“Cranking out more and more boxes was all they cared about.”
October 3, 2016 4:53 PM   Subscribe

The Box: The Not-So-Wholesome Reality Behind The Making of Your Meal Kit [Buzzfeed] “Blue Apron wants to revolutionize the food system by selling would-be home cooks all the ingredients they need to make a meal without setting foot in the grocery store. But a BuzzFeed News investigation has found that in the rush to scale its supply chain at the speed of startup, the company has had health and safety violations, violent incidents, and unhappy workers at one of its packing facilities.”
posted by Fizz (83 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
How disruptive.
posted by Jimbob at 4:57 PM on October 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm going to think about this just about every time I hear a podcast.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:10 PM on October 3, 2016 [38 favorites]


I'm surprised that there haven't been any reports of listeriosis or other food poisoning from consumers of these meals.
posted by monotreme at 5:17 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


All this other nastiness aside, what does Blue Apron do with ingredients that arrive at their facility but aren't picture-perfect hipstergredients? Do they donate the slighly blemished baby aubergines to food pantries or soup kitchens?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:22 PM on October 3, 2016


Guys I'm holding out for when we learn Leesa mattresses are full of asbestos
posted by selfnoise at 5:29 PM on October 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


We tried blue apron for the free trial but never subscribed because the amount of plastic and unnecessary packaging that was being generated and thrown away as a result of one meal made us feel horrible.
posted by Karaage at 5:46 PM on October 3, 2016 [13 favorites]


These boxed cook-it-yourself meal delivery services seem like they must create a lot of packaging waste and burn a lot of fuel on last-mile delivery versus buying the ingredients at a store. That plus the cost per plate, which is simultaneously high enough to dissuade me and low enough to make me worried about what corners are being cut, keeps me from trying them.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:48 PM on October 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm eager to find an objective reason to hate Blue Apron. (Since I already dislike their aesthetics.) But, this seems like pretty weak sauce.

Failing to provide background checks on entry-level warehouse employees sounds a lot better than the alternative. Hiring local people in Richmond who occasionally bring their personal problems to work even more so. I wish there were more large employers moving into neighborhoods where parking lot break-ins happen frequently.

Non-optional long hours, routine use of temporary workers, and safety violations are all potentially big deals. I wish they'd tried to figure out whether these are widespread problems instead of just teasing us with anecdotes. Perhaps I'm too cynical, but if "failing to install an eyewash station near a battery charger" is the best dirt they can dig up, it sounds like a pretty good place to work compared to the vast majority of jobs.
posted by eotvos at 5:57 PM on October 3, 2016 [48 favorites]


This is just so sad and so unnecessary.

To do that, it had to rapidly hire a massive unskilled workforce, bringing jobs to a part of the Bay Area that has been largely left behind by Silicon Valley’s boom times.

Richmond is where I live. It's my adopted home town cause it reminds me of my hometown. I came here for a job in SF cause I got a good deal on rent but even though it's HECKA FAR from Silicon Valley and it's not an especially upscale place we are still suffering from Bay Area Rent disease. I saw that Amazon is also opening a fufilment center here and that also made me feel really sad for the poor people who are going to get suckered into that. I hate hearing about people being abused. Hard working people do better FOR YOU when you treat them like fellow human beings. It's amazing what people can manage to do even under terrible conditions but why limit them and yourself like that?

This is the same city whose claim to fame is "Rosie the Riveter" and the hundreds of warships that were cranked out at record pace by women and migrants in WWII.

I also was a BA customer a few years ago and found the meals were just way too fancy and fiddly and not satisfying enough. I wound up letting the boxes just sit and rot most of the time. They should just simplify massively and still have a great, useful product.
posted by bleep at 6:06 PM on October 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Good lord I hate Blue Apron. Someone gifted us a couple boxes when our second child was born and I was amazingly underwhelmed. Insulted, in fact, to think that somehow my life was too chaotic to look up a recipe on the internet, stop at the grocery store on my walk home, and use the perfectly good measuring cups and knives sitting in the kitchen. And for the same price, I get to keep the rest of the bottle of fish sauce.

And yes, the packaging is horrifying.

I have no sympathy for people who've been conned into thinking this is providing some kind of service for their precious busy lives.

/2 professionals working 60 hour weeks with 2 small picky eating kids
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:28 PM on October 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


I am a single professional working 60 hour weeks with no kids, and while I also dislike Blue Apron (the quality, I found, was lacking, and I also didn't like the waste) I really see its place. I live in an industrial city where grocery stores are few and far between, and the ones that are mildly convenient (read: a one-way 20 minute drive) don't have good produce, at all. So I have to drive 40 minutes, one way, to get decent veggies. Which I do as often as my work schedule allows.

A friend just sent me a free trial to Plated and I intend to try it, at least. I suspect I'll have the same feelings that I have about Blue Apron, but that's OK. I have a lot of problems with these services, but I also think that they serve a function, and that function is not "conning" people with "precious busy lives." It must be very nice to be able to walk to and from work and pass by a grocery store on the way, but that is a luxury that I do not have and cannot afford in my city. Whether I can afford $70 for a few dinners for the week is also a question, although I have the luxury of having a lot more money than I have time these days.
posted by sockermom at 6:36 PM on October 3, 2016 [34 favorites]


Man, hope anyone who gets on their high horse about this doesn't eat any farmed meat or vegetables because lord knows someone is getting fucked over brutally in their production. It's much easier to ignore when it's a poor central american in the valley as opposed to SF area.
posted by Ferreous at 6:36 PM on October 3, 2016 [58 favorites]


stop at the grocery store on my walk home
I don't think you should assume the typical American has that option.

In general, food service jobs in the US suck. I am not sure whether Blue Apron is any suckier than most of the other ones.
Man, hope anyone who gets on their high horse about this doesn't eat any farmed meat or vegetables because lord knows someone is getting fucked over brutally in their production
It's not like that isn't happening with Blue Apron food too, though. Someone is growing all the food. There's just an extra layer of food handling.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:39 PM on October 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


[A few comments deleted. I swear we can discuss this topic without it turning into the war of all against all. If you're feeling like you need to tell off people in this thread, please step back for a while, Metatalk is your option.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:54 PM on October 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


I have no sympathy for people who've been conned into thinking this is providing some kind of service for their precious busy lives.


