The mental load that comes with meal planning, food shopping, and recipe preparation often weighs heavily on our busy lives. Even when you like to cook. In theory, the concept of ready-to-cook boxes offers a great solution.
In practice, however, the concept does not appeal to everyone.
The most widespread criticisms and reservations refer to the amount of packaging, the price and the subscription principle.
Lufa Farms, whose vegetables grow on the roofs of buildings in the city center, aim to partly address these legitimate concerns with their ready-to-cook food offerings. A first attempt, in 2018, ended quickly because the company lacked resources.
Customers have already had access to some recipes online for months. It’s basically testing. The comments allowed adjustments to be made before the ready to cook stand out on the web. Until now, the category called “seasonal recipes” was “hidden in the market”. As of this Friday, this will no longer be the case, the purchasing director Frédéric Leblond told me.
But how will these food boxes differ from those of competitors Cook it, HelloFresh and Goodfood? The biggest difference is what they won’t contain: portioned ingredients.
The idea is to reduce the amount of extra packaging to zero. Also, spices, cornstarch and olive oil, for example, are not automatically included.
If a recipe calls for a green onion, the entire bunch will end up in the box. So the customer is supposed to find a way to spend the rest before it rots away. In the case of celery that does not visibly perish, the challenge is small. When it comes to coriander, it’s something else.
Since the invention of ready-to-cook foods, reducing food waste has been one of the main selling points. It’s far from dumb. Canadian households waste $1,300 worth of food a year, according to the National Zero Waste Council. “A small cup of sour cream that you use is better than a large container that you throw away,” he gives the example of Judith Fetzer, CEO of the Quebec company Cook it.
We tend to demonize the packaging that accumulates in our recycling bin, especially because we see it. The resources required to produce a composted cucumber are less obvious to imagine, but considerable nonetheless. As Éco Entreprises Québec (EEQ) reminds us, the production of fruit consumes more energy than the production of its packaging.
In fact, overpacking is the problem. Why provide three tablespoons of soy sauce in a miniature container, when everyone has a big bottle?
In an effort to avoid waste as much as possible, Lufa Farms swears that it goes to great lengths to create recipes that use “100% ingredients” (organic or pesticide-free). If the tortillas are sold in packages of six, the proposed recipe will serve six people.
The idea is to maximize the ingredients, but there is no miracle. Recipes call for half an avocado, 66% tomato, 60% cucumber, 75% cheddar cheese with black garlic. For each food, the ratio used is specified online, giving an idea of leftovers and the risk of waste.
Therefore, a certain amount of organization and planning is still necessary. It will be interesting to see if the clientele will appreciate the idea. At Cook it, they are mainly professionals with children, who work a lot and who want to be efficient while eating healthy, says Judith Fetzer.
Tests carried out by Lufa have also shown that its food boxes attract customers who “want it fast, who don’t like to rack their brains or cook,” says Frédéric Leblond.
Ready to Cook Lufa also changes the established formula by allowing customers to remove ingredients they already have or don’t like. This helps reduce waste, and this flexibility is commendable. But that doesn’t help make the buying process easier.
As you can see, no model is perfect. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages… which are not the same for every client.
The Lufa site also offers an interesting feature for those who are very interested in the cost of food: the price per serving of each ingredient (even butter). In short, their meals cost between $5 and $17. Assuming an average of $12, that works out to $176 for 16 servings (4 meals for 4 people). By comparison, Cook it and HelloFresh charge $165 and Goodfood $172.
With such similar prices, the choice must be based on other, more personal criteria. It’s time to do some testing, if you’re interested in the concept, because discounts for new customers have rarely been as attractive as this month.
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