, miso (fermented soybean) paste, cashews, mirin (rice wine) and a spice blend.

Everything comes labeled, packaged for freshness, and with picture-heavy step-by-step directions.

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How it works

Blue Apron delivers original recipes with ingredients pre-portioned alongside step-by-step directions. It is designed so that both experienced and novice cooks can take part, and menus change seasonally. Blue Apron work with hundreds of farms to source quality ingredients, which they say stay fresher longer than what you get at the supermarket. You can pick your recipes, including family-friendly options, and deliveries are booked around your schedule. According to their website, their main value add is offering specialty ingredients you might not otherwise be able to try, at a better value than shopping at your local grocery store. Competitors include HelloFreshPlated and Din (currently just CA and NV but expanding nationally soon).

Pros

  • Everything comes pre-measured and portioned, so there’s minimal prep work involved (I had to slice some scallions and sweet potatoes for my dish; otherwise everything was ready to go) and zero food waste.
  • If you really don’t know how to cook much at all, this can teach you! It’s that easy to follow. They also have tutorials for specific techniques (mince, caramelize, etc.) on their website.
  • You can adjust the portion size for each order. I found that the two-person order I cooked left me with enough for two filling dinners and some leftovers for lunch, too.
  • Expands your child’s palate, if you share with them; gets you out of the usual rotation of recipes we all fall into.
  • Customizable for any dietary preferences. Especially for vegetarians, this will introduce you to some original new recipe ideas.
  • Delivery is free and arrives refrigerated in case you aren’t home.
  • Recipes are seasonal and healthy (between 500 and 700 calories) and are designed to be ready in about half an hour.
  • The quality of the ingredients seems top notch — mine lasted several days after I received them in the fridge, even the greens, and still tasted great.
  • Allows you to cook with specialty ingredients that would otherwise be too pricy or hard to find.

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Cons

  • The convenience of having things pre-measured means lots of packaging, which felt a tad wasteful.
  • I found that the time estimate — 35 minutes — was ambitious. While the timing of the instructions (“preheat the oven, then chop X ingredient, then while that’s cooking, candy the cashews,” etc.) was accurate and helpful if followed literally, the overall start-to-finish time frame was more like an hour because I had to re-read techniques I wasn’t familiar with, double check that I hadn’t missed anything, and just take it slow simply because it was an unfamiliar recipe.
  • While it’s great to learn new skills (I had never candied nuts, for example) I had the benefit of trying Blue Apron on a weekend night after Georgia’s bedtime. This would have been WAY too chaotic for a weeknight dinner with a toddler underfoot. Alone? Forget about it, unless your kiddo is big enough to help or at least watch safely.
  • This is nit-picking, but the cleanup from using every burner on my stovetop, several pots, pans, and the oven was substantial.  I’m sure if you have a dishwasher this won’t bother you too much, but for me and my small kitchen, cooking something with this many ingredients absolutely took over the joint and took ages to clean up by hand.
  • Expensive. Three meals for two people every week is $60, and weekly is the only interval for shipping they offer. You can skip any week or cancel any time, but it would be nice if you could get just one meal a week or two meals a month, etc. For a family of four, the price jumps to $140 for four meals per week ($70 for two meals).

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Bottom Line

My overall take on this is that, if you love cooking but don’t have the time to pick up lots of specialty ingredients or you’re trying to break out of a rut and gain some new ideas or skills, this is fabulous. I felt like I could easily handle the cooking and plating instructions, and got to experience a flavor profile I never would have tackled on my own. It’s not a meal or grocery delivery service, though, and it really shouldn’t be used for dinner every night of the week. You could eat out at a casual sit-down restaurant or order take-out and pay less! Lastly, although we didn’t do it this way because Mark works nights, I’d imagine this would be fun for couples to do together.

How about you — have you tried one of these services? What’s your take?

psst! A couple last-minute Mother’s Day deals for you. My favorite cardigan is on super sale at Nordstrom, and ThredUp is having 15% off sitewide with code MAMASDAY15. Good luck shopping and have a wonderful Mother’s Day!