Well okay, thanks. We - a reasonably well off couple with two kids - subscribed to Plated for a few months last spring/summer. We have plenty of time to shop, and we eat home cooked meals most nights. But we also get tired of having to think of what to make, or making the same things because we can't think of anything else. So, Plated, two meals a week. Better than going out for a mediocre dinner with all that entails.

Honestly, we enjoyed it quite a bit. The meals were generally good, and were large enough to supply us with leftovers for the next day's lunch so we didn't feel like the price per plate was too outlandish. The real benefit, other than not having to think about a menu (and the thrill of getting a box in the mail), was that it taught us little things that could improve our own meals. They did interesting things with sauces that, while probably pretty basic for some, really made the difference. And there were ingredients we'd never used, or combinations we never thought to attempt. I appreciated that aspect of it as much as eating the meals themselves.

We cancelled after a while as we thought we'd gotten enough out of it. But I could see doing it again, maybe a different service, for at least a little while.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:57 PM on October 3, 2016 [34 favorites]


I have no sympathy for people who've been conned into thinking this is providing some kind of service for their precious busy lives.

I haven't tried Blue Apron or the like, but as a working parent with near debilitating depression, I'm always looking for any service that will help me keep my family as healthy as possible. I didn't realize that counted as "precious." But given that working women are usually criticized for killing their families with junk food, at least this is a different approach.

Also don't know why the fuck I bother to keep getting out of bed if the result is a steaming plate of smug judgement
posted by bibliowench at 7:07 PM on October 3, 2016 [125 favorites]


I use Blue Apron and will keep using it. Honestly this doesn't sound that different from other companies I've worked for whose warehouse workforce is 90% temps.
posted by a strong female character at 7:08 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I haven't tried meal deliveries but lots of friends and coworkers do, and they seem largely happy with the tradeoffs of cost versus convenience.

I was expecting much worse problems from the headlines, but this sounds more like growth issues rather than a seriously flawed business.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:20 PM on October 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm eager to find an objective reason to hate Blue Apron.

The packaging, as others have noted. I had heard it was an issue but then I got a box and oh my god I was still shocked.
posted by lalex at 7:20 PM on October 3, 2016


I used Blue Apron once and quite liked it. I'll work on being a worthwhile human being in some other way.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:24 PM on October 3, 2016 [20 favorites]


Disclaimer: I am very faintly acquainted with some of the people behind BlueApron. I'm not surprised by this at all, and not because I think the management is particularly bad. They're smart, well-intentioned people. But running warehouse operations is hard. This kind of stuff happens even in my well-established, unionized company which pays above market rates and doesn't use temps. We've had forklift accidents, fights, drunkenness, etc. Cops have occasionally been called. Many of our employees lead chaotic lives. Sometimes it spills over to work. We try to err on the side of compassion, and sometimes we make the wrong call.

Also, I'm not depressed or working long hours, and I've found these services useful for those stressful weeks when my life is chaotic, when I'm flying solo with the kids, or when my nerve pain acts up and carrying enough groceries for five is more than I can handle. It's also a great way to help people learn to cook, based on my observation.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:26 PM on October 3, 2016 [22 favorites]


I hate cooking and I hate people who are smug about cooking. Call me precious if you must, but at least I'm not wasting my time cooking.
posted by Mavri at 7:31 PM on October 3, 2016 [24 favorites]


Seems like certain markets would be ripe for disruption by a competing business that delivers (by bicycle) boxes full of ingredients in reusable glass/metal containers, and then picks them up the next time around when they bring the next box. You know, the way milk bottles used to work. And what about something combined with a CSA and compost pickup? So much could be done within a sustainable farm-to-consumer loop.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:36 PM on October 3, 2016 [12 favorites]


I have no sympathy for people who've been conned into thinking this is providing some kind of service for their precious busy lives.

Have you tried sympath.ie? They box up locally sourced organic empathy and deliver it to your door.
posted by srboisvert at 7:42 PM on October 3, 2016 [106 favorites]


While I know they included it as part of a pattern and the idea that maybe the level of violence was unsually high, this part:

This time the problem was a 26-year-old man who, after being fired earlier in the day for groping a female co-worker, had then threatened the person who let him go. He was later arrested for sexual assault, as well as for violating his parole on an earlier robbery charge.

Actually made me think "Wow, the company actually fired him and called the cops? Thats great!"
I mean, that part sounds like the company was doing the right thing. If this was about what a terrible company they were, I would have expected stories of sweeping sexual harassment under the rug.

The safety stuff sounds like the part the company would be absolutely responsible for, although I have no way of knowing how out of the ordinary this is or isn't (not that they shouldn't try to be better).
posted by thefoxgod at 7:42 PM on October 3, 2016 [14 favorites]


The Dash household uses blue apron and appreciates it. It fits our Venn intersection of need, time, money, expertise, taste, etc.

But I've suspected since the beginning that the $60/pkg is a loss leader, because of the labor. The food costs can be amortized as they split up bundles of cilantro, but the labor of creating those individual packages multiplies. Ours is delivered by a guy in a minivan - more straight human labor. I am worried about their corporate labor practices - if they do turn out to be uber-izing the costs of business, I'm out.
posted by Dashy at 7:43 PM on October 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Seems like certain markets would be ripe for disruption by a competing business that delivers (by bicycle) boxes full of ingredients in reusable glass/metal containers, and then picks them up the next time around when they bring the next box. You know, the way milk bottles used to work.

That would drive the price point of each meal well over the cost of a sit down restaurant, destroying their entire business model.
posted by Diablevert at 7:46 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Seems like certain markets would be ripe for disruption by a competing business that delivers (by bicycle) boxes full of ingredients in reusable glass/metal containers, and then picks them up the next time around when they bring the next box.

Only if it's delivered by an organic non-GMO hipster with a gluten-free beard and locally grown plaid shirt
posted by a strong female character at 7:47 PM on October 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm eager to find an objective reason to hate Blue Apron.

Well, the very fact that they're marketing this service to you, rather than assuming your servants will do the shopping and prepare your meals, indicates they think little of your social position. Bourgeoisie certainly, not even a member of the nouveau riche.

It's quite an insult, certainly. If I were you my good sir, I would send my seconds around immediatly.
posted by happyroach at 7:50 PM on October 3, 2016 [18 favorites]


Only if it's delivered by an organic non-GMO hipster with a gluten-free beard and locally grown plaid shirt

In an old ice cream truck, playing music box versions of indie deep cuts....

