Blue Apron, Hello Fresh so many options. Which to pick?
May 26, 2016 1:00 PM   Subscribe

I have been looking at boxes grocery services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. There are so many to choose from. What services have you used? What feedback can you give. I really like the idea of having my meals planned, groceries bought, and it all delivered on a specific day. I like the price point of about $10 per meal per person for 4 meals per week. Our tastes are varied with almost no limitations.
posted by Coffee Bean to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
The only one I have tried is Hello Fresh - unfortunately I didn't love it. I found sometimes they would send the wrong ingredient or something wouldn't be entirely fresh, which was obviously a bummer when it came time to cook. Haven't tried the other ones so I can't comment on those, sorry! I will say many/most of them seem to have a nice introductory deal for either the first week free or substantially discounted, so you could always try a few in sequence and see what you like best.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:03 PM on May 26, 2016

We are totally loving Home Chef. We have found there's more options we like than Blue Apron or Hello Fresh.
posted by rubster at 1:04 PM on May 26, 2016

Recently, on the Blue...
posted by jillithd at 1:05 PM on May 26, 2016 [18 favorites]

I love Home Chef's options way more then Blue Apron, which we used for 2 years. In particular, Home Chef offers and tags meals that fit into various diets - low-carb and/or low-calorie and/or low-fat, for example.

Also, they always have at least one breakfast to pick from every week, and you can add-on a breakfast option (so you could set your account to 2 meals a week + 1 breakfast). They also offer a smoothie add-on and a fruit basket add-on.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:23 PM on May 26, 2016

We really enjoyed Hello Fresh. A couple dinners from our trial offer are now in regular rotation. I found it a good value as long as you customized your box to avoid the pasta dishes. Use your own judgement on salt/pepper/garlic/other basic seasonings; the recipes tend to be way underseasoned for us. We had no issues with ingredient quality.
posted by donnagirl at 1:24 PM on May 26, 2016

I also had a not-amazing experience with Hellofresh (though I was subscribed to the veggie version, where you don't get a choice of meals, at least in the Netherlands). We tried it for a month and we did find a couple of recipes that we really enjoyed and would make again, but we received a few ingredients that weren't really fresh, and it ended up feeling like more effort than just getting regular groceries delivered.

One thing I did like was that the recipes made more than they said -- we (two of us) ordered the four-person version with the aim of having leftovers, but we'd normally get at least six servings out of one recipe.
posted by littlegreen at 1:32 PM on May 26, 2016

I have tried Plated, Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh. Of the three, I liked Plated and Blue Apron over Hello Fresh - Hello Fresh lacked complexity and relied on a lot of packets, where Blue Apron would include, say, a little jar instead. It didn't feel as interesting as the other two services and ultimately ended up getting canceled pretty quickly.

Blue Apron is very heavy on the tarragon. There's also a lack of flexibility in the meals - ostensibly there are six but you can't choose any three out of the box. But once I got into the habit I could reliability choose meals that would work and taste good. Portion sizes are also huge, and I pretty much loved anything with fresh ramen noodles, which I have not yet been able to track down where I am.

Plated has more variety and you have more ability to customize meals, but some of their meals don't have the kind of balance I prefer and were a little carb heavy.

Regardless of the service you go with, under no circumstances should you ever choose a meal that's pizza or calzone based. The dough never works.
posted by daikaisho at 1:37 PM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like Plated best, mostly because of the meal selection but I also really like their, well, graphic design on the recipes and stuff.

(incidentally, I have a few referral invites for Plated that will give you a week free. MeMail me if you want one.)
posted by brainmouse at 3:17 PM on May 26, 2016

I use Blue Apron from time to time, haven't used the other so can't really compare but it's been fun for my household. We found out about arepas for instance through them and I don't know where else I would have run across them, in fact we've made our own arepas multiple times since entirely independently, so it's a fun recipe discovery service as well.

