Plated vs. Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh

I’ve talked in the past about how much I adore¬†Plated. Well, lately I’ve been sampling some other very similar services, and I thought I’d break down my experience with each of them and let you guys know how they differ and what I like or don’t like about each one.

What is this box of food?

All three services have a similar concept. For a set price per serving, you can experiment with new recipes. You select the food you want from their menu for a particular week (or skip it if you don’t want anything that week), and they will ship you the recipe and the food used to make it. There’s no buying a whole bunch of something you’ll use once and then have tons of leftovers that inevitably end up in the trash. When I say they provide everything, I mean EVERYTHING. They typically will only assume you have salt, pepper, oil, and the occasional egg on hand. Continue reading “Plated vs. Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh”

Monday Musings

Nope. Sorry. I’m going back to bed. Wake me up when it’s Friday.

Holiday Delivery Delays + Food Delivery Services = ūüė¶

I tend to order from services like Plated a lot. I’ve even done a full review on Plated, and I’m working on a comparison review between it and two¬†similar services. I’ve already tried out Blue Apron, and my first HelloFresh delivery is next week. Usually everything arrives on time and in excellent condition, and there’s nothing to really worry about. Continue reading “Monday Musings”

Blue Apron Deal on Gilt City

I’ve already stated how much I love my Plated subscription, but with other boxes out there like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, and since I’m not ordering anything from Plated for next week, I decided to give Blue Apron a try.

The great thing about a lot of subscription boxes is that you can often find deals for them on Groupon or LivingSocial or Gilt City that lets you try the service out for a discount. That is, of course, if they’re not running a deal where you can try it for free. (Again, I state… If you’re trying out Plated for the first time, find someone who is already a member and ask them for a referral to get your first box free. The best way to do this is by searching the #platedpics hastag on Twitter¬†and tweet people posting their meals to ask if they have a referral available.)

Right now, Gilt City is offering an amazing deal where you can get half of of your first Blue Apron order. I personally got two meals for a family of four (which means we’ll have some leftovers) for $45. Head on over and check it out if this is something you’re interested in.

Dog Laundry and Tilapia Chowder

First, I need to get this out… OH MY GOD, THE SUN IS SHINING!!!

The dogs are giving me the stink eye, today, because I’m washing their blankets and beds. With all the rainy weather, they’d been getting extra stinky, and I walked into my office this morning and¬†the smell nearly knocked me down. So yeah… Laundry time. I grabbed ALL of their bedding and did two loads. The two big cushiony beds can’t be tossed into the dryer¬†(which is why I’m particularly thankful for the sun today), and they normally have blankets to cuddle up to on the couch and in their beds. So I walked into the living room and found this on the couch:

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That is not a friendly look from Marcy, and Kato likes to pretend he’s freezing. And then I walked into my bedroom and found this:

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Those are from Kato’s bed. I was trying to be nice and replace the half-chewed blankets in his bed with fresh and clean ones, but he was having none of it. He watched me put those in his bed and then promptly drug them both out and across the floor. Now he’s just staring at the washer and dryer waiting for it to be done.

Moving on…

Remember when I told you guys about Plated? Well, I made a lovely Pollock Chowder from them last week, but they sent me a whole bottle of clam juice, and I only used 1/4 cup of it in the recipe, so of course I decided I needed to make more. And of course with all the rain, it was nice to just cook up a big pot of chowder.¬†When I duplicate Plated recipes, I’ll often make changes based on what I usually keep around the house or can easily find when I’m at Publix. Clam juice isn’t really one of those things, but¬†it was sitting in my fridge, so it got used. So here’s what I used:

  • 2¬†medium onions (I used yellow, but if you prefer something else, go for it)
  • 2¬†russet potatoes
  • 8¬†sprigs thyme
  • 24¬†ounces white fish (I used tilapia)
  • 4 Tbsp.¬†butter
  • 1/4 cup¬†flour
  • 3-5 cups¬†broth (you can also sub in¬†a little clam juice or white wine)
  • 1/4 cup + 2¬†tablespoons heavy cream

Cut your onion and potato into a small dice and pull the leaves off of your thyme, discarding the large stems. Rinse your fish and pat it dry with a paper towel.

Heat your butter in a large pot (I use my 5-quart Dutch oven) over medium high heat. Once it’s melted and foamy, add your potatoes, onions and thyme. Let that cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Everything will start to get soft but won’t¬†quite be cooked. That’s fine because it’s going to cook some more. Stir in flour until it’s combined (about 1 minute, maybe a little more). You’ll notice it takes on a sticky¬†consistency, and that’s what you’re looking for. Add your liquid, stir, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat back to medium and simmer for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

A quick note on the liquid. If I simply doubled¬†the Plated recipe, I’d be using 1/2 cup clam juice, 1/2 cup white wine, and 4 cups of vegetable broth (5 cups liquid total). I wanted less liquid in mine, so I took out two cups of broth and used a full cup of the clam juice because I didn’t feel like opening a bottle of white wine¬†(3 cups liquid total). If you prefer more liquid or if you think the chowder is too thick, add more liquid.

