Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of “Chopped” on the Food Network (jk not possible), but there is something about food in a box that excites me. Having it delivered, opening it, unpacking it, gazing in adoration at the recipe cards in anticipation of what’s to come…
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read my blog about discovering the magic of food boxes to get up to speed on what I’m unpacking [click here].
As a competitive athlete, nutrition is an important part of my recovery and training plan. Plus I just love food and eating. Very much. I’ve spent the last few months dedicated to researching the different companies providing meal prep services and feel confident claiming expert status. Four services, over 100 meals, and countless hours wondering which box is the best and I have made my decision. (Or at least until I have a new service to try/more discount coupons 😉
Jack – before I go on I want to say thank you. You have shown an unwavering appetite for supporting me on this quest and have always been there to eat, provide feedback, and sign up for services. It’s not easy for me to share meals, but you bring so much to the table that I’m happy to give you my second serving.
Now it’s time to put the ATE in opinionated and break down these boxes.
First Place: Fresh Prep
The dark horse streaks to the lead in the final furlongs and nabs the triple crown of quality, sustainability, and service. A local company, Fresh Prep is based in Vancouver and is the only service that uses reusable cooler bags instead of the traditional cardboard box (which requires crushing and quickly fills your entire recycling bin).
FP is also the only service offering drop off time frames on delivery day, and texts when the delivery is arriving – two customer-centric touches that make users’ lives easier. The quality and variety of their ingredients are top notch, but this wasn’t a difference maker as all of the services I tried had great quality, organic ingredients. What really pushed FP over the edge is that they’re focused on sustainability and reducing waste. They encourage customers to place cleaned plastic back in the cooler so they can pick it up and dispose of it in the most environmentally responsible method. FP is “proud to be working with Urban Impact, BC’s leading recycling program for soft plastics”.
Maybe it’s my start-up background and preference for local businesses shining through, but I am a sucker for a small team fighting for market share. Go Fresh Prep go!
Runner up: Hello Fresh
I didn’t see Hello Fresh losing this race. They were the first food box I tried and will always hold the special place in my heart that belongs to your “first.” However, as you get to know yourself better and appreciate what’s important to you, your priorities and what you need out of a relationship change. Maybe you realize that you care more about waste and supporting local businesses than you thought you did. Or that a two meal plan allows you more flexibility in your meal planning…
I have to admit, Hello Fresh has been quality all the way. I’ve never had an issue with a box, nor been disappointed by the finished product. I’m not dumping them because of something they did – it really is me not them (and my mom, I convinced her to switch to Fresh Prep too). If you’re looking for a food box to try and you don’t live in the Vancouver area, I recommend you give Hello Fresh a try!
Third Place: chefs plate
Cheap and cheerful, this service is the lowest cost option. Some of the best meals I had on my journey were from Chefs Plate, though I’ve heard mixed reviews about quality from other users. CP was the only service that made a mistake on one of my food boxes – I have beef with them for forgetting to put the beef in my beef chow mein. #Beef
They also messed up my BFF Janey’s delivery date and you know what they say, fool me once shame on you, mess with my BFF and you’ll come third in my food box competition.
Last Place: Good Food
Too. Much. Plastic. Good food offers the best discounts and has delicious meals, but I can’t get past the amount of waste-per-box. I know that some plastic is unavoidable, and that even when you shop at a store with your own reusable bags there is a ton of waste behind the scenes. BUT this is the only service that doesn’t separate meals into paper bags – even those are plastic!
Additionally, their customer service is annoying as you have to contact them to cancel your plan instead of just clicking a button like the other three. The online chat often has a super long wait and everything is in English and French, which is very Canadian, but adds complexity to their website.
I also found that they sent too many emails – I love food and even I don’t want to read an entire newsletter about “Purple Brussels Sprouts: Good Looks AND Taste!”
I’m off to San Diego for a couple weeks of warm weather training (and shopping at Trader Joe’s), so I’ll be laying off the food boxes for the next while. I’m looking forward to continuing my food box relationship when I return to Vancity, unless of course there are California-based boxes I should try…