Marley Spoon - Nutrition & Sustainability Review
Starting off from a nutrition perspective, I was quite impressed by the dishes. The positives are that the meals are heavy on the vegetables with each meal providing at least 3 serves of veggies. One of the benefits of home delivery kits is that you might get a greater variety of vegetables across the week than you manage on your own. Variety is key in getting a mix of nutrients and supports a healthy gut microbiome.
Biggest call out for me was the lack of information on the saturated fat and sodium content of the meals. These are two nutrients I like to keep in check as I have a family history of heart disease. This is an easy fix for companies like Marley Spoon to simply make this information available.
The other let down nutritionally was the lack of whole grains. One meal during the week had a great blend of rice, quinoa and barley, however the other meals had no whole grains. Admittedly one of the meals I chose was a low carb as I wanted to see what that was like. But the other two dishes could have been more complete with some added grains.
Energy wise, one of these meals would provide roughly 30% of your daily intake. This will change for each individual as it's an average. But overall plenty of room for a balanced breakfast and lunch with these dinners. If you're reducing your energy then they might be a bit too high. They are large meals and we spread them over 3 serves which would easily reduce the energy without you feeling hungry.
Protein was a little high in some meals but on balance was ok. Smaller portions of protein and more whole grains would be a better balance.
Fat too was a little high and mostly from dumplings and lamb mince, these are generally high in fat so no surprise. Would be better to steam the dumplings than fry or provide 5 vs 6 per serve. As for the lamb, using a leaner meat or less could have made the meal more balanced.
The overall nutrition was pretty good. A few tweaks and the meals would be excellent. This is of course a review of only 4 of their dishes and not on their whole range. If you're looking for healthy meals then you need to choose your meals carefully as some can have a lot of energy, leaving little room for other meals in the day.
Many meal kits boast that they help with food waste and Marley Spoon is no different. They do state how much food Aussies waste but don't articulate how they help. They state that by only providing the food you need, 'nothing goes to waste'. And at the end of the week there was minimal food waste. Only 358g of scraps. You could reduce this further by:
Using the stems of the broccoli and Chinese cabbage (I didn't as I followed the instructions)
Use the carrot and herbs scraps for stock
Put the remaining scraps in a compost or worm farm.
What I do find interesting is that while I see minimal food waste from my end, Marley Spoon has removed a lot of the food waste before it gets to me. For example, the outer layers of the garlic and cauliflower or the end of the lemongrass. I would like to know, what they do with this waste?
I love only getting the kaffir lime leaves I need and only a quarter of a cabbage. These portions would cut down on food waste as often you can only buy big portions.
The let down for me was the amount of herb and spice waste. Every dish had left over herbs and spices. So 'nothing goes to waste' is a bit of a stretch. Often companies need to put larger portions into containers or packaging to make it cost effective. For example the same herb packets could be used for a 2 person or 4 person meal. The difference is the 2 person kit throws away half. Of course you can use these herbs in other dishes, perhaps your lunches but if you use these meal kits every week, they would pile up.
I'll be interested to see if I can keep the food waste as low as Marley Spoon when I do the meals myself.
The meal kit comes in a big cardboard box and the individual meals are in individual paper bags. The bags, according to Marley Spoon, are manufactured in a FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification) accredited facility. And the box is made from 70% recycled paper. Both are recyclable. So good options. I know other kits don't use the individual paper bags so I'd just question if they were truly needed or is it just convenience?
What I do like about the cardboard box is that it isn't the classic polystyrene boxes of some competitors. While polystyrene is also recyclable, it's much harder to get them in the recycle process.
You know what would be cool? A circular process whereby you buy a reusable box and return it each week to be filled. Think along the lines of the old milk delivery system when they used glass bottles. Blue sky thinking no doubt, but imagine!
This is really where meal kits let the whole system down. Yes pre-portioned foods can help reduce food waste. But the catch is that they often require more plastic waste. Unnecessary use of plastic is a real bugbear of mine. For example, two sweet potatoes in a plastic bag - why not just put them in the box?
Then there is the need of the big insulation bag and freezer blocks. Both are big additions to the plastic of the week. On their website, Marley Spoon states they use 85% sugarcane in their plastic but the bag I got was straight plastic? This is misleading at best. Also the freezer bags, they say you can add the liquid to the ground and it will help your garden absorb more water and while one bag might be ok, over time the sodium in this substance could make my soil too salty for plant growth. So not really a long term solution. Food safety of these boxed foods is crucial and there are certainly challenges to keeping the food fresh in a sustainable way. I hope these companies continue to invest in new processes to reduce their use of plastic.
In total my four meals left me with 149g of soft plastics (the band holding the plastic together in the picture was 2g). This doesn't sound like much but if you were to buy these kits every week for a year that would be more than 7kgs of soft plastic. Marley Spoon do suggest adding the soft plastics to RedCycle but they too can only recycle so much. The first step in sustainability is to avoid plastic in the first place or reduce its use. Recycling is a last resort.
The harder plastics equated to 72g, so not so big and not that different to a regular shop. Recycling of these containers would depend on your local council.
What will be interesting is to see if by doing my own grocery shopping if I can get the soft and hard plastics lower than a meal delivery kit.
Nutrition - 3.5/5 - please add more whole grains and include sodium and sat fat amounts
Food waste - 4/5
Plastic waste - 0/5
I'll try these meals myself and post again with the comparison. It'll have to wait a week as I forgot to cancel my subscription :)