In case you didn’t get a chance to read my first meal service review (Plated), I am writing a review of each of the available meal service companies that ship to my area. I have located approximately 10 and will be writing a review of each. My next review will be of HelloFresh.
Ordering: We were lucky enough to get a 2-week meal plan as a wedding gift, so I clicked on the email code sent from our registry (Zola) and then selected the date we wanted the service to start. I highly recommend a meal service as a wedding gift, it was great! Plated and Blue Apron were very similar with some slight differences. The main difference is Plated gives you 16 meal choices whereas Blue Apron only gives you 6. For Blue Apron, it will only let you pick certain combinations from the 6 meals. I'm guessing this is to balance out the higher cost meals but when you only start with 6 options it makes your choices very limited. You can also add wine pairing or order what appears to be almost anything you would need to cook Blue Apron Meals (and even customized tools to prop up and store their recipe cards) directly from their website but we went with the basic 3 per week 2-person meal package.
Website: An interesting observation about these meal service companies is that you can actually look at the recipes, ingredients and instructions on your account without purchasing the meals. This means you could go out and buy everything and do it on your own at no cost but then again they are targeting people who don’t want to do the shopping and want everything portioned for an exact number of meals. You can easily search recipe names and save the ones you like.
App: Well organized, simple and easy to look forward to weeks to come and rate completed meals in your delivery history under your profile. You can send free meals to friend from the app, search and save meals you like and watch cooking demo and tip videos (all of which you can do on the website as well).
Packaging: The meals came in an insulated box with reusable ice packs but the first one was ripped and leaked all over my counter before I noticed (luckily it’s a water-based solution). The individual ingredients were mixed up with 'knick knacks' for each recipe in small brown bags. The remaining ingredients (produce, meat and cheese) had to be sorted to determine which meal it went with. This wasn't a big hassle but it would be nice if it came presorted by meal. Bonus: they are partnered with USPS to pick up your box and recycle it for you if you have at least 2 deliveries of clean packing material.
Blue Apron Week 1 Meals
Beef Tacos & Radish Salsa with Sweet Potato Wedges: These Serrano and sugar marinated sweet potatoes were my favorite thing out of any of the Plated or Blue Apron meals I tried! They were sweet and spicy and crunchy (all my favorite things). The tacos were also very good with a radish salsa and the crème fraîche was delicious on them. The lime that came in the box was not juicy enough and the beef could have used some more lime flavor. It would have been good with some Tajin spice which I forgot I had in my pantry.
Lemon Bucatini Pasta with Marinated Radish Salad: I hadn't tried Bucatini (like spaghetti with a hole down the center) and noticed they don't sell it at my local HEB so that was neat to try but at the same time sad I wasn't able to find it to cook on my own. The radish salad was pretty good with the same crème fraîche in the beef tacos but I don't think it benefited the salad as much as the tacos. I would marinate radishes again but in a sauce with less cream and fat.
West African Peanut Chicken: Good taste and something different than I would normally make. I made this one with my friend when my husband was out of town and it was a great healthy activity to do with a friend! There was something slightly bland about the taste but after adding more spice mix it tasted almost perfect.
Blue Apron Week 2 Meals
Burgers and Red Cabbage Slaw with Sriracha Mayo and Roasted Sweet Potatoes: This meal was good but definitely nothing special about it. There weren't any unique flavors except the miso in the Cabbage Slaw (which my husband didn't like but I thought it tasted like miso soup and was good). The buns seemed a little small in comparison to the meat especially since we like our burgers thin so we ended up having overflowing meat a bit. I added some seasoning to the burger and sweet potatoes and would make it again but wasn't excited about any of the components.
Sunchoke and Egg Noodle Casserole with Kale and Mornay Sauce: This was a crowd favorite! My husband even said if I made it once a week he would eat it up which says a lot coming from him! I had never had sunchokes before and really love when they include ingredients like this so I can try them in a 'safe setting'. I'm not sure how hard to find or expensive they are but they were tasty and could easily be replaced by any type of thinly sliced potatoes. The mornay sauce was delicious! This is where the Tajin (low sodium version) came out of the pantry and really made the dish shine!
Cheesy Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas with Salsa Verde: These were great! I would definitely make them again and could see changing them up in various ways depending on what ingredients we have on hand. There was hardly any cheese so it’s a bit of a stretch putting cheesy in the title but they were delicious all the same. Another first cooking with fresh tomatillos and they were very easy to roast and then squish up with the onions to make the enchilada filling.
Nutrition: Since I’m a registered dietitian, I thought I’d include a little bit about my take on the nutrition in the meal services too. The food is fresh and there’s a good amount of veggies included, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was the high fat content in the meals which made higher calorie meals seem like not all that much food. I would recommend trying to decrease the fat or substitute when possible for most meals (replace part or all of cream with fat free greek yogurt in a casserole, replace half of the oil in the recipes with water when pan frying things).
Plated only had calories listed on their website so I put the ingredients in MyFItnessPal and found they were similarly high in fat but sometimes lower in calories. If you use MyFitnessPal, you can enter the meal (Blue Apron meals are already in there) and it will tell you the macronutrient content of the meal. If you’re wanting it to be balanced, you should aim for 20-35% fat, 10-30% protein and 40-65% carbohydrates. You might have slightly different nutrient goals, but generally everyone should be eating a diet close to that range for the day. If you are eating a low calorie diet, you’ll likely want to focus on increased percent protein and rather make that goal based off of your body weight instead. Aim for a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight or about 55 grams of protein for the day for a 150-pound person.
Depending on your calorie goal, you could make 2 meals into 4 meals and if you’re somewhere in-between or wanting to have a little bit better balanced meal, you could eat half a serving and add a piece of fruit or whole grain bread to the meal. If you’re making the meals on your own after trying them with Blue Apron, you could get whole grain pasta, leaner cuts of meat and make substitutions that would better suit your unique needs.
Overall: I would recommend both Blue Apron and Plated depending on your preferences. Blue Apron seemed a little bit stingy on flavor so we added spices to most dishes and Plated had a lot of spicy meals which I liked but my husband thought was a little too much sometimes. After I try all of the different meal services, I will likely keep my top few accounts on 'skip' and pick the one sounds best for the week I'm planning to order. Both meal services allow you to continue to skip weeks but as far as I can see there's not a pause button so you do have to keep selecting skip in advance. Blue Apron allows you to skip 6 weeks at a time and Plated was similar.
If you want to try Blue Apron, you can get $30 off on their website or through online coupon codes https://www.blueapron.com.
Next stop, HelloFresh!!