• Mel Jones

Point. Click. Done (part three: food)

Meal plan boxes are all the rage: Home Chef, Dinnerly, Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Plated, and likely a dozen or so more. I haven’t tried Blue Apron, but my experience with the other four was exactly the same. Meals are delivered weekly with ingredients and portions pre-measured, recipes included. Choices are limited but available. Quality of food was always good. It sounds like a good idea in theory. And I know several families for whom it works.

It didn’t work for my lifestyle. Prep-time usually consumed 30 minutes. At least. Meals were always rich—too rich. If you are in a situation, say, a Good Housekeeping, Stepford Wife space in your life, these are good. Your meals always look perfect, portioned appropriately. Light some candles and have at it. For me, life is messier than that. With mismatched schedules, moody eaters, hanger. None of them worked for me. In the end, it complicated my life more, rather than make it simpler.

I wouldn’t recommend any of them more than any other. I paid an average of $70-100 a week and found myself still shopping for basics. My grocery bill increased using these services. And then I had to deal with all the packaging. The environmentalist in me couldn’t cope.

Enter the food lickers.

Eww! I actually read one internet story of a woman showering in the produce section of a grocery store—you know, using the mister and rolling around in the fresh lettuce—beyond eww!

I had actually turned to other services before the great ice cream licking drama of 2019. But those events certainly cemented the practices for me!

So, Butcher box. For $129 a month I receive a box of meat which includes beef, pork, and chicken (surprise cuts). I took advantage of a new member promo that offered free hamburger for the life of the membership. A second offer added 10oz of free bacon per month for the life of the membership for a nominal fee. Last month’s offer was a one time $25 payment for free chicken winglets (this month, the winglets were used feeding four people dinner, with leftovers) for the life of the membership. The meat is free-range, hormone/antibiotic free. Butcherbox works with small farmers to obtain the best products. I budget $200 a month for this box so I can add specials, although I haven’t actually spent that much on a box. This month, I am adding sausage for $7.

Butcher box has radically decreased my grocery bill while improving the quality of the meats I eat. I recommend it to everyone who eats meat.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture): I love this and have used a couple of different ones over the years. I pay $50 a year (several different plans available) and I have access to products from several local farmers, cooks, and craft people. The best deal is the “best of the farm” bag. The CSA I use offers three choices, one for $28, a second for $35, and a third for $36 with dozen eggs included. It’s a surprise bag of whatever was picked on the farm this week. This approach has allowed me to eat with the seasons and try things I may have otherwise overlooked. I add to that order fresh, home made dog biscuits for $6. The one I use is the Center for Rural Culture and it has more than 20 pick up locations in central Virginia. While I stay with a specific list of items, they offer a wide variety including meats, cheese, coffees and teas, baked goods, health and beauty products, even prepared meals. Do yourself a favor, join. Like the Butcher Box meats, this is an all natural kind of thing.

Butcherbox and the CSA have reduced my food budget by more than $100 a month. In addition to these services, I grow my own herbs year round and in the summer I have tomatoes and hot peppers.

Amazon Subscribe and Save: The last component of household shopping is Amazon’s Subscribe and Save. I have a list of things that are sent at different intervals (monthly, every 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 months), billed monthly. Items include batteries, paper products, toiletries, batteries, water filters, allergy medicine, and make-up all at a 15% discount. Yes, yes, I have problems with Amazon! I have been unable to find a comparable service.

All three of these use cardboard and paper packing. I can use that in composting or as ground cover to dissuade weeds.

Next up: Miscellaneous subscriptions.

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