Trying Out a New Way to Cook for the Family

I had never heard of Blue Apron before seeing it on some of the blogs that I read, but it sounded good and I was certainly up for trying it out. My friends here hadn’t heard of it either, but when I was in New York, I mentioned it to a couple of people and they knew all about it. Apparently it’s a big thing out there already? And it is available for free shipping nationwide to over 80% of the country, so chances are good that you’re in one of their delivery zones. So far we’ve tried one week of the service (three meals), and everything we’ve cooked has been great!

Blue Apron Ingredients

Brandon does more of the cooking than I do, but we were both in the kitchen to make our first dish: Filipino-Style Beef Picadillo. (Because duh, one of us had to hold the camera. How do food bloggers do this on the regular?) The recipes are designed by chefs to be delicious and good for you, and you can choose portions for two, four, or six people. The meals are $9.99 per serving with free shipping and we went with the four servings size, but they’re generous so we had leftovers for lunch from each recipe.

Preparing Ingredients from Blue Apron

Brandon, Cooking

There is a lot of packaging, which is understandable — the boxes are packed to keep things cold during shipping so the food stays fresh. Everything arrived in perfect condition though, even potentially squishable foods like the tomatoes. The ingredients are sent in just the right amounts, so you have everything you need all planned out for you with no trip to the grocery store and you don’t end up with random bottles of stuff you’ll never use entirely. (Like the giant bottle of fish sauce that has been sitting in our house, mocking us for not finding more uses for it.)

Cooking

Cooking

By the way… ever wonder how multiple pots and pans fit on our antique stove? Answer: not very well. The left half is wood-burning, so only the right half with gas burners is functional as cooking space. It’s a challenge. The stove looks cool, but it’s pretty apparent that cooking technology has changed a lot since 1918.

Cooking on an Antique Stove

Even with our ancient stove, we do make almost all of our meals at home. We fall into ruts though, making the same meals over and over again, so it’s nice that Blue Apron helps us learn new recipes and lets us try out new foods. (I’d never had chayote squash before using it in this beef dish.)

Blue Apron Filipino-Style Beef Picadillo

The meals are really good, and the kids liked them too. We even garnished for presentation, which we usually don’t do. So you know. Fancy.

Kid-Approved Dinner

I’m glad we got the chance to try the service because we’re looking forward to using Blue Apron again, for sure. There’s no commitment; you can sign up and get a week’s delivery, then skip or cancel at any time. I think it could be particularly useful for us when baby number three arrives, so we won’t have to do the meal planning and shopping.

If you’d like to give it a go too, Blue Apron is offering two free meals with your first order to the first 50 readers that sign up.

41 Responses to “Trying Out a New Way to Cook for the Family”

  1. Mel July 24, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    I think this would be a great gift to give someone when you can’t be there to provide a meal or two. While the cooking still has to be done, no one has to go anywhere to get the ingredients. Cool.

  2. Corrin July 24, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    My parents live in Northwest Indiana and looooove their Blue Apron. I’m waiting for them to come to the Austin area!

  3. Dulcie July 24, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    While we thought the meals were tasty, the packaging is extremely wasteful. Also, we never had any leftovers with the 2-serving plan. (Not a big deal at all, but just a different experience.)

    • Making it Lovely July 24, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

      We tried the four-serving size, and the kids don’t eat as much as adults, so maybe that’s why we had leftovers. Really though, we probably could have gotten by with the two-serving size for us.

  4. alisa July 24, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    So I was going to ask how you cooked on that stove, and I figured that with all of your traveling lately, Brandon was probably getting more practice at it. We just bought a house with a drastically horrid kitchen, and am going to be going back to my pre-kids way of cooking.

    Also, this is great, I might give it a go- came at the perfect time. I just vented to the hubs last night about how horrible of a cook I have become- I can’t even make the girls mac n cheese without over cooking or over seasoning it. He reminded me that I once was a great cook BEFORE KIDS, and whenever he takes the girls out of the house for a few hours while I am making dinner, my dinners are spectacular. So, I guess in 17 years I will again be a fantastic cook.

    • Making it Lovely July 24, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

      Even when I’m not traveling though, Brandon does more of the cooking than I do! It used to be the other way around, but it flipped a few years ago and now he’s the main cook.

      And I had to laugh about the 17 years line! You could say that about a lot of things, I’m betting. (I know I could, and I’m about to hit the reset button on the timer with another little guy due soon!)

  5. alisa July 24, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    also, having a problem getting on their site both from your link and their own url.

