A College Student's Review on Produce Delivery Services

For what seems like months now, advertising companies have been hacking into my cell phone and laptop, where they have been collecting data to overwhelm my social media with ads on various produce delivery services. As it just so happens, a couple of my housemates subscribe to services such as Hello Fresh or Plated, and turn the kitchen into a mesmerizing spectacle every week when they get their special box. Coincidence? I think not.

Image via Digital Trends

After realizing reviews of these services were overwhelmingly abundant, ranging from vegan tattoo artists, to *insert woman who got voted off The Bachelor*,  to your next door neighbor’s cat, I thought I’d take a look at what makes the average college student gravitate to a service like this and if it's really possible to ball this hard on a budget.

If you haven’t been bombarded by ads yet (lucky you, but you probably will after clicking this article), produce delivery services like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and Plated provide online weekly menus for customers to choose from before delivering the exact ingredients to your door four times a month. Each service allows you to choose how many servings you are cooking for, as well as how often per week you’d like to cook. Prices range with each and depend on serving size per meal. Menu included with package, you are promised an easy and fun way without the hassle of grocery shopping or coming up with new culinary experiments on your own.

As for my housemates, both finishing their senior year here at UC Santa Barbara, time, money and sanity are luxuries that aren’t unquestionably handed over. Here’s what they had to say:

What first drew you to start subscribing to a grocery delivery service?

“It was actually my mom’s idea, she noticed that I just don’t have time in my schedule to grocery shop and think of meals.” Bianca, a graduating dance major with a busy schedule of classes, practices, and performances says “often times I wouldn’t eat anything but snacks or plain chicken and rice because I’d get too tired."

“I tried HelloFresh first and the directions were really confusing.” Having recently switched to Plated, another delivery service with a bit of a price jump, she says, “it’s honestly worth it for my situation. It keeps me eating good, healthy meals, is cheaper than eating out all week, and isn’t as repetitive as cooking for yourself.”

 

Samantha, a HelloFresh subscriber, says a more social aspect was a convincing factor. “For me, it was mostly a nice way to spend time with a friend or significant other in a dinner setting, but in the comfort of your own home.” She decided to give herself a trial period with the coupons she had off her first two boxes, choosing HelloFresh because she liked the recipe options enough to make it worth the discount.

Image via Hello Fresh

Is it really more cost and time effective for college students?

Samantha disagrees, with Hellofresh “each meal ends up being about $10 which, at least in Isla Vista, is decently close to the price you’d pay for going out to get food. For college students, thirty minutes for a meal is probably standard or even more time than they typically spend cooking on a daily basis.”

 

“I think it depends on your particular situation,” says Bianca, “but honestly, I think it was worth it for me. If you don’t like cooking in general, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it. The meals do take an hour or less to make, so if you want something fast, this isn’t for you.”

However, by ordering the minimum serving size of two people per meal, three times a week, Bianca finds she has food pretty much all week by eating the leftovers for lunch the next day.

“Since the produce is fresh, if you get behind in your cooking or decide to go out instead, some of the vegetables go bad and at times you have to throw them away,” she warns.

The verdict?

The time and money-saver claims that advocate for grocery delivery companies may only apply to the parent raising three kids. But if you’re looking for a healthier option and more gratifying challenge to microwavable ramen and Kraft mac n’ cheese, or even to play Iron Chef America like I do after midnight on weekdays, these trendy services may be for you.