Portions are generally pretty good, some are real big, some are fine, I wouldn't say anything is small. Mefi mail me I have some invitations for free meals if you want to try it out risk free.
posted by Carillon at 3:19 PM on May 26, 2016

When I was choosing, I browsed through a couple weeks of menus, and I liked Blue Apron's better for my own tastes.
posted by Dashy at 3:45 PM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Almost all of these services have a feature where if you sign up for a month you get 20% off (or whatever), so you should try them all!
posted by bq at 4:16 PM on May 26, 2016

I think Blue Apron is excellent, but tends to be a little more fattening than I wanted -- there are a LOT of pan-fried meals, a lot of cheese, a lot of pasta. So, tasty, but I also put on five pounds while I was using it. If you are someone who likes to eat a big salad for dinner, for example, Blue Apron won't really work for that.

I found the quality and recipes good, though, and really enjoyed it -- the portions are well-sized. I just stopped being able to fit into my jeans while I was using it with great regularity.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 4:24 PM on May 26, 2016

My partner and I are huge Blue Apron fans. If you already love cooking but don't have the time or energy to shop or figure out what to eat, it's fun. Needless to say, I didn't share the author's opinion of Blue Apron in the post that was on the Blue.**

To be honest, we were pretty indifferent to the concept of meal delivery services. We only tried Blue Apron because a friend had a referral code for a free Blue Apron box (three nights' worth of meals). And we're really, really happy we took her up on it!

The big sell for us on Blue Apron was:
1. It taught us a few cooking techniques we didn't know before, or knew but had previously chosen to ignore. A few were, "Why didn't I think of that?" and now we use these same techniques in much of our non-meal delivery, every day cooking.
2. It made us bonkers excited to cook, even when we were tired. The anticipation of how the meal was going to turn out was enough. We've had over ten boxes delivered to us at this point, and I'd say of those 30 meals, only one ever made us say "Hm, that was decent but could have been better if ____." In other words, 96% of the time we were over the moon with how the meals turned out.
3. They deliver exceedingly high quality produce and meat. They are responsible for sending us some of the most delicious corn, garlic, tomatoes, shrimp, chicken breast, steak, exotic spice blends - you name it - we've ever had. Yes, Blue Apron (and most) meal delivery plans are on the expensive side, but they make the cost of buying the ingredients you'd need for these recipes lower because they buy in bulk and sell the individual ingredients to you for much less than it would cost you in the store for an ingredient of that same quality. Otherwise, you'd have to buy in bulk and make that same meal like twenty times, before you'd be getting each meal for the same cost.
4. We view it as more of a once or twice a month event for us to look forward to, and we keep all of the recipe they send us (on cardstock) in a three ring binder. It's really been a spring board for wanting to cook more independently.

**Some direct quotations from the article on the Blue, and my take on them:

Blue Apron is a massive pain-in-the-ass to order. The website was as usable as the New York State DMV's.
This is not true.

Blue Apron also only has a few delivery days to choose from, and required a 10-day notice.
This is true, but I don't see this as the issue that the author does. It depends on what your needs are. If you want a box of food RIGHTNOW, then yeah, Blue Apron isn't going to work for you. But if you want something to look forward to, or you know that next week is going to be busy and you'd prefer to not worry about what you're going to eat, then you sign up for that week. Also, in my experience, whatever delivery day you choose, you'll usually get it first thing in the morning. (I do, anyway. But my local UPS center's management team is terrified of me, for reasons that include them once leaving a Blue Apron box in their facility for three days straight instead of leaving it at my doorstep like I and Blue Apron had instructed them to do so, and all of the food was spoiled. Which leads me to another big point: Blue Apron's customer service is stellar. When we called to tell them that UPS wouldn't bring back the box for another two or three days and were giving us a hard time, they overnighted us a new box immediately and called UPS to rip them a new one. The customer service representative we spoke to was pissed, and I was so impressed when she said, "No, this doesn't just reflect poorly on UPS. This reflects poorly on [Blue Apron]. UPS is our business partner. This is unacceptable and it won't happen again." Needless to say, I get Blue Apron on Saturday mornings at 8:05am sharp. I have a feeling every other Blue Apron delivery they make in the area arrives around the same time...)

