As an avid home cook with some kitchen skills, I thought dinner-delivery kits were for the culinarily challenged. But when I asked who among my friends used services such as HelloFresh, Gobble or Blue Apron, I was totally wrong. I assumed that there would be busy professionals, parents and others just in it for the convenience factor. Each company touts easy-to-prepare, healthful meals, and can offer a variety of cuisines, ranging from Indian palak paneer to Korean bao sliders or Fontina and pesto grilled sandwiches. But I was most surprised to hear from a few people actually within the restaurant industry and even—gasp!—the girlfriend of a chef (who shall remain unnamed). But, why?
Blue Apron ($60 for three meals per week for two people, BlueApron.com) was by far the most popular service mentioned, with users offering me free or discounted membership weeks left and right. The company boasts about its commitment to sustainability, but also seems to have the most moving parts with slightly more complicated recipes. Home cooks have to make a little more effort as vegetables arrive whole, and need to be prepped before cooking.
Local client Tisha B. has made Blue Apron part of her kitchen arsenal. “I love not having the worst conversation in a marriage: ‘What’s for dinner?’” she says. And the meals are easy enough that even her non-cooking-inclined husband prepared a Blue Apron meal for himself while she was away, “A first in 16 years!”
Another fellow food lover, Susie S., likes to cook, but never has time to hunt down new recipes. A first foray into some cuisines usually requires specialty items that she might not already have in her pantry. Blue Apron removed that part of the equation. “I don’t have to hunt down the grocery store that carries odd ingredients—especially produce—or spend $12 at Whole Foods for miso paste,” she says.
HelloFresh ($69 for three meals per week for two people, HelloFresh.com) got a few shouts, thanks to weekly recipes from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Sara R. is an ambitious home cook who uses both Blue Apron and HelloFresh, switching between the two every week for variety. “I love that I don’t have to go to the store each week, and the recipes are already laid out for you, so you don’t have to think about it.”
Depending on the level of difficulty, recipes can seem daunting for novice cooks who are intimidated by dicing an onion, but Gobble ($71.70 for three meals per week for two people, Gobble.com) adds yet another level of convenience. Vegetables arrive already chopped and portioned for meals they say can be ready in 10 minutes, with three-step recipes that only require one pan.
In the end, Gobble got me out of my dinner rut of red sauce pastas and roasted chicken thighs with a pesto opakapaka that gave me a boost of confidence to try cooking fish again.
So you can all stop sending me free trial meals now.