Protips From a Year With Blue Apron

A year ago my cousin Lynne set me up with a free week of Blue Apron, a recipe and ingredient delivery service that she couldn't stop raving about. A year later we're still customers and can't stop raving about it either.

What We Love About It

I enjoy cooking but don't love menu planning, shopping for ingredients, or wasting produce because a recipe calls for just a small amount of something. Blue Apron solves all of those problems by shipping us recipes with just the right ingredients for three dinners each week. 

The service removes the least enjoyable aspects of cooking and lets us focus on the fun stuff - learning about and eating food. Blue Apron does a great job of this, providing us with healthy ingredients, some of which are new to us, in combinations that we don't normally think of. The colorful recipes are easy to follow and include little nuggets of wisdom about the ingredients and their uses.

$15 Tools to Speed Things Up

Blue Apron recipes require just a handful of basic kitchen equipment. That said, there are some tools worth spending a few bucks on:

  • Zester/microplane: many of the recipes call for peeling and mincing the zest of lemons and limes; handling both steps at once is well worth the money for a zester or microplane.
  • Salad spinner: I used to turn my nose up at these because they do nothing more than dry off produce that you've just washed, but with the amount of herbs and other delicate produce included in Blue Apron recipes, this is a nice time saver. 
  • Garlic press: mincing garlic is a common and tedious step - a garlic press turns a job that takes a few minutes into a few seconds.

Techniques to Keep in Mind

  • Crushing instead of chopping nuts: when a recipe calls for nuts, they're usually packaged in a small resealable bag and are meant to be chopped. Leave them in the bag and crush them with a rolling pin or rolling pin - it's much faster and you can take out some frustrations while you're at it.
  • Add some flavor with broth: lots of recipes call for adding water - to add some depth of flavor, we'll swap out 1/3 or 1/4 of the water with vegetable broth. We leave some in the refrigerator and use it at our discretion.
  • Read ahead: if you read ahead you'll find ways to save the use of a bowl or utensil that you don't need. The recipe may call for you to transfer something from your pan to a clean bowl, just to transfer it to the plate a minute later, for instance. In those situations we'll just leave the food in the pan until it's time to plate. One less bowl to wash is a nice win.
  • Read the "How to Recycle" page: after the first few weeks of deliveries we found ourselves thinking "What do we do with all this packaging?" Every delivery includes a cardboard box, insulated liner, ice packs, and plastic bags and containers for ingredients. All of those are recycleable, and now Blue Apron offers free shipping for packaging that you send back for reuse.

Other Thoughts

From a business perspective, Blue Apron is an interesting company to watch. We've been customers for a year and have spent $3,056.94 in that time. Who knows what our lifetime value to them will be, especially now that they're beginning to offer complementary deliveries - wines paired with their meals, for instance.

From an eating perspective perspective, I'm a huge fan, as is the rest of my family. If you're curious to give it a try check out their site to get a feel for how it works and what types of meals you'd be receiving. If you like what you see let me know and I can send a your first week free!

The Universal Remote Problem

Part of last week's Boulder Open Coffee Club conversation turned to how adoption of the Internet of Things will occur in mainstream households. BOCC regular Jamie Seiffer used the universal remote control as an example of how challenging the adoption of IoT hubs will be despite a widening selection of connectable devices.

On paper the universal remote is a no-brainer - it's an affordable solution to the First World Problem of needing to juggle remotes for a home entertainment system. In my home we've got four remotes that can be replaced by a single universal one but aren't. Why? The setup process is too complicated. I've got to find model numbers for my TV, stereo, and other devices. I've got to cross reference the model numbers with codes that I've got to enter into the universal remote. It's enough of a pain that I'd rather live with four remotes instead of one.

At Simpler we face a similar problem. In our case, however, it's not so much the number of steps that we've got to worry about, it's the number of new concepts that we've got to introduce.

We've built a product that unifies the sign-on process for a wide variety of web applications that people access in their daily workflow (a single sign-on product in tech parlance). At the beginning of each day our customers sign into Simpler to access the rest of their web apps without having to sign into each of them individually. In daily use Simpler is incredibly easy but we've discovered that the setup process still stands in the way of wider adoption.

Installing the Simpler browser extension, for instance, has proven to be an important onboarding hurdle. As a result we've bundled a browser, the browser extension, and a default configuration into a single installation file. Most of our customers have never heard of a browser extension before, let alone installed one. When our customers had to install it as a separate step, for many the related dialog boxes introduced a moment of hesitation and confusion. Not a great first impression for a product that is supposed to simplify things.

Now our customers don't have to think about the browser extension at all as it's handled by our single installation file and runs in the background. We learned an important lesson - eliminating the steps required for onboarding is good; eliminating the new concepts that have to be learned is great.