May 16, 2016
As a city-dwelling millennial living just a short walk away from a certain eco-minded grocery chain, preparing dinner is a daily figure-it-out-on-the-go exercise. Grab what’s needed for one meal, worry about the next tomorrow. Convenient as it is, it’s an exercise that’s pretty much devoid of creativity, still feels like a chore and almost always means chicken something.
Over the past month, though, the menu has changed. In fact, it’s been shipped directly to my doorstep thanks to Blue Apron. Similar to many other increasingly popular box-delivery dinner services, like Plated and Hello Fresh, the concept is simple: Go online, pick your meals for the week from a delicious-looking list of preset options, and voila – every ingredient, right down to the ounce, arrives in a carefully packed, dry-ice refrigerated box all set for the week ahead.
Thanks to the box, things like soba noodles, collard greens and English peas straight from the pod have been added to the nightly repertoire. The experience has opened the door to not just new ingredients, but dish preparations, methods of cooking and a desire to just do dinner better.
So, is it for you? Dinners have varied in tastiness, complexity and convenience. A mixed bag box, if you will. Let’s review on a five-star scale:
Price – Packages start at under $10 per meal. As far as I’m concerned, for a good dinner, that’s a steal. 4 stars.
Prep – Possibly the best part of the experience, meal prep is a breeze with all ingredients neatly bagged, zipped and bottled in just the right amounts. 5 stars.
Convenience – As nice as it is to have dinner figured out long before heading home, sometimes plans change. And with only a few options for delivery, sometimes you’re out of town when your meals arrive, leaving perishable items at the mercy of carbon dioxide and cardboard. 3 stars.
Taste – Like all home cookin’, some meals prove more inspiring than others. The kung pao chicken, though, was truly takeout-worthy. Who’d have thought? 3.5 stars.
Variety – With only a handful of meals to choose from at any given time, this is not for the picky eater. 2.5 stars.
Instruction – For the sheer amount of ingredients most meals require you to work with, the step-by-step instructions are great. But having to read and re-read any one line of instruction aloud as if you were assembling furniture from Ikea? One time is one time too many… 3 stars.
Process – The cooking cadence is smooth. Take one item off the stove and the next is ready to go on. A few meals were 20-plus minute endeavors, but hey – your very own kung pao chicken. 4 stars.
If you’re stuck in a rut with the same old dinners, try thinking inside the box. It might prove to be a short-lived experiment, but it might also be all you need to ignite some newfound culinary creativity.