Unfortunately some stupid packaging (why would sour cream be in the same paper bag as all the spices?!), led me to have rotten sour cream and therefore make potato salad with plain yogurt I stole from my roommate.
I don't even understand how this happened. How do spices spoil sour cream? When my Blue Apron box arrives, I go through every item and put all refrigerator-only items in the refrigerator ASAP. They do include small paper bags that say "XYZ recipe knick knacks" on it, but I immediately look at the recipe card to see what the knick knacks are so I know if they need to be refrigerated. I don't know why someone would assume that a paper bag containing something from a meal delivery service must be non-refrigerated item. It doesn't say "spices" on the paper bag. It says "knick knacks", which can mean anything, so it feels like a natural next step - and common sense - to see what items it contains before leaving it out on the counter. Usually, the "knick knacks" are things like 2 tablespoons of butter, or a few ounces of cheese, or some other item that you need but only a small amount. They can be either perishable or not perishable. I dislike how she framed her spoiled sour cream as just "oh, just another Blue Apron too much/too stupid packaging issue lol!" and failed to explain how that happened, which is that she didn't bother to confirm what she was leaving out on the counter before she left it out.

Blue Apron’s recipe cards are sort of an eyesore (half a dozen different heavy fonts and creepy hand model photography) ... but they also feature unnerving photos of very hairy hands.
...No. This article is written in an excessively manipulative matter to exploit the reader's emotions and sell advertisements for The Verge. That being said, we are fans of the recipe cards because they're sturdy enough to save (we three-hole-punch ours and save them in a recipe binder, organized by meal type), and because the photographs do a great job of helping us to visualize what we're supposed to be doing. But YMMV; I'm a visual learner.

The hand modeling contributed to what I would consider the biggest downside to Blue Apron — an intangible sense of being all alone in the big old kitchen. I didn’t receive any friendly emails offering knife-use tips, there were no chef biographies, no carefully organized boxes of ingredients, or sense that a human being was involved at any stage of production. "Cooking tips and tricks" are only available through Blue Apron’s app, accessed by inputting the recipe number.
I think this is another YMMV. I can't relate to the author at all here, because ultimately I think her needs are much, much different than my needs. If I was single, or if I didn't have a partner who enjoyed cooking as much as I do, then maybe I'd feel like she does? But I try to imagine myself living alone and cooking this alone, and I think I'm going to feel "alone" regardless of whether or not there are friendly emails and chef biographies or whatever. The steps on the recipe cards often contain very specific instructions on how to do something, and following them to a T is where you learn new techniques. In other words, "Oh, that's why it suggested I do it this weird way instead of the way I usually do it! Because the results are better!" As far as feeling like humans are involved in the process, I never felt that way because the recipes, instructions, ingredient selection and sources all struck me as very well curated and personal to Blue Apron. She talks like they just dump a bunch of boneless skinless chicken breasts off the back of a loading dock into a pile of uncooked couscous and ship it off to you in a trash bag. No. Her review is about 70% sensationalism.

My suggestion? If you have a friend with a Blue Apron free referral code to spare (I don't, currently, otherwise I'd memail it to you posthaste!), use it and try it for free. You have little to lose and much to (hopefully) gain.
posted by nightrecordings at 4:47 PM on May 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

We liked trying Blue Apron for a bit, but eventually the recipes got to be too much for us—it felt like everything was diced, sliced, matchsticked, or some other craziness (we joked it was to make you feel like you were getting your money's worth with the recipe)... it was just a lot of chopping. Also, I couldn't have one more single-vegetable with a vinegar and call it a "salad."

