Saturday, July 8, 2017

Comparing Grocery Delivery Services

I've tried a few of the grocery delivery services and am going to compare them here.

This post compares:
Full Circle
Blue Apron
Hello Fresh
Sun Basket

Full Circle 

While the other three services are more of a full menu service, this one is a simple produce delivery service that buys from local farmers and puts together a box of locally sourced produce once a week. I used to love getting these boxes.  I don't mind having to come up with my own recipes and buy my meat and grains separately.
PRO: organic, local produce
CON: not a lot of variety, as the emphasis was on locally grown produce
          I eventually had to stop taking delivery from them because I couldn't communicate to the driver how it was important to lock the gate behind them after leaving the box. After several warnings, I finally had to cancel for fear of my neighbors having stuff stolen from the garage.

Hello Fresh

With this service, you choose how many meals you want per week and they deliver everything you need (except salt, pepper and olive oil) to create those menus at home. It was fun to make. The recipes were easy to follow and the food tasted great. I learned about new ingredients and even learned some cool cooking techniques from following the step by step recipes.

On the downside, I was disturbed by the large amount of packaging. For example, if a recipe called for an egg, a single egg would arrive in its own package. Everything, from a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of rice or a single clove of garlic would all come individually packaged.

There were instructions on how to recycle the packaging, which included two very large freezer gel blocks. The instructions to get rid of the large freezer blocks were to cut off the corner and squeeze the gel into the toilet and flush it.

I eventually stopped taking delivery from them because I couldn't bear to flush the freezer gel into the water supply, and my freezer was filling up with reusable ice blocks. I contacted them and pleaded with them to take them back and reuse them, but that wasn't something they would do.

Blue Apron

This service is exactly like Hello Fresh: all the necessary produce, meat, dairy and grains to make meals from the included recipe cards are packed into a box and left on the doorstep once a week.

The meals were nearly as good as Hello Fresh, although if I had to choose, I'd say the Hello Fresh ones tasted slightly better. For example, if Hello Fresh wanted you to rub a dry spice blend on the meat before cooking it might include a bit of cumin and a bit of cinnamon or whatever. But with Blue Apron, you'd get a bag labeled "chicken spices" and not really know what was in it.  I preferred the simpler and more transparent approach of Hello Fresh.

But what I do like about Blue Apron is that they have a recycling program. All of the packaging that isn't tainted by raw meat can be rinsed and placed back into the box. After two or more weeks worth of packaging is accumulated, including the ice packs, you go online and print out a mailing label to send everything back to them through the Postal Service. I reuse one of the boxes they sent to me.

Sun Basket

Another of the menu services, I was attracted to this one because they claim to be all or mostly organic, which was something I missed when using Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. Perhaps due to this, the price of Sun Basket was about $2 more per meal than the cost of meals through the other two services, which were about equal.

The ice pack was also different. These were made of 98% water and 2% organic cotton, so they say you can just drain it into the trash and the water would evaporate, leaving just a bit of cotton fluff in the garbage. The casing, they say, is then to be rinsed and recycled. Otherwise, the plethora of packaging was the same situation as I found in Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. 

Sun Basket claimed that all of the packaging was recyclable, but offered no means to recycle, so I needed to use my own bin. Many of the item, like single serving plastic cups for a tablespoon of barbecue sauce, claimed to be compostable, but only in commercial facilities.  I didn't compose them, but rinsed them and put in the recycling.

Another disturbing thing about the Sun Basket packaging was the foam liner. Two giant sheets of plastic foam that was recyclable, but I think entirely unnecessarily wasteful. They included two large stickers to use to seal them into a roll for throwing into the bin. A lot of trash and waste.



But what really blew it for Sun Basket in my mind was the recipe selection. They didn't offer much of what I'd consider well balanced meals. I could choose between 'paleo', 'vegan', 'low calorie', or 'breakfast'.  One of the meals I chose was a delicious turkey burger, but they supplied a wedge of iceberg lettuce instead of a proper bun. This upset me, as I'm not on any trendy faddish restrictive diet, and there were NO choices for people like me who prefer 'normal' meals. 

So for the time being, I'm back with Blue Apron, which seems to be the best of all worlds. I only use three meals per week through them and I get delivery on Saturday morning, so it's nice to know that I have all of my meals for the weekend without having to plan or shop. 

Here is what I made for lunch today. It took about half an hour to make, as most of the recipes do. And while I'm a skilled cook, I think these recipes are fairly user friendly and most people could make these meals easily.

 The first step of all the recipes is to get Mise en Place.
Salmon filet, lime cilantro rice and spicy peach salsa. Yummm! 

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