A Tale of Three Baskets

I have recently fallen in love with Blue Apron. Having resumed some of the dinner-cooking duties that I handed off to Chris eight years ago, when we welcomed our tiny terror into the world, I decided that the only way I could cook with two young children and numerous pets afoot was to try out a meal-delivery service where they planned the meals and they sent me the ingredients in the right amounts. Because, as I have learned, what I truly detest about cooking is meal-planning and shopping. Shopping with my children is dreadful. I avoid it at all costs. And really, they’re not bad kids—they’re not the kids who throw fits in the grocery store by any means. It’s just exhausting and overwhelming and stressful, particularly because one of them strenuously objects to going into stores.

But I digress. I also hate waste. I hate when a recipe calls for a teaspoon of some odd spice and I have to spend six dollars on a bottle of said spice…only for it to languish in my cupboard for the next two years, untouched. And I hate having to buy an entire bunch of celery when I only need one stalk, knowing that the rest will simply sit in our refrigerator until it turns rubbery and gross.

So Blue Apron saved my bacon! They pick the meals (though I can alter the menu somewhat if I don’t like what they pick—they generally have six options per week, and there is some flexibility on which three you can pick), they send me the ingredients in roughly the right amounts (with sometimes just a shade of extra), and I simply cook and serve the meals. Done! Easy! And tasty!

I got kind of obsessed with this—it really rocked my cooking world! So I decided to try some other similar services that have popped up. And I figured I’d review them for you here.

You already know I love Blue Apron, so I won’t bore you with another in-depth review of that service. If you didn’t read my past review on it, click here. And if you want to try a free week of Blue Apron, let me know! I have freebie codes I can send to friends. Seriously—you get to try three meals free, with no obligation to continue! I don’t get anything out of it (shouldn’t I earn credits for referrals or something?!), but you get some free food. It’s all good.

The next service I tried was Hello Fresh, by chef Jamie Oliver. Same idea as Blue Apron, and the same price. They sent us three meals to try for free, but we only tried two. Because someone ate the peach and the nectarine that were integral parts of Recipe #3, and I was too lazy to go to the store to buy replacements. (See what I mean about hating shopping? I really, really do.)

The first recipe we tried was Sicilian Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew Over Fluffy Couscous. It was pretty good, though it needed salt. But I blame myself for that; I’m the Queen of Under-Salting.

Hello, I need salt.
Hello, I need salt.

The second recipe we tried was Caramelized Veggie Skewers Over Couscous (apparently Jamie likes his couscous). This, too, was pretty good, though broiling the skewers caused our smoke alarms to go off for several minutes. I suppose I can chalk that up to user error. Maybe some people can cook without setting off the smoke alarm, but I am not one of them.

They might've been more caramelized if I could've stood to listen to the smoke alarm going off for another five or ten minutes.
They might’ve been more caramelized if I could’ve stood to listen to the smoke alarm going off for another five or ten minutes.

 

Overall, both recipes were decent, but they took more effort to prepare than the Blue Apron recipes, which are generally pretty simple and straightforward. So we decided not to continue our subscription with Hello Fresh. It was worth a try, but not worth a weekly commitment.

The third service we tried was Sun Basket. We got 50 percent off our first order, so I decided it was worth a try. I was intrigued by Sun Basket because they do a lot of locally sourced and organic ingredients, and they are a California company. Also, they offer more gluten-free options than the other services. I love Blue Apron, but the meals are rarely gluten-free, so I always have to take a GlutenEase before dinner or risk GI agony. Also, Sun Basket offers more flexibility than Blue Apron in terms of what meals you can pick for any given week. They seem to offer about eleven options, compared to Blue Apron’s six options. Because I don’t cook meat (except seafood), our options are obviously a bit more limited. But still, I like that Sun Basket has options…even if they may not be things I’d choose.

Big thumbs up to Sun Basket! Our first week was a win, and we’re going to keep the service for a bit and see if we continue to like it. It’s slightly more expensive than Blue Apron (about $9/week more), but I’m willing to pay that given the number of gluten-free meals I can choose from.

The first meal we tried was Falafel Burgers with a Pea Shoot Salad. Once again, they needed salt. Once again, the Queen of Under-Salting will take full credit for that one. Seasoning is not my forte. But once you added some salt, they were very tasty. Surprisingly easy to prepare, given that everything was from scratch except the buns!

I need salt, too, but I was still tasty!
I need salt, too, but I was still tasty!

The second meal we tried was a Vietnamese fish dish over rice noodles. I can’t remember the exact name, but neither of us loved it. The quality of the ingredients was good; it just wasn’t a flavor profile (as a true foodie would say!) that appealed to either of us. Chris, who is generally not a sauce person, thought it needed more sauce. I agreed, though I pretty much think there can never be too much sauce, so that’s not surprising. Anyway, this isn’t a dish we’d make again, but it wasn’t bad; just not our taste.

I was...fishy. But the mango side dish was pretty decent.
I was…fishy. But the mango side dish was pretty decent.

The third meal we tried was Mojo Cuban Shrimp Over Roasted Veggies. Oh my goodness, this was super tasty! It was tangy and citrusy and just spicy enough—delicious! We both really enjoyed it. And again, it was surprisingly easy to prepare.

Ding ding ding! We have a winner for the tastiest Sun Basket meal of the week!
Ding ding ding! We have a winner for the tastiest Sun Basket meal of the week! Chris, Mr. Anti-Sauce, actually added extra sauce to his because he liked it so much.

If you want to try Sun Basket, I have referral codes so you can get 50 percent off your first order! Just comment here (or email me) and I’d be happy to share until I run out.

There are a few more of these meal-prep services out there that I haven’t tried, but for the time being I think we’ll stick with Blue Apron and Sun Basket. They are both tasty, easy to prepare, and reasonably priced. Between the two, we get six dinners a week. And Chris can cook the seventh night of the week, so he doesn’t get out of practice. 😉

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