If meal prep looks enticing in theory but feels too daunting in practice, Blue Apron has a solution.
One of the pioneers of the meal-kit industry, Blue Apron is switching up the contents of its boxes to make weekdays a little easier. The New York-based food delivery service's new offering has one goal: to help you prep, cook and store eight individual servings of different meals in 1½ to 2 hours. Already available to folks in select states throughout the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic, the offering will expand to the rest of the country later this year. The first boxes will land on subscribers' stoops as soon as Feb. 24.
So, why make the switch to a meal-prep kit?
For those who haven't noticed the endless stream on Instagram of open fridges filled with meticulously organized containers of colorful foods, meal-prepping has really become a Thing. The concept is to devote a few hours on, say, a Saturday or Sunday, to get meals for the rest of the week completely cooked or at least ready to be cooked.
Some people make dinners and others focus on healthy lunches to take to work. Whichever prep-path home cooks choose, it's a time-saver that can help avoid the temptation of takeout or fast food on busy days.
Meal prep pros often choose a few staple ingredients that can be used for a variety of meals, which is what Blue Apron does with its kits. With recipes that change every two weeks, subscribers can choose boxes from the following categories: Signature, Carb Conscious, Pescatarian or Multi-Cooker for those who love using family-friendly appliances like the Instant Pot — Ree Drummond among them.
Each box is intended to cover a meal a day for eight days and costs $9 per serving ($72 per box, weekly). While the brand's tagline says, "One prep. Eight servings. A week of options," we'd say prepping twice is the smarter option. Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a reminder that, while an entire week of meals may look nice stacked in the fridge, it isn't necessarily safe. As a rule of thumb, leftovers and precooked foods should be enjoyed within four days of being in the fridge.
"After about four days is when that spoilage bacteria starts kicking in. Exactly how long it takes depends on other components — a citrus acidic sauce, for example, could preserve something longer," Meredith Carothers, a technical information specialist for the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (a organization under the USDA), told TODAY Food.
Though it might be tempting to try to cook once for an entire week, your food will have a lower risk of spoiling if you plan two meal-prepping sessions twice a week (for just 45 minutes to an hour if you're using Blue Apron). Alternatively, each kit provides the perfect number of servings for two people to share over four days. Because nobody wants to waste a pretty pescatarian lunch — or eat one that's gone bad.