Wait now I'm seriously considering this, having set stops like an ice cream truck would cut down on delivery costs of going door-to-door...
posted by jason_steakums at 7:52 PM on October 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


That would drive the price point of each meal well over the cost of a sit down restaurant, destroying their entire business model.

I don't know. Obviously it's possible to cook for a family of four for way, way less than ~$35/meal. The positive reasons I hear from friends don't have to do with money as much as:

1) It's a pain to pack up the kids and sometimes ourselves for a sit-down restaurant meal.
2) We do takeout sometimes but even "healthy" takeout often has tons of salt and butter, and it's nice to know exactly what's in our dinner.
3) We hate/don't have time for grocery shopping, and we hate having massive leftover amounts of, say, parsley.
4) We get to try new recipes and learn new cooking techniques.
5) There is value in the process of creating and eating a home-cooked communal meal.
posted by lalex at 8:01 PM on October 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I use Blue Apron-- I'm hopefully-temporarily disabled, and I have the ability to do my actual work that I get paid for or to shop, not both; my wife is as of today nine months and two days pregnant. I don't want us living off takeout, ramen, and mac'n'cheese, especially when our meals have to support breastfeeding. Meal-kit services are the way I could find to allow us to eat fresh vegetables, frequently, at a price which makes me wince a little but which is at least amortized by leftovers for lunches afterwards.

When I was looking at meal-kit services, one of the things I was most worried about was the environmental impact of the packaging. My city has single-stream recycling, and literally every piece of packaging Blue Apron sends us can go in it, once food residue is rinsed off. It would be worse if we did not have good recycling in the area, but in that case recycling supermarket packaging would be harder too.

Blue Apron also has a thing where if you wash and pack up two or more boxes worth of packaging into one of their empty boxes, you can print out a free shipping label from their website and mail it to them free of charge for recycling. This is probably a loss-leader, as the shipping would add up for them if everybody did this, and I can't imagine that a lot of people put in the effort, but if my household lived in a city without a good recycling pickup I absolutely would be.

We won't be doing this forever-- I have done professional cooking, and I hate not having the space to plan healthy menus on my own. But there is a market for this, of people for whom this sort of thing is genuinely the best option, and right now we're part of that market.

And may I just say, one heck of a lot of that market is disabled? A lot of the things that able-bodied folks consider boutique or frippery or extraneous are extremely helpful when you have a disability. The gadgets that get sold in infomercials-- those are for a disabled market. Slices by itself, opens things by itself, does x kitchen thing and doesn't need your hands or your physical strength. Manufacturers tend not to use disabled folks in the commercials, but that's who buys.

It's a good idea not to consider any item or service unnecessary until you've figured out who actually uses it, and why.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 8:11 PM on October 3, 2016 [88 favorites]


[Another couple comments deleted. CiS, in general if your reaction to something is "I'm not interested in this/this doesn't appeal to me," that is your cue to go find something else to do with your time.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:11 PM on October 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


It's actually really interesting to me why cooking, of all things, brings out this weird smug impulse in people. I clean my own house, and I can't really imagine hiring someone to do a chore that I'm perfectly capable of doing. But I'm fairly certain that a lot of Mefites hire cleaners, and I don't feel the need to lecture them on my personal superiority for being able to scrub my own tub. (I actually don't feel superior, although it took me a really long time to master house-cleaning, and I feel a little triumphant every time I clean the house and it's really clean and tidy.) Ditto with laundry: I enjoy folding laundry and find it relaxing, but I am aware that not everyone does, and I don't think people are garbage for dropping theirs off at the laundromat. So what is it with food? Why are you an evil or stupid person if you find it hard to plan and cook meals?
3) We hate/don't have time for grocery shopping, and we hate having massive leftover amounts of, say, parsley.
Oh my gosh, my grocery store recently instituted pick-up service. You order online, and they gather everything and have it waiting for you. It's free if you spend over $100 and $3 otherwise. I am so planning to do this. I don't hate grocery shopping that much, but grocery pick-up just sounds so much easier than either doing the shopping or waiting around for delivery, plus I'm more likely to plan things out and not impulse purchase goofy things. It is a totally bog standard midwestern supermarket, so I assume this is available elsewhere. I can't help with the enormo parsley, though.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:14 PM on October 3, 2016 [17 favorites]


We go grocery shopping once a week and I find that I just completely fail at planning ahead for dinner. And I only have about a half hour in which to do all of the food prep, so I think Blue Apron or equivalent services could work out pretty well for me. The idea of pre-portioned foods also sounds good because I often end up with wasted leftover veggies or whatever because I am not an amazing planner of how to use those unused veggies.

But I'm also relatively un-adventurous when it comes to food, so recipes scare me.
posted by that girl at 8:18 PM on October 3, 2016


We tried Blue Apron and while the timing ended up hilariously wrong (we ordered it for the last couple weeks of my pregnancy and SURPRISE the baby was early and fast), we really liked one recipe and the other was totally serviceable, and it was convenient to have the box o' ingredients delivered to the door. That said, it was wildly overpackaged, and it leaked (so much for the overpackaging!).

It seems like something my Kroger could do -- provide me two pre-packaged meals on Wednesday when I say I'm coming in, at an inflated price, with recipe cards and pre-cut portions of stuff -- while thereby luring me in to buying stuff for the REST of my week. Like it might be tricky for a truly local grocery that doesn't have a corporate office to come up with the recipes and do the ordering, but chains like Kroger and Hy-Vee ought to be able to manage it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:29 PM on October 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't know. Obviously it's possible to cook for a family of four for way, way less than ~$35/meal. The positive reasons I hear from friends don't have to do with money

Oh, I completely agree with all your points. But I think that just highlights the narrow gap where they need to price things in order to survive. The basic pitch is: More convenient than a grocery store, less expensive and healthier than a restaurant. Depending on how frugal and creative and effortful you want to be, I'm sure you can feed a family of 4 for, say $10 - $20 bucks a meal.* And probably if you went to a casual dining place you're not getting out of there for less than $50, once you throw in tax and tip. For Blue Apron to work I think it has to be in between those two. If they're just as expensive as restaurant and you have to do all the cooking and clean up, I don't think that works for too many people.