When your chowder is thickened, season your fish with salt and pepper and add to the pot. You¬†might have to move some potatoes around, but make sure you’re getting the fish in the liquid. Don’t worry if it’s not in there all the way. The steam from the chowder will cook the fish that’s not boiled in the liquid. Cover it, increase heat back to medium high, and cook for about 7 minutes or until the fish is opaque and flaky. Uncover and stir in your cream and then break up your fish into large pieces. Serve with garlic bread.

I’m thinking I might do this again but add roast chicken to it instead of fish. You could probably skip adding meat to it at all if you like. Scallions and/or bacon would be good in this, too.

Plated

Yes, I know I tend to do more reviews on beauty products, but¬†it’s not all I do– hence why I didn’t give this blog¬†a pretty, flowery beauty blog name. So here’s a rare review on something that hits on three¬†of my favorite things in life: cooking, saving money,¬†and not putting on pants.

I’ve been using Plated for a while, now, and I adore the service.¬†The concept is simple:

  1. Take a look at their menu; it changes weekly. Either select the recipes you want to try that week or skip the week if you don’t want anything. There’s no obligation whatsoever to buy something every week.
  2. Plated ships you those recipes AND all the ingredients to make it, with the exception of a few things you’ve already got in your pantry– usually salt, pepper, and oil.
  3. You cook it up and eat it.

It could not be easier. So here are the deets:

The Subscription

One of the first things you’ll do when setting up a new account is going to your subscription page. Here you’ll set up Plated’s automatic subscription services, namely what day of the week you prefer your delivery (Wednesday or Saturday, unless there’s a holiday that interferes with that) and how many plates you’ll typically want. Don’t worry. None of this is set in stone. If you want your delivery on a different day or more/less dishes, you can change that when ordering. The real important thing on this page is the calendar. If there’s a week you need to skip¬†for any reason at all, you click on that week, and it’s skipped. There are no questions to answer about why you’re skipping, and you can skip as often as you like.

Ordering

Every week, Plated will offer you a selection of nine¬†dishes, with at least three of those dishes being vegetarian. Two of those dishes are premium selections that cost a little bit more while the other seven dishes cost the standard $12 per plate. Dishes are ordered in multiples of two plates. (There are no single serving dishes that you can make, but you can always cook up extras and refrigerate/freeze leftovers.) You must also purchase a minimum of four plates for a shipment (two dishes with two plates each, or four of the same dish, depending on how you roll).¬†You can always, of course, order more than four plates. That’s just the minimum. If your order is over $50, you get free shipping. Otherwise, shipping is $6.

The Cost

The least amount of money you will spend on an order is $48 for four plates + $6 shipping, or $54. Alternatively, you can add a dessert at checkout ($8¬†for two plates) and pay $56 with free¬†shipping. A lot of people go with this second option.¬†I know that sounds pricey at first, but¬†consider that each plate is a restaurant-size serving, and you might end up splitting one plate into two servings for dinner that night and lunch the next day. (You might not, but I tend to do this a lot.)¬†So consider that you’re essentially paying for four adult-size entrees to be delivered directly to your doorstep AND¬†you’re being sent the exact quantities of ingredients you need for those meals. There’s no buying an entire jar of Spice X just so that you can use 1/2 teaspoon of it. This is why¬†I say I feel like I’m saving myself money by using this service. Yeah, sure… I can throw together a lasagna or chicken and dumplings at a fraction of that price, but I’m trying out new recipes here with ingredients I wouldn’t normally have on hand. So compared to eating out or buying¬†lots of ingredients, I’m definitely saving money.

The Box

So you’ve placed¬†an order. Here’s what you can expect.

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Again, when I say they send everything, I mean it. You get the recipes and all of the ingredients– produce, meat, spices, stock, etc. All of it. The only things you’ll likely need from your own pantry are water, eggs, salt, pepper, and canola or olive oil, and Plated specifies what you’ll need both on the menu while you order and in the email they send when your order ships. There shouldn’t be any surprises. Plated also includes the recipes for the meals you’ll be preparing, which also lists both what should be included and what you’ll need in addition to that.

I’ve never had an issue where Plated failed to send me an ingredient that should be included or the recipe cards, but my mom did end up with no cards once. So if this does happen to you, you should know that Plated includes these recipes on your account for you to pull up in pdf format if you need to pull them up at any time. ¬†The full nutrition information beyond the simple calorie count listed on the recipe card is also listed in the FAQ section of their website.

