Blue Apron: Getting Started!

The first time I had a Blue Apron meal I was at my best friend’s house a couple days before her wedding. Her soon-to-be hubby was out at his bachelor party and we were cleaning their apartment and organizing things to be taken to the venue in a couple days.

Soon-to-be hubby texts her “Make sure to eat one of those Blue Apron meals, they’ll go bad!” We pick out one of the two meals left in their fridge – fancy ramen for dinner!

It fed 3 hungry girls who’ve spent the last 4 hours cleaning and drinking wine. Also, holy crap the directions are easy to follow!

Best friend tells me they do Blue Apron because fiancé is really bad in the kitchen, so this is how he pulls his weight – making 3 meals a week that are easy for inexperienced chefs.

They stick the three recipe cards to the fridge, plan out which days they’ll have Blue Apron meals and which days she’ll whip up dinner from scratch.

I decided my partner, who one time successfully made me DELICIOUS enchiladas that took 4 hours to make, could probably use some help. Usually if I go “Aaaaah, I don’t want to make dinner tonight…”

His universal suggestion is “How about ramen?”Not fancy ramen. The kind that comes in the square bag, with sodium off the charts, good for when you’re hungover type ramen.

So we get their referral code, and I have to bug my partner for WEEKS to actually sign up. I’m thinking he probably just doesn’t want to cook, but I remind him, it is only fair he helps out, and this way he doesn’t need to do any of the grocery shopping. He hates grocery shopping. He’s sold. Booya.

Now this is a great idea in theory. Where my best friend and her (now) hubby have found balance in him making those 3 meals a week and she usually covers the other 4 nights a week, our household… not so much.

It has ended up with me making 2 of the 3 meals each week, since I can actually get the recipes done in the amount of time they put on the recipe card and I don’t get flustered or upset when I come home have to immediately start cooking. Partner enjoys a good sit, a big glass of water, and reading the internet after he gets home (from being on cushy, company-provided transportation with wifi… for a half an hour. I get a little annoyed about this when I’m hungry.)

But back to how it works! They send you a big, heavy box on a pre-determined day – ours is Friday, some other folks in our building get them on Wednesday. It includes 3 recipe cards, a “learn more about this ingredient” card, two big ice packs and all the food you’ll need for the week.

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Info card on different types of chilis!

My favorite part is the “nick-knacks” bags – it includes all the pre-portioned seasonings, small produce, oils, vinegars, condiments, etc. You should ALWAYS refrigerate those little suckers, however, make sure to leave it out long enough for the ingredients to get close to room temp for cooking. There are a few reasons for this, including proper incorporation, but also I mentioned OILS being in there. You want those to be a little warmer otherwise they’re thick and weird, especially if you end up using the oil for a slaw or something where the oil isn’t heated. Do yourself a favor, take the nick-knacks out early!

Th point of Blue Apron, to them, is to make dinner faster ad more convenient. While I understand that is what we’re getting, the service isn’t perfect.

PROS

  • The recipe cards WITH PICTURES are great. It helps to show novice chefs how small “diced” means, for example. They’re also really easy to follow, just make sure to read them all the way through before you begin.
  • Pre-portioned foods – sometimes they give you a weird ingredient you’d never usually use, luckily you usually won’t have any spices/main ingredients leftovers. For example, they don’t give you a huge bunch of cilantro, they give you exactly what you need.
  • Tasty – we haven’t had something that wasn’t absolutely delicious yet. Seriously, they sent us something with Brussels sprouts… and I ATE IT!
  • High quality ingredients – I am always in awe of the ginger. It is so, so juicy. All other ingredients are super fresh, almost never bruised and are always in peak ripeness. I dare them to send me an avocado recipe.

 

CONS

  • My biggest gripe is WASTE! They put everything into individual labelled bags(a single carrot? really?!). I understand for more unique ingredients folks may not recognize, but a single carrot DOES NOT need its own labelled bag. The recipe card has PICTURES of all the food so even that shouldn’t be a problem. Everything except for very large produce is put in a bag with a label, and I really hope it’s all recyclable, but it would be better if it was all compostable packaging.
  • Strange recipe quirks – they’re REALLY into making you cut a scallion into the white portion and adding it to a frying pan, and adding the green bits to the final dish. You gave me one scallion. There isn’t enough flavor in jut the white part for this recipe. Unnecessary.
  • Only frying pan recipes – we haven’t had a single dish that goes in the over yet, save for toasting bread. I’d LOVE to see some baked chicken or something!
  • Large portions – I’m always a little *too* full, one recipe called for AN ENTIRE HEAD OF CABBAGE. Do you think I’m eating half of a cabbage for dinner as a side? How is that realistic? We used half of the cabbage, stored the other half, and still had leftover slaw.

