The mental load that comes with planning meals, shopping for food and preparing recipes often weighs heavily on our busy lives. Even when you enjoy cooking. In theory, the concept of ready-to-cook boxes therefore offers a great solution.
In practice, however, the concept does not appeal to everyone.
The most widespread criticisms and reservations relate to the quantity of packaging, the price and the principle of subscription.
The Lufa farms, whose vegetables grow on the roofs of buildings in the middle of the city, aim to respond in part to these legitimate concerns with their ready-to-cook offer. A first attempt, in 2018, ended quickly because the company lacked resources.
Customers have already had access to a few recipes online for months. It’s basically testing. The comments made it possible to make adjustments before the ready-to-cook is highlighted 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, purchasing director Frédéric Leblond told me.
But how will these meal 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. In addition, 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. It is therefore assumed that the customer will find a way to spend the rest before it rots. In the case of a celery that does not perish visibly, the challenge is small. When it comes to cilantro, it’s something else.
Since the invention of ready-to-cook, reducing food waste has been one of the main selling points. It’s far from silly. Canadian households waste $1,300 worth of food annually, 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”, gives as an example Judith Fetzer, CEO of the Quebec company Cook it.
We tend to demonize the packaging that piles up in our recycling bin, especially because we see it. The resources needed to produce a cucumber sent to the compost are less obvious to imagine, but are nonetheless considerable. As Éco Entreprises Québec (EEQ) reminds us, the production of fruit consumes more energy than the production of their packaging.
In fact, overpackaging 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 swear they make every effort to create recipes that use “100% of the ingredients” (organic or pesticide-free). If the tortillas are sold in packs of six, the proposed recipe will be for 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% black garlic cheddar. For each food, the proportion used is specified online, which gives an idea of leftovers and the risk of waste.
A certain amount of organization and planning therefore remains necessary. It will be interesting to see if the clientele will appreciate the idea. At Cook it, it is mainly professionals who have children, who work a lot and who want to be efficient while eating healthy, says Judith Fetzer.
The tests carried out by Lufa have also shown that its meal boxes attract customers who “want it to be quick, 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 do not like. This helps reduce waste, and this flexibility is commendable. But that does not help to ease the buying process.
As you can see, no model is perfect. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages… which are not the same for each client.
The Lufa site also offers an interesting function for those who are closely interested in the cost of food: the price per serving of each ingredient (even butter). In short, his meals cost between $5 and $17. Assuming an average of $12, that works out to $176 for 16 servings (4 meals for 4 people). In comparison, Cook it and HelloFresh charge $165, and Goodfood $172.
With prices so similar, 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 the discounts for new customers have rarely been as attractive as this month.