*I'm sure lots of people do it for way less, but I'm presuming equivalent quality and type of ingredients as Blue Apron.
posted by Diablevert at 8:29 PM on October 3, 2016


The very day I first try Blue Apron. (For the record, I have tried Plated and it was much more wasteful.)
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:29 PM on October 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's actually really interesting to me why cooking, of all things, brings out this weird smug impulse in people.

The opposite happens too. I've met people who are quite proud that they can't cook. Never learnt, never had to. Except BBQ. Grilling meat is considered more manly than baking cakes.

Reading this does make me appreciate my neighbourhood a little more. I can be back in five minutes with a crab that was at the bottom of the bay earlier this morning. It must really suck to have to get your food mailed to you.
posted by adept256 at 8:33 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I read the article, and listened a bit to the corresponding story on NPR. I have no idea if this sort business model will last long term or not, but I do like employment in Richmond (which was very hard hit in the recession, and has recovered a fair bit). It's hard to tell, but it does sound like the management didn't really know how to staff & train this kind of warehouse job. It also sounds like they've learned a bit, which is good.
posted by feckless at 8:34 PM on October 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can't bring myself to try meal-kit delivery services because the value of the ingredients seems so disproportionate to the overall price - for a 2-meals-a-week plan, I could probably purchase 2 weeks' worth of meals in terms of ingredients. I don't mind chopping/portioning out ingredients by myself, so I'd feel very reluctant to basically pay someone to chop, portion and meal-plan - to my mind, it's money I could save. I do grocery shopping in bulk, then chop and divvy up the ingredients in freezer bags, freezing a variety of meal packages. In a way it's like a DIY-Blue Apron, and 6+ hours of shopping, chopping and packaging results in enough pre-packaged Blue Apron-esque meals for 2 months or so.

I would be willing to pay for a fresh meat/produce delivery service though. I know Peapod exists but they often don't have the vegetables or variety I want.
posted by aielen at 8:37 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wish there was a truly ethical and healthy way I could never cook again because Jesus do I hate it. I wish I could come live with one of you cooking types, I would gladly do all your dishes if I never had to think up a meal ever again.

I feel bad for my kid; I'm not an incompetent cook, just an uninspired/uninterested one. (Husband has food allergies which makes it harder also). So we have about 4-5 entrees we mix and match with veg/rice/fruit, or else we go out so he knows what actual interesting cooking tastes like.

Where's my Star Trek replicator dammit. Or robot butler. I don't care.
posted by emjaybee at 8:41 PM on October 3, 2016 [11 favorites]


My second favorite place in town (besides home) is the produce section of my grocery store. I cannot imagine not having time to go there and hold the stuff and smell it before I choose what I want. Do you have a dog? Do you think it is an indication of its low intelligence how he fusses about the perfect places to deposit his pee and his poop?

New startup idea: Blue Scooper--we facilitate the piss and poop out of your dog so you don't have to waste time standing around while it decides where to go!
posted by bukvich at 8:46 PM on October 3, 2016


...$2 billion food startup...

Sounds like an underway rather than a startup.

...nine violations and proposed penalties totaling $11,695 for unsafe conditions that put workers at risk for fractured bones, chemical burns, and more. This penalty came on top of $13,050 following a forklift accident earlier in the year...


$24,745. Take that!
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:50 PM on October 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I found it interesting that the problems they describe are more "scaling fast" than intrinsic to the industry, based on comparisons to other companies, with an extra dose of "no warehouse expert". I was expecting something more like Amazon's warehouses, where it sounds like the problems are more baked in.
posted by lorimt at 9:03 PM on October 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I just had a great idea. We have several asian supermarkets in the area, which I love, but I honestly have no idea what 90% of what they sell actually is. It's all labelled in Korean or Chinese or Thai. I took some seaweed and ramen to the counter, the cashier put two and two together and just said 'wrong seaweed' and fetched the stuff that's good with ramen.

I guess what I'm suggesting is a service more focused on education than convenience, because when I go to those places it's mostly guesswork.
posted by adept256 at 9:04 PM on October 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's really strange that there's still confusion about if this work environment is the industry norm when the article gives examples of how it is demonstrably inferior to its competitors. This is a profound failure of whatever barebones HR dept they outsource to.
posted by Selena777 at 9:10 PM on October 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love cooking, it's a way for me to express myself, relax, take care of my family and friends, and give back to my community by cooking at our local homeless shelter. I also work full time and do lots of other things in my life. So I see where the Blue Apron haters are coming from: I really believe it is possible to cook your own meals, and they are more healthy and more economical than Blue Apron with not as much waste.

But that's the thing; I LOVE to cook and I know how to do it well. It is one of my passions. So I'm more willing to do all the stuff that goes into cooking, which is not just cooking, but prep work (though actually I count prep work as cooking because chopping stuff with knives is fun!), thinking of what to cook, shopping, cleaning up afterwards. I don't necessarily love those all those parts, but I do them because I love the core of cooking and what it means to eat something I've prepared and share it with the people I love. Blue Apron is kinda nice because it allows people to get at that core part of cooking without a lot of that peripheral stuff. And who knows? Maybe someone's experience with that type of service might change their relationship with cooking so that they feel more comfortable with/able to do the peripheral stuff.

Also, for all the people on this thread who hate to cook or feel overwhelmed, I wish I could come and cook for you :)
posted by k8bot at 10:23 PM on October 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


Most of the discussion in this thread has nothing to do with the article, but meh, whatevs... From my understanding of US hiring and firing practises for unskilled and semi-skilled labour, Blue Apron is neither a leader nor a laggard. The food that makes it to their facility has probably seen far more human misery in its production than in the packaging of it. And for a warehouse, I've heard worse about Amazon's management than this.
posted by wilful at 10:36 PM on October 3, 2016


So, all those annoying ads about millennials hacking dinner were just a euphemism for labor exploitation?

I am shocked!
posted by FJT at 10:47 PM on October 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: the result is a steaming plate of smug judgement
posted by el io at 11:26 PM on October 3, 2016 [12 favorites]


just a euphemism for labor exploitation

The thing that would keep me from using a service like this is the labor issue. With all of these tech companies trying to get into everyday functions and work (Taskrabbit, Uber, Blue Apron, and the others), with all their promises of making things new or better, it's a shame the focus is on grinding the most possible labor out of arguably a vulnerable workforce for the lowest possible wages. And yeah, I'm aware of the massive issues in wages all along the chain of food production, and that needs serious amounts of work. With these companies, they're just adding to an already existing problem of chronically low wages and poor conditions in the food industry.

