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Blue Apron, Sun Basket, Hello Fresh, Plated: I’ve Tried Them All and Here’s What I Think

February 16, 2017

I have tried many different dinner systems over the years — meal planning, once-a-month-cooking, The Fresh 20, Dream Dinners, you name it! I enjoy cooking and we eat at home nearly every night (except for maybe one weekend night). But gone are the days when I had the motivation to do extensive planning and meals.

That being said, it’s still very important to me that we eat healthy meals at home made with fresh ingredients that I prepare (for the most part). So I have given myself the gift of using boxed meal subscription services on a somewhat regular basis. I’ve tried all the big ones over the years — Blue Apron, Plated, Sun Basket and Hello Fresh. I still supplement our dinners with my own recipes, but these dinners are a nice way to have fresh ingredients sent to my door along with a recipe and a shot of motivation.

I’ve decided to share my thoughts about the meal boxes — their advantages and disadvantages — and which ones I continue to use.

Blue Apron fresh tomato linguini with Cesar salad

Before I give you my impressions of each service, let me point out a few universal things:

  • Most all of these services have an option where you can try the service for free, and then continue.
  • All the companies allow you to skip weeks without any penalty, as long as it’s done in the time frame. So if you don’t like the meal choices for a given week, you just pause that week.
  • There was a lot of criticism at one point about these services being environmentally wasteful with all the packaging. I believe all of them now offer recycling programs so you can easily donate the boxes and cooling material. But I have to admit, recycling was never an issue for me. We already recycle EVERYTHING. So all the little containers, bottles, cans, etc. went right into our blue recycle bin, along with the broken down cardboard box.

NOTE: This is NOT a sponsored post. None of these are affiliate links and I’m not getting free dinners for sharing this information.

And now, here are my thoughts on all these meal services.

Blue Apron Za’atar chicken souvlaki with oven baked fries

BLUE APRON

I have been using Blue Apron the longest and most frequently, and we’ve loved nearly all the meals. Even Sophie — who is the pickiest of eaters — will eat a Blue Apron dinner without (or with minimal) complaint. The ingredients are fresh and the dinners are innovative (not ideas I would typically think of), yet they are not complicated recipes. Some of my favorite recipes have been Mexican spiced beef and rice casserole, Za’atar chicken souvlaki, and fresh linguine pasta and heirloom tomato sauce.

I will say that Blue Apron has a lot of extra steps that can be cut from the cooking process. For example, you can cut your prep time considerably by using your own pre-chopped garlic and ginger. They also have you use multiple bowls for prepping ingredients. I tend to eliminate some of those extra bowls by adding the chopped ingredients straight into the pots/pans when appropriate. Less dishes to clean is always good!

Since I’ve been a customer for a while, I have a few free Blue Apron meals I can give away. If you’d like to try a few free dinners, leave me your email address in a comment below and I’ll have a Blue Apron email sent your way!

PLATED

I recently signed up for Plated and have been really impressed so far. The recipes have fewer steps than Blue Apron, and the prep work is considerably less. For example, the garlic is sent in pre-pealed cloves and the cheese is already shredded. I also think the amount of ingredients they send are larger than Blue Apron. One of the recipes called for Parmesan cheese and I didn’t even use all that Plated sent. Whereas with Blue Apron, I sometimes supplemented things like Parm with my own stash.

I also like that Plated packages all the ingredients for each recipe in separate bags, which makes it easier to grab what you need for one dinner. Another advantage to Plated is you can chose which recipes you want as opposed to Blue Apron where there are two options. For example, if there’s a dish with pork chops, I’ll exclude it for a dinner option with chicken, fish or beef instead.

Plated seems to be a bit pricier than Blue Apron, but you can also adjust the number of servings and dinners you want per week. That makes it easy to stick to a budget.

SUN BASKET

I would describe Sun Basket as the more organic, non-GMO, “crunchy” and sustainable option. Many of their meals are paleo or gluten free (even if you don’t select that option). While this is great for a lot of people, my family likes its dairy and carbs. We don’t consume a lot of it, but I do like some cheese with my dinner!

