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Why Blue Apron Was a Bust in My Marriage

I wanted to give my wife a break from cooking duties. What arrived on our doorstep wasn’t the answer.

My spouse is an excellent cook. I’m not. She enjoys trying new foods and different recipes. I don’t. I have the palate of a fifth-grader. I try making up for my culinary shortcomings in the cleanup stages, but that’s just not the same as putting a home-cooked meal on the table.

Since we both work full-time, I felt I should step up. I wanted to relieve her of the chore of preparing all of the meals on nights when we didn’t go out for dinner or order delivery. But I needed help.

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Enter Blue Apron. The online service promises to deliver to your doorstep all the ingredients and recipes you need to prepare multiple meals each week. Everything arrives in a box already measured out in the right proportions. You just follow the step-by-step cooking instructions. Even a fifth-grader could do it, I figured.

Blue Apron’s cut of the meal-kit business is enormous. The company is delivering 5 million meals a month, Forbes estimates, and sales could hit $500 million this year. (Blue Apron doesn’t release its sales figures.) Competitors, including Hello Fresh, Plated, Peach Dish and Purple Carrot, are popping up to meet the growing needs of harried home chefs. Even Amazon is poised to get in the meal-kit game, teaming with Tyson Foods.

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I chose Blue Apron mainly because I’d seen their delivery boxes sitting on the front porches of several neighbors. I signed up for a $59.94-per-week plan that includes three meals for two people; in other words, about $20 per dinner. That’s less than we’d pay eating out at a restaurant, about the same as delivery, but more than we might spend on a simple home-cooked meal that we shopped for ourselves.

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The standard weekly menu options include a pork or beef dish; a seafood dish; a poultry dish; a salad dish; and one dish that’s a chili, stew or soup. You can also opt out of menu options. Since we don’t eat much meat and I don’t eat seafood, our choices were narrowed to poultry and vegetarian. They were soon narrowed further to vegetarian-only after I learned that Blue Apron defines “poultry” as more than just chicken and turkey, both of which I’ll eat as long as they’re well disguised. Cornish game hen? Please.

My plan was already starting to fail – miserably – before the first box even arrived.

When it did arrive, I was initially impressed. I don’t know how these Blue Apron “refrigerated boxes” will hold up sitting on a porch for hours on a hot summer day, but springtime in Northern Virginia the ice packs inside were still mostly frozen that evening. And the ingredients – vegetables, spices and such – for the week’s meals were fresh, and that included the largest cucumber I’d ever seen.

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Things went downhill from there. Sure, nearly everything is included, and the relief comes in knowing someone else has done the shopping for you. But this isn’t a quick meal by any stretch. It took me 90 minutes and a lot of prep dishes to fix dinner, using the step-by-step recipe card as guidance. Trust me: Mushroom brown butter cavatelli with kale and soft-boiled eggs doesn’t make itself.

Figuring it was me being rusty at kitchen multitasking, my wife took over preparations for our next meals (which, yes, sort of defeated the purpose). Same outcome. Our take on Blue Apron: It’s a time-consuming effort that produces a lot of dirty dishes and not a lot of palate payoff.

But the kick also came in the pricing for our plan. We were paying the same amount for a vegetarian meal as we would have paid for meals that included meat, poultry or seafood. So for us, Blue Apron hardly seemed a bargain at $10 per person and a lot of prep and cleanup time per meal.

After Week 2, we bailed on Blue Apron. I’m sure the service works great for some people, but for us it’s time to think outside the refrigerated box.

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