Why not be truly revolutionary? Why not try to find a way to provide services at a fair wage that isn't contingent on absurd (as well as fluctuating/arbitrary) hours? Why not develop actual training standards and hire a regular workforce?

These are people who may well be great at theoretical concepts and ideas, but I have a hard time seeing any of their businesses as anything other than grinding down the plebes and monetizing their effort to sell to other people in their giant tech circle jerk. You can't complain about unstable workers or workers not playing nicely if you can't be bothered to give them any sense of stability, if you can't play nicely with them. For all of the counter claims, that the work is based on demand, that they need to be able to deal with lulls and rushes: every business needs to be able to deal with lulls and rushes. If your business model depends on contracted employees utterly untrained for their work, working in unsafe or unfair conditions, maybe it's not a good model. Or, more likely, maybe it is the current model, but that doesn't mean it should be.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:04 AM on October 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


Why not be truly revolutionary? Why not try to find a way to provide services at a fair wage that isn't contingent on absurd (as well as fluctuating/arbitrary) hours?

Go right ahead. Here's the bell, there's the cat. Get started.
posted by happyroach at 12:32 AM on October 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


happyroach, sadly, I'm not one of the ones blessed with absurd amounts of capital. If you feel like arranging some stupid number of millions of dollars of seed money, then we can talk.

All I'm trying to say is that all this tech bro speak of revolutionizing the way 'we' live is only for some very small subset of 'we' and seems to largely consist of paying peanuts to little people to do our chores for us, without all the bother of having to pay the full-time wages of a maid or butler. In other words, Uber only works because there are enough people broke enough to sign up as drivers.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:56 AM on October 4, 2016 [14 favorites]


I tried BA a couple of times and was not impressed. Yes, mega packaging waste but the ingredients included were not that hot. I could walk a few blocks to our Italian Market and get much nicer things, which I do most days on my way home. The one plus were the recipe cards, interesting dishes I would have never come across if not for BA.

I for one will not be using any of these food services. Half the fun of cooking (for me) is doing the shopping.
posted by james33 at 3:02 AM on October 4, 2016


I can't believe they didn't hire a safety manager for months after receiving an OSHA visit / fine. I mean, I am the EHS (environment health safety) manager at a place that has a tenth of the headcount and my days are full with regulatory reporting, investigating small accidents (I'm talking things like small cuts, not forklifts tipping over), working on risk reduction projects, etc. And, my operations sound a lot less risky than theirs! This is really stupid of the management to overlook. OSHA has them on their shitlist now, and will probably be just stopping by for a quick look around quite often, which is not something you want.
posted by Fig at 3:37 AM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


These services are really interesting, because they seem to fill a different niche in lots of people. Some cannot stand shopping, others find the prepping of ingredients taxing...

Me I'm beginning to tire about meal planning; prepping is brainless cutting, dicing, cleaning etc, and I can do it watching a movie or listening to the radio, and my cooking - though unorthodox - is funny enough to keep boring me. However as the father of three kids and the main caretaker in the evenings, I'm starting to really get tired of the planning meals that I insist must delivered at 7pm sharp. It consumes a whole lot of mental energy to keep track of what we have, what I must buy, what the kids like, etc. I could see myself going for such a service if only for the outsourcing of deciding what I will feed the boys this evening.

I'm in France, so I guess it will be some time before Blue Apron and Co cross the Atlantic. Meanwhile, come eat at my place in exchange for weird ingredients :)
posted by vrittis at 4:18 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I honestly kind of want to march right down to Kroger HQ and demand they give me their brightest junior executive and force him or her to start providing this service at my local store! It's not that different from party trays you can already get at the deli; the educational/cooking component they also already do some of with meat and high end cheese. I sign up online and every Wednesday I go pick up my box for four with fresh and partly local ingredients already portioned out and packed prettily in a logo box that says Kroger Fresh Gourmet or something with the recipe tucked in and a display of wine recommendations right there at the deli. Kroger gets me coming in for weekly visits during which I presumably do shopping for other things and they get to sell me moderately overpriced preprepped food for less than Blue Apron. AND my Kroger is unionized so I could feel good that the people packing my box were well-treated.

I really want someone to get on this! I would buy this!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:39 AM on October 4, 2016 [33 favorites]


I honestly kind of want to march right down to Kroger HQ and demand they give me their brightest junior executive and force him or her to start providing this service at my local store!

I once found myself in the company of a couple of execs from both Whole Foods and FreshDirect. This is literally what I did the entire time. I don't think I'll get invited back to that particular dinner party.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:59 AM on October 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


We tried Blue Apron and while the timing ended up hilariously wrong (we ordered it for the last couple weeks of my pregnancy and SURPRISE the baby was early and fast)

We did the opposite timing and it's worked out really well. After the baby was born and my mother-in-law left, she gave us Blue Apron for a few weeks as a gift; we've kept it up because it fits our lives really well right now. Caring for the baby: getting her to and from daycare, night feedings, and trying to, you know, play with her and stuff on the weekends/nights really cuts down on the amount of time and energy either one of us have for grocery shopping/meal planning. Having those three dinners a week taken care means that I can do things like pick her up from daycare and still be able to cook dinner or let my wife take a nap on weekends when I might otherwise be grocery shopping. I feel like it has helped me, as the dad, not dump the entirety of the default parenting stuff on my wife. It also means we're eating healthier and more interesting meals than we would otherwise. The limited nature of the choice forces us to try things we wouldn't otherwise and it means that I can't balk at a recipe simply because it has too many ingredients or prep work for a weeknight (which is how I've tended to cook). I like cooking, and this has made me a better cook; I work with ingredients and techniques I wouldn't have otherwise. I like that there's no food waste, and even the packaging is all recyclable. I just keep the box it came in in the kitchen and throw all the little plastic bags in it until the end of the week and then recycle them.

I read the article yesterday and found the criticisms to be pretty minor in the scheme of American working life. Basically everything we consume is bound up in systems of oppression and misery, but compared where my food was grown or my clothes were made, Blue Apron seems well inside the mainstream.

