Blue Apron: Yay or Nay?

Over the holidays, my mother-in-law forwarded us an offer from Blue Apron for a free week of meals. Because we were constantly eating out at restaurants or other peoples' homes during the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year's Eve, the Blue Apron offer fell to the back burner. After the holidays, the hustle and bustle of moving apartments, getting back to work, and slipping into my regular routine caused me to forget completely about Blue Apron.

But once I settled into my routine of work, exercise, and exploring the new side of San Francisco that I now live in, I found it increasingly difficult to get to the grocery store. It was impossible to shop during the week, and I started opting for adventures over errands on the weekends. So, after not visiting the grocery store for a solid two weeks, I decided it was time to give this Blue Apron thing a try. I was impressed with my experience from the start, and have continued to enjoy my weekly deliveries since. 

Keep reading for a look into some of my favorite Blue Apron meals, the pros and cons of this service, and a sneak peek into some fun account features.

Here's what I like about Blue Apron (the yays):

  • I don't have to stress about going to the grocery store. Once a week, three meals are delivered to my doorstep. Somebody else is doing the grocery shopping for me. If I need supplemental meals, like lunch for work, or extra dinners for the remaining nights of the week, then I can go to the store. But, if I'm busy that week, I'm relieved to know that three meals are getting dropped off for me, and we can go out to eat or order in for the rest of the week if we have to.
  • It's cost effective. We pay $60/week for three meals for two people, which comes down to $10/meal/person. You can't get much better pricing than that in San Francisco, whether you're eating out (on average $100/meal/two people) or dining in (typically spend $150/every 10 days on groceries).
  • It's building my repertoire of recipes. I'm cooking things that I would have never dreamed of before, like Pork & Tomatillo Pazole, Beef Dukbokki, or Seared Salmon with Sorrel Salad and Creamy Spinach. Blue Apron is introducing new ingredients to me (pea tips?) and is teaching me how to cook a lot of different types of cuisine.
  • It gets my husband to cook! Each meal comes with its own recipe card, which lists out ingredients and step by step instructions. The instructions help with time management, which is often one of the most important and difficult parts of cooking. The ease of knowing which ingredients to cook with, and how and when to prepare eliminates frustration and draws my husband into the kitchen to play chef.
  • Portion control. My husband and I like to eat. A lot. If I cook something, it gets eaten, no matter how much food it contains (leftovers? What are those?). Blue Apron provides you with the exact measurements of food that you need for two, so you're 1) not overindulging and 2) not wasting.
  • Quality. I was wary of how good the produce and meat would be, but have continued to be pleasantly surprised with the freshness and quality of everything we receive.
  • Online meal selection and recipe library. You can select what meals (from a group of 6, and depending on availability) you want to receive, so long as you put in your request up to 1 week before your delivery. You can also see your delivery history, and click through each meal to find its recipe.

Here's what I dislike about Blue Apron (the nays):

  • The packaging. It's a little wasteful. One big cardboard box, multiple large icepacks, and individual wrapping for every ingredient. Most of the packaging materials are recyclable, but the amount I discard into the recycling bin still makes me cringe. It'd be great if they could offer a pickup service for the big Blue Apron box that everything comes in. Oh, and the ice packs? I tried saving these for a while, but they filled my freezer. Now I just guiltily toss them away in the trash every week, and feel awful for doing so.

Here's a peek into some of the fun features in my Blue Apron Account:

This is what your account options look like. Sending free meals to your friends, checking out what you're set to receive in the coming weeks, options to change around your menu, skipping a delivery for a week, setting your preferences, and finding past recipes in your delivery history can all be easily navigated to from here.

Blue Apron Account inside look

My Plan: you can opt into a 2-person or family plan, select your M-F delivery day, let them know if you're a vegetarian, and opt out (or in!) to any dietary preferences. As you can see, we're not picky in this household:

Blue Apron preference settings

The Delivery Schedule is where you can see what meals you'll be receiving in the coming weeks. You can also alter your menu in this section up to 1 week before your delivery.

Blue Apron Meal Selection

The Delivery History is a library of all of the past meals you've received, making it easy for you to replicate any of the meals on your own. You can rate the meals, leave feedback, and click through for the online recipe cards.

Blue Apron Delivery History

So, there you have it! If you haven't been lead to a conclusion, I'll make it clear now that I've been really enjoying Blue Apron. They've got four and a half stars in my book, and if they improved their packaging, I'd give them that extra half star.

