This post is sponsored by Blue Apron. As always, all ideas and opinions are entirely my own.
I’ve posted a few times in the past about meal subscription services, and every time I do I seem to receive a handful of negative comments in response. These commenters usually insist that meal subscriptions are either too expensive, or a complete waste of money in general. I personally have had great experiences with Blue Apron, my preferred meal subscription service, but these comments got me wondering about the cost compared to buying the same ingredients at the grocery store.
I brought up the idea of doing a cost comparison for meal subscriptions at one of our planning meetings, and my team eagerly accepted the challenge! We decided that we would order a box of meals from Blue Apron, then buy all the same ingredients at the grocery store and see how they compared, both in cost and in overall value. And I’m excited to be sharing our findings with you today!
Breaking Down The Cost
We ordered one of Blue Apron’s 2-Person Plan boxes, which cost about $60 (shipping included). The box contained ingredients for 3 different meals:
- Salmon-Dill Burgers with Marinated Cucumber & Roasted Potatoes
- Honey-Rhubarb Chicken with Asparagus & Fingerling Potatoes
- Thai Steak Lettuce Cups with Spicy Green Beans & Sushi Rice
We made an inventory of all the ingredients in the box, then set out to our local grocery stores to purchase everything on the list. The total cost of buying the ingredients at the grocery store was about $95.
As you can see in the photos, the quantity of food from the store was larger than the quantity of food in the Blue Apron box. By my estimate, we ended up with enough of each grocery store ingredient to make each of the Blue Apron recipes twice. That puts the price of the 3 meals at around $47.50 using grocery store ingredients, versus the $60 price of the Blue Apron box.
Breaking Down The Value
In this case, buying the same ingredients from the grocery store would save you about $12.50 over the Blue Apron price. However, cost is not the only factor worth considering here!
Quality – One of my favorite things about Blue Apron is their commitment to quality. They work directly with farmers, which means that the ingredients in each box are fresh from the farm (and in many cases, fresher than you can find at the grocery store). Blue Apron also utilizes sustainable seafood and meat without added hormones or antibiotics. (For more information, visit their Our Vision page.)
Portion – The ingredients in each Blue Apron box are perfectly portioned to fit the recipes. That means you’ll use up everything when you make the meals, and you won’t have to worry about leftover ingredients going bad in the fridge. (And fixed portions means you don’t have to worry about portion control or overeating!)
Variety – All of Blue Apron’s recipes are chef-designed, and they highlight many different kinds of cuisines from around the world. (See more of their recipes here.) This allows you to try foods you may not have had before, without having to commit to buying a lot of one specific ingredient. For example, the Thai Steak Lettuce Cups (which you can learn how to make below) call for ponzu sauce, which I’ve never used before. When we purchased the ingredients at the grocery store, I had to buy a whole bottle of ponzu sauce, which is a big commitment for a sauce I’m not familiar with!
Convenience – The convenience of Blue Apron is a huge factor for me. Our photographer Kaitlyn, who spearheaded the grocery shopping effort for this post, went to 4 different stores looking for fingerling potatoes for the Honey-Rhubarb Chicken recipe, and wasn’t able to find them anywhere! Depending on what’s available where you live, certain ingredients may be hard to come by. But Blue Apron delivers every ingredient right to your door in a refrigerated box – zero shopping trips required. And ordering online takes just a few seconds!
The Bottom Line
So is a meal subscription worthwhile? That depends. While shopping at the grocery store may be slightly more cost effective, a meal subscription can offer additional value that offsets the few dollars in savings. If you personally value quality, portion size, variety, and convenience, then give a meal subscription service like Blue Apron a try!
But I couldn’t leave you without sharing one of the delicious meals I prepared from our Blue Apron box. These Thai Steak Lettuce Cups were easy to make and really flavorful!
Thai Steak Lettuce Cups with Spicy Green Beans & Sushi Rice
3/4 cup sushi rice
4 ounces fresh green beans
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 head butter lettuce
1 lime, quartered
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 bunch fresh mint
2 Tbsp ponzu sauce
1 bird’s eye chile
1 Tbsp sugar
Start by prepping the produce. Cut off and discard the stem ends of the green beans, then cut them in half. Cut off the stem end of the lettuce and separate the leaves. Cut off the stem end of the chile and slice it thinly into rounds. (Make sure to wash your hands and knife after handling the chile!)
Next you’ll cook the rice. Combine the rice, 1 1/2 cups of water, and a big pinch of salt in a small pot. Place on your stovetop over high heat until boiling. Once the mixture is boiling, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 15 to 17 minutes, or until the water has absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat and fluff the rice with a fork.
Then move on to the green beans. Heat a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan until hot. Add the green beans and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until browned and soft. Add the chile and cook for another minute or so, then transfer everything to a bowl.
Before cooking the steaks, pat them dry on both sides with a paper towel, and season with salt and pepper. Place a teaspoon of oil into the non-stick pan and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the steaks to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side (or until they are done to your liking). Move the steaks to a cutting board and let them rest for at least 5 minutes.
Finally, you’ll prepare the sauce. Add the chopped garlic to the non-stick pan, along with a drizzle of olive oil if necessary. Cook over medium-high heat for a minute or so, then add the ponzu sauce, sugar, juice from 2 of the lime quarters, and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
All that’s left to do is assemble! Cut the steaks into slices against the grain. Then lay out your lettuce leaves, and fill them with the cooked rice, green beans, and sliced steak. Drizzle the sauce on top, and top with chopped cilantro, chopped mint, and a drizzle of fresh lime juice. Yum!