- For seven months, I’ve been using Blue Apron‘s delivery meal service to cook dinner for me and my family.
- Although I enjoy cooking, using Blue Apron has led to some unexpected benefits, like increasing my productivity and leaving me less stressed.
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I have always prided myself on being a healthful and experimental cook for my family.
But a few factors have led me to question recently whether cooking is the best use of my time.
For one, my first child is a very picky eater, partly because of his food allergies. For several years, his diet consisted primarily of five things: avocados, hummus, pretzels, canned sardines, and apples. My efforts to broaden his horizons with tagine, rye broccoli crackers, or even homemade bread, soups, and salads mostly failed. He’s 10 now, and I know that if I want to make dinner interesting for my husband and me, it often means also cooking something different for my son.
On top of that, his complex healthcare issues often need my attention during the day, meaning I have frequent interruptions to my work as a freelance writer. I often don’t get all my writing done while my older son is at school and his brother is at daycare, and I sometimes need extra time at night to finish working. Any time I can save on household chores like shopping, meal planning, and cooking makes a difference – getting the kids and my husband to the table, filled up, and the kids up to bed efficiently is an important part of my night.
Enter Blue Apron, a service that lets you pick from five different complete meals each week, and then ships you all the ingredients and recipes in a box with ice. It’s given me fresh cooked food with much less hassle.
The cost for a meal for four is around $US35, give or take, which makes it a little more expensive than buying the ingredients at a store. But because you don’t have any wasted food, it may actually cost about the same as what I would end up spending to cook a similar meal from the grocery store.
When I decided to sign up for Blue Apron’s delivery service about seven months ago, it wasn’t initially because I wanted to save time. It was because my 10-year-old saw the flier in the mail and promised that he would eat the food if I ordered the service. Often, my son would just refuse to eat dinner or would complain for the whole meal, even if it was something he usually tolerated like baked chicken with sweet potatoes. I was tired of trying to get him to eat, and Blue Apron looked like a fun, not-too-expensive, and worthwhile experiment in picky-eater feeding.
So far, my family has enjoyed our Blue Apron meals. We’ve been surprised by the variety – some of our favourites include sauteed chicken breast and baked broccoli, beef or chicken stir-fry over rice, and hoisin and shiitake burgers with miso dressing and bok choy. The meals are interesting, simple to prepare, and the options change every week.
But the real advantages are the unexpected ways Blue Apron has reduced my stress and boosted my productivity.
My prep time in the kitchen has gone way down
In the seven months I’ve been using Blue Apron, I’ve appreciated how much time I’ve saved with prep time in the kitchen.
The meals are quick to make, usually taking 20 to 40 minutes each. They don’t require any measuring – just pull out the labelled plastic bags of food and seasonings and you have everything in the correct quantities for the recipe. Time spent in the kitchen is pretty finite.
I do enjoy cooking, especially when it involves a lot of vegetable cutting and prepping, but getting everything out, measuring it, and then putting it away does take a bit of time. Plus, I would often think, “Hmm, I should use up that cilantro before it goes bad, so let me look for a version of this recipe that calls for lots of cilantro.”
This type of puttering eats up more time than I realised. I never finished cooking dinner in less than an hour before Blue Apron. Now, I can see how quickly you can whip up a tasty meal if you have everything you need and don’t try to force in stray leftovers from the fridge.
The daily stress of decision-making is eliminated
I used to spend part of my day wondering what I would make for dinner. Did I need to pick something up at the store? Should I make the chicken or cook pasta tonight? Is there anything that I can add chickpeas to, since the pickiest member of my family has taken a liking to them?
I would often change my mind multiple times throughout the day, and then change it again when my son came home and requested something. The stress of my indecision about was a daily problem.
Now, my dinner decision-making time is shortened down to “which one of the three meals in the fridge should I make tonigh?” We are talking about at least a five-fold decrease in my decision-making time about dinner. When I have Blue Apron meals in the fridge, I have no worries.
Kids don’t like dinner? It’s not my fault
Another way the meal service has helped me reduce my stress is that I am no longer the decider on what’s for dinner.
Even though the kids usually like, and even sometimes love, the meals Blue Apron offers, they sometimes find the spicing not to their taste or wish that the green things mixed in would just go away. I tell them that those green things are what gives this dish its flavour, and sometimes they even believe me. If the kids want to complain, well, it’s all Blue Apron’s fault. If they are hungry, they will eat it.
When my choice for dinner is not the target of their complaints, it gives us more time to enjoy the meal as a family. The complaints like “couldn’t we have burgers tonight?” or “why didn’t you make mashed potatoes?” can be silenced with those magic words: “Blue Apron.” Without the kids nagging about what they wish we were having for dinner, we get to talk about something else.
And weekly shopping has become much easier
Decision fatigue is a huge problem for anyone who goes to the grocery store. There are literally thousands of choices to make. It’s overwhelming.
With Blue Apron, there are only about five choices of meals to order each week, and since we don’t eat shellfish or pork, that often means there are only three choices. Voila, those are the three meals we are getting from Blue Apron!
Nowadays, I only make a couple meals a week from items I buy at the store. But when there are three mystery meals from Blue Apron, my old standby dinners are fine on other nights of the week. I still need to buy items for breakfast, lunch, and snacks at the store, but it is much easier now.
Is Blue Apron an environmentally friendly choice for family dinners? Unfortunately, not so much. All those handy pre-measured ingredients come in plastic bags and bottles and tubs which plenty of packaging waste (although it also leads to less food waste).
But it is a hugely friendly choice for a working mum who just wants dinner to be tasty and wants to stop stressing over it. It frees my mind to be productive in my work, and that is a big win for the emotional environment of my house. When I am not cranky because I am over-stressed by work and by everyone pushing and pulling about dinner, life includes much more laughter.
Blue Apron has shown me how efficiency in cooking can lower your stress levels and increase the fun of life, all while letting me accomplish a bit more every day.
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