The recipes we sampled were Peruvian beef stir-fry, gingered turkey meatballs in lemongrass broth, and spicy chorizo and tomatillo chili with coconut and lime. The Peruvian beef was really good, and a hit with me and Bryan. The other two recipes had too many Thai-based and spicy foods that don’t agree with Bryan or Sophie. And at the time we tried Sun Basket (last fall), there weren’t many other non-exotic options. So unfortunately this one didn’t work for our family.

Sun Basket seems like a great option for adults, or families that want an easy way to eat organic, paleo, vegeterian or vegan options. Again, not bad, but we didn’t continue the subscription. That being said, I give Sun Basket the award for cutest packaging — I didn’t want to through the boxes away!

Sun Basket Peruvian beef

HELLO FRESH

This was my least favorite meal box services. The Hello Fresh meals I tried were bland, had very few ingredients. They were also dishes I could have easily made with my own recipes and would have tasted better. We tried were shrimp with lemon orzo (a recipe that I have made myself and tasted better) and steak with mango salsa and rice. While the steak was good, the portion was small and fed both me and Sophie. Thank goodness Bryan was not at home for that dinner because had I split it three ways, we would have been looking for more food to supplement dinner.

The Hello Fresh dinners could have used a bit more flavor and/or ingredients. While some of Blue Apron’s recipes are simple too; what makes them stand out are the spice blends used to add flavor. That was lacking with Hello Fresh.

I was also very turned off by the fact that Hello Fresh customer service was constantly calling me after I cancelled the service to find out what happened and persuade me to resubscribe.

Blue Apron summer corn salad

So those are my thoughts on Blue Apron, Plated, Sun Basket and Hello Fresh. I really want to try One Potato by Weelicious because I like their emphasis on family-friendly meals. But sadly, they don’t service Indiana … yet!

It’s a nice treat to be able to use a meal subscription service once or twice a month. If you’re at all curious, I encourage you to sign up for the free offering and see which ones you like.

Have you used any of these meal subscription services? Which is your favorite (or least favorite)? Is there another one I need to try?

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Monthly Monday Musings ~ February 2017

February 13, 2017

Happy Monday! Here are a few interesting articles from around the Interwebs.

1. You may have noticed the blogging and mom world has gone crazy with the Instant Pot. If you’re not familiar with this gadget, it’s essentially a crockpot that’s a pressure cooker and can cook meals in record time. The Instant Pot became a crazy word-of-mouth phenomenon and this article explains how the tiny manufacturing company essentially sold $14.8 million worth of product in a single day with no advertising. I have not jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon. I still love my crockpot and it serves its purpose for me.

2. Fellow grammar nerds will enjoy this post by a Harvard linguist who reveals the most misused words in English. Number 18 (verbal) was drilled into me in college journalism class and it always drives me crazy when I see it misused.

3. As you’ve probably seen on your Facebook feed and outside grocery stores nationwide, it’s Girl Scout cookie time. Sophie recently sold boxes outside a Kroger in very cold 32-degree weather (quite a change from last year’s sales in San Diego). I thought this was a fascinating article about how Girl Scouts went from selling cookies 100 years ago to its $800 million fundraising effort today.

4. If you’re curious, these are the oldest businesses in each state. These were pretty interesting, including this Virginia business that’s been running since 1613 (even before we were a country)! Have you heard of your state’s oldest company?

5. I recently finished reading The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett and really liked it. I’m currently reading The Good Daughter by Alexandra Burt. It’s really captivating! I read her first novel, Remember Mia, a few years ago and loved it. I’ll have more on this book in a just a bit.

6. Speaking of books, I joined the Book of the Month Club in an attempt to get back into reading new books. Anyone who loves books will love getting a new book delivered to their door each week. If you want to sign up, click here and get three months for $9.99 each, plus a cute tote. And if use these links I provided, I get a free book for you signing up. Of course, feel free to sign up outside of my link too.

7. Have you been watching anything good on television? I have binged through quite a few series of late: “The Crown” (excellent) and “Paranoid” on Netflix (okay). I’m happy “Homeland” is back on and it seems to get better each episode. My new favorite is “Code Black” on CBS. If you haven’t seen it, watch it! But first, watch the Code Black documentary, which is the inspiration for the CBS show. It’s about the country’s busies emergency room in Los Angeles. It’s fascinating and on Netflix.

What’s going on in your life? What are you musing about right now?

NOTE: Apparently because I used the word “crockpot” in this post, all the Related Links below are crockpot recipes. Hope you’re hungry!

