Blue Apron: Solving Problems I Don’t Have

Blue ApronI am looking for ways to become more efficient with my time. Living on a farm 60 miles north of where I work at Georgia State University means that, during the week, my commute puts me on the road for a total of about 4 hours each day. I try to be as productive during that time as possible (making calls, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, using Pocket to listen to articles, etc), but there is only so much I can do. Between working on other projects and wanting to spend time with family, the last thing I want to do is cook dinner and do dishes (I HATE doing dishes).

So I have a problem: how do I feed my wife and myself in a way that is economical, healthy, and quick. How do I further reduce the amount of time I need to commit to after-work errands like grocery shopping? If I lived in the city, I would have a lot more options. I could use a grocery delivery service like instacart, for example. (I could also take advantage of laundry and other services not available to more rural folks). But up here in Jasper, Georgia most of the conveniences of the big city are woefully absent.

This first meal I prepared from Blue Apron.  Chicken meatballs & creamy polenta with tomato sugo &  lacinato kale.  In the end, the dish was nothing to call home about.  It looked good, but the flavor was pretty uninteresting.
This first meal I prepared from Blue Apron. Chicken meatballs & creamy polenta with tomato sugo & lacinato kale. In the end, the dish was nothing to call home about. It looked good, but the flavor was pretty uninteresting.
So this last week I tried Blue Apron, thinking that it would solve my grocery problem and maybe save some time in the kitchen. Nope. I like cooking, and I cook a lot. The recipes from Blue Apron are a good idea, in a way, because they may encourage some to venture outside of their culinary habits. It is also nice to give people the opportunity to try new recipes without having to purchase exotic ingredients in quantities much larger than would be necessary to feed two people. Minimal food waste is a good thing. But these are solutions to problems I don’t have. I am already adventurous in the kitchen, and I already waste very little. The problems that Blue Apron doesn’t solve are the problem of time — it takes as long to prepare and cook a recipe from Blue Apron as it would for me to cook as I would normally (about 30 minutes) — and the problem of dishes — I still have to dirty dishes, plates, and silverware, which leaves me with the chore of having to clean up when all is said and done. (I am solving this problem generally by entrusting all dishes to my dish washer, refusing to give in to the temptation to pre wash, and increasing my ‘spot tolerance.’ Running the dishwasher every day means that dishes get cleaner, and there are fewer dishes to put away each day). It also doesn’t solve my grocery problems, since the 2-person plan takes care of only 3 meals per week.

So I’m still looking for ways to optimize the time I have outside of work and commute. During the week, what I think I want is a service that will provide pre-made, fresh, healthy, and economical meals delivered directly to my door. Again, options are limited in the country. Something like meal delivery from Forks over Knives seems promising, but at a cost of ~$880 / month for 5 dinners a week, this option would mean a significant increase in my monthly food budget. My sister has suggested one-a-week cooking as a possible solution, but the prospect of committing a large chunk of my weekend to preparing meals for the following week makes my heart sink. In the end, it may be that what I am doing right now, spending 30 minutes preparing a meal at the end of each day, is the best that I can do (woe is me, I know), but I continue to actively look for other solutions.

What tips and tricks to you use to optimize your meal time? What meals do you prepare that are fast, healthy, and economical?