Blue Apron review

Sunday, August 21, 2016

(Note: I did not receive compensation of any kind for this review. Just my unsolicited opinion.)

Summer vegetable gnocchi


Have you tried one of the meal kit delivery services out there? Over just the past several years, this industry has sprung up, now delivering millions of meals a month across the country. Blue Apron, Plated, Peach Dish, Hello Fresh . . . there's many choices out there. And growing. The market is expected to grow by $3 to $5 billion in the next 10 years.

Its appeal, of course, is the convenience of not having to shop for or plan meals. You still have to cook. But you get a box containing fresh ingredients for (usually) three meals each week delivered to your doorstep, complete with detailed, illustrated recipe cards to follow.

I recently signed up for Blue Apron, the "oldest" kid on the block (started in 2012). I picked them mostly because they were one of the most well-known services, and also a little less expensive than a few of the others ($59.95 a week for three meals for two persons, or about $10 per serving; I got $30 off my first order).

Well, I can cook much more cheaply than that, but I thought I'd give it a try just to see what the hype was all about. You can order one week, skip the next three if you want, order the next week, etc. No obligation to buy each week. So, you can see what's on the menu, and what's on your schedule, and order accordingly.

Fun to have dinner arrive on your doorstep.


Inside each box is an insulated bag and a couple large freezer packs to keep things cold. All the food is portioned, so there is no waste. 


For example, on the right above is a little packet of golden raisins. I would probably not make a recipe calling for golden raisins because I never have them on hand and wouldn't want to buy a whole box just for one recipe. But here, you get only what you need. No waste.

Packaging waste is another story. A big criticism of these kits is the amount of packaging. Some companies do better than others; all of Blue Apron's packaging is recyclable, but I still feel guilty using those little plastic bottles filled with a tablespoon of rice vinegar or soy sauce.


The only ingredients you need to have on hand are oil, salt, and pepper. Everything else, including a couple tablespoons of butter, if needed, or a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, is included.

I've received two shipments so far. The produce is fresh and locally sourced.


Good quality meat.


It feels a little silly to get this white sugar, when I have several pounds of it here in my pantry. However, the Espellete pepper is something new to me; I will be using it to make a piperade, a traditional Basque dish from the western Pyrenees. 


The recipe cards are printed on nice heavy cardstock, and include photos and very detailed instructions. There are instructional videos on the Blue Apron website for the novice cook, including things like how to dice an onion.

Even experienced cooks can pick up a tip or two.

And I really like trying dishes that use ingredients that I would not have gone out to buy just for a weeknight dinner for my husband and me. Like the piperade. Or even the gnocchi, pictured above.


Cons:

Hard for me to justify spending the money (I definitely wouldn't do this if I had a family of more than two to feed)
Some of the cooking is a little more involved than I want to get on an average weeknight  
Lots of packaging, so not environmentally friendly; however, everything is recyclable

Pros:

Great recipes
Fresh ingredients
Perfectly sized portions, so no waste
Opportunity to try new things
No thinking needed
No obligation
Vegetarian option available if you want to swap out the beef, chicken, or fish 

So, at this point, I will probably order a box every few weeks or so, just to add a little variety to our roasted meat/veggie standby meals, and to try some new things. It's still cheaper than going out.

I may try another company, too, just to compare. One that appeals to me is Peach Dish, a southern company offering updated (think healthier) Southern cooking, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Their meals look delicious, and I've read some good reviews. 

How about you? Have you tried one of these services, or would you?

(You can visit Blue Apron here.)

Wedding countdown!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Only three weeks to go!

I can't believe it's almost here.

Lots of last-minute preparations happening around here. I keep crossing things off my to-do list, but it keeps getting bigger, as I continue to include more and more details that I don't want to forget. 

We just finished putting together the welcome bags for the out-of-town guests . . . 




We've included a walking map of our downtown. I have a couple of bags of individually wrapped chocolate that will be divvied up and added at the last minute. Two reasons for this. I want it kept stored where it will stay cool in this heat. Also, I don't want to open up that chocolate yet because yours truly might decide to do some sampling while she's filling the bags!


Just printed a sample copy of the ceremony program to proof before taking it to the printers. Found two names misspelled. Ack. Now I'm afraid to get it printed. Hope there's no more errors lurking anywhere.



