Should I subscribe to a produce box?

Hello everyone! I hope you are doing well and staying safe. A lot has happened over the past few weeks – many hard moments, as well as positive change but also mental strain. Please remember to take care of yourself during these intense times <3 

Today we are going to talk about produce boxes. I know a few friends who are subscribed to produce boxes and I get ads all the time when surfing the net. On several occasions I have debated whether to subscribe – they sound so good! However, I always decide against them, and for a few reasons which we will discuss today. 

what is a produce box?

First things first: what is a produce box? If you are not familiar with the program, it is essentially a paid grocery subscription. You can pay for one box as a trial, or on a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly basis. Companies will usually offer multiple box sizes at different prices, and so they contain different items. Depending on the brand, size and items, I’ve seen boxes range from $25-30, with items like fresh berries, apples, leafy greens, onions and garlic, squash and more. Companies that offer “local” produce have more variation in the products offered because they are dictated by the seasons; other companies will offer fixed boxes year-round with items like avocados, bananas and so on. Some companies also sell meal prepping boxes, so you will have the exact ingredients and amounts needed to prepare certain recipes (included in the box). 

the benefits of produce boxes

There is no denying that whoever came up with the business model for produce boxes was a genius. It has inspired so many other box subscription services for other products beyond food. For one, the convenience of a produce box is amazing. Especially during the pandemic when we are encouraged to limit our grocery store visits, I find myself still needing to go grocery shopping once per week just for produce – I can stock up on non-perishable foods, but produce doesn’t work the same way. A produce box can be delivered straight to your front door so you don’t need to make that weekly run to the store. A subscription service is also great for people living on their own with accessibility needs, like disabled or elderly individuals.

Additionally, produce boxes can* support local growers, which is crucial during the pandemic. Small, local farmers are being overtaken by large corporations and imported exotic goods. By subscribing to a local produce box subscription, you are helping your community thrive. Investing in local produce reduces your ecological footprint because you are cutting down on food mileage (read this post for more info on food mileage). It’s important to note that not all produce boxes offer local goods, so make sure to do your research before subscribing. Also, be aware that local boxes may be more inconsistent due to crop variability – some weeks, your tomatoes might be smaller than others, or you won’t get corn like you expected because the crops need more time to grow.

Another benefit of produce boxes is they can encourage you to eat a healthier and/or more plant-based lifestyle. As I discussed in this post, a plant-based lifestyle (which doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out animal products completely) has many environmental benefits including a lower carbon footprint, less land degradation and animal abuse versus the production of animal (by-)products. The new Canadian Food Guide promotes a more plant-based lifestyle, so subscribing to a produce box can encourage households to follow these health guidelines. Getting enough fruits and veggies in your diet is important for avoiding nutrient deficiencies, which affects millions of people around the world regardless of country, class, race, religion, gender and more. 

the drawbacks of produce boxes

The following drawbacks have stopped me from investing in a produce box subscription in the past. They may not be significant enough to prevent you from subscribing, or these issues may not exist for you depending on the services available to you. Nonetheless, it is important to know both sides of any investment you are planning to make before you make it. 

First, as I previously mentioned, if the boxes don’t specifically contain local produce, your box will likely have a large ecological footprint. Those “exotic” items I mentioned like avocados, bananas, kiwi, etc. cannot be grown in Ontario and usually are shipped overseas. If you are looking to cut down your food mileage, opting for a locally-based company that also sells locally-grown produce is a must.

The second drawback is packaging. When you see the advertisements for produce boxes, the only packaging you see is the cute box the produce comes in. In reality, many of these boxes individually wrap each item. Especially if they are recipe-based boxes, you may have individual peeled garlic cloves wrapped inside a plastic bag, inside another bag, inside a box. If you want to avoid unnecessary waste in your life, look for a box company that avoids excess packaging. 

A third drawback is the economic costs. Since you are having groceries delivered to your door and box subscriptions can be viewed as “luxury” services, a produce box will often be more expensive than if you were to go buy the produce items as the grocery store yourself. This can make subscription services inaccessible to lower-income households. Also, if you are out of the normal delivery range there may be additional delivery costs – or they may not be able to deliver the box to you at all. If the cost or distance poses a barrier to you, see if you can find a local box company. If not, it may be more realistic to shop at the local farmer’s market or grocery store.

final thoughts

All in all, the decision to subscribe to a produce box comes down to you and your values. Who knows, I may subscribe in the future if I can find a box that fits my needs. Personally, I still enjoy visiting the farmer’s markets and interacting with the producers directly. Regardless, you now know more about what produce boxes are, how they are beneficial and what they could improve on.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out these ones: 

Have you ever purchased a produce box subscription? What was your experience like? If not, are you interested in trying one out? Let me know in the comments! 

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