I know you know the scene. You walk in the door at the end of a long day. You are hungry, the kids are hungry (read: HANGRY), and you open the refrigerator - Willing with all your motherly powers that the glowing light provide you with the inspiration, energy, and (or) ingredients to poof the evening's healthy home cooked meal into existence. Alas, this is real life and not the food network and what you find (if you're lucky) is a dirty refrigerator and some random ingredients, and odds and ends from meals earlier in the week. Sigh.
After briefly considering sacrificing the smallest (and probably most hangry) of the bunch for the greater good of the family (totally joking, guys!) you are left turning to some processed convenience type of meal sitting in your pantry, or take out. This kind of hunger crisis solution often leaves us feeling crappy in the long run (hello, MSG and other nasties) and flushing money down the drain - which is what you do when you get nutritionally devoid, fake food delivered to you. We've been there - all of us, and it's the worst! But what's a parent to do?! You have a few options, but for the sake of this article, we will discuss the meal delivery service Blue Apron.
Blue Apron is one of the many new meal delivery services on the market. You sign up, fill out a profile of your crew's tastes, preferences, and restrictions, and they provide you a list of meals to choose. The selected meals are then delivered to you weekly via delivery (on cool bio-degradable ice packs) in pre-portioned ingredients along with a recipe card to be cracked open and assembled, according to your schedule. My parents are new empty nesters and LOVE Blue Apron - LOVE. It. But I was curious how it would work out for a busy family with young children.
We have tried Blue Apron in our home for a total of six meals, and I'm here to give you my take on it - as a busy mom and Certified Family Health Coach.
1. Convenience (Duh!)
This one is a huge appeal, obviously. From the ease of picking meals, eliminating the need to make a list and brave the grocery store (with tiny humans in tow), to eliminating the need to measure out ingredients makes Blue Apron one super duper convenient way to plan your family's meals.
We love the variety in our home! While we have some tried and true meals in our rotation, I try to mix it up and keep it fresh. I love cooking and being able to create new exciting meals helps take the monotony out of preparing meals on a daily basis. Blue Apron allows you to do just that, with ease. All of the recipes are chef created and are constantly on rotation. We've tried ingredients, like Kumquats for example, that we would have never tried had we not made the Blue Apron recipe. From a wellness perspective varying our diets is a fantastic way to ensure we are getting a broad range of nutrients.
3. Healthy Ingredients
But is it healthy? Healthy ingredients are one aspect that I was very skeptical! As a wellness geek, I am weary when a service or product boasts convenience regarding food. Furthermore, I apply considerable scrutiny to meals and ingredients that I don't purchase or prepare myself (which we all should, BTW). I was very, very, pleased with the level of quality that Blue Apron maintains. The ingredients, which are mainly whole foods, while not Certified Organic, are fresh and sourced from local (to Blue Apron) family farms. Second, the only component shipped "preserved" is the protein (meats) which is frozen. That was a huge plus for our family!
4. Aids in Portion Control
Portion control, portion control, portion control - this is huge! In a super-sized world, many of us have lost sight of what healthy portions look like, and portion control is a hot topic with clients aiming to lose weight or teach their kids how to eyeball actual portions of food. Blue Apron is a fool proof way to help maintain healthy portion control - considering, of course, you don't sit down to a meal intended for four all by yourself (they offer meal sizes for 2+ persons). The portion control is further reinforced during the preparing and cooking process because all of the ingredients (oils, butter, etc.) are pre-portioned out - it's impossible to be heavy-headed with, say, the butter unless you go out of your way to add extra (not that I have done that....).
1. Active Cooking Time
And, I hate to do it, but for the sake of transparency - darn it if these meals don't take me for-ever to make. As a busy Mama, you know the one from the beginning of this post which considered, momentarily, sacrificing the weakest, smallest one (joking, again!) this is a BIG con. I cook - A LOT. And I am efficient in the kitchen (once upon a time, I owned one of these meal delivery services, only I delivered prepared meals). Even so, every single one of these meals takes me at least an additional 30 minutes than a regular meal would in my home.
I've grappled with this. How is it so, when the ingredients don't even require measuring? I'll tell you: Active. Cooking. Time. Which is fancy speak for the actual hands on work you have to do to make a meal. When I am finding new recipes, one of my prerequisites is that the active cooking time is low - think roasting, baking, stewing, pressure cooking, crock potting, etc. Cooking using these methods allows me the best use of my time, and the ability to multitask or break away from the kitchen to play referee, nurse, or custodian. Blue Aprons recipes are awesome, but the hands-on cooking time is a major deterrent.
At a glance the price is not terrible, starting from just under $9/meal. However, leftovers play a huge role in my overall meal planning and budgeting as a busy mom. It's also one of the ways I help clients eat clean without spending a fortune. And in the case of Blue Apron, we were not left with the same amount of leftovers we are used to. For example, if one of our meals is a Sunday roast chicken, we will continue to repurpose that leftover roast chicken into tacos, salads, pasta, and even sandwiches throughout the week - saving us time and money. Blue Apron eliminates that option, for our family.
As a Certified Health Coach Blue Apron gets my seal of approval. And as a self-proclaimed foodie, again, my seal of approval. As a busy Mom? For our family, I could see Blue Apron Meals being a nice addition to the weekend meal rotation (Think: Saturday). Typically by Saturday, my brain is fried and I am itching to break out of our routine. Blue Apron would be a nice way for us to enjoy a wholesome meal, excite our taste buds with something new, and not have to schlep the whole family to a restaurant and spend a small fortune on sub-par food.
Every family and schedule are different. Have you tried Blue Apron? I would love to hear what other family's experiences have been, as it helps me to better serve my clients. What are your family's dinner time hacks?