In the last few years, the demand for food subscription boxes has sky-rocketed as we all search for a way to eat more healthily and spice up what we cook on a daily basis (or you know, sometimes just to get us cooking to begin with).
The best meal delivery services are a great way of trying meals you wouldnt otherwise buy, avoid buying ingredients in excess and reduce the number of food shops you have to make.
And, with popularity rising, they are no longer just for city professionals with poor cooking skills, but for couples and families who are looking to eat healthier without any added fuss.
But, lets be honest for a second - even with discount codes and special deals, meal delivery services still cost a decent amount. So, to be sure youre spending wisely, we tried and tested Balance Box, a delivery service designed for weight-loss that pre-prepares your meals for you.
Here is what we learnt, and these are the 9 things you should know before signing up to any food subscription box.
Food subscription boxes can really vary in price, with most of the meals becoming cheaper the bigger your family. In the case of Balance Box, it is 22.99 per day if you sign up to a 4-day box, which is certainly not cheap but you have to consider the fact that unlike many food subscriptions it provides all your meals per day (with snacks), rather than just a dinner recipe. Others vary from about 3 a meal, to 6-7, though many do create quite big meals that you can eat for leftovers the next day.
Because of the nature of Balance Box, the service comes with a lot of boxes (three per day, plus snacks) so you need to make sure you clear room in your cupboards and fridge before it arrives. Space in the fridge is especially important as most of the ingredients used in the recipes are fresh so need to be kept cool.
Even if you choose to get recipes (rather than pre-prepared meals), most of the meal delivery services keep all the ingredients for each meal together in a big bag, so we would suggest clearing a whole shelf for your food subscription box if youre going to get one regularly.
Having somewhere for your box to be left if youre not in is essential. In the case of Balance Box, in London they deliver the box before 6:30am in so dont ring the doorbell (because youre almost certainly asleep) and simply leave it in a safe location outside your house for you to collect when you wake up. However, even if the box is delivered during the day, having a safe place for couriers to leave it means you dont have to worry or wait in for your delivery.
Depending on how many meals you get, the box can be pretty big so make sure to give yourself enough time to unpack it and put the necessary meals or ingredients in the fridge.
Theres nothing worse than the stress of having to rush first thing in the morning because youre going to be late for work. Itll probably take longer than you think to put everything away so be sure to give yourself at least an extra 15 minutes.
This is an obvious one. Any of the food subscription boxes should ask you about any allergies you may and dietary requirements. But it is something to be ultra-aware of especially for any of the food subscription boxes that include ready-made meals rather than raw ingredients. In the case of Balance Box, they do include a menu that has a full list of ingredients for each meal.
With Balance Box, you get to choose the style of menu - eg classic, vegetarian, free from or pescatarian - but beyond that you dont get to choose the meals themselves. However other subscription services offer a range of recipes for customers to choose from each week - giving you some variety and opportunity to try something new, but ensuring that you have picked something that you know you will like. However, if you prefer to have it all sorted for you by someone else and dont feel you have time to pick, that option might not be for you.
Due to the pre-prepared nature of Balance Box, the subscription does come with a lot of plastic boxes. However, theyre obviously aware of this because they do offer to pick up all of the plastic tubs to be recycled when dropping off your next meal box. They also package most of your snacks in paper - rather than plastic - bags, which is a welcomed addition.
Other subscription boxes have also been called out over excessive use of plastic packaging, which can be a pitfall for these subscription boxes who are trying to deliver fresh food safely. If you are trying to avoid single-use plastic, it is worth reading about each box to see firstly, what packaging they use, and secondly, if they offer any recycling pick-up services.
Knowing what days youre in the office, out for lunches, or at evening events will help you choose the right subscription box for you. If youre often out for work lunches, then you may want to consider a subscription box for dinner recipes only - and not a box similar to Balance Box that provides all your meals per day.
Alternatively, you can choose how many meals a week get delivered, so if you know you tend to be out for dinners with friends once or twice a week, sign up to a 3-meals-a-week box. That way you wont have meals piling up in your fridge and you're avoid wasting food and money.
Another obvious one, but food subscription boxes are a great opportunity to expand your repertoire of food and try new meals that you didnt know how to make before (and theyre often healthier, too). This can be a great thing when you feel stuck in your way at mealtime, but it does mean you need to be prepared to try new foods.
For example, when you subscribe to Balance Box you choose a menu-type but not the exact meals within it. That means you need to fully embrace whatever comes your way, as all three of your meals are pre-prepared for you. Theres no opportunity to avoid foods you hate, but it may mean you discover a new favourite food that you would otherwise avoid (pistachios are, now, our snack of choice). In the case of recipe boxes, you have more flexibility with ingredients you dont like as you have an opportunity to remove them before you make the meal.
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9 things you need to know before signing up to a food subscription box - Shortlist