Product Review: Food Boxes

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

WHAT

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?”

General Thoughts:

  • 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.

WHEN/WHERE

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.

WHO

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.

WHY

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My planning template

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).

HOW

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!


Key Players:

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.

 1) HelloFresh

  • 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!

2) GoodFood

  • 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!

My favourite?

Give your shoes a new finish line

As a competitive track athlete I go through a decent number of shoes in a year. I’m not running marathon mileage, but running six days a week adds up and every time you wear your shoes they lose a little of that magical oompf that you bought them for. Wearing cushioned, comfortable shoes is an essential part of my training regime that helps keep me injury-free (*knock on wood*) and I tend to replace my beloved Brooks Ghosts on a fairly regular basis. I must admit I’m a bit of a junkie for that new shoe feeling and I’ll jump at any chance to wear new kicks. So the question becomes: what should I do with my old shoes?

A few #shoefies of my 2018 training partners.

My sister Emma is quick to lecture me on environmental initiatives and wastefulness, so my awareness was heightened when I was tossing shoes that didn’t really have anything wrong with them. Sure, they’re no longer fit for elite training, but they look fine and could easily be worn for kicking around town. In fact, most shoes that have served a useful running life can be repurposed. I’m spoilt and I already have other shoes I’d prefer to wear when I’m not running, so that leaves my Ghosts a bit short changed on their life cycle. I know many people use old shoes to walk the dog, buy groceries, garden, etc., and that’s awesome. But if you don’t have a need for them… maybe someone else does? This is where Rackets & Runners and the Shoe Renu program swoop in and help me, my shoes, and – most importantly – those in need. shoe-renu-hor-logo-600x330.jpgThe Shoe Renu program was founded by the Vancouver Rotary Club and is made possible by the help of many partners including but not limited to: Rackets & Runners, Canadian Linen, and The Salvation Army. The program collects, cleans, and distributes used shoes to the less fortunate in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES) twice a year at “Shoe Renu Clinics”. I first heard about the program through Rackets & Runners as they’ve been collecting used shoes for years in-store. It’s a quiet program that hasn’t received much publicity, but those who know about it are impassioned and proud to support this great initiative.

Steps in the program:

  1. Shoes are collected at participating retailers (Rackets & Runners, Peninsula Runners ,and The Right Shoe are the main ones). All used shoes in decent condition with intact soles and no gaping holes are accepted. While running shoes are the most popular donations received, the program also accepts boots and walking shoes.
  2. The shoes are generously cleaned, and washed be Canadian Linen
  3. In preparation for clinic day the shoes are sorted by gender and size by volunteers so they can be easily accessed and fitted
  4. Clinics are hosted twice a year at the Harbour Light Shelter in the DTES. Volunteers set up, help people choose shoes, and hand out socks and lunches.

I don’t often hang out in underground parking lots, but when I do it’s to untangle old shoe laces.

When I asked volunteers why they were motivated to help out with the program many people sung a similar tune about giving back to the community. As I sat on the cold cement of the underground parking lot where the shoes are stored and untangling laces that had knotted during laundry, I felt a powerful sense of purpose. The shoes I was holding were someone’s trash, but they were bound to be treasure for someone spending the wet Vancouver winter without shoes. One of the volunteers spoke about gaining perspective and I had to agree. I’ve certainly been guilty of complaining that there are too many shoes in my house and I’ve purged closets with joy, de-stressing by reducing unwanted clutter. To think that many of us are commuting to IKEA to purchase hanging shelfs to accommodate excess while some people have nothing is heartbreaking. It’s not my intention to induce guilt, rather the perspective that if you don’t need something – chances are someone else does.

One of the most valuable takeaways from my participation at the Shoe Renu Clinic was the reminder that while it’s easy to get caught up in the performance aspect of running, there is so much more that the sport can offer. The same shoes that helped me train for personal bests and championship races can provide comfort to someone living on the street, waiting in line for meals at a shelter, or walking to find a dry place to sleep.

Brooks slogan “Run Happy” is about so much more than just running. It’s about giving back to your community, spreading joy, and enabling others. 

The sense of community I feel in sport is a subculture of many larger communities and I’m very proud to work with a company like Rackets & Runners which has taken the lead on organizing this program. I was especially impressed when I spoke with Vanda, the owner of Rackets & Runners, who has made the program a personal focus. She radiated excitement when she told me how the program had grown over the past few years and how the participation of podiatrists was enabling access to health care in addition to repurposing shoes. It’s in this spirit of community that we hope the program will continue to grow and offer hope and support to those in need.

How can you help?

  • Donate your old shoes and encourage others to do the same by collecting running and walking shoes at your place of work, recreational club, sports league, etc.
  • Come out and volunteer! You can call Rackets & Runners (604) 733-9211 to find out more about the program or message me on this blog or using my twitter handle @devanwiebe