It's not for everyone, obviously. It's expensive. Even after a couple months it's getting a bit repetitive. Some of the side salads are harebrained mixes of random vegetables from the week before (large slices of fennel and bell peppers in a dressing! It's a salad!") Right now, though, for where we are in life, it's really working for us.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:28 AM on October 4, 2016


We used Blue Apron (and Plated) for months when I was going through cancer treatment and it saved us from ordering probably forty pizzas. I also paid extra money to order my groceries online and have a poor underpaid teenager bring them to me and put them in the trunk of my car. You do what you gotta to do get through life, man. Even if it means using single serving bottles of balsamic vinegar.

A fun side benefit is that each week the cats had a nice new box to hang out in.
posted by something something at 5:41 AM on October 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


But I think that just highlights the narrow gap where they need to price things in order to survive. The basic pitch is: More convenient than a grocery store, less expensive and healthier than a restaurant.

There was an article the other day in the New York Times about how the lower grocery prices right now, along with these meal services and other factors, are leading to less eating out. But the other side of that was an expectation that if grocery prices rise again and the spread between cooking it yourself and eating out gets smaller, the trend will probably reverse.

Like Eyebrows, I am surprised that none of the big grocery chains seem to be trying to elbow in on this. They already have the food buying and storage side down, though they would be starting from scratch on the meal selection and preparation side of things, as well as distribution. I mostly buy raw ingredients, rather than prepared foods, but something that has stood out to me when I've looked down the frozen prepared foods aisle is how little of it is targeting the Blue Apron-type consumers -- people who care about "healthy" and "fresh" and so on as well as wanting convenience. Right now that doesn't seem like an option that can be easily filled at the store, so the delivery services aren't competing with the stores in that way.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:50 AM on October 4, 2016


3) We hate/don't have time for grocery shopping, and we hate having massive leftover amounts of, say, parsley.

This is pretty much why pesto was invented.
posted by srboisvert at 6:11 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I usually enjoy cooking, and since I'm unemployed for the moment I actually enjoy grocery shopping. But we just finally got our own kitchen again after living with parents for a year, so I'm rusty when it comes to meal planning. And while I'm rebuilding my pantry with limited space, I find the single servings to be a plus. I get to try new recipes without buying so much of something that I'll only use the one time if I decide it's not going to be added to the rotation.

We probably won't use the service forever, but getting a couple meals a week planned out for you and delivered has been a nice way for me to get back in the swing of things.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:28 AM on October 4, 2016


My wife and I use Hello Fresh, mostly because she got a coupon from ModCloth or some such. Our experiences with it so far have been mostly negative, but we keep ordering for some reason. It sounds like most of the issues are related to the low skilled labor being used to pack/prepare the boxes (ingredients are missing or we get way too much of an ingredient, things are mislabeled or not labeled at all, there's been some moldy/spoiled ingredients) but we also had issues with shipping on time.

I like that our menu is more or less chosen for us, and as a lifelong picky eater it has encouraged me to eat new and different things I never would have chosen for myself. Also, as advertised, it forces us to cook together and enjoy time in the kitchen, likely because the recipes are written in a way that encourages divide-and-conquer more than a traditional recipe (although I'm sure we could find a specialty book or site that does the same).

What amazes me is the visceral responses we get from peers and family members when we talk about the service, most of which have been mirrored in this thread. My sister threw her free referral coupon in my face when I gave it to her, ranting for five minutes about how the service was only for lazy millennials. My wife and I sat in silence until she finished, and I weakly tried to defend it, but found that there's clearly a button these services are pushing so maybe I just need to keep my opinions on it to myself.
posted by obtuser at 6:46 AM on October 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


My local Giant Eagle appears to be experimenting with something like this, Eyebrows and Dip Flash. There's a little section in the produce aisle with boxed-up meal kits. I've definitely considered it, but the boxes are a little bulky for the bus and I'm often shopping by bus. I'll probably try them out sometime when I've got a ride to the store.

We're a family of two people with mental health issues. My partner's disability includes cognitive/executive dysfunction - most days, planning a meal, much less shopping for it, is simply not something he can do. "Here's a recipe, here are your ingredients, a lot of the prep work is done" could potentially be a major game changer for him being able to cook again. Which he enjoys, and is very good at when his brain lets him, but most days the ability just isn't there. It's occurred to me before that something like this might be really useful for us, but I haven't been able to justify the shipping, deal with figuring out how subscriptions work, blah blah. Being able to just grab a box or two at the store without committing to an ongoing thing seems like a great idea and I hope more stores start doing it.
posted by Stacey at 7:01 AM on October 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


>What amazes me is the visceral responses we get from peers and family members when we talk about the service, most of which have been mirrored in this thread.

Yeah, I've been kinda amazed as well. There's a really frequent ad on my Facebook for a Blue Apron competitor (Home Chef) and the comments are just filled with vitriol over such a service. I just cannot imagine everyone complaining about it is trying 3 new home cooked meals every week on their own volition.

I signed up for it because I suck at dinner planning, and my standbys were getting pretty old. I tried Blue Apron a bit back, switched to Hello Fresh, and might switch again to keep it interesting, though not interested in the few where all you have to do is microwave/oven cook a tray. And we are just a couple, cannot imagine how helpful it is to those with kids or other special circumstances sucking out all your time.

I have set a aside a few of the recipes for making myself, so that's a nice extra feature. I will say, I get a little disappointed when a meal is incredibly simple (happens more with Hello Fresh than Blue Apron), like a regular beef burger with lettuce, onion, cheese, and mayo. Or just a pasta with a meat sauce. Oh, better save that complex recipe.
posted by ALongDecember at 7:11 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I would be down for this if they could just send me a week's worth at one time. It doesn't have to be individually-portioned, they can label the balsamic with MONDAY: POUR DOWN TO THIS LINE or something. Seems like that would save on waste and be equivalently convenient.

I also don't understand how people who use this make it work with the delivery. I am out of the house on busy days from 9AM to 10PM. Nobody is home to get packages, and while my current building is safe, I've never lived in a place before now where my packages weren't just stolen immediately, and getting stuff at work is no longer an option for me. So on days where I'm legit too busy to shop and cook, I'm also too busy to get a package at home or go to a UPS store for pickup. So, I'm not the market for this but someone is.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:14 AM on October 4, 2016


My sister threw her free referral coupon in my face when I gave it to her, ranting for five minutes about how the service was only for lazy millennial

For Blue Apron (for which I've never had any issues with missing or spoiled ingredients, apart from their packaging's frequent failure to ship eggs successfully), I really don't understand this common criticism. In the absence of Blue Apron I would cook much less involved and labor intensive meals. Things like fresh herbs or lots of different types of vegetables are the first thing on the chopping block when I'm standing in the grocery store thinking "do I really want to do all that on a Tuesday after work?" Parsley? Forget it.