I wish I could show you a picture of the bride in her dress! I went with her to her fitting a couple weeks ago. She's going to be beautiful!

We won't talk about my "fitting." I tried on the dress I had ordered back in January and had a meltdown when I discovered it was too tight. Those 30 pounds I lost in 2015? Well, some have crept back on. Not all, thankfully, but enough. So I had to order another size up, and then decided to try another style, etc. So after three Nordstrom deliveries and returns, I think I'm good.


I had some rhinestone and pearl earrings I was going to wear, but they didn't seem to go with this dress. Plus, I don't need any more bling going on! So I found these. Not sure they were quite my style, but I really like them. And can wear them for every day, too.



We still have a couple dozen (a couple dozen!! People!) guests who haven't RSVP'd that we're trying to contact, and then I can get the seating chart together. That's a little tricky trying to plan. Who knew?

We will have 14 of us staying at our house over the long wedding weekend. So I've been putting lasagne, shredded chicken and beef for tacos, sloppy joe's , etc., in the freezer, and washing up the sheets and making beds. We actually went out and bought a twin-sized bed (which did come in handy for my recent book club sleepover) so my mom won't have to sleep on an air mattress. (Just kidding, mom!!)

The bridesmaids are all coming over here the morning of the wedding for hair and makeup. We have several stylists coming from a local salon, plus the photographer, so I am going to feed them all brunch. I have a coffee cake and muffins in the freezer, and my husband just got home from a Costco run and brought several quiches for me to put in there as well.

Okay . . . what's left?

Final meetings with the reception site manager, florist, photographer, and DJ. Final calls to the bakeries, limo service, violinist, and pianist. Remind Mr. Beautiful, the father of the bride, to pick up his tux and practice speech. Pedicures. 

 It's been going so smoothly. Which makes me wonder -- WHAT AM I FORGETTING?!

*******

ps . . . I've thought often of my grandparents this year as we've been planning this wedding. They got married during the Depression, at home, on a Wednesday night, with just a few family in attendance. Cake and coffee were served. They drove to New York for their three-day honeymoon, during which my grandfather spent a grand total of $19 and some cents on the whole thing. My mom still has the back of the envelope where he recorded all the expenses, including an ice cream for each of them. 

Linking with No Place Like Home.

Book club sleepover

Monday, August 8, 2016

This past Friday night I hosted our second annual book club sleepover. There were seven of us, and it was great fun. We've been meeting for five years now, and have read, I don't know, more than 100 books together.

We're hoping to celebrate a 25th anniversary someday!

One of my favorite things to do is get ready for a party.

Here are some beautiful hydrangeas cut from bushes by the front of our house. We ate here in the kitchen for a dinner ordered in from a local Italian restaurant.


Brunch the next day was served in the dining room, and I got the table set ahead of time, using my mother-in-law's silver and vintage linens from my side of the family.


I found these chargers 70% off at Michael's a couple weeks ago. They are more a rose gold than copper-y, as seen here.


My grandmother's red transferware in the Bristol pattern by Crown Ducal. I blame her for my love of vintage china.





I am not a gardener, so can't explain how these blooms came off the same hydrangea bush as the bright pink ones above. They were lower to the ground, under some leaf cover, so maybe the sun has something to do with the color?


We were not shy of carbs. This French toast was delicious. Some of us (including yours truly) topped it with real whipped cream and strawberries left over from the night-before's strawberry shortcake.








As I said, carbs were in evidence.



We had planned to make wreaths using old encyclopedias. Too much talking going on to accomplish much. A couple friends looked through several volumes to find maps and pictures to put in clear glass lockets I had ordered from etsy.

One friend, who has a daughter who's worked in Afghanistan and India found little maps of the two cities there, and put one on either side of a locket. Another friend found a colored picture of a Monet painting and put that in her locket. A friend from Malta put a picture of Maltese lace in hers.

We had to laugh that only a book club would find looking through encyclopedias a fun Friday night activity!



This is what we were going to make, but it seemed like too much work, and we watched a movie instead.


I decluttered the extra books and papers that are usually lying around here for our movie time.


It was a wonderful time. So grateful for the friends in my life.

*******

So now, with less than four weeks to the wedding, I must get back on track if I'm going to fit in my mother-of-the-bride dress. So . . . no more French toast and coffee cake . . . just lots of vegetables and a little protein.



Hope your week is off to a great start, friends.
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