Kitchen Smackdown: real cooking vs. Blue Apron

retro cook

Something insidious has started creeping its way through San Francisco lately. It’s like a zombie that is one part Sanda Lee and two parts millennial entitlement, and WORSE, it just keeps coming back.

Whenever I mention cooking or a recipe (which I do often) people get this weird look in their eyes and say, “Hey, you like cooking – have you tried Blue Apron?”

And then I slap myself in the forehead and look for something to stab myself in the eye with. The more simultaneous I can do these things, the better.

Here’s what I say inside my head: WHY. Oh why!! Would I ever pay exorbitant prices AND punch Mother Earth in the face by having boxes and plastic and crap shipped to my house every week, just so I can have my hand held while I cook a medium-to-ick looking recipe OR a recipe so easy that absolutely anyone could make it? Yes, you’re correct, I DO love cooking. So why would I outsource it?

Here’s what I say out loud: Yeah, I think I’ve heard of Blue Apron. What is it again?

I keep looking for a reason, any reason at all, that someone might think Blue Apron is better than cooking at home. And what I’ve realized is that people fall somewhere in the range between uninformed to lazy, with pit stops to confused, overwhelmed and under-confident in between. So once and for all, I’d like to publicly declare that yes, of course I’ve heard of Blue Apron, and no I do not use it. Because there is no earthly reason for me to or you to buy into the myths that Blue Apron is perpetuating on us all.apron

Myth #1 – Blue Apron is inexpensive. While it may be cheaper than going out to dinner, it’s definitely not cheaper than cooking for yourself. We spend about $120 per week on groceries, which results in an average of 17 meals for two people every week. We shave a few off to account  for the periodic catered lunch, a dinner date night out, and the days I prioritize sleep over food and content myself with office snacks. Trail mix for breakfast, anyone?

That’s 32 meals total, bringing our average price per meal per person to $3.75. That price is pretty spendy when you think about one slice of avocado toast, my preferred breakfast, but it’s downright miraculous when you think about how much you’d pay for thai peanut noodles, roast chicken for two, or a slice of chocolate espresso pie at a restaurant. Blue Apron costs $10 per person per meal. That’s an extra $6.25 per person over cooking for yourself. If you added up that $6.25 and applied it to 32 meals per week, the average amount we cook, you are either saving or spending an extra $200 every week. That means that if you use it every week, Blue Apron costs you $10,400 every year. So you could use Blue Apron for two years, or in the same span of time buy a new car or have a down payment on a house.  When you look at it that way, the choice seems like…well, not much of a choice.

Home cooking 1, Blue Apron, 0.

Myth #2 – Blue Apron isn’t wasteful because you have the exact right amount of ingredients. I hear you. It’s annoying to see lemons wasting away at the bottom of a fridge, or those herbs rotting in the corner because you only needed a little snippet. Composting what should have been eaten makes me cringe. Except the one thing that makes me cringe more – trash. While I have to applaud Blue Apron for making their packaging recyclable and compostable, how many people are actually recycling properly? How many people just trash everything? How many people even know that a plastic ziploc bag has a half life of 4,000 years? Better to buy in bulk, fill up those reusable containers, and shop the local farmers markets.

The other thing that can prevent food waste is planning ahead! Like this week’s menu, full of overlaps and ingredient crossover. If you group foods together in your menu plan, you’ll have just enough and no extra. And if you do have extra, see if you can get creative and make a meal out of what you have on hand. That’s how we learn. My best friend’s mom calls this buffalo cooking. As the Native Americans used the whole buffalo, use all of what you have. It’s better for the earth and better for your wallet.

Home cooking 2, Blue Apron 0.

Myth #3 – Blue Apron is so fast and easy! I don’t know how to cook without them. Okay, I just plain call bullshit on this one. With Blue Apron, you still have to cook. It still takes about 30-35 minutes. And you still have to know the basics: boiling, chopping, searing, broiling. You know what else only takes 35 minutes and is pretty easy? Shakshuka, Apple Dijon Grilled Cheese, Lemon Ricotta Pasta, and Tuscan Stuffed Chicken. And with an abundance of amazing food bloggers out there helping to make cooking easy and fun, there is no reason why cooking with Blue Apron is easier than cooking with Deb from Smitten Kitchen or cooking with Lindsay from Pinch of Yum.

Home cooking 3, Blue Apron 0.

Myth #4 – I don’t have time to go to the grocery store! I’m so busy! Here in San Francisco, we live in an economy of self. An econoME, if you will. You can have your groceries delivered, your laundry picked up, your car driven for you and hell, someone will even PARK for you. We have become disconnected from those everyday things that make us human. Not that parking makes you human. In fact, looking for parking in this town makes you less human and more animal. Angry, angry beast.

But to wash your own clothes helps you understand how much water you use. To bike around town makes you appreciate where you live because you’ll really see it. Also, it saves you from becoming a savage parking beast. To buy your own food means you’re connecting with local farmers at a farmers’ market, appreciating vegetables and what it takes to grow them. Washing the dirt off a carrot instead of ripping it out of a plastic package connects you to something deeply real.

Also, you probably need to read this.

Home cooking 4, Blue Apron 0.

I know this is getting very on the verge of food pretentiousness, which we don’t like (I really don’t!) but I also know that every single one of us deserves great food, without paying an extra $10k every year for it.

We also deserve to make the best, most informed choices we can. If every once of us said no to packaging and plastic, and yes to reduce, reuse, recycle, the world would be better off.

We also deserve the chance to cook and eat real food, and to experience the full cycle of cooking and eating and how it connects us to our humanity.

And there is no delivery service for that.

Disappointed Julia

Julia is disappointed in you! Don’t make her stick you with that thermometer!

2 thoughts on “Kitchen Smackdown: real cooking vs. Blue Apron

  1. Justin Shands says:

    I agree with many of your points, but your cost breakdown is a little manipulative… you say ” if you use it every week, Blue Apron costs you $10,400 every year”, but what you really mean is “if you use it to replace every meal you eat for a year”, which I’m pretty sure nobody is doing.

    I know you’re just trying to do a per-meal cost comparison with big scary numbers as an example, but it’s pretty disingenuous to suggest that people who pay $60 a week are somehow spending $10,000 a year on cooking.

    Consider this counterpoint, someone could spend $60 a week on Blue Apron and eat ramen, canned soup, or mac n’cheese (or any other $.99 meal) for every other meal. Now they’re spending $86 bucks a week on food, or an average of $2.68 per meal. Now you’re wasting $1100 a year by not using this meal plan instead.


    • Hilary says:

      Hey Justin!
      Thanks so much for reading – and you’re right, these are super big numbers. Alas, I DO know people who rely on Blue Apron for all their cooking needs. Meaning that they either eat-out OR do Blue Apron, and that’s about it.

      Not comparing a Blue Apron to an “anything you could eat” plan here (ramen, easy mac) but comparing it against real cooking at home.

      My ideal food scenario has great flavors, is good for you, good for the planet, and doesn’t break the bank. Not everyone eats that way, but there’s just no way that Blue Apron stacks up against that for me.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I really appreciate it!


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