Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE FOOD. I also love scheduling and a great deal, so it was really only a matter of time before I stumbled upon the magical world of food boxes. The gateway drug was a coupon for a free box that one of my Airbnb guests left me. Four companies and over $1,600 worth of food later (which I’ve paid < 33% of ) I’m sharing my insights/obsession.
As if you needed proof I love food
Companies offering meal plan services that eliminate the need for you to go to the grocery store and plan recipes/ingredients in advance, while still enabling you to have fun in the kitchen and cook delicious, healthy, and easy meals. Each company has a website that you log into and choose which plan is right for you. The plans are based on the number of meals per-person, per-week, with costs increasing the more food you order. (I typically went for the three meals with two servings option). You select the meals you want, choose a delivery day, and boom – you’re in business! On the delivery day the box (which has ice in it to keep everything fresh in case you’re not home to refrigerate it right away) arrives, you unpack, and you get cooking.
“what’s for dinner?”
- My biggest concern was that these boxes wouldn’t make enough food for two hungry runners and I was happily proven wrong! Jack and I never had leftovers, but we also never went hungry.
- I’ve been super impressed with the quality of the ingredient – especially the meats. The companies source from local producers and enable a more sustainable food chain that eliminates middle men and reduces the need for artificial preservatives.
- There is packaging and while I recycled everything that I could there is still some plastic waste. Personally, it’s not enough to bother me as when you buy groceries a certain amount of packaging is also unavoidable and it’s significantly less plastic than take out.
Your own home! You can modify regularity and on which days you want the boxes to arrive. When I was in Mexico I “skipped” my delivery, and you can skip weeks into the future. I needed to create a spreadsheet (#nerd) to keep track of all the different deliveries I had coming… But if you’re not as greedy as me/don’t want to try four different plans at once then you certainly wouldn’t need to do this.
The companies I’ve tried are: HelloFresh, Goodfood, Chefs Plate and Fresh Prep. Truth be told, without the discounts I’ve earned from coupons and referring friends I wouldn’t have budget for these boxes. Full pop they range from $60-$80 for three meals for two people, which works out to around $10-$13 per-meal per-person. I have the time to plan and shop for lower cost options, but if you’re someone who loves to cook and likes to try a variety of foods without the needing to plan or spend time going to the store – it could be well worth the money. They also have family plans which have more servings and could be great options for parents, or for people who want leftovers.
Coming up with creative meals and keeping the spice alive in the kitchen can be tricky. I LOVE food and planning, and even I struggle to with motivation to think up my meals for the week – or even that night. Choosing meals in advance allows me to look forward to them, and thanks to all the nutritional guidance these companies have access to, all the meals are exceptionally well-balanced and healthy. There is always a carb/veggie/protein included – which is very important to my athletic goals.
A benefit I didn’t expect was the cost savings of not having to go to the store as much. While I still shop for produce, and food for snacks/breakfast/lunch, I found myself spending way less time a the store and not buying all the other things you inevitably find yourself “needing” once you get there (ex. whatever is on super sale).
Everything is managed through online accounts. The websites are all simple to use and you can mange how frequently you want deliveries, what meals you want, refer friends and pause or cancel subscriptions.
One thing to be aware of is that all of these companies are subscription based services, so if you sign up for one week they will automatically keep charging you and sending you food unless you update you settings. This takes under 30 seconds to manage, so it shouldn’t deter you from trying the service! You just need to be aware.
Across all companies the directions were very clear and the meals all take around 30 minutes to make.
The box arrives at your doorstep and includes recipe cards and meals grouped into paper bags. You follow the steps in the included recipe card and voila! Bon appetite!
I’ve sampled boxes from four companies and I’m impressed across the board. All of the boxes offer quality, organic, fresh, and seasonal ingredients. Additionally, I often balk at the prices for humanly-raised organic meats at the grocery store, so to have them included in the boxes is a huge bonus.
The most common complaint I’ve heard about food box services is the amount of waste. Three out of the four companies bagged meals in paper bags, and I can tell they’re making an effort to reduce plastic. I also think that the amount of plastic is significantly less than ordering takeout, and even when you shop with reusable bags it’s difficult to shop completely plastic free. Plus, think of the plastics used to transport and store food at grocery stores. Maybe I’m justifying, but I think there is more to the waste argument than meets the eye.
- Delicious! This was the first company I tried and was love at first sight and commitment after first bite.
- One annoyance: they claim they have an icepack recycling program but it’s actually not set up in Vancouver yet, so I hoarded ice packs for no reason. The icepacks are a saline solution so you can drain the fluid and recycle the plastic on your own (this is the same for most of the services).
- $79.99 for a three meal two serving box ($13.33 per meal)
- Choose this one if: you value high quality and proven dependability.
- Click here to get $40 off your first box!
- Really great recipe selection – the most meal options of any service.
- They use some very unique ingredients – I cooked up a few things I’d never heard of!
- Frequently offer discounts and send you freebies to share with friends.
- Negatives: the most plastic wrap of any of the services and you have to contact them to cancel which is annoying (all the others you can just press a button).
- $74 for a three meal two serving box ($12.33 per serving)
- Choose this one if: you love variety and having a ton of meal choices.
- Click to get $40 off your first box!
3) Chefs Plate
- Some of my favourite meals I made were from Chefs Plate.
- Great referral system that’s easy to use and track when people have accepted and used credits.
- Least expensive option. Also the first (and only) company to make a mistake! I have beef with them for forgetting to pack the beef in my beef chow mein recipe.
- I’ve heard negative feedback from other people about chefs plate, but it’s the company I think I’m most likely to continue using.
- $59.99 for a three meal two person box ($9.99 per serving)
- Choose this one if: you want a cheaper option.
- Click to get your first 3 meal box for $29!
4) Fresh Prep
- Vancouver based!
- The meals came in a reusable cooler which they pick up when you order your next meal AND you can pack left over plastics in it which they’ll recycle for you! This one has the least amount of waste for sure.
- Looks like this one has some gluten free options. Not a deal breaker for me (at all), but I have friends who would be into this.
- They have a two meal for two people plan option. Most other companies don’t offer this small amount, so this could be enticing for people who want smaller amounts of meals.
- The recipe cards are super small and didn’t include the amount of each ingredient that you need. Not a big deal and has no impact on cooking because everything is already portioned out. But I like to keep the recipe cards so that I can remake the recipes and shop for the ingredients myself so this is a minor inconvenience for me.
- Cost: $44 for a two meal two person box ($11 per serving)
- Choose this one if: you want a local option and the ability to order two meals for two people and recycle all plastics.
- Click to get your first 2 meal box for $11!