I think maybe people who don't do them don't realize how much actual work is involved? Sure they send you the ingredients, but it's not like they chop the tomatoes or dice the onion for you. I almost certainly spend more time in the kitchen for those three meals than I would have if I planned the meals myself, but I spend the time actually cooking rather than vainly trying to come up with what I want to eat for dinner tonight. This goes doubly for the vegetarian meals, of which we eat many more because they're included with the service.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:20 AM on October 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


In Toronto both Metro and Longos have sort of similar meal kits - I think Longos is in the area near the deli and Metro's are in the meat section. I don't use them because a) I'm cheap and b) I'd need sort of 1.25 kits but I think grocery stores up here in Canada where delivery can be prohibitive there are grocery-based alternatives happening.

Years ago I might've been judgy about this but since having to make dinner, lunches, and breakfasts on a daycare/child/sleep schedule for the last 10 years (what can you make starting at 6:15 that has the kids in bed before 7:20...and if you have to stop at the store you either get daycare late fees or are dragging a hungry 4 yr old around...), I am frankly just tired of the planning/shopping/cooking labour some of the time, and things that remove some of those elements are more and more attractive. I'm still too cheap for it, plus I'm surrounded by yummy yummy multicultural takeout and those rotisserie chickens that got all slammed in an earlier thread. We still plan and cook the vast majority of our meals but we've had our years of crock pot and magic-everything (pot, bullet. etc.) and it really is a grind at this point. And I used to love cooking!
posted by warriorqueen at 7:34 AM on October 4, 2016


Maybe this is just me, but the fact that the fine was only $13k and then later appealed down to less after splitting a woman's ankle just astounds me. They're a $2 billion company. $13k means the founders have to skip a single day of hookers and blow. I could see it hurting a small auto shop or shipping company, but the small amount for such a large company bothers me to no end.

I actually applaud their effort to hire locally and a willingness to hire ex-cons, who have limited employment opportunities in general.

As to the disabilities aspect, I have a friend who is climbing out of depression by using Blue Apron, Soylent and Cross Fit. I'd love for him to see a therapist, but that's something he both won't and can't do (both being overly stoic and monetary concerns). It's a near trifecta of stuff I don't approve of (I have less negative feelings towards BA than the others), but it's helping him greatly. He's eating, getting out and living. So, like many things we scoff at (remember the pre-pealed oranges?), they're great for those with disabilities (both visible and non-visible).
posted by Hactar at 8:25 AM on October 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


The leftover boxes from Just Add Cooking have forced me to finally sell off my excess junk on eBay (surfeit of new sturdy shipping boxes!). The food is generally good quality and local where possible, and yes, not having to plan meals is a load off my mind. Worth it.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:38 AM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I got blue apron because I lived in a tiny apartment with a tiny kitchen and no pantry space so our cooking solutions were either eating the same thing for lunch and dinner for the entire week, going shopping three times a week and then immediately cooking everything I purchased, or blue apron.

We just moved out of the tiny apartment with the tiny kitchen, so we may cancel it in the future. But the packaging didn't really bother me because we had to purchase everything in small batches anyway. At least it's all recyclable.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:44 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm also seeing little boxed-up meal kits more and more frequently at my local HEB, which I approve heartily of. I don't do Blue Apron because broke right now, but I've thought about it and even gone to look at pricing in the past. (At the time, they weren't in my area anyway, so I lost interest.) Here's some of the reasons I've been really interested in something like this, even though I know very well how to cook already:

a) I have some disordered eating issues that come directly out of executive dysfunction issues (so does my roommate, who shares many meals with me). I find the process of eating difficult at the best of times. The more choices available, the less motivated I often am to eat. The more things I have to decide in order to access food, the more likely I am to skip eating. A service like this would let me minimize the number of decisions I have to make and make it easier to actually eat a thing.

b) Because I have disordered eating issues and so does my roommate, both of us are sort of wary about buying fresh produce, especially if it requires cooking. We both have a tendency to forget about perishables and then have to throw them out later when they are well past "good". This is especially true of new produce that I have to work out how to prepare and then gamble on actually liking. Throwing out rotten produce is really depressing for a variety of reasons, including a) wastefulness and lost food, b) frustration and shame for causing food to go bad, c) the loss of money that went into that produce, because no one in my household is particularly financially solvent. Blue Apron seemed like a nice way to use small quantities of fresh produce and experiment with new vegetables.

c) My partner and I have one car between us, and my roommate not only does not have a car but she does not drive. Both my roommate and I commute to work via bus, which means that unless my partner can give us a lift to the bus stop on their way to work, we have a 1.5 mile walk to the bus stop each way and then a slightly unpredictable wait--buses come perhaps twice an hour--at the bus stop, often in very warm weather. This means that grocery trips cannot happen on the way home from work unless i) my partner does it, which is difficult as they are constantly working 11-hour shifts five days a week because their shop is understaffed, and are consequently frequently exhausted, or ii) my roommate or I commits an entire evening to shopping for food and do nothing else for the household that day, and are willing to only buy foods that won't spoil by the time we can get them home to be refrigerated. If iii) we wait for a time the car is available so that we can all go, well, there's exactly one day per week right now when no one is working, and with roomie's new retail job (at a grocery store, hilariously!), odds are good that that number will soon drop to zero. Suddenly grocery delivery sounds really appealing. (Irritatingly, I have not one but two grocery stores within five miles of my home; this is a transit access issue rather than a store location issue and as such is very class-influenced.)

d) roommate and I have executive function issues; well, that makes meal planning hard, too. Also deciding what foods to buy and what meals might actually get eaten. It's harder to minimize the amount of time you spend in the grocery store when you don't have a weekly meal plan, and it's difficult for both of us to manage to do that every week. It's not impossible--I've done this before and will again--but when other stressors press in, well, it tends to drop off my list.