    • Making it Lovely July 24, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

      Hmm, not sure what the issue could be. Are you still having trouble?

  6. Amy July 24, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    I like the idea but $40 seems like an expensive meal for a family of 4 (even with leftovers!) — that’s much more than I ever spend for a regular meal.

    Funny, I’m always seeing the same things repeated on blogs I follow… today is Blue Apron day, apparently!

    • Peu July 24, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

      I thought the exact same thing! Blue Apron is all over the blogs. I think it’s a cool idea and love that you don’t have more than you need of each ingredient. However, it looks like a ton of extra unnecessary packaging, I really like having leftovers, and sometimes it’s nice having the same ingredients to make the dish again another time. Trying new recipes and ingredients is always fun and exciting.

    • andee July 24, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      I thought the same thing. $40 seems awfully expensive to feed 4 people. At 3 meals a week that is more than I spend at the grocery for a week’s worth of groceries. It’s a good idea and would be convenient but the cost would keep me from doing it.

    • Making it Lovely July 24, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

      I feel like it’s in between grocery store shopping and takeout prices. During busy times when you can’t or don’t want to spend a lot of time meal planning and buying ingredients (but don’t want to resort to takeout or dining out), the convenience is nice.

  7. Joanna July 24, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    OMG! Your stove is sooooooo adorable! I want it. But on the other hand, I am a little addicted to my glass top and double oven. Sort of a dilemma, what? But one I will never have to face, because I could never find such a darling little thing. Actually, a college studio apartment I rented had a similar one. My mother was terrified that I would accidentally gas myself.

    • Making it Lovely July 24, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

      We were worried about that too! Now we’re used to it, I guess, but neither Brandon nor I had lived with a stove that had a constant pilot light going before.

  8. Nicola July 24, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    Holy Carbon Footprint people!! Please buy your food locally. You are in the US and loads of food is grown there. To fly food in from a totally different area, packaged up for one meal is so wasteful. Support your local growers and farmers. Live simply so our children can simply live.

    • jo July 25, 2014 at 4:47 am #

      YESSSS!!!! couldn’t agree more.

    • RebeccaNYC July 25, 2014 at 7:55 am #

      I have to say that I agree with this. I am not sure that convenience and “being in a rut” with what you are serving trumps buying local foods. $40 could go a really long way at my local farmers market, including buying meat/fish/eggs. When I am super busy and perhaps overwhelmed, my husband and I cook the same 3 – 4 meals. It’s just the way it is.

    • Megan July 25, 2014 at 10:52 am #

      I am with you! I understand quick and easy but what a disaster America is in. How about quick and easy from your local, organic farmers market or even better your backyard. The packaging and transport, the waste of fossil fuels is devastating for our children’s future. I love bloggers and their blogs, esp this one but I think they are all missing an opportunity to promote delicious, local foods, and the benefits it holds for us and our children’s health and future. A few months ago I read a statistic that declares our children’s generation the first generation to have a predicted shorter lifespan than ours. I find this terrifying and so am terrified by all these blue apron posts and the like. I love you Nicole Balch and the others using blue apron recently. I wish you would use your “powers” for a greater good. (And still show us your amazing decor skills). I apologize if this sounds like a rant, but I am happy to see so many others on the same page. Let’s get back to basics and save a little something for our kids.

  9. Norma Neeson July 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    too expensive by far for our family of five and I too try to tread lightly on the land….carbon footprint decreasing and buying locally and in season………always shocked that so many don’t do this especially those with kids….sad it is being done for profit on the internet

    • Making it Lovely July 24, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

      We have a great farmer’s market in Oak Park, but Brandon and I could probably do with learning more about what to cook. We get into ruts like I mentioned, and we tend to rely on the same recipes over and over again, buying mostly the same items each week from the grocery store. I do like how Blue Apron forces out of that with seasonal ingredients.

      • RebeccaNYC July 25, 2014 at 7:59 am #

        One of the things I LOVE about my local farmers market is they are very happy to talk to you about what to do with their food! We bought some ground lamb recently and asked the guy what he did with them, and he told us to google a Nigella Lawson recipe for lamb meatballs. OMG!!! SO GOOD! We fought over the last one.