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Discovering the Clabber Girl Origins in Terre Haute, Indiana

February 8, 2017

Chances are you have (or had at one time) a can of Clabber Girl baking powder in your pantry. What you may not have realized about that famous can of leavening powder is it’s manufactured here in Terre Haute, Indiana!

Quick history lesson: In 1850, Hulman & Company was formed when Francis and Herman Hulman moved to Terre Haute from Germany where they made a living running a mercantile. In 1858 they opened a wholesale grocery in Terre Haute and then in 1892 opened the Hulman Building, located near the Crossroads of America (see below photo).

In 1899, they started manufacturing and selling Clabber Girl baking powder. And in 1930, Tony Hulman Jr. began a national sales campaign to make Clabber Girl baking powder a household name.

photo credit: Hoosier History SmugMug

Another little-known fact: The Hulman family also owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is home to the Indy500 races. Tony Hulman Jr. bought the speedway in 1945 as a venue to promote Clabber Girl. I’d say he succeeded!

One of the first places I visited when we moved to Terre Haute was the Clabber Girl Museum and Bake Shop, which is the same building that opened in 1892. The company continues to manufacture baking powder, along with corn starches and other spices.

It’s also home to an incredible (free) museum that shows the history of Clabber Girl, Hulman & Company and Terre Haute. It also has really cool, lifelike displays that illustrate the history of Terre Haute and how baking in America has evolved over the past two centuries.

You can venture around the first floor and check out the historical equipment. And of course, you have to have some coffee and baked goods in the cafe.

Clabber Girl also hosts awesome community events, like their Country Christmas and cooking classes for adults and kids.

I love the baking-themed Clabber Girl Christmas tree!

Traveling on U.S. Highway Route 40, which takes you into Terre Haute, is the Clabber Girl sign. It is Indiana’s oldest billboard that was first put up in the 1930s, and it always has a working clock.

photo credit: Jim Grey via Flickr

So now you know a little more about my new town and some of its historical significance. And every time you reach for your Clabber Girl baking powder, you’ll know it’s manufactured at the Crossroards of America!

Let me know if you ever come to Terre Haute and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee and pastry from Clabber Girl!

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What’s Saving My Life Right Now

February 2, 2017

I haven’t felt much like writing lately as I’ve been feeling kind of blah and uninspired. I’m sure it’s a combination of many things: I’ve been a little bit under the weather, but not sick. Sophie came down with strep throat. The state of our country has made me way more anxious than I expected. People on Facebook were nasty and unaccepting, on both sides of the fence. It’s been a little too cold to run outside. The sun won’t come out until after 8 a.m., which makes it REALLY hard for this Night Owl to function in the morning. And maybe this sounds like a “no duh” statement, but I had no idea how much I relied on the sun to get me going in the morning. Or maybe just operating in pitch black is the tough part. Everyone says this is typical January. And I’m hoping that’s the case.

Every weekend, I have a tradition where I sleep in and then spend the morning sipping coffee and reading all the blog posts I’ve saved in my Feedly reader from the past week. One of my favorite bloggers, Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy, published an interesting post called “What’s Saving Your Life Right Now?” She explained the concept comes from author Barbara Brown Taylor. In her memoir Leaving Church, Taylor tells about a time she was invited to speak, and her host assigned her this topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

The idea behind this prompt is most of us know what’s bothering us and can articulate all those things pretty clearly (see above paragraph as proof). But, she says, few of us stop to note what’s giving us life. What are these things — whether little or big — that are helping us live our lives?

I needed this prompt right now. So I decided to join Anne in listing what’s saving my life today. Some of these things may seem obvious, others probably insignificant, and some are rituals that I look forward to each week. So today — on February 2, the halfway point of winter — here is what’s saving me right now:

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

  • My family, of course
  • Discovering new places in Indiana
  • The visualization of winter — bare trees, cold days, wearing my puffy jacket and hat — all the things San Diego didn’t have
  • Soft falling snow
  • Painting + Pie classes (canvas painting but with pie, not wine)
  • Watching some great television with the family room fireplace ablaze
  • “Homeland” is back 🙂
  • My music mixes on Spotify
  • Blue Apron dinners
  • Writing nightly in my “one line a day” journal
  • Running
  • Pictures of my niece and nephews
  • Texting my sisters
  • Well-written articles with valuable insights such as this one.
  • Knowing that I’m not alone in how I feel about the state of our country right now
  • Two awesome podcasts: Happier with Gretchen Rubin and The West Wing Weekly
  • The feeling of possibility with respect to several articles I want to write and projects to do
  • Recently meeting Elizabeth Smart and listening to her share her brave and inspiring story
  • Knowing that spring is only a few short months away

Want to join me in this challenge? Tell me what’s saving your life right now. Or better yet, make your own list!

