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Why Blue Apron/Hello Fresh don’t tempt me

In the last year or so, several ingredients-in-a-box services have been popping up (I see them on blogs, in ads, and so on.)

When I saw a discount coupon for one, I clicked on over because I thought maybe it would be a good deal if I had an introductory offer in hand.

why I don't use blue apron

But when I saw the prices, I was a little taken aback.

At $8-$12 a person, the price to feed the six of us is $48, minimum.

For $48, I could buy a whole lot more than one meal’s worth of groceries.   In fact, I could feed us for several days with $48.

I could also buy a pretty decent meal out for us.

(If I’m going to spend $48 on a meal, I’d really like to not have to cook said meal!)

So then I thought, “Why would I buy this?   If I want to bother with cooking, I can just buy the ingredients myself.   And if I want something quick and easy, I can get carryout or just eat out with the money.”

I’m clearly not the target market for this service, but I do wonder how many people want to spend that much on a meal they still have to cook.


I mean, obviously there are enough customers, given that these services haven’t gone out of business, but it does surprise me.

In pondering this, I’ve decided that ingredient-delivery services might be geared toward:

A) people who don’t already know how to cook

B) people who have households smaller than mine

C) people who can afford takeout but want a healthier option

D) people who can afford takeout but want the experience of cooking

E) all of the above

But since I do know how to cook and since I have to feed six people, boxed meal services are pretty not-appealing to me.

baked chicken enchiladas with red sauce

However, I do understand why you might pay a little extra for a service because it provides value that’s not immediately obvious.

For instance, I subscribe to a $30 every-other-week produce box.   I haven’t done the work of calculating everything out, but I’m guessing that I could obtain the produce more cheaply through other means.

But I keep paying for the box because I get a much wider variety of produce than I’d be prone to buying on my own.

produce box

(to wit: I don’t think I’d ever buy cabbage on my own.)

Because I don’t like to waste food, I make a big effort to prepare and serve all the produce. This means the net effect of the box is that we eat more produce overall, and the produce we eat is more varied.

So, I don’t pay for the box as much for the food value as I do for the way it forces us to eat a healthier diet.

ePantry’s appeal is a bit like that too…the advantage is the not-leaving-the-house  (homebody here!), and the not-having-to-stop-at-Target-or-the-non-Aldi-grocery-store  more than the actual financial value it provides.

epantry method hand soap

(Except if you are an impulse shopper, in which case it would provide actual financial value.)

Anyway, when I think about it like that, I understand better why meals in a box could be a good value for some people.

But they’re still not for me. And I do still think they are pretty darn expensive.


I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the meal-in-a-box services. And I’d love to hear if you have a less-than-obvious reason for paying for a particular service/product, like I do with my produce box.

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Christine Marsh

Sunday 25th of March 2018

Hello. There are good points and bad points to these types of services.

It depends on how you are aware of yourself and the world, and how you think of time.

I tried HF, and had a lot of fun trying out new recipes. I had been in an extreme rut cooking. It was only me and another person though. I can see how it would not be financially viable for a family.

I did not like the huge freezer pack full of non-biodegradable goo. Google this to find out more about the goo: The Truth About Meal-Kit Freezer Packs

To me, TIME is the one thing we can never get back. It is priceless. Because I know and appreciate that fact, things that save my time are valuable to me.

There are times where I am extremely focused on something, and I don't have any thought energy left to consider what to make, so this is good for those times because the meals are so carefully laid out.

I agree with the above about the difference between the quality of foods at restaurants and home, especially if you are sensitive to certain ingredients like me. Restaurants rarely completely understand things and frequently tell me their product doesn't have something in it, unless I say "It will put me in the hospital." Then they say "I'm not sure." Since everything is transparent with these delivery services, this may be more beneficial for you if you have allergies.

How do you value your time? If you value it at $100/hour, and it takes you a total of three hours to drive to the store, shop, drive home, unload, organize, and then cook the food, you spent $300

Do you LOVE driving to the store, shopping, and then driving home? Maybe don't buy this service?

Are you a person who is highly sensitive to their surroundings and returns from the store with high levels of stress from the trip? Buy this service?

Don't think I could reorder because of the freezer goo. :-) Have an excellent day...

Jennifer G

Wednesday 20th of December 2017


Thank you so much for this article! Very much on point.

I’ve seen the subway ads for these types of companies here in New York, and more recently, one of the families that I work with used a similar company for dinner one night. Expense is definitely one of the key issues, though there are a few others which you did not address:

1. Quantity—What if I enjoyed the side dish or vegetable more than everything else in the meal, and want more of it. It seems impossible with this system. 2. Leftovers—Regarding Item #1, if I cook my own meals, I can always store extra portions in the fridge or freezer, hence stretching the dollar value of anything purchased. Again, it seems impossible with this system. 3. Socialization—Going to purchase my ingredients in my local (or not so local) grocery store is a social experience, a very healthy social experience. Why would you want to take that away from someone? 4. Class distinction—I cannot help but consider the class distinctions that are apparent in these ads. Are they targeting parents who work 2 or 3 jobs to put food on the table, and who might rely more heavily on fast food restaurants? Whatever happened to normal ways of doing things, like making dinner?

In general, especially in light of our often stressed, overworked population, I question how “healthy” this trend is, and how long its staying power will be.

Thank you again for writing. I definitely want to read some of your other posts.



Wednesday 15th of February 2017

I've bought a couple of these using coupon codes (e.g. from Groupon), which has really driven down the cost. For example, I got a 2 person subscription for 3 meals per week for $49 for 2 weeks using Groupon; that makes 12 meals, so brings the cost down to approx. $4 per meal. A couple of them were big portions, so I actually got 3 meals out them, making it even cheaper! There are 4 main appeals for me: 1. I travel frequently, so it's nice to schedule the box to arrive when I do, so that I don't have to go straight to the supermarket to pick up ingredients 2. I'm not tempted to get a takeaway when I've been working long hours 3. I can also choose recipes that are unusual (to me) without having to buy a bunch of expensive spices 4. I don't have a car, and bus service is limited to once per hour, so grocery shopping can be a hassle!

That said, it really is a treat for me to order these. I don't think I would at full price, but if I can get them at a discount, I'm all for it!

Jennifer Liepin

Saturday 28th of January 2017

I like the idea of encouraging people to enjoy and become confident with cooking, but unfortunately the packaging is wasteful...the carbon footprint is high considering everything ships from only two distribution is not local... and of course the lack of vegan options signals a lack of care for animal lives...

Here's my review on Blue Apron from an animal rights and environmental activist point of view.


Wednesday 2nd of November 2016

As someone who is really frugal, I could never see myself spending money on this type of service. My boyfriend, on the other hand, had a coupon code (which made 3 meals for the 2 of us only $20 total!) and bought them. Calculating that, it is cheaper than what we would pay to get fast food and is also healthier. Not to mention if we went to the store to get ingredients for recipes, a lot would get wasted (it's hard to shop and cook for only 2 people!)

I think this is a good service (When discounted) for 2-person households. Anything larger and you would save a lot of money by just going to the grocery store. I would never pay full price for this service, though.

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