About a year and half ago, I heard of Blue Apron and Plated and was quite thrilled with the possibility of not having to think about what to make for dinner. It took me about six month to convince my husband that we should give them a try, and we’ve been using them since. Actually, we’ve stopped using Plated recently, and I’ll talk about that in a bit. Since we’ve used these services for such a long time I’ve had some time to contemplate about them and thought I could offer a different view than what I had initially read about them online. Please note that this post mainly refers to our experience using these services for a family of two. I’m not sure how this would work for a larger family.
Blue Apron and Plated are both offering a service in which you get a selection of meals each week. That is to say, you get a recipe card and the measured ingredients to make that recipe. The recipe make exactly two servings, and the calories of each meal usually end up somewhere between 500-700 calories per serving.
Blue Apron sends out 3 recipes and ingredients a week, and allows you to only somewhat choose the recipe you get. For example, if you choose the all meat plan you can still substitute one or two meals with their vegetarian options. We pay $59.94 a week for 3 meals for two people.
Plated has 7 recipes for you to choose from each week, and they also have more expensive meals available ($24 per plate, or per person). We paid $72 a week for 3 meals for two people.
Why We Got Started & How We Thought it Would Be:
Initially, I was just looking for a way to get out of a cooking rut. I felt like I was spending too much time trying to find new and interesting recipes for us to try, instead of making the same meals (Ragu Bolognese for the 100th time, anyone?). We thought:
- If we had new and interesting meals to try, I would stress less about combing the cooking blog world. We would have built in variety.
- We would spend less money on grocery shopping and eating out. We were eating out about 3 times a week, and we felt that our budget could use a break.
- We would finally be able to shop in one store, instead of having to visit four stores in ago (the butcher shop, the shrimp guy, the organic market…).
- It would make cooking easier when commuting. I drive two hours a day to get to work, so coming home and figuring out what to make for dinner would be a pain.
How We Used These Services:
For the first eleven months we decided to subscribe to both services. We would get Plated delivered on Tuesday and Blue Apron on Friday. They both had amazingly variable and yummy recipes, but we never wanted six meals from either service. It allowed us to be as picky as we wanted, really.
What Actually Happened:
Let’s start with the positive aspects, shall we?
- We actually can get away with going to one store only to do all our grocery shopping. This saves us time and energy during our errand-filled weekends.
- We do eat a crazy variety of meals, and enjoy cuisines we would never cook at home. Not having to buy lots of spices for one particular meal is something I appreciate, if only because I am already struggling to find space for all my existing spices.
- We lost weight. Seriously. We didn’t become much more active or picked up a new calorie-burning hobby. We just literally eat less since each meal is measured to make exactly two servings.
- My husband started making dinner, all by himself. As a scientist, he appreciates the really detailed approach the recipe cards provide, and all meals are quite easy to make. During crazy times at my Etsy store, I really appreciate not being the only one making dinner.
- I cannot stress enough how much I enjoy not using any brain-power to think about dinner. This might seem like an exaggeration, but as you may know from reading my blog, I like to keep things simple and organized whenever I can. When left to my own devices, I spend hours looking for new recipes, which makes my life overly complicated. Simplicity is the name of the game here.
- We eat seasonally, which we really like. We suspect this is because it’s cheaper for the service to use seasonal produce, but I can’t complain about that. Whatever helps them keep the business going!
What about the negative stuff?
- We certainly don’t spend less money on groceries. Actually, we spend more. We now have a set cost for Blue Apron ($120 a week) and an undetermined amount because, hey, we still need to eat breakfast and do our laundry.
- At first, we would eat the meal we had prepared, and then be hungry. Turns out, we didn’t used to eat one serving size of anything. This is no longer a problem for us (see: losing weight), but it was certainly an issue at first.
- Life gets in the way. Sometimes, unplanned events happen and we have to eat out because we are invited to dinner or it’s someone’s birthday. Guess what? We still have that meal we paid for, but now don’t know when to make.
- Some meals are absolutely terrible. Is it because the meal itself is bad? Is it because it doesn’t fit our cooking style and palate? Either one is possible. It’s a trade-off we’ve learned to deal with.
Speaking of flavor, about eleven months in, we decided to drop Plated. We felt like we were paying an extra $12 a week for meals that weren’t better than those offered by Blue Apron and we disliked a lot more of their meals in the period of time we used both services. Instead, we now opted to go for 6 meals a week with Blue Apron. We’ve accepted the idea that we’ll be eating tofu occasionally (3 meals are vegetarian), even if we are not trilled about it. It really has helped us balance out our diet, though, since we now eat fish once a week and a lot more veggies in general.
Some (Hopefully!) Helpful Tips:
- Spices are your friend. When I first started cooking these recipes, I would never add anything but salt and pepper. I learned, over time, that the flavors I like require a little bit more. I now liberally add onion or garlic powders, oregano, and friends. I find that this is key when we get meals with few ingredients or pasta dishes, in particular.
- Customer service is there for you. Both services have great customer service, and I’ve emailed and called both on several occasions. Sometimes an ingredient might be missing or squished. Sometimes delivery mysteriously happens a day after the day the box is scheduled to arrive. A quick email usually resolves the issue, and you may even be compensated for the issue.
- To get both vegetarian and omnivore recipes from Blue Apron I had to contact them and then create two accounts. Not the greatest ever, but it works.
And finally, just an FYI. You can refer friends to Blue Apron, and they get free meals. However, you don’t get any referral goodies from that. I guess we’ll have to do it from the goodness of our hearts!
Which meal service do you prefer? Have any questions about something I didn’t cover? Write me a comment.