An College Student's Attempt at Cooking: Blue Apron Review

As an avid fan of both delicious food and a good bargain, I was eager to see a Blue Apron coupon pop up in my e-mails a few weeks ago: $30 off if I renewed my account. Technically, it wasn’t my account; it was my mom’s, but she canceled it long ago because the meals just weren’t quite enough to serve our big (and hungry) family. So, starting off the year in a new apartment with a full kitchen, I decided to change the delivery address and renew the account, knowing I could cancel at any time.

I’m fairly experienced baking cakes and cookies, but cooking savory meals from scratch is slightly more out of my comfort zone. So, I was interested to see just how easy this whole meal-kit thing was, especially with such a great deal.

Turns out, the deal wasn’t as spectacular as I thought—the $30 credit would be applied to my next 3 meals, meaning I was really only saving $10 for this first go. Because I ordered the smaller quantity, two meals with two servings each for $39.96, I also had to pay $7.99 for shipping. Shipping’s only free if you go big and splurge on the four serving meals. Great for a four-person family, not so great for a broke college student. So it came down to $37.95, or $9.48 per serving.

But at this point I was excited about my meals. I got to choose two recipes out of eight options, so I tried to go for something I really wanted and then a healthier option. See below for the results:

 

Chicken & Brown Rice Bowl – The Healthy Option

610 calories per serving

Expectation:

30-minute prep time

Reality:

Because there are two servings, the prep time is probably based on two people making the meal. For me, the preparation took at least an hour, not including all of the dishes I had to wash. The instructions recommend using soo many bowls to separate ingredients; instead, I recommend just reading ahead to see what ingredients will be mixed together and just put them together right away.

After the long wait, I was disappointed to see how bland the meal looked in person: though colorful in the picture, the unseasoned chicken and brown rice just looked tasteless when finished. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the taste! It didn’t look like anything special, but the finishing touches—Ponzu Sauce, Sambal Oelek, and sesame oil (the two former of the three being foreign names to me)—were exactly what this recipe needed. I have to say, I never would have picked those ingredients out on my own, and they made all the difference. So points to Blue Apron.

 

Spicy Beef & Gnocchi with Zucchini – The Quick and Delicious Option

790 calories per serving

Expectation:

20-minute prep time

Reality:

This was definitely the meal I was most excited about, as I love the texture and taste of gnocchi. This recipe was much more accurate in prep time, only taking about thirty minutes, and required less cleaning afterwards.

Understandably, this meal is very heavy, although it would still have been so easy to gorge myself with at least two or three servings. It’s also such an easy recipe that I can see myself actually recreating this meal on my own with little effort. The whole point of a meal kit is to take away the stress of meal planning, and this particular one did that and helped me out for future meals, too.

Final Verdict:

If you’re looking for a way to make cheap, quick and easy meals, Blue Apron is probably not the way to go. The meal preparation is tedious, as you prepare absolutely everything yourself, from cooking the meat to mincing the garlic.

But what this does mean is you get to see absolutely everything that is going into the food you’re eating, so you know you’re getting real quality. Because of this, the meals tend to be healthier than frozen meals from the grocery store. Since everything is fresh and sent in the exact amount you need, the meals are also more expensive than what a college student usually budgets for. Nearly $10 a meal is pretty steep, even if it’s only for one meal a day.

For someone like me, a broke college student with limited time, I would recommend splurging once a month or so on what is essentially a high-quality, healthy home-cooked meal. It’s a fun bonding activity to do with friends, and you may accidentally become a better cook in the process. Otherwise, save the weekly Blue Apron meals for after graduation.