I decided to try out Blue Apron for a week, after seeing that they provide picture recipes. I paid $60 for three two-person meals, but four-serving meals are also available. Six recipes are available each week, and ingredients for three of them are delivered in a box with ice packs. I picked pretzel burgers with hoppy cheddar sauce and roasted sweet potato rounds, spicy shrimp spaghetti with cabbage and toasted breadcrumbs, and Trinidadian chicken curry with coconut grits and collard greens.
I certainly enjoyed my meals, and definitely think that Blue Apron could be useful for teaching some aspects of cooking skills to individuals who are particularly interested in learning more advanced techniques. It could be ordered weekly as a primary tool for cooking at home, or could be ordered as a special treat for life skills classrooms. Below, I’ve compiled some factors to consider before trying out Blue Apron or another service.
No meal planning, grocery lists, or shopping required
Planning meals for the week and going grocery shopping are useful skills for living independently, but using Blue Apron can save time by avoiding these activities and may be useful if accessing a grocery store is difficult.
New tastes, textures, and smells are a great sensory experience, but not for selective eaters
The recipes are different each week and contain unusual ingredients. I found out that I don’t really like hops flowers, but whole grain mustard is delicious. If you are looking to try out new foods, Blue Apron is a great option, but if you want to stick with more typical foods, it may not be worth your while.
Works for vegetarians, but probably not other special diets
Each week, three of the six options seem to be meat-free. However, if you are gluten-free, vegan, or have other dietary restrictions, it would be hard to use the recipes without additional modifications. Compared to convenience foods, the meals are reasonably healthy. For the most part, they seem to incorporate a protein and some form of vegetables, but having a burger and sweet potatoes certainly isn’t incredibly healthy. Adding a simple salad or side of green vegetables would help in this regard.
Ingredients arrive measured and labeled, but not washed or chopped
Most ingredients arrive in individual plastic bags, which are clearly labeled, so you’ll have no trouble telling your fresh parsley from your cilantro. They are also pre-measured, so for the most part, you won’t need to worry about measuring out ingredients. However, they do send more spicy ingredients than you may want to use. One recipe instructed me to add red pepper flakes to taste, and I know that if I had added the whole bag of pepper, my food would have been too spicy. Learning to add spices to taste may be one of the more challenging aspects of using Blue Apron. The fresh ingredients also aren’t prepared. I had trouble slicing large sweet potatoes, and most recipes involve a lot of knife work. Depending on the ability of the individual, some or all of the prep work could be done ahead of time.
These meals are not simple, and took me about ten minutes longer than the expected cook time that is printed on the recipes. If you work very quickly and multitask, you may be able to complete some of the recipes in half an hour, but don’t be surprised if they take you over an hour.
Pictures show ingredients, final product, and five to six intermediate steps
Blue Apron provides a picture recipe, printed in color on cardstock, for each meal. There’s a large picture of the final product, a description of the ingredients, and pictures of each ingredient on a white background. On the back, each step of the recipe is explained in detail. The ingredients used are in bold, and there are five to six pictures of the cooking process. The pictures are not as detailed as those of the Your Special Chef recipes, but they are useful in conjunction with the written instructions.
Ideas for using Blue Apron
- Sorting the ingredients from the delivery box. Try sorting them by recipe, by food type, or by where in the kitchen they belong. Does a can of vegetables belong in the freezer, the fridge, or the pantry? Which recipe uses this lime? What does cilantro look like?
- Finding the ingredients before cooking. Try matching them to the pictures on the recipe.
- Tasting piece by piece. Try eating a small piece of each ingredient that doesn’t have raw eggs or meat. Describe how the ingredient tastes and feels.
- Focusing on multitasking. Some of the recipes involve keeping track of two or three pots of food at once. Practice dividing attention between multiple tasks. Try using kitchen timers for each pot as a reminder to check on them.
- Identifying safety hazards. Before cooking, read through the recipe and point out areas that may require extra caution. Does the recipe require the use of sharp knives or hot burners?