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Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Blue Apron.

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I’ve seen Blue Apron covered on many of my favorite blogs over the last couple of months. I’ve read the posts, thought it looked interesting, but assumed it wouldn’t really work for my big family. Until last week.

We got home from the epic roadtrip and all we wanted was home cooked meals. But, it’s this crazy, crazy time between the roadtrip and the Sweden trip — we’re trying to squeeze a month’s worth of family tasks and errands into a week and a half. Of course, this isn’t our first busy period. Typically, we’ll rely on take-out or drive-thrus to assist us with meals when life gets crazy. But in this case, no one could stand the idea of yet another cheeseburger after being on the road for 19 days. The whole family was craving dinners around the table with real food, prepared right in our kitchen.

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Enter Blue Apron. We ordered 3 meals, each with ingredients for 6 people. The ingredients for all three meals were delivered last Tuesday. They arrived in a refrigerated box, and we cooked the meals Tuesday night, Wednesday night and Thursday night. I hoped it would be helpful, I assumed it would be a nice plus, but it turns out we LOVE this service. In fact, this post is much longer than I expected to write, but we found this service to be so helpful that I want to thoroughly explain why I’m such a fan.

With Blue Apron, all the thinking and errands are done for you. As someone who likes to be in control, you would think I would hate having the decisions taken away from me. But it turns out, removing the menu planning, the grocery list making, and the errands from our task list is hugely helpful. Sometimes it’s really, really nice to have the decisions made for you and save your brain space for other tasks.

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Dinner time would roll around and instead of panicking, the ingredients and recipe would be waiting for us. And not just any old ingredients — farm-fresh, beautiful produce, with tons of variety, and sourced from local suppliers. We were delighted that the meals introduced our family to ingredients and dishes we’d never tried before, like the crispy fennel root salad pictured in this post. So yummy! On the second night, the side dish included green tomatoes — I’d only eaten them fried before and had no idea how wonderful they were raw. The food was delicious and menus (which are created by chefs) were unusual enough to makes the meals feel extra special.

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The cooking was simple. It would take about a half an hour — less time than if we’d had to run out for dinner ingredients or fast food. None of the prep was super involved. No special skills or unusual tools were needed. And having the kids follow the recipes felt a bit like cooking lessons. Our kids were learning how to make things beyond their favorite family comfort food recipes.

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I realize these are not bargain meals. This is not a college student eating cup noodles. They are $9.99 per person. I admit, at first that sounded high to us — each of the 3 meals we prepared last week cost $60. Then we thought about what a fast food meal for our family costs, and this was in the same range — but the food quality is much, much higher. And if we were to eat an equivalent meal at a sit-down restaurant it would be 3 times as much! So again, for us on a busy week, Blue Apron makes tons of sense. We would have been spending to eat out anyway, but instead of french fries or pizza, we ate delicious, fresh, home cooked meals, and learned some new recipes in the process.

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Another thing we did to make it more economical: We had servings for six delivered, but we were feeding 7 or 8 or 9 people each night (sometimes one of the kids has a babysitting job or other activity that takes them away during dinner time). So we served the food “family style” instead of plating it, and we found the amount of food typcially served all of us. And if it wasn’t quite enough, we could stretch it. For example, on one night, we were planning dinner for 7, but added two more people at the last minute. We knew there was plenty of the side dishes, but we were worried about the amount of meat in the main course, so we grabbed some chicken from the freezer, and cooked it with the rest of the ingredients. Easy peasy. We could have done the same thing with rice or potatoes if needed. My point: I found that the meals could be easily stretched when necessary.

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The last thing I wanted to mention, is that I really like that I didn’t waste ingredients. On the first night, the recipe called for fresh tarragon and Blue Apron sent just exactly the amount we needed. If I’d done the shopping, I would have had to buy a whole package of tarragon which would have too much for one recipe. Perhaps we would have used the remaining tarragon in a future meal, but it’s just as likely that it would have eventually been thrown away. I liked not having extra ingredients to deal with (or waste).

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Anyway. I know I am raving about Blue Apron, but I really felt like this was a huge blessing for us. It totally saved the day last week. We have Blue Apron meals coming this week and next week, too while Ben and I are in Sweden. We thought it would be helpful to Audrey & Nick as they get into the rhythm of taking care of six kids. I’m curious to see what’s on the menu! They have a huge selection of recipes and add new ones each week. It will be fun to see what arrives.

I can easily see us ordering again in the future when one of us is traveling for work, or we have another particularly crazy week. We feel so much better about making Blue Apron than ordering take out.

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What do think of the Blue Apron concept? Would you ever try it? Would it ever make sense for your family? Delivery is available in 80% of the country (see this map), so there’s a good chance they cover your home, too! If you do want to try it, you’re in luck. The first 100 Design Mom Readers who sign up will get two free meals on their first Blue Apron order! If you don’t like it, no stress. There’s no commitment — you can skip or cancel the service at any time, and shipping is always free.

P.S. — Fun fact: chefs in training around the world wear blue aprons – it’s a symbol of lifelong learning in cooking.