Blue Apron Meals: How Easy Are They, Anyway?

Blue Apron meals: ingredients on a countertop
Image: Syd Wachs

Don’t think your cooking skills are Top Chef material?

You’re not alone. For the past decade, meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron have tried to make cooking easier on everyone: the busy professionals, the working moms, and the millennials who want to expand their recipe knowledge past scrambled eggs and toast. Meal kits hoped to take the stress out of a home cooked meal, giving individuals time back in their week and more variety on their plates.

At first, it seemed to work. Blue Apron was quickly joined by a whole host of other meal kits, including Home Chef, HelloFresh, and Plated. The industry flew past the billion dollar mark by 2016. Then just when it seemed that grocery stores would soon be ancient history, things took a turn for the worst (for Blue Apron, that is).

At the end of last year, Blue Apron shares hit an all-time low as more and more customers cancelled their subscriptions. Getting new customers to replace them proved increasingly difficult—and even more costly.

To see why customers keep cancelling their meal subscription services, let’s take a closer look at Blue Apron’s offering (and whether they deliver on them).

Why Customers Keep Cancelling Their Blue Apron Service

On the surface, Blue Apron looks like the busy person’s dream—or at least for those who don’t want to resort to takeout every night of the week. You select meals from their online menu, then a box of the required ingredients arrives on your doorstep a few days later. Each box comes insulated with ice packs, helping to keep the ingredients fresh. Recipe cards tell you exactly how to prepare each meal, offering step-by-step instructions from prep to plate.

With new recipes added weekly, Blue Apron hopes to expand your cooking skill set, getting you to try various recipes you otherwise wouldn't. The Blue Apron menu contains dishes like pork chops, stir fry dishes, Mediterranean pastas, and Greek food. They also just launched a new plan called "WW Freestyle," which offers low-calorie meals through a partnership with Weight Watchers.

The idea is there: Individuals save time by not having to run to the grocery store, stand in line, or plan out their meals for the week. But in execution, people have started wondering, “How much time is this saving me … really?” And there are lots of reasons why Blue Apron might not be the time-saver it claims to be.

You’ll Still Have to Do a Bit of Meal Planning

When it comes down to it, grocery shopping is really the only aspect of the meal prep process Blue Apron eliminates. While it claims to take the guesswork out of meal planning, that’s not quite accurate.

You will still have to self-select your meals online (although they do narrow down the choices for you—you know, compared to every recipe on the World Wide Web). And since their plans only offer meals up to four days a week, that still leaves three days unaccounted for.

You’ll Have to Chop, Dice, and Do Other Prep Work

You won’t have to make a grocery run, but one major Blue Apron complaint is the fact that all the ingredients come jumbled in a box. Before you even begin your prep work, you’ll have to sort through each ingredient and pair it with the corresponding recipe card (which isn’t much easier than digging through that Trader Joe’s bag).

After that, you’ll have to get to prepping. Most Blue Apron recipes take 35-50 minutes to cook. At the time of writing this, not a single recipe on their menu could be prepared in less than 20 minutes. Many recipes contain nine ingredients or more with few containing less than seven.

Unfortunately, the recipe instructions don’t distinguish between prep time and cooking time, so we can’t tell you how long you’ll be hunched over the cutting board.

You Won’t Be Able to Leave the Kitchen

Remember the saying, “A watched pot never boils?” Well, you don’t really have a choice with Blue Apron meals. You’ll have to monitor the stovetop, the oven, and any other appliances or cookware you happen to be using.

And, not trying to pass judgement over here (ok, maybe just a little bit), but wasn’t the whole goal to save you time? Instead of spending 40 minutes standing idly by the stovetop after a long day at work, wouldn’t you rather use that 40 minutes to squeeze in a workout, clean up around the house, or just wind down after your long day?

You’ll Have to Do the Dishes

At the very minimum, every Blue Apron dish requires you to use (and therefore wash) a chef’s knife, several bowls, a cutting board, and a skillet or casserole dish. But with some recipes containing double-digit ingredients, you might be spending as much time cleaning up as you did cooking.

Where Blue Apron Falls Short

Blue Apron meals: A woman washing the dishes
Image: Catt Liu

The main complaint about Blue Apron meals is that they simply don’t deliver on what they promised: convenience. But there are other hang-ups as well. For instance:

  • They don’t offer individual plans: Blue Apron offers family plans or plans portioned for two people. But what about individuals? Unfortunately, not a single meal comes portioned for a single person (and do you really want that thrown in your face by your meal delivery service?)
  • Their recipes can be overly complicated: If the goal was to make home cooked meals easier on people, Blue Apron really should have offered a 101 course. Some recipes contain over six steps, which can be confusing to someone who just started cooking.
  • They can leave your house or apartment a mess: Again, if you’re working with multiple ingredients, dishes, and steps in the cooking process, the clean-up factor might be too much to handle.

Tovala: “Blue Apron for Those Who Find Blue Apron Too Cumbersome”

Hey, the Washington Post said it—not us (although we like repeating it).

If you’re looking for a service that actually delivers on what Blue Apron promised, try Tovala. With Tovala, there’s no prep work. No dishes in your sink. No twiddling your thumbs waiting for water to boil. No kitchen to clean-up afterward. Simply scan the barcode on the meal you want to cook, toss it in your Tovala Oven, and go check your email (or whatever task can be done in 20 minutes, because that’s about as long as you’ll have to wait).

Tovala cooks your food for you on autopilot, offering delicious, healthy meals in under 20 minutes. And if you really want to get your cooking skills up to Top Chef standards, you can easily grocery shop for your own ingredients, then try an easy (as in, just a few ingredients and ready-in-under-20 easy) recipe from the Tovala app.

Are you ready to try the one service that actually gives you time back in your week? Yeah, we thought you might be.