  10. Nicole July 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    That looks delicious and unique! I like to shop seasonally and locally, but the convenience of what Blue Apron offers is enticing. I use fish sauce for a pork tenderloin marinade and it’s my favorite. It’s the cure for that rando bottle of fish sauce. If you’re interested http://www.dulanotes.com/grilled-pork-bahn-mi-party-celebrating-the-4th-of-july/ You don’t have to skewer and grill the pork tenderloin, you can just marinade the tenderloin whole and bake or grill it whole.

    • Making it Lovely July 24, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

      Thank you — we need to put that stuff to more use. That panzanella looks good, too!

  11. V.J. KOHOUT July 24, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    Nicole, this is a ridiculous idea. Reasons spelled out by readers before me. All the vegetables minus the chayote squash you can get for few bucks at the nearest local market. If you don’t want to bother with a large piece of beef just get a roast beef at the deli in thick slices and quickly stir fry it. I am sure you have rice on hand. Dinner will be ready before you can open all those packages with minimal trash. My budget for food is $80 a week for myself and a guest on weekends. That includes making dessert at home. Children should see you getting the food locally not getting it from the mailman. I have never been harsh with you and I read the blog from way before E. was born.

  12. Jill July 24, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    I totally agree with previous comments. Why on earth would you need to order food when everything is available locally? Especially at this time of year. The packaging and shipping costs are just the beginning of what is wrong with this idea. $10 per serving for a child! I try to keep a meal serving well below $5. You can make that meal for very little and the internet is full of good recipe ideas.

    I’m disappointed in general that you don’t advocate more for saving the environment. I know your blog is all about buying and spending for the home but the movement today is trending so much towards frugality and living simply. I know among my friends, we are purging and making every effort to buy food and necessities locally. Liberating!

    Jill

    Jill

  13. Naomi July 24, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    Meh. I know my opinion will be drowned out by the masses, but $40 for 4 people?! My children are much older than yours (so they eat more) and I spend much less per meal for healthy and wholesome food.

    I’m sure this will be deleted–blogger’s perogative, after all–but your blog seems to have turned into spendthrift central. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but always needing the next best thing ALL THE TIME is so wasteful. Yep, it’s your life; I get that.

    But you lost me today with a sponsored post about a $40 dinner in a FedEx box.

    • Kate July 28, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

      This was a harsh comment, but I do echo the sentiment. I feel like this blog used to have a lot of really neat ideas that normal people could afford, and style posts had affordable options, etc. It just doesn’t feel like that anymore. I mean, I know Nicole posted something ages ago about her spouse not working anymore or something, and so you sort of expect an uptick in sponsored posts, but really? It feels like I’m a marketing experiment every time I click over!

      And I totally agree about the food post. $40 is nuts. That’s like 1/2 our weekly grocery budget, but what kills me about the photos of the meal is that it seems to be mostly comprised of potatoes, onions, and rice…which are not $40 ingredients. And that’s not even touching the wastefulness of the packaging and carbon footprint. Ack, this blog just feels so posh-corporate anymore!

  14. ana July 24, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

    Thank you for sharing! I hadn’t heard of this service before and I was just telling my boyfriend yesterday that I wish I could just pay someone to plan meals & go grocery shopping for me because i hate doing both those things so much!

    also, just want to add, I understand why this service wouldn’t work for a lot of people (like the commenters above) but it makes sense for someone like me who lives in Los Angeles (where food is expensive & it’ll cost me more than $10 to eat out anywhere) and working production (where most workdays are 12 hours). It seems convenient and at the right price point to me.

    • Ella July 25, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

      I does seem really nice to be able to have your meals planned and delivered to you, and have them fresher and cheaper than a full meal out. Especially when you have such long work days. I personally couldn’t justify it because of the excess packaging and fuel used to deliver it, but we all make ethical choices and sometimes those are different for different people.

      I do, however, want to say that Los Angeles is exactly the place to find inexpensive produce. California produces a great deal of the country’s food, and I know from going to grocery stores in other states that we have an embarrassment of riches in our produce departments, with super-fresh veggies at great prices. There are so many CSA and farmers market options too! Those might not be great options for you, but they are for a lot of us in LA. Just wanted to point that out for other readers. :)

  15. Sheila July 24, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    A friend gifted me free meals from Blue Apron ages ago and I finally tried it out just last week. I’m usually reluctant to try something new on a weeknight but knowing that everything is pulled together makes it easy. I get a regular CSA box and generally enjoy exploring recipes to suit what’s local and seasonal but I will use Blue Apron again, not regularly but on occasion: those weeks when I know my brain will be fried by the time I get home from work. I chose the 2-serving box and found there was enough for 3 servings as long as I supplemented with a salad or additional vegetables.
    The concerns voiced above about cost and packaging are valid but I appreciate being able to splurge on a relaxing meal prep and dinner from time to time.

