When you first move out of the dorms and into an off-campus apartment, that thrilling sense of true freedom can be a bit overwhelming. While living in the dorms allows for a somewhat autonomous experience, with a meal plan and resident assistant supervision, it’s more like a stepping stone on your way to real independence.
Yet after the initial excitement of being able to throw your own parties and cook your own food wears off, the reality of adult life starts to sink in, and you soon realize that finding time to get your work done, cooking and cleaning up after yourself is not as glamorous as you thought it would be.
After a week of eating the same UberEATS meals and Trader Joe’s prepared salads, you may find yourself like fourth-year biochemistry student Mary Alice Pope, ready for a change. While she enjoys cooking and knows her way around the kitchen, cooking – like most things that involve free time – had quickly descended on her priority list as the quarter progressed, replaced with studying and working at her part-time laboratory job.
“The problem with cooking a homemade meal is that you need time to find a recipe, shop for the ingredients and then actually cook it. I knew that if I could cut out the first two steps, I might have time to do the step I actually like, which is cooking the food.”
Blue Apron, a food delivery service that lets you do the cooking for yourself, aims to solve this weekday dinner problem by providing recipe cards and premeasured fresh ingredients to your doorstep. The two-person plan, the smallest plan offered, comes out to around $10 per meal and provides three recipes per week with portions for two people per recipe, which is nice if you and your apartment roommate want to try it out together.
The ingredients arrive on the day of your choosing, and are stored in vacuum sealed packages and plastic wrap surrounded by frozen gel packs to ensure optimal freshness.
While this packing may seem wasteful, Blue Apron not only offers instructions for how to recycle the packaging at home but also provides the option of returning the packaging back to them for free. Their membership-based business model also enables the company to order only the amount of food necessary from the farmers that provide the Blue Apron meal ingredients, allowing for minimal food waste.
Up first on Pope’s menu: Cumin-crusted pork with fig and blood orange pan sauce.
“This meal was a lot of work!” Pope said. “Between chopping the almonds, fennel and figs, crusting the pork and cooking the farro, it took me about 10 different dishes and around an hour to make.”
“On the plus side,” she continued, “it made enough for dinner and lunch the next day for both me and my roommate, and I hardly ever buy or cook pork, so it forced me out of my box.”
Next was seared chicken and pan sauce with apple, kale and potato hash.
“The chicken was my favorite dish of the three recipes,” Pope said. “I was pretty skeptical because I’m not a big fan of fruit in my savory dishes, but it turned out pretty well.”
However, she did mention again how long this dish took her to cook and how intensive she found the Blue Apron recipes to be.
Blue Apron meals, on the other hand, require the cook to continuously chop or prepare other ingredients while another ingredient is cooking. And while the recipe cards are easy to follow, including photos of the cooking process as well as a written description, they have to be constantly referred back to while you cook your dish.
“I’m used to just sticking everything in the oven or a pan and then working on my homework while my dinner cooks. To make the Blue Apron meals, I had to stay in the kitchen for the full hour, which is a lot of time to give up on a weekday.” Pope explained.
The last of the three recipes was crispy barramundi with melted leek and roasted vegetables.
Pope liked the concept of this dish but recommends cooking seafood meals first because she thought the fish was a little too fishy tasting after sitting in the fridge for three days.
Although she found the meals to be time-consuming, Pope said that she would order Blue Apron meals again if she liked the menu for that week.
So if you only have one pan at home or don’t have an hour to spare every night, you may be better off sticking to the Whole Foods hot bar and BuzzFeed cooking videos. On the other hand, if you’re interested in cooking meals a bit more elaborate than instant ramen and would like to cut down on your shopping time and reallocate it to cooking, Blue Apron could be just what you’re looking for. If you’re ordering food home or picking up prepared meals, odds are you’re already spending $10 or more on your meals – so you might as well get a tasty homemade meal and some new cooking skills out of it.