If you've listened to a podcast lately, chances are you've heard of Blue Apron, and had its praises sung to you by your favorite audio personality. But because of various controversies associated with the company, there is more to consider in a Blue Apron delivery than the meal itself. I set out to cook a good meal and unpack some of my concerns.
A Blue Apron meal provides a recipe and an exact amount of pre-measured ingredients for unique meals, meant to expedite the cooking process for busy people. Under “Our Mission” on Blue Apron’s website, I was expecting to see explanations about how Blue Apron can help the everyday at-home cook be more creative and get exposed to new ingredients and dishes. To my surprise, it listed all the ways in which Blue Apron helps to eliminate food waste by controlling portions, provides access to local food through relationships with farms. Their refrain: “we’re building a better food system.”
A friend of mine and fellow TSL columnist, Lauren Churchwell PZ '18, received a coupon for a discounted first delivery of her Blue Apron box. Blue Apron offers the choice of two or three meal selections per delivery, each meal selection serving your choice of two or four people. The standard size box is two different meals with two servings per meal; the whole package costs $40 before shipping. There are options for vegetarian and pescatarian selections.
The box we received included salmon nicoise salad and gnocchi and summer squash. We chose to cook the salmon nicoise salad.
Despite Blue Apron’s bragging about environmental responsibility, my first impression of the box was how much trash was included. The box itself is large and comes with multiple plastic ice packs as well as a large layer of foil bubble wrap for insulation and protection. Each ingredient comes wrapped separately in plastic wrap, or in a plastic bottle or container. That is a lot of waste for a meal that is supposed be a part of building a “better food system.”
Our recipe was straightforward, but involved a fair amount of cutting, prep and multitasking. In total, the meal required at least three pans and two prep bowls. The recipe wasn’t laid out in the most efficient way either. That being said, it wasn't very efficient for two people to collaborate on the preparation.
In the end, the meal turned out very well. All of the ingredients tasted great together and made for a really delicious and fresh meal that combined flavors I wouldn’t have thought to put together. It was overall underseasoned if the recipe is followed directly, but if you know your own tastes, that’s an easy fix.
The Blue Apron salmon nicoise definitely would not have been an easy or good option had neither of us been experienced with cooking. The chopping, slicing, prepping, and boiling would have made preparing the meal take closer to an hour for someone who wasn’t as comfortable in the kitchen. In total, it was 40 minutes from the time we first read the recipe to the time the meal was on the plate.
However, I hesitate to say the experience was worth it. It seems the company is truly one that aims to be responsible. Their service makes cooking fun, easy, and accessible, and is a great activity to participate in with a friend.
The cost is that it is very expensive. At $10 per portion, I’d rather go out to eat. Spending time looking for a new recipe on Pinterest and shopping for the ingredients at a grocery store could have been cheaper than the $40 box. Leftover food can go bad, so in a way, Blue Apron can reduce food waste by not having any, but I’d personally rather throw away a small bit of fennel that may have gone bad in the fridge than every single tiny plastic bit that comes inside the box.
If you’re curious about Blue Apron and can get a discount or receive a free box, it is absolutely worth a try. However, for the amount of paper and plastic waste, the distance it was shipped, the cost, and the tricky subscription and cancellation policies the Blue Apron’s apparent ease, convenience, and environmentally ethical front are questionable. Beyond the trial box, Blue Apron feels like an excuse for people to spend a fair amount of extra money to not put in the few extra steps to chose a recipe and make it to the grocery store.