  16. Christina July 24, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    Wow, I’m new to this blog but I’m out. FedEx dinner is right…what is going on in this world? The internet has a few meal ideas and busy family lives are nothing new. Promoting this is perposturous.

  17. Laura July 24, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    Fish sauce is one condiment I never, ever want to be without. Here’s how you use it: in everything. It adds umami, or savoriness. You don’t even taste it. Vinaigrettes, soups, sauces, pasta, braises, stews, and because I live in the South, pimento cheese. Everything savory and perhaps even some not so savory things. Really and truly. Basically, if something tastes kind of flat, add some fish sauce and/or lemon juice. Just a few drops. It still takes forever to get through a bottle, but you won’t want to be without it. Ruth Reichl considers it a pantry staple, and I agree. http://food52.com/blog/10519-ruth-reichl-on-pantry-staples-and-fiction

  18. Lisa July 25, 2014 at 5:33 am #

    I think the most important question is, do they send you a blue apron? :)

  19. Norma July 25, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    This is not a service I would use on a regular basis, but in times of “lots going on” this would be a nice splurge or gift to give someone.

  20. etta July 25, 2014 at 7:52 am #

    In case you are interested, there are a few local alternatives – I use Meez Meals, which is located in Evanston. For me it works well because it is vegetarian (they give tips for omnivores of meats to add in). I always have tons of leftovers, so two meals can last for 2-3 days.
    http://meezmeals.com

    I’ve also been looking at Plated (https://www.plated.com/) for some variety, but that isn’t local. For me, this type of service has been great for expanding what I eat, for giving me great ideas and recipes, and helping me with portion size. I haven’t been using delivery or take out nearly as much since I started using Meez. I find it really hard to rally the energy to cook when I get home from work, so it’s been a nice way to have home cooked meals for very little work. In terms of the complaints about packaging – Meez uses packaging you can re-use, which I like. Just FYI, I have no affiliation with Meez, just a happy customer.

  21. Rae July 25, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    Oh, your oven is adorable! A friend of mine has a mid 1920s one – she’s had a gas fitter install burners from a newer stove (saved from bulk trash!) in the top of the wood burning section, and now has a full gas cooktop and oven. Maybe you could look into that? I remember it being pretty cheap for her – just the cost of installing some pipes, and the effort to find a creative gas plumber.

  22. jo July 26, 2014 at 12:33 am #

    I think you could benefit from reading this blog Nicole.

    http://thegardenerscottage.blogspot.com

    It’s really helped me focus on the kind of life I would like to have.
    All the best.

  23. Herta July 26, 2014 at 3:19 am #

    Blue apron must be approaching many bloggers out there, I recently read a similar post on house tweaking and now here…I’m not in the US so obviously these ads are not targeting someone such as myself, but the effect these ads are having on me so to go and find other design/styling/home blogs that have less ‘sponsored’ posts…sad, after many, many years I’m finding myself moving away from oil’ favourite blogs/bloggers…I understand making a living but these two recent posts had the feel of a script ticking off each selling point.

  24. Kate July 27, 2014 at 1:41 am #

    Wow – a lot of holier than thou comments on this blog. Buying food at the grocery store is not any more locally sourced than Blue Apron. Not every family can live on the the farmer’s market alone.

  25. NoSoyMaria July 27, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    I’m with Kate on this one. Ladies, really, get off your high horses! Everyone, and I mean everyone has, through their actions/omissions, a negative impact on the environment. Do you use air conditioning? Negative impact. Do you use a car? Negative impact. Do you buy clothes made outside the US? Negative impact. And the list goes on… It is impossible to live in this world, particularly in a First World country such as the US, and not have a negative impact.

    I think a better outlook would be to realize that people’s circumstances are different, and respect that without judging/preaching. Live the way you feel is proper and respectful of the environment, but realize that just as there is a possibility that someone who uses the service featured has a negative impact due to it, so do you in other ways. After all, it is not only through a carbon footprint that we have the possibility of making a toxic environment…

  26. Kat August 2, 2014 at 8:55 am #

    Negative comments aside I’m happy to see Filipino food going mainstream. I would have been embarrassed to bring a dish like this for school lunch. I hope it helps you try more different varieties of dishes. You can also go to Filipino markets where they have a cafeteria style option in the back usually where you can point to the hot dishes you want.