Overall, it’s super tasty, super convenient (save for the time DHL lost our package… Blue Apron refunded us for that week). The recipes end up costing $10/person, so it is $60 week for Blue Apron. At first we thought that price was high. Usually when you end up cooking at home, it is ALMOST $5/person per meal, however that often ends up with a lot of food waste – wilted produce from that salad you never made, expired sauces that you only used once, etc. Also you don’t have to look for any recipes or go grocery shopping, so you are definitely paying for convenience.

And the excessive packaging. You’re paying for that.

This post was not endorsed by Blue Apron, I’m just a fan!

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How Does Full Circle Work?

Hello, I am here to introduce you to Full Circle, the service I use to get my fruits and veggies delivered every Friday. Since I do Whole30 every once in a while, this makes it *that* much easier to make sure you always have fruits and veggies at home.

 

“So it’s a CSA box?”

Technically no, but what they’re doing is pretty great, super convenient and not dissimilar.

Since Full Circle sources their food from western states, it is a little bigger than “Community Sourced Agriculture.” Most CSA boxes you pick up at your local farmer’s market, from the actual farmer! Since I live a wild and unpredictable life (lies), and spend a lot of weekends out of town (not lies), subscribing to a CSA box can get tricky, since you usually pick up on Saturday or Sunday.

Full Circle delivers to my area once a week, which is on Friday. I wake up and head to the front of my apartment building to pick up a handy dandy insulated bag.

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Kitty likes Full Circle, too!

I get a notification on Wednesday what will be in my bag the following week (not the one I get in 2 days), where you get to swap out items you might dislike or already have in your pantry. The swappable items is a drop down menu that includes seasonal produce from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, and British Columbia. I haven’t seen any items from outside those area, but I’m sure some fish come from Alaska as well (more on this is a minute).

You can swap items in your bag until Monday, but I need to do it on Wednesday in order to remember to *actually* do it, so I swap items 10 days before I even get my bag. I always forget what’s coming, but that is part of the fun for me!

 

“What about other stuff besides vegetables?”

You can also add items to your bag from the Full Circle online grocery store full of local products, from artisan candies and bread to humanely raised meats. These aren’t included in your subscription price, but you could feasibly do all your grocery shopping through Full Circle. If you hate grocery shopping (like my SO), it might be worth trying, however, I LOVE grocery shopping, so I’ll pick up proteins + kitchen staples at the store still, but it makes my trips much faster.

When your bag is delivered, included is a nifty little sheet that tells you all the food in the bag with all the farm information included. Sometimes, you don’t get what you originally ordered. For instance, when you originally chekced, the bag said it included red potatoes, but they ran out of red potatoes.

Dang it, I love red potatoes.

So they’ll smack a little sticker on that sheet, letting you know they gave you yellow potatoes instead. In my experience, the swaps have never been difficult to use, and they try to stick to the same general product (a different type of apple, potato, kale, etc).

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Look ma, no swaps!

Also see that little “Exemptions” section? You can permanently select things to exempt from your bag. When I first started getting Full Circle, I didn’t have broccoli as an exempt item and I got it too frequently for someone who doesn’t really like broccoli, so I added it to the short list. I never want Brussels Sprouts. Ever. I still haven’t gotten them, thank goodness.

“What does it cost? Why does that not seem like a lot of food?”

They have three different sizes, I get the “Seed” size, or the smallest bag since I’m usually only feeding two people, and it’s $25/week. Sometimes, even that is hard to go through for us. From last week’s bag I still have beets and their now wilted greens sadly sitting in my fridge and I still don’t have a plan for them. Plus we get Blue Apron delivered weekly as well, which takes care of 3 meals a week. The other sizes are Sprout ($30, serves 2 people), Garden ($40, serves 3-4 people) and Harvest ($50, serves 5-6 people).

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I also do most of my meal planning/prep over the weekend (Sunday night), so it gets the food to me JUST in time.

Sometimes you’ll receive foods that you’ve never used before. Since it is currently mid-autumn, persimmons are included in my bag next week. I’ve never eaten a persimmon let alone cooked with one, so it’ll be adventure time in my kitchen! I actually nixed potatoes and swapped them for a second order of persimmons, since I didn’t want to get stuck with too few persimmons for a tasty tart recipe I found. However, if you don’t want to deal with an unfamiliar ingredient, you can always swap it out. This is a “choose your own adventure” service, which is super nice!

“Where do I sign up?”

Full Circle delivers to Alaska, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Find out more info on becoming a member.

As I find them or people shout them out, I’ll make a list of similar programs here. If you can’t get Full Circle, it is always worth finding a CSA near you! Support your local farmers, I promise they’re super friendly and the produce is so much better than your typical grocery store.

I wrote this post without any endorsements from Full Circle, I’m just a big fan!