Something you should know about me from the start here is that I absolutely hate doing a weekly supermarket shop. Pushing a half empty shopping trolley down aisles crowded with fellow stressed out shoppers who would sooner mow you down in their haste to get to the cherry tomatoes than spend one second longer than they have to inside the store.
I have about the same amount of motivation to do a weekly shop as I do to go to the gym on a Friday night after work (that’s none, just in case you didn’t realise). As a result, I usually end up buying meals as I go, frequently popping out of the office to buy lunch or picking something up on the way home. Not only does this make a dent in my bank balance, but it can also make it difficult to eat healthily consistently, too.
So, as you can imagine, I’m a pretty perfect candidate and potential customer for the food box delivery market.
Food delivery boxes contain pre-portioned ingredients and recipe instructions that make it as simple as possible to cook meals for up to six people. Although you have to prepare and cook the actual dishes, everything else is done for you – sometimes even down to the selection of the perfect number of nigella seeds as a garnish.
Sounds super simple right? While the ease of getting all your mid-week meals delivered right to your door may sound irresistible, the price point of food delivery boxes deters many, and as of August last year Nielsen reported that only 1.5% of Australian households (around 150,000) have tried the service.
Customers spend on average $78 per food delivery box purchase according to Nielsen, which is $28 more than the average supermarket weekly shop. But, the downside of the cost aside, I began to wonder – was there more to this than just the ease and convenience of the service? Could I actually save money on food weekly, and could food delivery boxes actually help you lose weight without even having to utter the dreaded word ‘diet’?
The non-diet diet?
Think about it; these boxes contain all fresh ingredients, no processed food and as they pre-weigh all of the ingredients, portion control is managed for you automatically. It’s like starting a diet or healthy eating plan without really realising it.
I decided to put my theory to the test, and bypassing food delivery box giants Hello Fresh and Marley Spoon, I picked Australian owned company Pepper Leaf for a week’s trial of their service.
Pepper Leaf brand their food delivery boxes as ‘homegrown meal kits’ with an emphasis on fresh food and good relationships with the farmers who grow their produce.
“We actually have relationships with small growers and producers,” Simon Kahil, CEO of Pepper Leaf, told me over email. “For example, if you get broccoli in your order on Saturday, it was cut in the field on Thursday, packed by us Friday, and on your doorstep on Saturday. Only a farmers market can match that for freshness and quality.”
A box of freshly grown veggies and ripe fruit with farmer’s market-style quality sounded pretty good to me, and I was excited when the first box arrived at my door on a Saturday morning.
How it works
Pepper Leaf do three kinds of boxes: A Classic or Family box that can feed 1-2 people or up to 6 people for around 4 days with 8 different recipes and a Vegetarian Box than feeds 2-6 people for 3 nights with 3 recipes.
I chose the veggie box and recipes ranged from a Mediterranean vegetable pasta to curry cauliflower fritters with a fragrant herb salad on the side. If I had opted for a classic box, recipes I could have expected to receive may have included apricot mustard pork with sweet potato or Middle Eastern chicken with quinoa tabouli.
The recipes are easy to follow, quick to prepare and don’t require any particular skills in the kitchen to produce, which is great if you’re not a confident or frequent home chef.
For me personally, I found some of the recipes a little lacking in flavour and a little too heavy on the carbs when it came to portions. I found myself only cooking a half portion of pasta to balance out the ratio of carb:vegetable in one dish, and frequently dipping into my selection of herbs and spices at home to add a slightly fuller flavour to the recipes.
Sticking strictly to the food delivery box recipes, the only additional food I bought for the week was a loaf of bread to have a slice for breakfast each day with peanut butter.
This meant no snacks, no sweet treats when the afternoon slump hit at 3pm or in the evenings and no early morning café coffees.
As you can imagine, cutting out these unhealthy vices – even just for a week – and eating vegetable-filled meals twice a day reaped some positive results. I was less bloated, visibly slimmer and had lost some weight according to the scales once my week of cooking food delivery box meals was complete.
I must admit, that while I found the food delivery box to be potentially beneficial for my waistline, I’m not sure it would be so good for my purse in the long term.
In an effort to see if I could save money, I got a two person box even though I was just cooking for myself, and planned to use half of the dish that was left over after dinner each night to take for lunch the next day.
That meant that for around $70 I got six meals – which works out at around $11.70 per portion.
$11.70 is quite a lot to spend per meal, and I was spending less on lunches when I was buying what I needed on a day-to-day basis.
So, while I still won’t be rushing out to do a weekly supermarket shop anytime soon, I’m not sure I’ll be signing up for a weekly food delivery box service either – although I would give the idea an A+ for convenience, ease, healthy eating and mid-week time-saving.