Are meals that arrive in a box worth the cost? Curiosity finally got the better of me. After hearing everyone in the office rave about having meals delivered directly to their home, I decided that maybe I was behind the times. Yesterday I received my first delivery, but I wasn’t prepared for what I actually received. My thoughts?
- Packaging – Wow…everything is in it’s own little baggie, even things someone who never cooks would probably have in their kitchen, like 2T of vinegar. And items that even the most culinary challenged person would readily recognize, like an avocado, were in a bag with a label stating that it was in fact, an avocado. The proteins were in vacuum sealed packages that were then placed in another ziplock baggie. The onions were already diced and in a plastic jar and the lemon needed for one recipe was, again, inside a ziplock baggie labeled lemon. Is all this superfluous packaging really necessary? The box is super heavy duty cardboard and there is jute insulation, made from recycled material – commendable. And there were two freezer packs to keep everything cold. One of them fit in my freezer for future use, but there was no room for the other. And I wondered if I got a box a week, what I would do with all of those packs?
- Recycling – To be fair, all the baggies do have language that instructed me to rinse them out, collect them and then go to the website to find out where I can take them (you mean drive them?) to be recycled. It appears that most of their plastic is #4 plastic, #5 for the plastic cups, and all I have to do is find a place close to me where #4 and #5 plastic products can be recycled. Ironically, the most common place to take the #4 plastic is my nearest grocery store. The #5 plastic, however, has to be taken to the nearest municipal recycling facility. The jute insulation can be taken to the nearest municipal composting facility, which may or may not be where the recycling can be taken, and the paper bags can be reused, placed in curbside recycling or composted at home. And the freezer packs, well, if you don’t have room in your freezer, simply collect them and donate to a local charity.
- Footprint – The website happily tells me that “You skip a trip to the grocery store, and your food gets a shared ride to your home. XYZ company boxes almost never travel alone, which minimizes our fuel use and overall carbon footprint.” No need to call out the company I used, I think they all pretty much share the same philosophy, but really? Whether it arrives at your doorstep or you drive to get it, fuel is being consumed. And given that I now have to drive all over town to get the packing to the correct recycling facilities and the freezer packs to my favorite local charity, just how much fuel is really being saved?
- Convenience – I guess I am lucky in that I like to cook and don’t find it all that challenging. But if I didn’t know anything about cooking, I would find the instructions incomplete and confusing. And I found that it took me longer to prepare and I used WAY more pans than I normally would cooking for myself. In short, I didn’t find it convenient at all. Perhaps if I was learning how to cook, it would teach me something about flavors and ingredient combinations, but overall, I was frustrated. And how convenient is driving all the recyclable materials around town?
I discussed my box with my co-workers to get their opinion. Most just liked the variety and the fact that they don’t have to “think” about what to have for dinner. And most didn’t bother with the recycling. From a personal footprint perspective, I think taking some cooking classes, watching a few YouTube videos and stretching your imagination is much more rewarding and much gentler on the planet. Like everything, food in a box has its costs and benefits. But in this case, I think the costs far outweigh the benefits. And I didn’t find it convenient at all.