All of the above comes in insulated packing with ice packs. You might be thinking to yourself that it looks like a lot of packaging. It is. Fortunately, Plated lists ways to reuse and/or recycle all of it on their website in the FAQ section. My personal favorite is the insulation, which can be used to line my planters.

The Food

The recipes are incredibly easy to follow step by step, even taking you through prep and what should be cooking while something else is being tossed together. You’re not just cooking one dish at a time, you’re preparing a full meal, and the steps will make sure that everything is ready to plate all at once.

First, of course, you’ll gather all of the ingredients together. Everything is labeled so that you know which recipe it’s for.

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Prep is of course usually one of the first steps.

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Magic happens, and you’ll create a beautiful meal with ease.

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Every. Damn. Time.

I’d show the cooking process, but I apologize… I got so caught up in my cooking that I forgot to take more pictures along the way.

Thing is, I’ve learned so many new techniques and how to cook foods I’d have never considered cooking before, and I’ve started to implement these new techniques and food into my own creations. It really is a great learning experience.

Tips

There are a few final things that I absolutely want to mention here.

  1. Try it for free, first. Most Plated members have a referral or two on hand, and they can send you one. Check Twitter and Instagram for the hashtag #platedpics to find¬†out who is using the service and ask around. They’ll need your email address and a name, so be prepared to give that out. Once you have your referral email (check your spam folder), you can get your first box of three meals (six plates, a $72 value) free. This is a great no-risk way to try out the service and determine if it’s for you. If you hate it, you can cancel, and you’ve gotten a free box of food. I actually have two such referrals myself, and if you’re okay with leaving your name and email in the comments below (or to the email address I’ve listed on my contact page), I’ll be happy to send you one.
  2. Stick with ordering 2-3 meals per delivery.¬†The food you order is going to be delivered to your door fresh, and the produce will be ripe. That means you can’t leave it hanging out in your fridge all week. It will likely only last a few days. Unless you plan to cook up a lot of food and freeze it, just order what you’re going to cook over the next 3-4 days. If you see several items on the menu that you like and absolutely must order 4-5 dishes that week,¬†split them between Wednesday and Saturday deliveries.
  3. If you’re counting calories, utilize the FAQ. As I’ve already mentioned, all nutrition information is listed there and can be entered into MyFitnessPal.
  4. If something arrives damaged, spoiled, or late, contact customer service.¬†Almost all of my deliveries have arrived in perfect condition, but I’ve had a few things that did end up squished and had to make a grocery store run to purchase tomatoes or a substitute ingredient. Let customer service know. You’re paying for this food, after all. They’re incredibly helpful and will usually credit your account for the damaged meal.
  5. For moms, the recipes are not necessarily kid friendly.¬†That said, I’ve enjoyed demonstrating the recipes for my daughter, and she’s helped a bit and even tried a few of these and liked them. Then again, my nine-year-old also hates mac and cheese but likes (and asks for) spinach and Brussels sprouts, so your mileage may vary. (Yes, that was a brag.) It’s a great way to get them to try new things, but if you find your kid isn’t interested, you can always just fix a nice meal for you and the spouse while the kids enjoy a pizza night. We don’t always have to eat the same thing. It really is the eating together that counts, if you can find time for it.

If you’d like to try out plated, you can click here. That’s not a referral link, but again, I do highly recommend getting a referral and trying it out for free first.

A few things that might interest you guys…

Right now, you can hop on over to e.l.f. (one of my FAVORITE bargain beauty brands) and grab a whole bunch of their studio line products for just $1. That’s, of course, in addition to all the other wonderful products they already sell for only $1. Some of my favorites: Studio Matte Lip Color, Studio Eyeliner & Shadow Stick, Studio Lip Liner & Blending Brush, Essential Shadow Lock Eyelid Primer, and Essential Shimmering Facial Whip¬†(perfect for strobing).

Also right now, if you sign up for Birchbox¬†(referral link), you can get a free box of customer favorites. Use coupon code¬†2FOR1BOX to nab it! I’m a huge fan of getting beauty samples for $10, so Birchbox is my jam.

Influenster, which occasionally sends me items to try out and review, has sent me a VoxBox full of goodies– which I will of course be trying out and reviewing. Some of those reviews will go here. Others will go on my Twitter, Instagram, or (a newly made) YouTube. The links to those are on the sidebar if you want to give them a follow. I’ll admit that I suck at making those wonderful videos you see other people make, but I’ll hopefully get better, and in the meantime I think it’s a great medium¬†to demo a few things I might want to review later on. I just need a tripod or something.

Speaking of non-beauty reviews, I figured I’d toss up a review for Plated,¬†which I’m in love with, so keep a lookout for that as well.