Aug 192014
 

My friend Tiffany recently signed up for the Blue Apron food service and I guess because of that she got to send some friends a freebie. She sent one to Michael and I and I signed up for one week to give it a try. I was kind of curious to see what exactly it was and how the food was. I didn’t really know much about it so I read up on it at their website (and I see that a few other bloggers wrote some reviews of them). The free week gave us three meals for two people. I was not contacted by Blue Apron to do a sponsored post, but I did technically get the week of food for free thanks to my friend Tiff. This review is on my own and my own opinions.

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Not knowing much about it, I liked the concept, but wasn’t sure if it was for us. It seemed like a good idea if you want to eat healthier and don’t know where to start. They claim the calories are 500-700 per serving and I was going to check that on my own to compare it. I also like that their website has recipe ideas that anyone can see, not just members.

The box arrived packed with insulated padding and multiple ice packs. Everything was clearly marked. We separated each meal’s ingredients and put them in separate bags for each recipe to keep things straight.

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So how was the food?

Meal #1

Pan-Seared Salmon

with Fennel & Heirloom Potato Salad

Michael did most of the work on this recipe before I got home so I just finished up things. He told me it took about 30 minutes to prep and cook everything. The first few bites were just okay. I told Michael that maybe I wasn’t impressed because we cook salmon at least once a week and ours is pretty good anyways. He said that he can see where this would be considered great for someone that doesn’t prepare fish often.

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After a few more bites, I was more and more impressed. The sear on the top of the salmon had a little crunch and it was awesome! The potato salad–something super simple and only a few ingredients–was great. The real winner for me? The raw fennel and dill salad.

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This was shocking because historically I hate fennel. Maybe it’s fennel seeds I dislike? Not sure, but it’s a huge turn-off to me and I was shocked that I loved this raw salad so much. Michael wasn’t as much of a fan so I ended up eating his salad too. :) The dinner as a whole was fantastic and I enjoyed it the more I ate. Hours later I was still thinking about how good that dinner was.

Meal #2

Rice & Beef-Stuffed Poblano Peppers

with Lime-Crema Sauce

This one was a lot more involved.  It seemed like everything involved had to be done at the same time. I will say that the roasting and removing of the seeds in the pepper was a pain in the butt. Other than that, the recipe was pretty straight forward. One thing I noticed with Blue Apron recipes is that the portion sizes are a little off. They sent packets of rice that should be enough for two people but really it was more like rice for 3 people.

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Michael loved this meal. I liked it a lot. There was a ton of the rice/meat mixture. I stuffed the peppers with what could fit and then baked them for 6 minutes. There was still enough of the mixture left over for two more peppers. I chopped up a tomato to have on the side and dinner was served. It was delicious and just the right amount of food.

Meal #3

Chicken Sate

with Peanut Sauce & Marinated Green Tomatoes

We actually did this meal for lunch. While I enjoyed it, it wasn’t my favorite of the three and I thought for sure it would be! Part of it was my fault. We were cooking together and I misread one of the steps and used all of the sesame oil in the peanut dipping sauce instead of just half of it. Ooops….One thing we learned with this recipe was that we should have taken everything out of the fridge long before we planned on cooking it. The peanut butter was hard as a rock (I ended up microwaving it for a few seconds to get it creamy) as were the tomatoes. I cooked the rice while Michael cut up the chicken. Then we let it marinade in the soy sauce while I made the dipping sauce and he chopped the veggies.

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In this recipe, Michael LOVED the tomato and onion salad and I felt it was just ok. The tomatoes didn’t have a ton of flavor and I just didn’t love it as much as I did that raw fennel salad. All in all, though, everything went well together. My favorite part of this dish was the chicken. It was perfectly prepared and the soy sauce flavor was there but not overpowering. There was just enough of the crunch from the sear but the chicken was still soft and not overcooked.

PROS

*I liked that the recipes had picture instructions, too. I’ve never cooked Chicken Sate and seeing how they cooked it in the skillet with the kebob sticks already in it was helpful–I know, probably an obvious thing, but I didn’t know.

*The bonus to this is that you don’t have to shop. It’s all measured and delivered to your doorstep. It came in a refrigerated box. Going to the grocery store can be a pain, so if that is something you loathe, this is probably the service for you.

*I liked the recipes and that it took the guesswork out of “what to have for dinner”?

*I liked that I got to use ingredients I’d never cooked with before. I dismiss a lot of potential recipes because it calls for “weird” ingredients or just things I am not familiar with.

*They have options for carnivores AND vegetarians.

*The food was really tasty and the ingredients were nice, high end ingredients.

CONS

*But…I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t include any vegetarian meals in our box. I selected carnivore because we eat everything but honestly, it would have been kind of nice if one of the meals was a vegetarian option. I would eat more vegetarian meals if I knew what to prepare–but I just don’t. I’m almost tempted to try one more week and select “vegetarian” to see what they send.

*One of the concerns I had was the cost. $60 a week seems pretty steep. I normally pay around $50-75 a week at the grocery store, but that includes all the “other” things I buy, not just food (i.e. toiletries, etc). Michael does a big Costco run about once a month for the staples–mostly proteins. We get chicken, pork chops and fish from Costco and freeze that so we always have a protein on hand. We also have a ton of ground beef in our freezer right now that I got from my aunt when she slaughtered a cow this year.

So if the meals are about $10 each and you get 3 a week for $60, how does that compare to just buying the same ingredients on your own? I looked at this service as more of a “this is a substitute to going out to a restaurant.” If you look at it that way, it’s definitely a cheaper option, but you are still doing the work.