So yeah, fun to try, but for us it didn't constitute a long-lasting meal service. YMMV.
posted by Zephyrial at 5:07 PM on May 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

We've done Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, both only vegetarian. Hello Fresh was definitely simpler techniques and less interesting ingredients. But Blue Apron takes longer to prep and sometimes the interesting ingredients are not to our taste.
posted by smackfu at 5:59 PM on May 26, 2016

We've been using HelloFresh for several months now and really like it. They've added Jaime Oliver-created recipes recently, and the prep time seems just right for two working people coming home tired at the end of the day. We order the two-person size and often stretch it to include our teenage daughter by adding a salad or similar. It feels like a good value and we are not wasting leftovers.
posted by Revie1 at 7:19 PM on May 26, 2016

We did Blue apron.... Really liked it but we kept getting deliveries with the meat package compromised. There would be meat juice all over everything. They always made it good.... We didn't pay anytime it happened, customer service was great but after the 4th time in about 3 months. I was done. I may try another service.... Love the concept..... Just need to not have meat juice on everything.
posted by pearlybob at 7:54 PM on May 26, 2016

We were given both Plated and Blue Apron as a gift and wound up using both intermittently for about six months. The only reason we stopped is because our dietary needs changed by choice (no sugar, grains, legumes, dairy). If either service ever sells a Whole 30 option, I'd sign up again.

To me the two were very similar and I'd say 90% of the time we liked the recipe so much we kept it with the intention of making it again. Of that we actually made about a third of them, and there are a handful of recipes in our regular repertoire now.

Here's why it worked so well for us: I'm the better cook, but I work longer hours. Husband works from home, but can usually only cook well by following a recipe. When he did most of the cooking, it actually taught him real cooking skills he still uses. When we'd cook together, it was like a puzzle we were solving together: "You find the gochuchang and chop the peanuts, and I'll be over here destemming the mung beans!"

The calories per serving were slightly higher for Blue Apron than for Plated if I recall. I preferred Plated for food because Blue Apron sent burgers and sandwiches more often than I wanted, and BA has no ability to let you preview what you're getting and choose from other options like Plated does.

Recipe writing is a skill! Blue Apron's instructions are clearer than Plated's. A misplaced or ambiguous word can mean you burn something or cook it in the wrong sequence. It happened only a couple of times, but it was frustrating enough that I still hold it against Plated.

Of the recipe cards we kept, way more are from Plated than from Blue Apron. I tend to want to repeat things like chipotle pork with peaches and tomatoes and goat cheese more so than I do a veggie flatbread that somehow still winds up 700 calories per serving. But I disagree with a previous poster: all dough we got from both services turned out super tasty.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:15 AM on May 27, 2016

Love the concept, BUT this relies on this being what you feel like eating that night (or the next night, but not beyond). We tried it, but it just didn't work for us. No problem with the service. Just that it wasn't what we wanted to eat that night.
posted by finding.perdita at 2:25 AM on May 27, 2016

I have only tried Blue Apron, but I use it here and there. My favorite use is setting it up the week after vacation. It's nice to have a box of groceries delivered after you've been eating crappy all week.

I enjoy the family plan more than the regular plan (family = 2 meals for 4 people, as opposed to 3 meals for 2 people) as I found some of the recipes to be a bit more fussy than what I want to undertake on a weekday and it was easier for me to cook once and eat twice. My husband has a very protein heavy diet and there is often not enough meat in the meals for him, so I sometimes cook up an extra chicken breast or something to supplement. I found the amount of meat to be fine for myself.

I have some free codes for Blue Apron, if you want to give it a shot, MeMail me and I'd be happy to share.
posted by thisisnotkatrina at 7:06 AM on May 27, 2016

We started Blue Apron about 2-3 months ago after some complaints about over-reliance on meat-starch-veg meals. We do the family pack - me, my wife and 2 younger kids. There's been a few times where we've gone into it knowing that the kids aren't going to like this dish, and on those nights we make sure there's a plan B for them. On the plus side, we never have to buy garlic again - probably half the recipes require garlic (which is fine) and each time they do, they send a full head. It's gotten us out of the rut we were in, and I've gotten a bit more willing to try new techniques. We have a few things we've made again.

Heads-up, they don't have an option to avoid specific allergens - we have a relatively minor cashew/pistachio allergy in the house, and a few meals have included them (more as a feature than a critical element).
posted by neilbert at 7:35 AM on May 27, 2016

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