Now, I have work-arounds for these things developed that work fine without Blue Apron, and so does my roomie. It certainly helps that my partner loves to cook and I really enjoy it, too; it also helps that I have a high tolerance for sameness in the food I eat and am happy to essentially make my own freezer meals in bulk and call it a day. But I absolutely see why this is very attractive to many people.
posted by sciatrix at 9:08 AM on October 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


This weekend, I decided I would provide nutritious, tasty, well cooked homemade meals to my family. It took me literally at least 10 hours – probably 12 – to do this. That is literally one half of my weekend waking hours. If I could afford Blue Apron,I would absolutely be doing it.
posted by corb at 9:43 AM on October 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am surprised that none of the big grocery chains seem to be trying to elbow in on this. They already have the food buying and storage side down, though they would be starting from scratch on the meal selection and preparation side of things, as well as distribution.

The value to a big grocery chain will come in the form of the customer base, i.e they probably will move in on this once someone achieves a stable income stream then they'll just buy the thing outright and connect its "inputs" to their existing supply chain and rebrand its delivery trucks.

You might even suspect that this is the very endgame the folks who started BA had in mind when they started it. Wouldn't be an original play.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 10:23 AM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Man, hope anyone who gets on their high horse about this doesn't eat any farmed meat or vegetables because lord knows someone is getting fucked over brutally in their production

I got on my high horse about it, and I eat farmed meat and farmed vegetables. I arrange for my annual delivery of a butchered pig and a butchered cow from a local farm where the animals are, frankly, living better than most cubicle workers (plenty of free range roaming, organic food and fresh air). And I get my produce from a CSA that's very clear about how they treat their workers. I pay a premium for these things, because they're important to me.

Transparency in food production is possible. It is also, right now, a luxury differentiator. I have a friend who routinely boggles at me paying $6 per dozen eggs because she pays 1/12 of that for her Aldi eggs. "I can't afford to care how the chickens are treated," she says.

I don't think it's right that people are kept in the dark about how their food is produced, and I don't think it's right to make transparency a premium benefit and not a baseline feature of our food.

This past summer, my partner and I discussed trying out Blue Apron -- it drives him bananas to buy a condiment we'll use for only one recipe, so the idea of tiny, pre-portioned condiments and spices was appealing. But I couldn't bring myself to do it: Not only was the amount of packaging off-putting, so was the idea that I'd lose control over my choice to support food producers that are transparent about their environmental and labor practices.

I don't think the lack of transparency gets solved through market choices. I think it gets solved through regulation. I do hope, however, that stories about the human suffering behind our food production will prompt people to work with their elected representatives for policy change.
posted by sobell at 11:29 AM on October 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


To build off Eyebrows and Stacey's comments, my local Von's has a pile of recipes near the door that always feature lots of prepackaged foods; the deli also cuts/peels/dices/slices a huge amount of veg and fruit.

I don't understand why they can't hire someone to put these into piles and make shopping lists. Like, want to make these three meals? Pick up the recipes and this list that tells you to buy 1/2 lb of precut onions, 1 lb of precut potatoes, 1 cup dried cranberries, 2 lbs of bagged prewashed spinach, dozen eggs, etc...and these ingredients magically work out to fit into these 3 meals with no leftovers.
posted by holyrood at 5:56 PM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why they can't hire someone to put these into piles and make shopping lists.

Logistics, I think. They make a big point in the article that the your average retail operation throws out 10% of the food it buys; BA is aiming for 3%. Part of that's for brownie points and marketing, of course. But I bet it's a big part of their margin, also. Haven't signed up myself, so I don't know exactly how much lead time they give you. But they have deadlines and scheduled deliveries. Basically, by some set deadline, they know exactly how many meals of each type have been ordered for the coming week, and therefore exactly how much of each ingredient to procure. A grocery store attempting the same wouldn't be able to predict their needs nearly so precisely, unless the store set up its own website and sign up program. Of course, you could cover the cost of more wastage by charging more but then I think you're nibbling away at the value proposition: less hassle than planning my own meal, but same amount of hassle re shopping, more expensive, and I still have to cook and clean. Wheras I could have BA shipped right to my door or pick up a fully prepped meal at the same price point.

I think logistics explains the excess packaging thing, too. For example, say every customer's ordering two meals for the week from a menu of three options. As it stands now, when the deadline for putting in orders comes up BA knows it has to make, say 20K Chickens, 12K Lambs and 8K Veggie for that week. If both Chicken and Lamb require balsamic vingear, you could reduce packaging by shipping all of the amount for both meals in one bottle. But not everybody who orders will have ordered both Chicken and Lamb. So instead of three meals, three sets of packages (C, L, V), you have three meals, five sets of packages (C w 2x balsamic, C 1x balsamic, Lamb 0x balsamic, Lamb 1x balsamic, V). I'm sure a properly trained math person could work out a formula for that, but suffice it to say that since the real BA seems to offer about a dozen recipes per week and different levels of meal plan, there'd be hundreds or thousands of different possible configurations among the week's allotment. Lot more room for screw ups if each customer's shipment is its own special snowflake.

To say nothing of the inevitable complaints from the 5 to 10% of customer each week who fail to read the directions properly and end up using up all of a crucial ingredient for just one meal...
posted by Diablevert at 7:31 PM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


" But they have deadlines and scheduled deliveries. Basically, by some set deadline, they know exactly how many meals of each type have been ordered for the coming week, and therefore exactly how much of each ingredient to procure. A grocery store attempting the same wouldn't be able to predict their needs nearly so precisely, unless the store set up its own website and sign up program. "

Two weeks. I would HAPPILY order grocery boxes two weeks ahead. But the lead time on grocery deli and fruit trays is 6 days tops, and on cakes and meat, 3 days. I think they could do it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:23 PM on October 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


My Blue Apron is Lean Cuisine & I'm really very happy with it. (Yes, I can cook. I just hate it.)
posted by listen, lady at 11:04 PM on October 4, 2016



I don't understand why they can't hire someone to put these into piles and make shopping lists.


sciatrix gave a shout out to HEB already; they kind of do this. They have "meal deals" on the end caps that are groups of things you can by that are half cooked already that you can put together. They also often sample the combined food in the store. It's always really unhealthy though because they often include a soda as part of the meal.
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:02 AM on October 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think we have HEB in our area, but I'm shocked Whole Foods doesn't do this yet. They already have such a big prepared food infrastucture - including a lot that is prepared in store - and I imagine their clientele is price-insensitive enough to overlap neatly with potential meal kit customers.

I'd buy it from them, 100%. Snickerdoodle, you did God's work.
posted by R a c h e l at 6:52 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


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