*Michael’s complaint about the service was that if you have no experience cooking it might be difficult. There were certain words that even he wasn’t familiar with and had to Google (for example: since neither of us have ever worked with fennel before he wasn’t sure which part the frond was).

*The waste annoys me. It comes in a big box, obviously, then everything is individually wrapped in plastic. I get it, that’s the safest, cleanest way to transport it, BUT it creates a lot of garbage. I don’t have that much garbage when I buy groceries on my own.

*It seems kind of snobby. I don’t really know how to better articulate this other than that. It just kind of rubbed me the wrong way–I just kept thinking, Most people can’t afford this service. And in the end, this is why I decided this wasn’t for me. I actually like grocery shopping and while finding time to do it, or having to make multiple trips in one week sucks, it’s still not something I hate enough to skip.

*It didn’t really save us any time–other than a trip to the grocery store. You still had to prep and cook everything, so really….what is the luxury?
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Michael was a pretty big fan of the service. He was impressed with the quality ingredients. I liked that the food was tasty and we got to try new ingredients. I am considering trying it on and off–not consistently but maybe as a once a month thing. It’s definitely too pricey for us to do every single week. And while there were certain things I didn’t like about it, I’d be willing to give it another try. Like I said above, I definitely would like to try some vegetarian recipes.

Have you tried Blue Apron? What was your experience?

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Aug 052014
 

Man it’s been an expensive year! Planning a wedding, having to buy a new car (like 5 months earlier than we planned), our dishwasher broke, and now a new mattress. Michael is convinced that his back issues are largely in part due to the craptastic memory foam mattress we have.  After his most recent, horrible back flare-up he insisted we get a new mattress.

Our mattress was about 5 years old. He got it when I moved in with him. I had told him that his gross futon mattress that sank about 10 inches in the middle of the bed had to go. We have both regretted getting the memory foam mattress. It’s always been firmer than we liked. While I was unhappy with the added expensive that we didn’t need right now in our lives, I longed for a good night’s sleep. I suffer from insomnia as it is and the uncomfortable mattress makes me toss and turn ALL.NIGHT.LONG.

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We went into this process without a ton of research. We asked different people if they liked their mattresses, or what they could recommend. A lot of people love the Sleep Number bed. I thought for sure that was what we’d end up getting because Michael likes a firmer bed and I like a soft, cloud-like bed. But when we went and tested it out, I was not impressed at all. While it’s a neat concept, I wouldn’t say it was comfortable. It felt a whole lot like an air mattress you’d take camping. (Of course the one that was $7K didn’t feel like that but…really?!) I was really disappointed.

We went to five different stores and tested out at least 25 beds. Parklane was a local Portland mattress store and while I wanted to support a local business and not a chain, and they did a lot of recycling and using green products to make the beds, it was really expensive and I didn’t *love* any of them.

One night after work we had a quick dinner at home (pork chop, steamed cauliflower with Goddess dressing and I had some baked beans on the side) before going back out to continue the search.

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The never-ending search…Funny enough, the very first store we went to (Mattress World on 82nd Ave in Clackamas), and the VERY FIRST BED we tested, is the one we ended up comparing everything else to. We went back to that store and gave it another try. It was a Thursday evening and the store was empty except for us, which was nice. It wasn’t crowded and the sales guy, Andy, was super helpful and did a great job explaining different stuff without it feeling like he was pushy in his sales.

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We narrowed the choices down to three (including the first mattress we tested). After hopping between them and testing them out, we eliminated one pretty quickly because it jiggled too much when one of us rolled over. The last thing we needed was to wake each other up all night long turning over!

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The choices were down to the first matttress (BeautyRest Black) and an Englander, which felt like we were laying on pillows. It was comfortable and we both agreed we wouldn’t be unhappy with either mattress we ended up buying. So how do you decide? Price? The Beauty Rest was definitely more expensive, the other one was half the price (and the 4th of July sales were still going on).

In the end we went with the BeautyRest Black because it’s the one we kept going back to. And when we tossed and turned the bed barely moved at all. That’s a good sign. So the mattress was on sale and we saved a few hundred bucks because we didn’t need a boxspring AND we convinced the sales guy to throw in two pillows for free. We got two super nice pillows that are normally like $90 each. Score!

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Bella was analyzing everything! We bought the bed and went home to our crappy mattress. It was going to be about a week before it would be delivered. It was going to be made to order and then shipped down from Seattle. We had a GREAT experience at Mattress World and I also liked that they have that 4 month guarantee–if we decide we don’t like the mattress they let you return it without fees and penalties and try something else.

He also told a story that was quite disturbing. Apparently it costs businesses $2k a month for Yelp to keep reviews on the website. I had no idea and it really made me dislike Yelp and question all of the reviews I see. Does that mean that if businesses choose not to pay that ridiculous fee they don’t have many reviews? Or do they suppress certain kinds of reviews to skew the results? It really made me question the validity of Yelp reviews.

So how was the new bed?

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It’s definitely better than our old bed. I noticed right away it felt more comfortable, softer. I had a few days of some neck pain as I was getting used to the new bed but after that it was okay. I notice that I do not toss and turn like I used to. It’s easier to get comfortable and stay in that position. I am usually a side sleeper and the memory foam killed me. I’d wake up with horrible shoulder pain. That hasn’t happened with the new bed, so that’s a bonus. Does it feel like I am sleeping on a cloud? Not really, but it feels a million times better!

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