As you can see, I have five free meals to give away (3 meals are in each giveaway). This is a great way to give Blue Apron a try. Leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to receive a week of free meals!

- Contributed by Audrey R. 

Where to Eat in Portlandia

I found myself working in Portland for the past couple weeks, and since I was working out quite a bit for work, I felt absolutely ZERO guilt about indulging in all sorts of amazing meals ranging from raw/vegan/gluten-free fare to donuts. As it turns out, three weeks wasn't nearly enough time to cover all the spots that people recommended to me, but I did my best. Here are some of my favorites if you find yourself in the City of Roses:

Pok Pok - I had been to the Pok Pok in Brooklyn before, but was well aware that this is the original, so I had to try it out. I happened to be in the neighborhood and was able to snag a table at lunch, otherwise there is generally quite a wait. If you aren't familiar with Chef Andy Ricker's classic thai spot, you best get familiar. Ricker won the James Beard 'Best Chef' Award in 2011 after opening Pok Pok and it does not disappoint, especially if you like some spice in your life. There is quite a bit of pork on the menu, so I might not bring a vegetarian to this spot, but if you do, they'll do their best to accommodate them. Don't miss the Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, the Khao Soi ( a Northern thai curry noodle soup), or the "Cha Cha La Vong," which will make you realize Catfish can be the real deal when done right.

Pok Pok - Portland

Harlow - This is the only place I ate twice while in Portland. As soon as I saw the menu, I had a panic attack. I wanted every single thing; and they had specials. THIS is the place to take your friend who is into raw/vegan/gluten free, but it's also the place to take ANYONE who likes good food! It doesn't hurt that the design of the space makes you feel like you're at home, so you see people lounging over coffee or enjoying juices after a workout, while others type away on laptops or catch up with friends. "The Mighty Bowl," a local favorite, is quinoa or brown rice, steamed greens, beans, and a choice of lemon ginger, garlic tahini, avocado cilantro, or jalepeno cashew cheese sauce. I would rent an apartment near Harlow just to have more of it in my life. 

Harlow - Portland

Bamboo Sushi - I don't know or pretend to know much about sushi, but I do know how to order correctly when at a good sushi restaurant and that is this: Sit at the sushi bar if possible. Smile and ask the chef what he likes for that day, what is a house favorite, and tell him if you don't want anything specific, like uni, in my case. Bleh. I'm not a fan of uni. This is probably a good way to order in any restaurant for that matter, but when you really don't know much about a certain cuisine, this really helps out. Cool fact: Bamboo is the first certified sustainable sushi restaurant in the world. What's that mean? It means all the fish comes from populations that are plentiful and in good health and the fishermen who catch them do so in an environmentally safe manner. I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter what you order at Bamboo; it will all be delicious! Lucky for you, there are two locations. 

Cheese & Crack Snack Shop - Can't speak. Just go. 

Cheese & Crack Snack Shop - Portland

Toro Bravo - Several Portlandians told me to go to this spot, so we saved it for our last night in Portland and it was worth the wait! The menu is a mix of tapas, pinches, charcuterie and raciones - with the obvious Spanish standards like tortilla espanol, bacon wrapped dates, and grilled octopus, but plenty more interesting options that I wasn't expecting. Harissa stewed butternut squash and Oxtail Croquettes? SURE. Two more words for you: Manchego pillow. 

Oven & Shaker - Everyone needs two kinds of pizza places in their life: a hole in the wall place you can go at 2am and get a slice when you're drunk; and a nicer, sit down, pies only spot with good wine and salads. Over & Shaker is the latter. The menu is simple and tasty: a handful of salads and some apps, and a list of pizzas with the staple Margherita as well as some more interesting ones like the Ghost Chili Salami pie. Daaaaaamn! Don't miss it. Did I mention the pizzas are $7 at Happy Hour?

Oven & Shaker - Portland

Pips Original - There's definitely a donut war going on in Portland. And yes, you should absolutely get some crazy-looking donuts at Blue Star and Voodoo and take a pic in front of the KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD sign, but for a little piece of heaven, head to Pips, where the donuts are smaller and served warm! They are made to order and always have some unique specials, but I trust my go-to Cinnamon Sugar every time. You also MUST get one of the house made Chais if you go - they will probably ruin all other chai for life though. Sorry, Bob's of San Francisco; I cheated on you just this once. 

Pips Original - Portland


- Contributed by Julie T.