Other Posts You May Like:

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Monday Musings ~ January 9

January 9, 2017

Happy Monday!

1. We’ve had a few days of snow in the past month. A lot of people think that we are constantly battling snow being in Indiana. But Terre Haute’s climate is “mild” for the Midwest. We don’t get the snow you see in Wisconsin, Minnesota, or even the East Coast. But I’ve loved the few days we have had and am hoping for more before spring. Having never lived in snow before, it’s such an amazing thing to see. The little flakes falling from the sky and white powder accumulating on the ground. The dogs have taken to it pretty well (much better than I expected).

I try to make an effort to stop and observe the snow and nature around me, whether I’m walking the dogs, running alone or driving in the car. I took the photo above at a park that’s only a few minutes from our house. It reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

2. This article about the way each Myers-Briggs types feel about reading is awesome. I’m an ISTJ and the description is spot-on! Especially the part that described me as enjoying stories with main characters I can personally connect with. Bryan is an INTP and he found himself nodding in agreement on his description too. What is your Myers-Briggs type and do you agree with your description?

3. In an effort to be more productive in 2017, this writers suggests climbing your mountains Monday mornings. Or in other words, do your most difficult work on Mondays. I tend to gravitate toward doing this. I am most productive early in the week, with Monday through Wednesday being big productivity days. I started keeping a semi-bullet journal where I track my weekly tasks (I guess it’s more of a diary/tracker than daily journal). But I fill up the majority of the page early in the week. And as Thursday and Friday limp along, I’m less productive. Or I should say, I schedule less work those days and use them to do other things that don’t require as much brain power. I guess it’s working?

4. Recently I taught Sophie how to use a phone to call a friend. She is 9-years-old, and it struck me that I’d never taught her much about using a phone to call people. When I was her age, I was fluent in dialing and the phone being the main form of communication (although I’m quick to embrace texting and email, as talking on the phone is NOT my favorite past time).

I came back to this old article, that discusses what it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the Internet. I’m part of that Generation X that still remembers rotary phones, the yellow pages, learning the Dewey Decimal system to look up library books, having to watch live television, and waiting until your favorite song came on the radio to record to a cassette tape, or else go to the store and buy the entire album. This passage struck me, as I’d never thought of it as “two languages”:

“If we’re the last people in history to know life before the internet, we are also the only ones who will ever speak, as it were, both languages. We are the only fluent translators of Before and After.”

5. Speaking of Generation X, LOVE this article: “Moderately Motivated Gen-Xer for Hire.” This is truth: “40-something professional seeks opportunity in an environment that is neither ‘fun,’ ‘playful,’ nor ‘collaborative;’ minimal responsibility preferred but not required.”

And I found myself nodding in agreement when reading this: “Strengths include the ability to work independently for years or even decades with minimal feedback and/or praise, as well as a marked level of comfort working with antiquated systems, outdated standards, and unending group email chains. Cumbersome processes will in no way detract from productivity levels, provided productivity is measured by way of exceedingly complex written reports.”

6. I keep a running list of television shows I want to watch, or movies to see. Because if I don’t, I just end up re-watching “The Killing” for the hundredth time, or getting sucked into a “Law and Order: SVU” marathon (not that I don’t do those things anyway). So in recent weeks I’ve watched “Marcella” and “Top of the Lake,” both on Netflix. “Lake” was pretty good. I just started “River,” and debate whether to dive into “The Wire” (not sure if I can handle McNulty after “The Affair”). I’m waiting (somewhat) patiently for season 2 of “Better Call Saul” to go to Netflix, and season 4 of “The Americans” to be released on Amazon Prime. What have you binge-watched recently?

What’s going on in your life? How is 2017 treating you so far? Do you have any television or movie recommendations for me?

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